Battle Axe from the Corded Ware Culture of Middle Europe and the genetic Background of Neolithic cultural Change

IMG_3956IMG_3957A very large facetted axe ( 23 cm long) from a Single Grave / Corded ware context of Central Germany-clearly an powerful symbol of group identity.

Recently, Guido Brandt and his colleagues researched ancient mitochondrial DNA of 364 individuals from nine different “Neolithic cultures” that once populated the Mittelelbe-Saale region of Germany over 4,000 years, spanning the period from about 5,5 to 1,5 k.a. cal BC. This was during the time when Middle  Europeans were thought to be transitioning from hunting and gathering to farming and metallurgy. Their analysis suggested that, initially, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were replaced by Neolithic farmers for about 2,5 k.a. after the advent of agriculture in the Region and went to the North. These new farmers were introduced from the Near East, Anatolia and the Caucasus. This event was then followed by a backflow of people and genetic material from Scandinavia, where hunter-gatherers (Ertebölle) in the meanwhile had adopted the “Neolithic package”  (Funnel beaker; TBK). The research also suggested two more subsequent partial population replacement events during the Late Neolithic, when the genomes of people with farming lifestyles were introduced from the east (Corded ware; Single Grave culture) and west (Bell Beaker). Based on this genetic mix during the late Neolithic, paleogenetic research found that the population resulting from these successive migrations and associated genetic exchanges were the likely ancestors of the current modern European population.

  • One point of importance is the fact, that obviously major Neolithic groups, archeologically defined by their exomatic symbols and lifestyles (pots, house, tools, domesticates) and ideologies (mirrored for example by their graves) were genetically similar.
  • After this study it becomes more probable, that some major changes in the archeological record of Middle Europe during Neolithic were due to population changes and not triggered by the transfer of new ideas and technologies to autochthonous hunter-gatherers or Neolithic groups.
  • The idea of characterizing distinct genetically defined groups according to their specific material “cultural remains” is the core of culture-historical archaeology. After reviewing the genetic data about the Middle European Neolithic a  new discussion of culture-historical ideas based on and transgressing the ideas of G Kossinna and V. Gordon Childe and without the nationalistic connotations often linked with this approach, seems to be inevitable.

Suggested Reading:

The Boat Axe Culture

The Single Grave Culture and the Emergence of a New Ideology

Corded Ware Axe from S-Germany

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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2 Responses to Battle Axe from the Corded Ware Culture of Middle Europe and the genetic Background of Neolithic cultural Change

  1. Pingback: The Boat Axe Culture | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

  2. Pingback: The Single Grave Culture and the Emergence of a New Ideology | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

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