Congruent Distribution of Neolithic Painted Pottery and Ceramic Figurines with Y-Chromosome Lineages

Article excerpt


Painted pottery and anthropomorphic figurines frequently occur in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic in a broad region of the Levant, Anatolia, southeastern Europe and areas of the central and eastern Mediterranean. Painted pottery is often associated with similar material culture, such as clay sealing stamps and ceramic figurines, and settlements, such as tells (Whittle 1996). The interpretation of figurines associated with early agricultural Near Eastern communities of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (~7500 BC) is a topic of debate (Gimbutas 1974; Ucko 1968; Voigt 2000; Hodder 1990; Tringham 1991; Chapman 2000; Bailey 2001). Cauvin (2000) and Garfinkel (1998) have proposed that a series of ideologies originating from the Levant and Anatolia in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) may have been carried to Greece, the Balkans, the Danube basin and the coastal Mediterranean. These novel cultural activities included not only anthropomorphic figurines but also other symbols such as dance motifs in the visual depictions of social and ritual events.

Here we examine the geographic correlations between the occurrence of Neolithic/ Chalcolithic painted pottery and ceramic figurines and the frequencies of various Y-chromosomal haplotypes that evolved over time without recombination. A haplotype is an arrangement of two or more specific alleles on a single chromosome. An allele is any one of multiple DNA sequence character states possible, typically a nucleotide substitution, insertion or deletion. The genetic markers used to define haplotypes are considered representative of unique mutational events. These haplotypes have been proposed as genetic signatures of putative Neolithic migrations of transitional agriculturists from Anatolia and the Levant into Europe during the process of Neolithization (Semino et al. 1996; 2000; Hammer et al. 1998). Implicit is the fact that demic expansion is a manifestation of population growth and migration. This Neolithic migration hypothesis in its original forms (Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza 1971; 1984; Renfrew 1987) never stated that demic expansion and cultural diffusion were mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, it has been criticized from both the archaeological and the population genetic communities (Zvelebil & Dolukhanov 1991; Richards et al. 1996) for being overly global as well as underestimating the contribution of local indigenous Mesolithic foragers in the adoption of agricultural techniques. However, recent mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA studies concur that the average contribution of individuals whose lineages originated from the ancient Near East to the European population is of the order of 20-25% (Richards et al. 2000; Semino et al. 2000). This frequency is, moreover, clinal in distribution with its highest values in Greece and in the Balkans, decreasing to near-0% frequencies in northwestern Europe where indigenous Mesolithic cultures are most likely to have adopted agro-pastoral techniques. Likewise, the distribution of painted pottery and anthropomorphic clay figurines declines as one traverses Europe from the southeast to the northwest, suggesting that indigenous Mesolithic populations, while adopting technical agricultural methods, chose not to adopt the symbolic/ideological/stylistic processes of pre-fired painted ceramics and figurines during the Neolithic period.

The archaeological model of demic expansion in southeastern Europe (van Andel & Runnels 1995) proposes that Neolithic migrations from the Konya plain of south-central Anatolia (Hacilar, Can Hasan, Catal Hoyuk) first settled on the riverine regions of Thessaly around 7000 BC. The concentration of early Neolithic sites in Greece is densest on the Thessalian floodplains, while indigenous Mesolithic sites are more frequent in the coastal areas of southern and eastern Greece. In addition, Perles (2001) underscores the evidence that there may have been multiple events from a variety of locations in the Near East contributing to agro-pastoralism in southeastern Europe. …