A more recent, revised and updated version of this paper has been published (2019)

Bell Beaker expansion

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Steppe ancestry has been recently found widespread in central European Bell Beaker individuals, while in Iberian samples this ancestry was not found, therefore excluding a substantial contribution to central Europe from Iberian Beaker Complex-associated individuals (Olalde et al. 2017). This further supports Heyd’s (2007) archaeological model, and contradicts the previous model of population expansion out of Iberia.

Samples of north-east Iberia, dated ca. 2385, show haplogroups R1b1a-L754 (xR1b1a1a2a-L23), G2-P287, and I2a2-M436, which point to the persistence of old European hunter-gatherer lineages in the region.

The oldest samples from the Bell Beaker culture are two individuals from Kromsdorf dated ca. 2550 BC, one of R1b1a1a2-M269 (xR1b1a1a2a1a1-U106), and the other of R1b-M343 (M269 unclear) lineages (Lee et al. 2012). The oldest samples of R1b1a1a2a1a2-P312 lineages are found in Osterhofen ca. 2540 BC, and in Sierentz – Les villas d’Aurèle ca. 2430 BC. The oldest sample of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2b-U152 is found in Budapest ca. 2335 BC, of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2a-DF27 in Quedlinburg ca. 2290 BC (Lazaridis et al. 2016), and of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2c-L21 in Amesbury ca. 2290 BC (Olalde et al. 2017).

Regarding the arrival of Bell Beakers into Britain – marked by the appearance of steppe ancestry in aDNA samples –, it has been found that they are more closely related to lower Rhine individuals, and not to the Atlantic façade of western Europe (Olalde et al. 2017). Demic diffusion of R1b1a1a2a1a2c1-L21 lineages accompanying Bell Beaker expansion in the British Isles was already supported by ancient DNA analysis (Cassidy et al. 2016), and all samples of the British Isles have been reported as of R1b1a1a2a1a2c-L21 (or older haplogroups). These data and the modern distribution of L21 subclades associated with the British Isles point more likely to a single successful migration of clans of R1b1a1a2a1a2c-L21 lineages into Britain. The contended Pre-Celtic Irish and Pictish substrates might have been therefore of Late Indo-European nature, imported by peoples of R1b1a1a2a1a2c1-L21 lineages.

R1b-L21.jpg Modern distribution of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2c1-L21. Adapted from Myres et al. (2011)

Recent research already supported a considerable degree of mobility with little difference between male and female migration in Britain (Parker Pearson et al. 2016), and not an exchange of female marriage partners (Brodie 2001) or inter-cultural contact consolidation (Vander Linden 2007), as previously proposed.

Studies of ancient Indo-European hydronymy (Krahe 1964; Krahe 1949; Nicolaisen 1957) have revealed a quasi-uniform name-giving system for water courses that shows Indo-European water-words and suffixes following rules of Late Proto-Indo-European word formation (Adrados 1998), pointing to an ancient wave of Late Indo-European speakers spread over Western and Central Europe before the Celtic and Germanic expansions, including the British Isles, the Italian and Iberian peninsulas.

The four certain samples of R1b1a1a2a1a2b-U152 lineage have been found in Bell Beaker territories from east to west Europe. The presence of a potential R1b1a1a2a1a2a-DF27 lineage in the central Bell Beaker group, and its subclade distribution in the modern west European population might be linked to this lineage’s expansion to the west and south during the Bell Beaker phenomenon.

R1b-DF27.jpg Modern distribution of haplogroup R1b1a1a2a1a2a-DF27. Adapted from Myres et al. (2011)

The expansion of R1b1a1a2a1a-L151 lineages could then be linked to the first introduction of Indo-European languages in Western Europe (Cassidy et al. 2016), which could have left some traces of their presence in historic times. However, the later expansion of Celtic languages, and an apparent resurgence of the probably indigenous Proto-Iberian and Proto-Basque languages – possibly the descendant of the languages of early farmers, similar to Paleo-Sardinian (Terradas et al. 2014) – over an expanding Iberian subclade (R1b1a1a2a1a2a1b1a1-M167/SRY2627) of the R1b1a1a2a1a2a-DF27 lineage (Gunther et al. 2015) have left scarce data on the older situation.

Two late samples from northern Iberia were found to have a small proportion of steppe ancestry, which supports the early spread of Indo-European speaking peoples into Iberia as early as the beginning of the Bronze Age (Olalde et al. 2017). The only certain Indo-European language of Iberia that can be considered of a non-Celtic nature is Lusitanian (which has been linked to a potential Galaico-Lusitanian group of the north-western Iberian Peninsula), and there has been some discussion on the pre-Celtic nature of the languages of Cantabri, Astures, Pellendones, Carpetani, and Vettones. Also, while the position of Tartessian as Indo-European (Koch 2009) is highly doubted – , there is some support for a borrowing of names from a “lost Indo-European language” over the course of long-term contacts (Mikhailova 2015).

The emergence of El Argar groups was preceded by a break in Chalcolithic cultural traditions in south-east Iberia, which points to an upheaval of existing social structures or an influx of groups that cannot be distinguished from the local population at the present of genetic resolution, e.g. from south-eastern Europe (Szecsenyi-Nagy et al. 2017). This could point to the time of resurge of groups associated with previous Neolithic cultures that might have conserved Pre-Iberian and Pre-Basque languages until historic times.

The other region where modern R1b1a1a2a1a2a-DF27 lineages peak in the modern population corresponds to the old Nordwestblock cultural region, where a non-Celtic, non-Germanic Indo-European language might have been spoken (Kuhn, Hachmann, and Kossack 1986).

To the east, in the Vistula group, Bell Beaker samples of R1b1a1a2-M269 are found from 2400 BC to 2300 BC, and later an eastern sample is found near the Oder ca. 2170 BC (see below), which – together with long-term and long-distance economic exchange (especially regarding amber imports) during the Bronze Age (Makarowicz 2009) – support the presence of Old European river names in east Europe.


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