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Chapter III - Pumped out by the Sahara

por Olympus Mons, em 12.03.16

Chapter III 

Pumped out by the Sahara



“ …Suddenly  it all changed with the arrival of carenated Ceramics, arrowheads and loom weights”


Because of the vast People migration that was under way at that time, as seen in supplement about middle Sahara, maybe one of the biggest ever seen at that time, still in the 4th Millennium they were moving cross Gibraltar to southern Iberia. One figures that by 4,000BC they must have known about Iberia. Merimde had over 2000 people just there alone, other places also had a considerable population near the Acacus mountains, Near the atlas mountains there were sites that one can relate to what we are referring in here.

 I will transport us fast to the left bank of the Guadiana River in the Xerez lowlands and the Alamo valley in Alentejo, Portugal.  However to understand how that exodus occur one always must bear in mind that from the northwest point of Africa to the Alamo Valley its just 400 KM or 250 miles, or that distance from Oran in Algeria a 1000 miles. Herdsman are known to have travelled much farther than that.


Neolithic Portugal (up until mid-4th millennia bc) was a place very scarcely populated by humans. Neolithic as agriculture movement was sort of a late arrival to the peninsula.  Very much still nomadic or transhumance population, mostly using temporary caves for sheltering and very rarely the existence of the traditional Neolithic “long houses”.  Lifestyle in the south Iberia mixed not clear cut agricultural with evidence of pastoral lifestyle; undecorated pottery, percussion lamination of rocks.  At the later stages it emerged the megalithic monuments, the cromlechs, as burial grounds and not. Even in the region we are about to enter, the Xerez lowlands and Alamo valley (northern Alentejo), hunting seemed to be a very rare event. And comprised most of bovine and ovicaprine, rough and crude, not at all evolved lithic are the norm (all in *456). Agriculture was as we all know a movement from the East Anatolia to Europe so no surprises that it took so long to reach this parts of the world. And they had lots of natural resources to live by, such as easy access to fish and shell food has seen by the large Shell Middens found everywhere so not a very big pressure to elaborate strategies of making the most out of the enviroment.  There is no way someone can make the argument that such primitive non developed and meager agricultural and barely pastoral population would jump into what we later see for the next millennia.  Not in complexity, not in sheer volume of population. It all happened really fast, with settlements arising in a very short period of time in southern Spain just tens of years apart which meant a flood of people.   What were they moving to? What was it like the terrain and territory they were settling into? Let’s see the farther western part, because that is where the Bell Beakers ascend from.



Again contextual is important.  By well mid 4th millennium BC they, the R1b Shulaveri were already in the Iberia Peninsula alongside some E1b1 in some considerable munbers. If Merimde, El-omari and their specific parking at Fayum was gone by 4000 BC, wouldn’t surprise me by any measure to find outliers in Iberia that were Shulaveri R1b and E1b1 (M-81) by 3800 BC. Not at all.  And this is so denunciated by the noticeable amount of objects from North Africa and related to Egypt on form and shape that are only found in this time frame (like Leceia objects), so much that for instance BRUNTON & CATON-THOMPSON, 1922, made an effort to prove that the Portuguese  chalcolithic as related to the Badarians in Egypt. Obivously I think they were wrong, well not Badarian but as I state in here the Merimde/El-omari and somewhat the Maadi that at that precise epoch were actually been overrun by the Badarians themselves. So no surprise. The same is true for finding Shells that only existed in North Africa which was also common for the late 4th millennia early 3rd in Portugal, or lots of Ivory, elephant Ivory, some of it today alleged by some as of coming directly from Egypt already sculpted like replicas of Egyptian axes making a strait connection between Egypt and the Land that is the birth of the Bell Beaker (read João Luís Cardoso papers). Not to mention the famous Perdigoes site where dozens and dozens of elephant ivory idols are found in burials. First people arriving in Perdigoes brought with them objects from North Africa and I truly think the “African cattle Complex” has is this days called. 

They would be coming from places like Takarkori rock shelter in the Acacus mountains where carbon isotopes found in the milk fat (oh yes, already lactose tolerant, they were) shows that those animals had access a lot of different plants, meaning the moved the cattle around a lot probably because environment was changing fast. It really needs to be mentioned that the fatty lipids were specific of the mid Pastoral period. So these lactose tolerant drinking fresh milk had an added source of fluid, and the people who were able to tolerate lactose stayed better hydrated than those who didn’t have the genes for it.  As I am sure we will find in Perdigoes the same fatty lipids once that analyses is performed.


So actually one must always remember that in small numbers (or not that small) they were getting across the Atlas Mountains and could be getting across Gibraltar as small groups of herdsman with their Cattle, Dogs and Tarpan Horses all along the middlesish 4 millennium. And they brought aggressiveness with them.  It doesn’t mean it was the Shulaveri themselves or R1bs for that matter doing the killings but we are looking here to what is the time when, for instance, we start to find inhumations in Iberia Peninsula that were most likely killed by interpersonal violence as Ana Maria Silva so well show us (* 601) special with all those DCF (Depressed Cranial Fractures) that we already knew from Otzi that, arrows or not, was the preferred method of finishing them off. And there were lots of cranial trauma being found on those centuries versus postcranial that are associated with occupation (walker 2001) injuries. 

On the other hand no blunt force killing for that poor guy killed by an arrow that severed his spinal cord at Lapa do Bugio cave. Ouch - Shot in the back, close range. That is really mean (*453).

And, amongst others, Jose Ignacio Vegas work show an innumerous episodes of violent deaths, most of them by arrows whose heads even got embedded in the victim’s bone. Especially young males.  And lots of parry fractures (raise arms in defense). Make no mistake. The Middle of 4th millennia BC was a violent streak in Iberia (*664). Particularly for young males, that are really over represented as inhumations.


Iberia Neolithic Populations where really no match to the incoming wave of cattle herdsman, hunters, horseman and archers, and also and above all what the Shulaveri always were, masters of domestication either animal or plant.

Hence the high prevalence of agriculture concurrently with Cattle cult that they brought with them.

On the other hand, one should make an effort not to “normalize” too much and just consider everything excessively homogeneous in Iberia for that period. I mean it is a sort of homogeneous picture the Iberia Peninsula in terms of population and way of living, but it had its local populations that must have had some sort of reaction to events, and that reaction must not have been the same everywhere. Fight (and were killed or somehow enslaved) and fleeing. But with so much available land because of scarce population it had to be full with places a population could run to, from the incoming impressive stock of people popping out trough Gibraltar.

 I think for instance there is a very telling site that really represents exactly this fleeing events -Reading Neolithic and chalcolithic not that farther north than the Xerez lowlands but still at a considerable distance (300 Km) one finds the Coa Valley (*533) where clearly lots of people sort of cluster in waves at late neolithic and chalcolithic. If or when someone manages to sample genetically them, I figure there will be no R1b (a good litmus test) in their mist (or E1b1…maybe) But you will find North African (*555) mitochondrial haplotype U6a1 and U6b (what I mean is U6 in Portugal –which strangely exists only in the north and not at all in the south – is all paleo/early Neolithic and not Islamic rule that didn’t have probably that added much genetic influence in the country), combined with paleo Portuguese neolithic Mtdna and Y DNA for Neolithic Farmers and, even more telling, that is why you find there in the mountains surrounding Coa Valley still today the local blob of G2a that one commonly finds in mountain regions in Europe.

Augmented population headcounts at these sites coinciding with the timeframe when, down south, was the arriving of the Shulaveri and Berbers (imo), means most likely one thing: Run north from the incoming intimidating others and local populations had no option but to move northbound around the Serra da Estrela mountain range, keep running until you bump into the other huge Iberia River. The Douro River. There, where you can’t cross is the Coa Valley where humans between 3500 BC and 2000 BC cluster (again *533).  Works done in the last 50 years in the area clearly show this spurs of population increase at times. Whatever words one uses to characterize the events that englobes and defines Chalcolithic Portugal it cannot be applied there, even later periods of bell beaker, social complexity and so forth. Is not there. Ever. They were left to be, serenely has they were, because the bell beakers moved southbound the Serra da Estrela Mountain range, being that the reason why Madrid is south of Cuenca Alta del Manzanares and actually are so genetically closed to Central area Portuguese. It’s the Bell Beaker route and I imagine they didn´t detour much from it.  Coa Valley will most likely be still a cornerstone in understanding the population transitions in Iberia Chalcolithic, precisely because they, the people which lived there for a millennia where actually not that chalcolithic anyway.


In the south not that earlier, Shulaveri, proto-bell beaker, also bumped into a river although not the same one. That was the Tagus River. To Cross it they followed the Sado river until bumping in the estuary of Tagus. For sure not the place to cross it, large and deep waters, so move along the river and cross a bit up north stream near the Muge region.  Coincidently that was the territory of the very ancient and primitive Muge People that so much ink brought in works and papers of the first half of the XX century, which I will address next, people that actually didn’t had nowhere to run so they disappeared at around that time. There is a lot of doubts over the carbon dating for that period. But if 4000 BC saw the Sado and Muge Shell middens sites being overtaken it would not be improbable if it were, at least in part, my Shulaveri first scouts arriving to Iberia and roaming the land prior to the influx of north Africa. Sure it’s a stretch but it depends on better reassessment of carbon dating that has to be done and even later findings since the subject and sites are to be readdressed in works by Portuguese archaeology today. And again while writing something one tends to carve the lines when in reality those lines tend to be very blurred. Meaning that at the same time as Merimde where Shulaveri by last quartile of the 5th millennia so already parts of central Sahara had them in part (say 4200 BC). By 3.800BC there had to be those mix of Shulaveri (R1b) and Berbers (E1b1b) in south Iberia.

Actually I think the Muge people (Homo Taganus) were absorbed by the incoming more evolved population coming through as seem by chalcolithic poor people around Zambujal (carenque) findings not many centuries later. Homo Taganus was found to be for at least 4 thousand years in the region and then were gone. Fading away, true, but not before giving that increase jaw prognothism to the bell beakers or at least adding to it on top of the mix with berbers and some L3 women in Egypt.  See if that is a trademark that is sometime noted about the Bell beaker population, then lets be assured that it wouldn’t be a mistery where they could have picked up that characteristic.   Anyway Lapa do Bugio guy with the deep arrow in the back is just not that far way (Sessimbra).   It’s a long stretch I know… But only if one discounts that there is always, and still lingering, mystery of the brachycephalic crania in their midst, yes in the middle of the so primitive Muge skelletons, that still stumps Portuguese archeology. It’s a maybe and clearly an open issue to track.


Whatever or however happened, chalcolithic in Iberia was a chiasm with the past, was a novelty, and was so noticeable, as in very few other places seen prior to it, because they came into Iberia hot. Fuming.  And by hot I mean those people were the representation in this side of the Gibraltar of the populations of the North African late pastoral phase in middle Sahara when paintings depicting fights and arrow battles, which actually even in there were a strange and new phenomenon. In Egypt King scorpion and king Narmer (if they were not the same) were crushing skulls and proud of it.  No wonder our Shulaveri at Merinda had to flee and maybe no wonder they were by this time a little bit more aggressive or imposing than what they had been in the past.


But whatever North African incoming folks encounter in Iberia was no match for them. How could it be. That is why, after that, by last quartile of the 4th millennium clear signs of interpersonal violence seen in cave burials just fades way and seems to stop. You don’t really kill your own. At least until you look at them as such.

All those fortified settlements that mark the new south Iberia (From 3400 BC) were not meant to protect them from the primitive living inland or  each other (at least not the ones already living in Portugal)… it was from the incoming ones, so I suppose the stock coming was actually somewhat differentiated in the packs or packages.  

On the other hand, one always suggests the simplicity of crossing Gibraltar strait into Europe, however one thing is for sure,  the lacking of R1b and the isolation of several subclades of mtdna H1 (H1v, H1x  younger than 4,000 years)) in northern Africa means that it was not so “normal” to cross between continent. Especially not back to Africa, because North Africa was becoming the hell scorched Sahara world and the plains of southern Portugal and the land of the middle mountains in south Iberia, must have looked like Paradise. But actually the only lowlands in all Iberia from the Atlantic up until the Pyrenees is the Lowlands of Alentejo and is way we will focus in there. Look at a hypsometric map of Iberia and it’s all too obvious.

It also means that the increase in population in Iberia from the last quartile of de 4 millennia BC meant it was made of a huge exogenous migration of people that where already out of the comfort zone since the 5.9 kiloyear (3.900 year BCE) or the birth of the Sahara Desert. A mere 4 to 5 centuries later things were so bad that populations either flocked around the Nile to become the Egyptian civilization or cross the Gibraltar strait to a vast continent that seemed to wait them. Priceless to see Mp4 video from Katie Manning work (*800).


Meanwhile in Iberia as far as I know, Mesolithic-Neolithic Portugal was a whole lot more diverse than one can fathom. By diverse I mean the people were living in the same place for a long, long time.  Paper in brackets above even found indications of family relationship between two females analyzed… 2500 years apart. Or that it was full mtdna K (*511) (over 50%) at least in the Tagus river basin area where later we see the city of Zambujal erected and the birth of the bell beaker that clearly were typically from another stock.  That later stage, that late Neolithic (Chalcolithic) Portugal, was full Mtdna  H (70%), V (6%) and U5 (10%)  but papers I found (*452) forget that at least on inhumation at early Perdigoes was U4. And is important. Because according to the same samples you find U4 in east cultures (see supplements), absent in central Europe cultures (Rössen culture, Baalberge culture, Treilles culture, etc.) but present in Portugal (although one also have been reported as Hunter Gatherer south, so earlier, but I still think there is a story with U4…).

Furthermore, if once I thought that the high prevalence of Male Y DNA lineages E1b1b in Alentejo were from Arabic invasions or earlier Phoenicians, now I am not so sure if those arriving were in its majority were in fact the R1b Shulaveri-Shomu, but also some equal proportion of E1b1 (mutation M-81) in the mix.  I always find it funny to see in genetic maps (*459) that little stain of this Haplogroup, alongside with R1b, exactly where the Siwa Oasis is. Looks like their destiny was really connected. We already addressed the female component that must have been part of the inbreeding by women being picked along the way an added to the stock of Shulaveri and Berber that later landed in Iberia. Just take a look of L3 that is nonexistent in Europe outside Iberia. So, notably, the existence in Portugal of Mtdna L3 (*678) which is not at all sub-Saharan as other L mtdna that might have come from the slave trade is really a tale of these women when meeting the R1b. The same L3 (L3f3) that is only found with Chadic R1b-V88 nowadays and we know that they were a stock that picked women while in Egypt (see Suppl - Resting in Egypt).  Look at the run of it : L3f (Northeast Africa, Sahel, Arabian peninsula, Iberia, Gaalien, Beja) , L3f1b6 (Asturias, Spain)  L3f3 – (Chad Basin). How did it go from being confined so far east, in the southern part of Egypt and even southern Africa horn regions, also so interconnected to R1b-v88 in Sahel, but also jump to Iberia peninsula if not by being added into a stock of men that travelled but did not root long in the land between?


Centuries of North African exodus and local genetic stratum made the Oestrimni people. And the Oestrimni admix to make the Bell beaker. And the bell beaker admix to make… History throughout Europe.  The Iberia peninsula although the birth of the R1b propagation it always stood as a beacon of that initial migration from North Africa to Europe. So much more heterogeneous genetically. And serology and DNA sequence (*477) shows the relatedness of Portuguese, Spaniards and proto-Berber (paleo-North Africans Berbers or Tamazight). The Portuguese still have genes only they possess (HLA-A25-B18-DR15 and A26-B38-DR13), the Oestrimni mark (?) and Portuguese and Basques do not have A33-B14-DR1 (indicating lower Mediterranean admixture).  That is the mtdna H1 that they picked up in the works. Measure this HLA with mtdna and I bet you have a good chance of getting correlation.


If we consider them all the Oestrimni what did they looked like? There are a lot of papers describing morphology of the western Iberia Extremadura since the late 19th century: 

Let me give you an overall view of what this people looked like, following the excellent work of Thomas Budner and M D Garralda, especially the ones inhabiting what was the cradle of the Beaker folks. In Carenque, right beside the Zambujal Castro, but also true for overall region of Zambujal and VNSP area (Extremadura) and one might assume for all Oestrimini substratum. There were 4 type of People, much alike the ones found in North Africa in this period but not only. Gracile Mediterranean (much like the Tenereans people were) Robust Mediterranean, the Highly Dolichocephalous (Homo Afer Taganus - local very ancient people) and Brachycephalic (not like North Africa and more like the Shulaveri or if you prefer the stock like those in Merimde and even El-Omari).  And, going back to a previous point,  for instance in Muge (Portugal) it has been creating confusion for over a century that quite a few brachycephalic inhumations were found in the territory of the whole lot more primitive, Homo Afer Taganus.  They were a very, very old type and very much Paleolithic genotype that occupied the Tagus estuary known by some as the Muge race (not really like any other so far found in Europe) and, importantly (most of all to me), lived between the Tagus river and the Sorraia river (here goes this name again) . Well two things link them. The higher than expected Jaw prognathism. The other of my own doing: a lot of Brachi in the exact same place were the Sorraia Horses (which are Shulaveri Tarpans mixed with lusitano horses-see in later chapter about it) were found wandering thousands of years later. One wonders.  Trust me- All this Muge people, Brachycephalic inhumations and strange lithic material (those arrows…), all things out of context, need to be addressed again someday, since most field works and analysis come from the thirties last century (*111). Really this alone would be a sub-suppl on its own (*667).


Consequently, these were the groups coming out trough Gibraltar and mixing locally. Men were 1,60m tall and women 1,50m tall (average). Guys south the Tagus River (again the Sorraia & Brachiocephalic region) seemed to be a bit taller going roughly 170m for male and 160 for female.  Actually the exact height given by Hoffman to Merimde people (5,6ft and 5.2ft).

Only 50% of them reach 30 years old and 20% of them got to be old age. But it surely must have beat the life expectancy and harshness of the one left behind.

About 8% were Hiper- dolichocephalic, 34% Dolichocephalic, 46% mesencephalic, 8% Brachycephalic and 4% ultra- Brachycephalic (*333). So majority were Mesencephalic but found in environments that if Brachycephalic Shulaveri were an elite and higher hierarchical layer that led to Bell beaker folks, mostly because of the influences they had from the brewing of the emerging cultural evolutions of the Levant and now Caucasus, they essentially would not really be found at (since they would tend to be on larger settlements). But the key point is there were a lot of brachycephalic people, at least 15%, much more than, for instance, is found today in Iberia in an average of 5% . And MD Garralda has found a lot more Brachycephalic in Iberia Chalcolithic in other localities and sites than the ones I have mentioned. So the existence of such a large number of these type is actually the contrast we can establish between the current outlook of North Africa which was disappearing and the fresh and newbies arriving to Iberia and the follow up mixture and admixture combinations.


Lots of different people, or tribes, were arriving for centuries to come after 3.500 BC. Especially when provoked by some extraordinary event that changes a place landscape in terms of population as It was happening in North Africa. What I mean is that if current North Africa Berber and Tuareg , as proto populations of the Sahara region are any indication for the heterogeneity of the populations migrating in an exodus into Europe , so there were a whole lot of different tribes, Shulaveri-Shomu stock of several Caucasus region but also local genetic substratum crossing the Gibraltar in roughly same period . Not all did at the same time (obviously) or with the same exact mix of men, women (mtdna), dogs, horses or cattle. I suspect we will see differences in migrating paths for different parts of the Iberia peninsula and the substitution of the local genetic substratum occurred in different timeframes and at different rates so not at all in the same time. And if it meant some auto-identity in-group psychology involved in some of those packs, so by then different tribes also meant tension between groups and ultimately led to the emerging of the warrior occupancy and that led to the hierarchical bell beaker warrior.   We will see next how that operated. So an important note is that one should not interpret the empiric revolution of the 3rd millennium BC as exactly the same event everywhere. So already in Europe and leaving all that behind, we will focus next is in a specific area that one can built full similarity with the Kura River in southern Caucasus for the Shulaveri in the Caucasus at several levels. The left bank of the Guadiana River in the Xerez lowlands of Alentejo, Portugal.


Enough with this.  Papers published regarding chalcolithic Portugal are so vast that only the papers I downloaded will take well into summer vacation to lay down at the beach and read it.  Amazing work. They are some many and from so many great anthropologists that one feels overwhelmed.

However the story they tell you is consistent, recurrent, very well described.  And if I have to pick one to start with, I would any day of the week pick Simon Davis and Rui Mataloto’s paper (*460)


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