Figure 7. Tom Levy and Ioannis Liritzis at the annual presentation of the summer findings from the Kastrouli excavation (2016) in the central square of the Desfina town. This Project embraced the local society and students making them communicant with the progress of the research.
Figure 8. The first team in 2016 (colleagues, students, workers) besides the helium balloon for aerial photos.
As I mentioned above, the expansion of the pastoralists of the Yamnaya steppe about 5,000 years ago, invaded and imprinted its origin in Eastern Europe in the west, in the Balkans and Greece, and in the east - across the Caucasus to Armenia. However, they did not affect Anatolia – they bypassed it. Eastern hunter-gatherer ancestry drops to less than 4% in Mycenaean Greece where Kastrouli is located. Thus, our data from Kastrouli help document the final process of Yamnaya extension in the southern arc.
Ancient texts, archeology and now the archaeogenetic record – AncDNA – provide interdisciplinary data (a first-of-its-kind scientific team effort in archaeology) to help us understand how ancient cultures formed and spread. The excavation at Kastrouli contributes directly to this section of the trio of recent articles in archaeogenetics in the journal SCIENCE.
Ancient DNA analyses resolve the question of the origin of the Late Bronze Age population by strongly supporting one of two previously proposed hypotheses - that the Mycenaeans were the result of admixture of steppe migrants bearing little resemblance to the Yamnaya and a Minoan substrate, rather than the alternative hypothesis of substratum admixture resembling Neolithic Anatolia with Armenian populations from the east (Lazaridis et al., 2017). The fact that the Mycenaeans can be modeled as a ~1:10 mixture of a Yamnaya-like steppe-derived population of about 9% and an Aegean and Early Bronze Age Minoan population of about 91% shows the small contribution of intermediate populations from Anatolia (Asia Minor).
There are pitfalls of confusing genetic ancestry with interpretations of social dominance. There is a patrilineal connection (from the father) with the Yamnaya as most commoners had steppe origins. However, the elite tomb of the "Warrior of Griffin" at Pylos had no evidence of its steppe origin. While the tomb of the Griffin warrior is a notable high-hierarchical Mycenaean tomb, at Kastrouli the elucidation of the social order of the approximately 15+ individuals of various ages (adult male and female along with 2 adolescents, an infant and a fetus) in the Late Helladic Vault Tomb A in Kastrouli is more difficult. Many well-made Mycenaean jars, vases, figurines and some gold leaf were found there. The large-scale construction of this tomb at Kastrouli and these burial offerings may indicate a group of high-ranking individuals buried in this comingled tomb.
More tombs need to be excavated at Kastrouli to help us understand the social variability in their location and genetic origin. Finally, I think it is worth mentioning as a preliminary look at the demographic patterns associated with the Greek colonial period (8th to 6th century BC) referring to people both from the "Southern Arc" we mentioned above, but also outside what was genetically similar to Mycenaean Bronze Age individuals (as reported in our 3rd article Supplementary Text S1 and Figure S3). In this context, an Archaic period adult from the Kastrouli was determined to have the same DNA as individuals from the Spanish city of Empúries (the ancient Greek city of Emporion in northeastern Spain), that is, genetically very similar to Mycenaean.
6. The latest data to what extent indicate that the Modern Greeks are related to the Mycenaeans and Minoans?
The relationship rates between Mycenaeans and Minoans were not in the purpose of the three articles, beyond what we mentioned before. But from a previous scientific article in the journal Nature by the Greek Iosif Lazaridis and others (Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, NATURE, Lazaridis et al. 2017), the ancient Mycenaeans and Minoans were more closely related to each other and took three quarters (3 /4) of their DNA from early farmers living in Greece and southwestern Anatolia, Greek Ionia and Aeolian and ¼ from the eastern Caucasus, a percentage that is close to our current findings in SCIENCE magazine. The 2017 paper compared 1.2 million letters of genetic code in these genomes from the teeth of nineteen people at various archaeological sites in mainland Greece and Crete with those of another 334 ancient people from around the world and 30 modern Greeks. These include ten Minoans from Crete dating from 2900 BC. to 1700 BC, four Mycenaeans from the archaeological site at Mycenae and other cemeteries in mainland Greece dating from 1700 BC. to 1200 BC, and five individuals from other Early Agricultural or Bronze Age cultures (5400 BC to 1340 BC) in Greece and Turkey.
The researchers of the 2017 paper were able to interpret how the individuals were related to each other. The modern Greeks are similar to the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution from inhabitants of the Early Neolithic in Greece, i.e. from inhabitants of the 7th to 8th millennium BC. These results support the idea of continuity but not isolation in the history of the Aegean populations, before and after the era of its early “civilizations.”
Both cultures - Mycenaean and Minoan12- inherited additional DNA from people from the eastern Caucasus near modern Iran as finally established in more detail in our three articles, ultimately suggesting an early migration of people from the east after the first farmers settled there, but before the Mycenaeans separated from the Minoans.
DNA evidence proves that the Greeks are indeed descendants of the Mycenaeans, who were the inhabitants of mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from 1,600 BC. to 1,200 BC. The continuity between the Mycenaeans and modern people is "particularly impressive given that the Aegean has been a crossroads of cultures for thousands of years", as the Greek co-authors of that article I. Lazaridis and G. Stamatogiannopoulos emphasize for their co-authored paper (Lazaridis et al. 2017).
But the Mycenaeans did have one important difference: They had some DNA (4% to 16%) from northern ancestors who came from Eastern Europe or Siberia. This percentage appears to be limited in our three articles to 9%, and the Greek area appears to be the southernmost limit of penetration from the north of the Yamnaya. This occurred in a very small flow since Yamnaya mainly (by 75-80%) moved to Central Europe. These results have also been suggested by previous linguistic and archaeogenetic research as described by a long article by Professor Ruard (2022). It should be noted that other previous limited studies have shown that the early genomes of the early Bronze Age i.e. around 3000-2500 BC are homogeneous and derive most of their ancestry from the local Neolithic Aegean and mainland, in contrast to earlier assumptions that the Neolithic-to-Bronze Age cultural transition was due to mass population movement. This movement did happen but to a minimal extent as we said with our latest results.
7.1 The non-linear process in cultural evolution
As an epilogue and bridging to the present era, it appears an imperative inhered globalization-like procedure throughout humanity initiated by a group of peoples sharing same genetic affinity at those remote and ancient times due to causes referred to earlier. But in contemporary time it sadly emerges often an unimpeded and enforced by intention “globalization” simultaneously into the three major areas with priority into the economic globalization but cultural globalization, and political globalization too, following thus a complex development based on non-linear dynamics (Mainzer 2006; Mazlish 1998; Prigogine 1980).
The unsettled World has been the result a natural and human and human-environmental interactive processes. The development of human societies and of human history in general does not follow a linear trend but instead depends mostly on interactions between various elements. The cultural evolution is viewed through a complex system approach as a collective result of non-linear interactions making a series of successive transitional phases along a trajectory. This approach helps to identify the meanings of complexity in human processes that involve material, energy, and environmental factors. Three concentric circles or dynamical systems, including the internal (problems arising within a particular society), the external (problems arising from interaction with neighboring societies), and the environmental, are the sources of the interrelated multifactorial challenges (issues related to the context and other geological phenomena). Along this rationale the cultural evolution of the last 12,000 years has been considered in our earlier publication (Liritzis 2013). This is the Holocene which defines the onset of interglacial period until present era, where it was focus on some exemplary cases from Mesolithic to Roman period from Mediterranean and the world. The theory of chaos is intermingled with various identified attributes that define and affect the cultural evolution of a human organized system. The presented cases in Liritzis (2013) are sufficient to stress the naturalistic methodology, which serves as the basis of a synoptic and synthetic philosophy that involves art and science corresponding to classical techne and logos. In an earlier work (Liritzis 2013), a rationale is applied to show that human prehistory did not develop in a linear path but rather that other steady states were attainable in every cladding, which, when active, coexisted and engaged in mutual interactions one with another (Fig. 9).
Figure 9. The thermodynamic domain for a human system far from equilibrium, stable domains, bifurcations and the unforeseeable but determining potential courses of evolution in the next phase (stage) (Liritzis 2013).
The main factor that causes a status to change is predicated on dramatic encounters and reciprocity between various elements, and primarily relied on the (type of) nomadic or settled human civilization or social system energy usage, level of organization, and intensity of the fundamental multi-level interactions. Using this strategy, the focus of the analysis's time scale in the beginning of the last 12,000 years ago, during the interglacial period, has been explored. In this earlier study various concrete phases are recorded from the hunter-gatherer to modern man that is outlined in Fig.10.
The energy change over time in a culture is reflected in the change of entropy dS = dSs + dSi + dSp, where dSs describes the transport through the boundaries of social systems, dSi the entropy generated within the social system, and dSp the entropy (of this social system) with the environment (+ or – depending on the type of exchange). The 2nd law of thermodynamics certifies that dS > 0 (dS=0 applies for equilibrium). In cultural evolution the entropy production rate dS/dt is of interest, in conjunction with the rates and forces of various irreversible processes (wars, floods, earthquakes, fires, pollution, epidemics, migration, trades, invasions and raids, etc.). But evolution is based primarily on mutual interactions of different components f (ti), at variable time interval (ti= t0 to t1) derived from the three concentric circles factors (internal, external, environmental).
Therefore, the cumulative result could be expressed as:
The parametrization of mathematical expressions is not an easy task, and one has to define quantitatively the attributes that define cultural level per time.The hermeneutics of cultural evolution overviewed with archaeological but archaeogenetic terms too basically is founded upon the theory of complexity.
Figure 10. Transitional stages in cultural evolution which, in the given space—time, act as attractors in further production, use and interaction (Liritzis 2013).
The above archaeogenetic data reassert socio-culture(s) becoming that can be defined, described and analysed in accordance with systems mechanics and through a holistic approach. These are supported e.g., by Bertanlanffy (1976) and von Weizsäcker’s (1971) works, though both are rooted back to pre-Socratic and Platonic ideas. The causes and results of the unsettled and restored World should reposition decision making policies for the shake of long-lived human race.
7.2 The Greek case from Kastrouli (Delphi) data
Our present results supported by the Late Mycenaean Kastrouli, near Delphi, coupled with earlier data supports the continuity between the Mycenaeans and modern Greeks which is undoubtedly impressive given that the Aegean has been a crossroads of cultures for thousands of years.
It has been shown from present and early studies that Minoans and Mycenaeans who developed two top cultures in Europe were genetically similar, as having at least 75% of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers13 of western Anatolia and the Aegean and mainland Greece and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the around Caucasus and Iran. In fact, it has been found that the Bronze Age genomes from Greece have shown that present-day northern-Greeks are genetically similar to ~2000 BCE Aegeans from the same region. Although they derive part of their ancestry from Neolithic farmers, a population homogeneity in Neolithic Greece, and a Neolithic Caucasus-like and Bronze Age Yamnaya Steppe-like gene flow that shaped the Aegean after the Neolithic period and may explain the population discontinuity observed in recent analyses (Broodbank 2008; Silva et al., 2022)). Yet the Mycenaeans little difference from Minoans derives from additional ancestry related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia, introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of the Eurasian steppe and not from Armenia.
Ιt is now proven that the minor ‘northern’/”Yamnaya-like” ancestry in Mycenaeans around 3000 BC is due to sporadic infiltration of Greece, where this minority was culturally absorbed by the locals in Greece, rather than to a rapid migration as in Central Europe. In our new data the amount of Eastern hunter-gatherer ancestry to Balkans is ~15% and drops to ~4% in Mycenaean Greece and to negligible levels in Minoan Crete. Modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the Early Neolithic ancestry.
Overall, a sporadic movement to the southern wing and Greece of a steppe intrusion of Indo-European speakers, with minor genetic admixture to local people in Greek mainland, creates a tapestry of diverse ancestry. This would support also that proto-Greek speakers may have formed a most likely semi-independent language from the Indo-European, a genetic-linguistic association of significant importance, that more future data may reconfirm.
The discovery of at least one migration event into Greece in addition to the first farming dispersal before the Bronze Age, and of additional population change since that time, supports the view that the Greeks form a major distinct genetic component fully shaped from the depths of prehistory, but evolved till present time in a process of becoming. Our results support the idea of continuity but not isolation, a human interaction process which prevails until our present time.
Present data from Kastrouli southern-central Greece coupled with earlier DNA evidence proves that the Greeks are indeed descendants of the robust Mycenaean group, who were the inhabitants of mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from 1,600 BC. to 1,200 BC, continuing as same people in the later archaeological periods of Iron Age, Geometrical Classical etc. till today. They lived-in present-day Greece mainland and Aegean Sea including southwestern Aegean coast of Asia Minor (today Turkey) and spreading in a lesser degree into Sicily and possibly Spain; a reminiscent of these early migrations are testified by the beginning of 1st millennium BC colonization of Archaic/Classical Greeks into these regions and later in Euxinus Pontus (coastal regions of the Black Sea) (Petropoulos 2003).
At any rate, any statistically sound ancestry attribution would ideally require several well preserved bone samples from tombs uniformly distributed spatially and temporally in a geographical region of an ethnic identity. The ongoing work on archaeogenetics completes the puzzle of homogeneity, admixture, and continuity.
I thank my colleagues Tom Levy and Iosif Lazaridis for useful discussion.
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