Population continuity, demic diffusion and Neolithic origins in central-southern Germany: The evidence from body proportions.
Gallagher A, Gunther MM, Bruchhaus H.
The transition to agro-pastoralism in central Europe has been framed within a dichotomy of "regional continuity" versus exogenous "demic diffusion". While substantial genetic support exists for a model of demographic diffusion from an ancestral source in the Near East, archaeological data furnish weak support for the "wave of advance" model. Nevertheless, archaeological evidence attests the widespread introduction of an exogenous "package" comprising ceramics, cereals, pulses and domesticated animals to central Europe at 5600calBCE. Body proportions are under strong climatic selection and evince remarkable stability within regional lineages. As such, they offer a viable and robust alternative to cranio-facial data in assessing hypothesised continuity and replacement with the transition to agro-pastoralism in central Europe. Humero-clavicular, brachial and crural indices in a large sample (n=75) of Linienbandkeramik (LBK), Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age specimens from the middle Elbe-Saale-Werra valley (MESV) were compared with Eurasian and African terminal Pleistocene, European Mesolithic and geographically disparate recent human specimens. Mesolithic Europeans display considerable variation in humero-clavicular and brachial indices yet none approach the extreme "hyper-polar" morphology of LBK humans from the MESV. In contrast, Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age peoples display elongated brachial and crural indices reminiscent of terminal Pleistocene and "tropically adapted" recent humans. These marked morphological changes likely reflect exogenous immigration during the terminal Fourth millennium cal BC. Population expansion and diffusion is a function of increased mobility and settlement dispersal concomitant with significant technological and subsistence changes in later Neolithic societies during the late fourth millennium cal BCE.