March 31, 2010

Lactose intolerant prehistoric northern European hunter-gatherers (Malmstrom et al. 2010)

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:89 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-89

High frequency of lactose intolerance in a prehistoric hunter-gatherer population in northern Europe

Helena Malmstrom et al.

Abstract (provisional)

Background
Genes and culture are believed to interact, but it has been difficult to find direct evidence for the process. One candidate example that has been put forward is lactase persistence in adulthood, i.e. the ability to continue digesting the milk sugar lactose after childhood, facilitating the consumption of raw milk. This genetic trait is believed to have evolved within a short time period and to be related with the emergence of sedentary agriculture.

Results
Here we investigate the frequency of an allele (-13910*T) associated with lactase persistence in a Neolithic Scandinavian population. From the 14 individuals originally examined, 10 yielded reliable results. We find that the T allele frequency was very low (5%) in this Middle Neolithic hunter-gatherer population, and that the frequency is dramatically different from the extant Swedish population (74%).

Conclusions
We conclude that this difference in frequency could not have arisen by genetic drift and is either due to selection or, more likely, replacement of hunter-gatherer populations by sedentary agriculturalists.

Link

84 comments:

Mark Morgan said...

Does an allele frequency of 5% on a sample of 10 individuals imply that one person was heterozygous for the allele?

Maju said...

No, Mark. Oddly enough 5% of 10 is half a person. It's an absurd figure.

More when I read the paper.

Dienekes said...

Does an allele frequency of 5% on a sample of 10 individuals imply that one person was heterozygous for the allele?

Yeah, I believe they say so as much in the paper (which is open access).

Dienekes said...

No, Mark. Oddly enough 5% of 10 is half a person. It's an absurd figure.

Humans are diploid.

Maju said...

Oddly enough it makes sense after all: one individual was heterozygous, so it's half a person in fact (you outsmarted me at this, Dienekes).

That person anyhow should have been able to digest milk (vide SNPedia), what is remarkable for a supposedly hunter-gatherer population (Pitted Ware were probably regressed Neolithics and contemporary of continental Neolithics, which also lacked the allele).

This seems to tell us two things:

1. That the allele did exist in Sweden prior to the arrival of agriculture or at a very early moment of Neolithic (depending how you interpret Pitted Ware culture).

2. That has expanded wildly since then (strong positive selection or massive demic replacement).

I think it's important to remark that the allele was pre-existent, regardless of it experiencing positive selection (or demic replacement) later on.

I find again rather unsatisfactory the use of Pitted Ware samples alone because they are pretty much non-representative of either prior or later populations (cultures) in the area, had a limited coastal scope and probably arrived from Eastern Europe, where the allele in question is found at much lower levels.

It's also worth reminding that there is no lineal correspondence between this allele (and other lactase persistence gene variants) and actual lactase persistence phenotype.

Daniel said...

Anyone outsmarts you Maju

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"The samples originate from four archaeological sites on Gotland in the Baltic Sea dating to the Middle Neolithic, 4,800-4,200 BP. . . .

The samples were collected from the following sites on Gotland: Ajvide (n=9) in the parish of Eksta, Visby town (n=1), Ire (n=2) in the parish of Hangvar and Fridtorp (n=2) in the parish of Västerhejde. All samples are at least a 1,000 years younger than the earliest evidence of agriculture in Scandinavia. Hence they represent an exclusively non-agricultural lifestyle considerably older than agriculture in the area. All of the samples are from burial contexts. . . .

[O]nly strong positive selection or differences in population structure between the PWC population and the population ancestral to the extant Swedish population would explain the discrepancy between the extant and the prehistoric data. We note that with the data on a single SNP presented here, it is not possible to discriminate between these two scenarios. Also, it should be noted that the prehistoric samples used in this study came from a non-agricultural population, existing in parallel with an agricultural population (TRB) that is potentially ancestral to the extant Northern European population. In Burger et al. one Mesolithic, nine Neolithic and one Medieval samples were analyzed. In this study 9 of the 10 individuals were homozygous C at position −13.910 only the medieval individual was heterozygous for the −13.910-C/T polymorphism. These data show some similarity with our data as the Mesolithic individual does not show any lactase persistence."

A dozen early TRB culture and a dozen medieval samples (which seems within the realm of possibility), together with some analysis of the historical record of Swedish history up until then (which probably does exist at a sufficient level to be useful), would allow for a really powerful distinction between the selection and replacement models. The study used a Monte Carlo analysis of 225 generations, which can rule out genetic drift but can't localize the timing of the selection pressures well. Early TRB and Medieval samples would allow that estimate to be localized to implied selection pressures in three intervals (PWC to TRB; TRB to Medieval; Medieval to modern) with far fewer generations each. An inferred selection rate in each period could then be compared to the historical record to determine if it was plausible.

Alternately, one could look at the mtDNA lineages of the PWC people for other traits and see how they track to modern populations (if you could get haplotyping on them). If you excluded definitively non-descendant Swedes from the modern population, you'd get a more factually useful data set to tease out what happened.

Maju said...

There's a whole set of Gotlander Pitted Ware mtDNA (Malmstrom 09), probably the same set reused here: 14 people, all U5/U4, except three (K, T, V).

Average Joe said...

We conclude that this difference in frequency could not have arisen by genetic drift and is either due to selection or, more likely, replacement of hunter-gatherer populations by sedentary agriculturalists.

Are they saying that Scandinavians are descended from Middle Eastern farmers because I thought that Middle Easterners tended to be lactose intolerant?

eurologist said...

Probably Danubian and upper Balkan. Mid-Eastern and some Mediterranean agriculturalists had cows, but initially no pottery, and relied on them much less than on other animals (sheep, goat) and perhaps olive trees etc. Goat and sheep's milk really does not taste all that good unprocessed, and is not normally available in the huge quantities, anyway, that would cast a survival benefit to raw drinkers. If you only have a little everyday to work with, you might as well process it, conveniently.

Danubians were heavy into cattle-farming from the (slightly later) get-go. With cows, you easily end up with so much milk that drinking it is the most straightforward way of using it (other than making butter and cheese for storage).

I don't know of an easy way to distinguish replacement from (local) selection other than looking at autosomal DNA in various regions (and, hopefully, even over time). If selection strongly operated one place (say, Danubian), it could of course operate as strongly any place else, at a later time - especially if those populations were already "seeded" with the proper gene(s) from migration.

princenuadha said...

God, that study seems fairly useless. All they concluded was that the large increase in the allele's frequency is not due to genetic drift alone but must be attributable to selection or population replacement. It does not say anything about the interplay between genes and culture; which is what the set out to do?!?

It's a bit dubious to compare the frequency of an allele that is, only associated with a certain trait, over such a long time span as a means to compare relative proportions of that trait (lactose tolerance). First off the effect of that allele might change through time, via interplay with other genes. Secondly there might be other alleles that in the past were more closely associated with lactose tolerance. And most importantly, yes, it is easy to outsmart maju.

marnie said...

"Goat and sheep's milk really does not taste all that good unprocessed, and is not normally available in the huge quantities, anyway, that would cast a survival benefit to raw drinkers. If you only have a little everyday to work with, you might as well process it, conveniently."

Hmmm.

Many people prefer the taste of goats milk to cow milk.

And I've met more than a few people that drink it warm, straight out of the goat, probably every day. No cows anywhere to be found.

I must have been hallucinating.

And, by the way, from what I can remember, you need a lot of milk to make it worth it to make cheese. For that reason, the making of cheese was traditionally a seasonal affair.

eurologist said...

Many people prefer the taste of goats milk to cow milk.

But those "many" are not the majority. It's certainly an acquired taste, and one that is way not as neutral as that of cow's milk. At any rate, most Mediterraneans and Middle-Easterners to this date simply don't have the luxury to do so, which indicates that they never did, historically, in quantities that would have had a survival benefit. Those that can drink it as adults there likely inherited lactase persistence from folks from farther north, where the grass is green, millennia ago...

I know of no place where cow cheese making is or was highly seasonally restricted - certainly not in the north. BTW, my grandfather owned a dairy.

And the most important point is the quantity, which allows for 24/7 survival benefits (calcium, protein, vitamins, calories) without the (at times) inconvenience or penalty of processing and storage. Not going to happen if you have to divide the milk of ten goats over an extended family of ten, baby goats, and cheese-making. Between my son and myself, we drink a gallon of milk in one to two days. That would be lots of goats... ;)

By the way, fresh warm cow's milk tastes like cow stable, too... you have to let it sit and cool down for it to lose that flavor.

Maju said...

"Probably Danubian and upper Balkan. Mid-Eastern and some Mediterranean agriculturalists had cows, but initially no pottery, and relied on them much less than on other animals (sheep, goat) and perhaps olive trees etc".

What a total nonsense. West Asian pre-Pottery Neolithic is older (and therefore not directly comparable) with European Neolithic. Cows were important in Anatolia anyhow.

Also Danubian Neolithic peoples were tested in the past and did not have the allele (Burger 2007). Even today their area is low in the allele, for European levels at least, even though it's not so low in some cases for lactase persistence phenotype (the difference being not explained by the known genes).

It seems to me that Neolithic as such can't be blamed for the selection of the allele. However we still lack aDNA data for some of the highest areas with the 13910T allele, which shows an Atlantic scatter.

"yes, it is easy to outsmart maju".

Of course. You can build a fan club with Daniel von Himmler. I promise I'll send you photos of my middle finger.

Maju said...

Also check A. Linnderholm et al. 2008. By c. 3000 BCE, Gotlanders had already 14% of the 13910T allele (still all heterozygous), while their inland counterparts at Ajvidë had some 36%.

However they had contamination concerns in the C allele direction, what they blamed to imported PCR reagents.

marnie said...

hi, eurologist,

didn't mean to step on your toes.

i'm just pointing out that lactase persistance may have developed, but not become dominant, in places where people did not have cows, but had goats.

and i'd disagree with you about the cow milk. to me, it lacks taste compared to goats milk. sheeps milk, on the other hand, is really yukky (to me).

and speaking of the distribution of lactase persistence, someone ought to have a closer look at lactase persistance in the southern balkans, especially at the extent to which certain populations drink goat's milk (but not cow milk).

Maju, thank you, once again, for making me laugh.

Observer said...

Its also possible, like some authors speculated, that Southern Neolithics had already a higher frequency of lactase persistence and it increased later too in those populations, but the selective pressure was simply not as strong as in the Northern European populations, which were heavily dependend on milk products in their diet for direct survival.

That was simply not as much the case in most Southern groups, though there are huge regional differences among them as well. Some Near Easterners have actually quite high numbers as well.

Northern Europeans most likely had both an effect of genflow and selection working on them.

Everything else seems to be less likely. With the Neolithic culture carriers of the gene came into the area in greater numbers, but once they arrived in the North, selective pressures became even stronger there for Lactase Persistence than they were in most of the Southern regions - in my opinion, explaining the very high numbers in Scandinavia.

Maju said...

There's nothing that indicates that the allele has a "Neolithic" origin: all "Neolithic" populations are in fact rather low and aDNA tests have been negative also.

That the selective pressure is "Neolithic" in nature (herding-related, with the peculiarity of not making cheese but drinking raw milk) it doesn't imply that the gene itself had a "Neolithic" origin. Actually no evidence points in that direction.

Actually where the lactase tolerance phenotype/genotypes has some quite apparent correlation with "epi-Neolithic" cultures with pastoralist orientation, such as in Atlantic Europe, the Sahel, peninsular Arabia or the Asian steppes.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"There's a whole set of Gotlander Pitted Ware mtDNA (Malmstrom 09), probably the same set reused here: 14 people, all U5/U4, except three (K, T, V)."

So, 78% U5/U4 and 7% each K, T and V. This shows similarity to the Ross, et al (2006), "Lactose tolerance in the Sami varies between 40 and 75% for different subpopulations (73,74), which is much lower than in the general Swedish population (91%)." And, according to a "http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9468755">source cited there, "The large between-group differences of the LAC*R gene frequencies in the Saami seem to reflect the level of genetic influence of neighbouring non-Saami populations. The role of gene inflow in reducing the level of primary hypolactasia [i.e. lactose intolerance] in various Saami subpopulations is confirmed by historic data of various ethnoterritorial groups as well as by the reduction of the number of traditional family name bearers and the change of the AB0 blood group gene frequencies among the Kildin Saami in the last 30 years."

The Gotland sample would argue for a view that the earliest Swedes were U5 and that the high percentage of V seen in modern Sami populations may have been a relatively recent trend (although the very small sample size makes a 78% U, 7% V, 14% other distribution not all that improbable from a 50% U, 40% V, 10% other mix very similar to the current Sami population (the p value is about .12), and even less improbable considering that the ancient Gotland samples are probably not independent from each other as the statistics assume.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Something got chopped. I had meant to say "shows similarity to the Sami population, linking to Wikipedia on Sami genetics, and then noting from other sources that in modern Sweden U is 11% (and only about 6% in the South near Gotland) and that H which is not descendant from U is more than 40%, indicating population replacement.

Maju said...

"and that H which is not descendant from U is more than 40%, indicating population replacement".

Not necessarily, because Gotland is just a small island which does not need to be representative of all Sweden (and is probably not in fact). To reach to any conclusions on the Gotland aDNA data, you would need to compare with modern Gotland data and those conclusions may well not be able to say much about surrounding regions.

For that we'd need more representative samples, in particular I feel lacking samples from the Megalithic areas: Denmark (and surrounding areas) and Britain specially. Britain (and Ireland) is actually the place where this LT allele is highest, and also where it has the tightest concordance with real phenotype (AFAIK - feel free to correct me if I missed something).

What I see is that Eastern Europe (source of Pitted Ware and early IEs) is not at the origin of this allele, Central Europe (Danubian Neolithic, Western IEs) isn't either, so what's left? The North Sea Megalithic sub-area.

Of course it could all be contamination of PCRs by Chinese workers but still present day levels of the -13910*T allele are not really high in the other possible source regions. And the only Nordic expansion we know of was that of the Germanic tribes, which was pretty much limited in scope (and certainly can't explain the high levels of the allele among Basques, for instance).

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Swedish pre-history in a nutshell (per Wikipedia):

"Sweden's prehistory begins in the Allerød warm period c. 12,000 BC with Late Palaeolithic reindeer-hunting camps of the Bromme culture at the edge of the ice in what is now the country's southernmost province. This period was characterized by small bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers using flint technology.

Farming and animal husbandry, along with monumental burial, polished flint axes and decorated pottery, arrived from the Continent with the Funnelbeaker culture in c. 4,000 BC."

Corded ware was the immediate successor of Funnelbeaker, reaching Sweden sometime on the late end of the period 2300-3200 BC, and the Kurgan hypothesis sees this as the arrival period into the area for Indo-European language. It is certainly plausible that this could have been accompanied by demographic change. Others argue that the Funnelbeaker people were already Indo-European language speakers.

Sweden's southern third was part of the stock-keeping and agricultural Nordic Bronze Age Culture's area, most of it being peripheral to the culture's Danish centre. The period began in c. 1,700 BC with the start of bronze imports from Europe. . . . Sweden's Iron Age is reckoned up to the introduction of stone architecture and monastic orders around the 12th century."

By the 8th century, and earlier, most of the migration was out of, rather than into Sweden, so any major migration into Sweden was probably earlier.

It isn't clear if the Bronze and Iron ages involved significant demographic changes. But, this ancient DNA study makes clear that the population genetics of Sweden experienced major demographic influx at some point, concentrated towards the South, the commencement of the Funnelbeaker, PCW, the Nordic Bronze Age and the Nordic Iron Age cultures would be the most plausible points in time for this to happen.

It isn't much of a stretch to associate pre-Funnelbeaker people, including those of Gotland with modern Sami and the Bromme culture, and to associate other parts of Swedish population genetics such as the H, K and T with the Funnelbeaker/Pitted Ware people or subsequent migration waves.

We know from history that Gotland shares its archeological and cultural history with Southern Sweden and Denmark going back at least as far as the Funnelbeaker culture, and the genetics in Sweden generally follow a North-South gradation, between more Sami-like and more Danish-like patterns. it is reasonable to assume that Gotland is close to Southern Sweden in most respects, given the antiquity and continuous use of travel by boat in the region (at least 6800 years).

Gotland in particular is famous as the probable ancestral home of the Goths: "a Gothic population had crossed the Baltic Sea before the 2nd century AD, reaching Scythia at the coast of the Black Sea in modern Ukraine where Goths left their archaeological traces in the Chernyakhov culture. In the 5th and 6th centuries, they became divided as the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, and established powerful successor-states of the Roman Empire in the Iberian peninsula and Italy. Crimean Gothic communities appear to have survived intact in Crimea until the late 18th century."

eurologist said...

I don't know - I always thought there was a very strong association of at least the phenotype and cow milk consumption... perhaps I am wrong.

There's nothing that indicates that the allele has a "Neolithic" origin: all "Neolithic" populations are in fact rather low and aDNA tests have been negative also.

That the selective pressure is "Neolithic" in nature (herding-related, with the peculiarity of not making cheese but drinking raw milk) it doesn't imply that the gene itself had a "Neolithic" origin. Actually no evidence points in that direction.


What I see is that Eastern Europe (source of Pitted Ware and early IEs) is not at the origin of this allele, Central Europe (Danubian Neolithic, Western IEs) isn't either, so what's left? The North Sea Megalithic sub-area.


Do you think there really is sufficient data to exclude the (perhaps late) Neolithic and Central Europe? The genes must have evolved some place, and those with higher population density and survival pressure just seem to make more sense. Of course, it would have taken millennia to reach the percentages we see today, and the initial percentages would have been rather low.

And the phenotype is now so common in much of Europe - I find it hard to believe that could have develop without persistent, ongoing selective pressure. And isn't most of the (pre-Bell-beaker) North Sea Megalithic neolithic, anyway? And only a few hundred year after the Danubian culture(s)? What makes it so different?

Maju said...

"arrived from the Continent with the Funnelbeaker culture in c. 4,000 BC".

There are a lot of issues re. TRBK origins. See this pretty good review by Baldia:

"Due to the traditional preoccupation with cultural origins some early archaeologists saw the TRB as a “Nordic culture,” perhaps derived from the autochthonous Late Mesolithic Ertebølle culture. Others used to assume that the TRB evolved in Poland from the Later Linearbandkeramik (LBK). Again, others have proposed a relationship with the farming communities of the Rössen-derived Bischheim culture and the subsequent Michelsberg culture of western Central Europe. Finally, a connection with the Lengyel culture or the “Lengyel-Polgár cycle” (Lengyel-Polgar sphere) of eastern and southeastern Europe is plausible".

I'm more familiar with the Ertebölle origin (Denmark-Scania "Mesolithic" that can well be early Neolithic) but the matter seems far from solved. It is in any case a distinct phenomenon from Danubian Neolithic.

"Corded ware was the immediate successor of Funnelbeaker, reaching Sweden sometime on the late end of the period 2300-3200 BC"...

Corded Ware, unlike TRBK, is clearly intrusive: an invasion.

With CW the Megalithism (clannic burial in dolmens) that characterizes the Scandinavian, Dutch and NW German variants of TRBK is abolished.

Wikipedia fails to address, it seems to me, the issue of Pitted Ware, which should be related to the groups with similar pottery of the East Baltic and Belarus, probably originated as a variant of Dniepr-Don Neolithic (single burials in extended position with ochre, pots with pointed base instead of the usual flat one, hunter-gatherer tendency never totally abandoned and in fact increased as they move northwards). Pitted Ware was scattered around Funnelbeaker (at the Baltic Sea coasts) but unlike this one does not use Megalithism and is much less clearly agricultural (regressive Neolithic or Subneolithic culture).

I could not find any good online source for Pitted Ware in all the Baltic area but it's crucial to understand that it's not older in Sweden than TRBK, even if they have somewhat different distributions (and surely origins).

Maju said...

"I always thought there was a very strong association of at least the phenotype and cow milk consumption".

There's no reason to think that. I don't know if in Scandinavia they use cows a lot but in other cases it's not the case (sheep in the British islands and Basque country, horse among Mongols, sheep, goat and camel among Arabs...)

If anything what seems to matter is consumption of milk, unprocessed milk in fact (because cheese and yogurt are generally digestible by lactose intolerant people). The animal from which is taken doesn't really matter.

"Do you think there really is sufficient data to exclude the (perhaps late) Neolithic and Central Europe?"

Scandinavian Neolithic is essentially Megalithic, as in all the Atlantic area. There's no sufficient data for anything anyhow. Just a few hints and a huge doubt on PCR contamination.

"The genes must have evolved some place"...

The allele could have just existed as neutral mutation before Neolithic. What we can infer maybe is a "recent" expansion but we can't know for how long had the gene been floating around without any purpose.

"and those with higher population density and survival pressure just seem to make more sense".

Higher populations means to me less room for cattle: because cattle is comparatively expensive relative to agricultural produce. In fact the areas where the allele is highest (and in general the phenotype) have a history of rather low population densities before the High Middle Ages.

However milk is an excellent meal: it has lots of proteins, fat and crucially lots of calcium (otherwise hard to get). And, as you said, it can be gathered all year round and is a very efficient way to exploit domestic animals (not just cows but also sheep, goats, mares and camels).

Anyhow, I have the hypothesis (just an hypothesis) that Magdalenian peoples might have domesticated horses (at least for some time) and exploited them this way (as well as for transport). This might have allowed the lactose tolerance alleles in particular the one we are dealing with here to have formed an initial demographic base for further expansion.

There's also some unclear evidence of milk storage in the subalpine area prior to Danubian Neolithic (an in fact older than any known Neolithic in the area).

See also the issue of La Hoguette cultural area, which is not known if it's a northern variant of Cardium Pottery or an early western variant of Dniepr-Don. Not sure how it fits here but worth mentioning anyhow, in order to broaden our understanding of the complexity of early European Neolithic.

"And the phenotype is now so common in much of Europe - I find it hard to believe that could have develop without persistent, ongoing selective pressure".

Me too. That's why I'm considering an early pressure in an area not yet analyzed, such as the SW. Early pressure (with low population densities) could have made gene dominance to be established more easily and then expanded in demic migrations, maybe associated to Megalithism. Highly speculative, I know, but a hypothesis worth considering anyhow because the only clear expansive drive that affects Western Europe in general in Neolithic times is Megalithism.

"And isn't most of the (pre-Bell-beaker) North Sea Megalithic neolithic, anyway?"

Yes. That's my point.

"And only a few hundred year after the Danubian culture(s)? What makes it so different?"

That is largely non-Danubian (Danubians appear to have been lactose intolerant - see previous post).

Maju said...

Erratum: not "previous post" but a post above somewhere. Actually I meant Burger 2007.

pconroy said...

Maju said:

I don't know if in Scandinavia they use cows a lot but in other cases it's not the case (sheep in the British islands and Basque country, horse among Mongols, sheep, goat and camel among Arabs...)


In Ireland the only milk people drink is Cow's milk. I don't know if this was always the case, but suspect that it is. Sheep have always been kept in considerable numbers for wool and secondarily meat.
I know that in the Medieval Viking settlements in Greenland and Iceland, they were drinking Cow's milk too - so I suspect they weren't drinking sheep/goats milk also.

BTW, your mention of an early domestication of the horse in Iberia is interesting, as based on modern horse DNA, Iberian horse breeds have some mtDNA not found in other breeds. So it would seem that either there was a separate domestication of horses in Iberia, or that Iberia contains a relict population of horses, that got extinguished elsewhere.

More here:
http://www.pnas.org/content/99/16/10905.abstract?cited-by=yes&legid=pnas;99/16/10905

Maju said...

"In Ireland the only milk people drink is Cow's milk. I don't know if this was always the case, but suspect that it is".

That surprises me a bit (what a waste of economic potential with the sheep). Anyhow, the gene applies for all kind of milk.

"BTW, your mention of an early domestication of the horse in Iberia is interesting"...

Wouldn't be in Iberia but France. There's where the engravings of horses with what look like bridles have been found (and where most of the Franco-Cantabrian region is).

It's possible that there are relic populations. Have they tested the pottokak? They are a Pyrenean horse (large pony) type that is said to resemble the ones appearing in Magdalenian art

eurologist said...

Well, my emphasis on cow's milk was also from the fact that at least today, in almost all of central and northern Europe, the only milk people drink is cow's milk. The milk of goats and sheep is almost universally processed to cheese, instead. But again, that may have been different, in the past.

I was using the term Danubian Culture in the wider sense, including Rössen. Because in northern Germany and in the Netherlands it is really Rössen that is the immediate predecessor to TRB - so there, it doesn't look like TRB came from a non-agricultural people (as opposed to Ertebølle farther north). So in that area, such genes could have already accumulated over half a millennium such that once TRB got started, it was already highly seeded - assuming that there was a significant genetic flow (which is reasonable, since the area has no natural boundaries except the heath lands that were of little agricultural value, and trade along the rivers to and from the very nearby coast has always been important).

Maju said...

"I was using the term Danubian Culture in the wider sense, including Rössen".

Of course!

I'm just used to think Funnelbeaker to derive from Ertebölle, which I'm used to see as early Neolithic, rather than mere Epipaleolithic.

Anyhow, I can't think how to fit Funnelbeaker with LBK in general, except maybe with Michelsberg... but this being a derivative rather than a source. Its Megalithic character is also rather non-Danubian, even if some of the late Rössen derived cultures of the south (Horgen, etc.) eventually adopted Megalithism.

It's a complicated phenomenon that can't IMO be seen as mere Danubian-derived, even if it's obviously Danubian-influenced (at least in the arrival of Neolithic economical concepts: agriculture, herding...). Well, actually some Funnelbeaker groups were apparently hunter-gatherers (those by the Baltic, closest to Pitted Ware cultural zone) it's the (western) Megalithic groups who are not. However, by then another region of Danubian-Megalithic hybridation was Britain.

I'd really like to dedicate some time an space to discuss and understand this transition better because it's not clear at all and certainly I do not know all the details well enough (not in a 2010 actualized manner) but probably it's beyond the scope of this space (blog comment format not good enough: forum format is better).

eurologist said...

I'd really like to dedicate some time an space to discuss and understand this transition better because it's not clear at all and certainly I do not know all the details well enough (not in a 2010 actualized manner)

Same here. It seems like the very North (of nowadays Netherlands, Germany, and parts of Poland) was the last frontier, until people realized that beyond the sandy strips again there was valuable soil, and the climate (moderated by the sea) was really not all that much colder.

Rössen and Ertebölle lived side-by side, for a long time, within a few days of walking, or a day on a good boat. Likely with some pastoralists in between. Lots of opportunities for fair and peaceful trade, and cultural and genetic interchange. I find this area extremely interesting, because I think it is crucial for understanding the make-up of today's populations, and today's languages. Once these areas were settled, it would have been hard to completely change the population. And, as you know, I am also partial to a very early origin of IE, and take the idea seriously that TRB may indeed have been IE.

The British isles are interesting for understanding what was going on in general, but I am very doubtful that much in terms of languages or people/genetics flowed out of them. They appear to always be recipients of influences from the mainland.

Maju said...

I think there was a real ecological, climatic limitation: the Atlantic climate may be relatively warm but it's also way too humid for the usual crops. I wouldn't blame the slowing down to Danubian and Mediterranean Neolithic expansion to mere lack of geographic knowledge but rather to a real climatic limitation. In Belgium and NW France this obstacle was overcome but there were a bunch of local Neolithic cultures there interacting with Danubian Neolithic early on too (just that as they eventually got absorbed into the Danubian cultural sphere, they are not really well known to most).

"Rössen and Ertebölle lived side-by side, for a long time, within a few days of walking, or a day on a good boat".

Yes. That really makes it less likely that Ertebölle was not at least to some extent Neolithic, IMO. But they may have been so only to a limited extent, as they relied heavily in sea resources.

Anyhow, you could argue the same for CP and SW European Atlantic regions, for the already mentioned Seine-Moselle Danubian-plus and Britain... It's clear that they interacted but did so only slowly and gradually (except maybe in the British case where there seems to be a real colonization, not just by Danubians but still at a quite late date).

"Lots of opportunities for fair and peaceful trade"...

I wouldn't exaggerate the importance of trade in the (early) Neolithic (i.e. pre-Chalcolithic). For many prehistorians what defines the Chalcolithic is precisely the growing social complexity and the long distance trade rather than the mere use of soft metals. But in pan-European chronologies it did not began before c. 3500 or 3000 BCE. But for the early Neolithic, I'd say that trade was very limited or non-existent: societies were essentially self-sufficient.

That doesn't mean they did not have contacts with their neighbors but I would not describe them as "trade" in principle (exchange, contact, gift and/or sometimes maybe struggle as well). A possible source of knowledge might be refugees fleeing from the pressure of other more advanced and numerous groups, this may explain cultural change and slow techno-cultural flow. Another explanation is that foragers generally are reluctant to change their lifestyle, though pastoralism (together with a limited orchard agriculture maybe) may have been perceived as more acceptable.

"And, as you know, I am also partial to a very early origin of IE, and take the idea seriously that TRB may indeed have been IE".

I didn't know but I see no basis for that claim. TRBK, like Danubian cultures, was swallowed by the Corded Ware (single burials) expansion. It's really difficult for me to explain linguistic continuity when there was such a sudden cultural change. Also most Western IE peoples are from further South, while Eastern and Balcanic IE peoples also seem totally unrelated.

Remember that IE is before anything a linguistic definition, and then also a cultural-religious definition (similar theologies in all groups).

Maju said...

"The British isles are interesting for understanding what was going on in general, but I am very doubtful that much in terms of languages or people/genetics flowed out of them".

I used to think that way but if there was a colonization of Scandinavia/Low Germany in TRBK-Megalithic times, Britain is a possible source and almost necesarily a cultural reference. However the timing is similar and the demic expansion was seemingly faster in Denmark than in Britain.

Other origins could be in Armorica (Brittany-plus) or Portugal... but I don't think they are likely in principle. However, if the expansion of R1b1b2a1 MUST be Neolithic, Portugal is the only place where the transition R1b1b2a->R1b1b2a1 may have happened (and is also the oldest Megalithic region by far). Also if Portugal would have been such a source we should see other minor Portuguese lineages such as E1b1b1 (both variants), G2a, J2b and T, as well as mtDNA H3 and U6, in the expansion array and we don't really see them but at very low levels.

So really not: it doesn't look likely. And that's another reason to think in terms of Paleolithic continuity in the Atlantic area (at least), whatever more localized migrations there might have been.

"They appear to always be recipients of influences from the mainland".

Yes, Britain did receive influences and possibly people from France but that doesn't mean they could not have also sent people outside later on, right? I don't say they did: just that one thing doesn't exclude the other.

John said...

ON the question of the taste of milk, I grew up eating grass fed lamb and beef and drinking milk from grass feed sheep and cows. I prefer the taste, but people who have never had it prefer the bland taste of corn fed cow milk to grass fed cows milk and Americans in my experience consider any lamb "gamey" tasting -- but especially dislike grass fed animal meat. (for goodness sakes Americans even prefer corn feed salmon to wild!)

It is all a question of what you are used to. I do not think we can extrapolate what any of us in any particular place prefer to anyone else in any other time or place.

By the way LOTS of people in rural less developed places drink sheeps milk. It is EASY to milk a sheep. You face tehg sheep's front. You straddle the sheep by putting its head between your legs and beding over its body. You reach between its legs, grab the udders and milk it directly into a contaner. Any adolescent sized child can do this.

Also in "preferences" commentators do not seem to be taking into account the different befits and conditions of husbandry of these various livestock. Certain landscapes, and even conditions of competition and ease of theft create relative benefits and difficulties with these different domesticates. Even size of communities is relevant, slaughtering cattle for meat is a complex and wasteful proposition in many climates.

Also, and I don't know the history of small and cow pox, but I know these were diseases that killed a lot of people. Perhaps it is possible that keeping sheep was safer for pre small and cow pox resistant populations?

Lastly someone said cheese is a seasonal product or would have been for archaic or prehistoric populations. What is the source of that claim? I don't think that is factual in modern rural cheese making low lactose tolerance regions and I don't see any evidence that would have been the case in prehistoric populations. And aren't we forgetting yogurt which can be made very quickly, easily and readily and which renders moot many of the aspects of lactose intolerance?

Maju said...

I essentially agree with what you said, John, but yogurt is generally thought to have arrived to Europe only with the Turkic peoples (Huns?).

On a side note, can lactose intolerant people eat curdled milk, a very classical Basque dairy? (IDK because I know no lactose intolerants personally)

Marnie said...

John, eurologist and Maju,

I have a few thoughts on your comments. John and eurologist, very nice to hear from you, since you both grew up on a farm.

Like many people, most of my great grand parents were also farmers. The Dunsmore motto, all farmers, (Perthshire -> Donegal/Londonderry -> Huntingdon, Quebec):

"Spes anchora tuta"

Farmers . . . it's strange that we've almost forgotten their legacy of hope, ingenuity and resourcefulness.

I'd like to comment more on your thoughts about dairy animals and the decision of which animals keep. . . and also about yogurt. I can't get to it until later this week, but I hope to have thought out comments up by the weekend.

In the meantime, I also think there is a role that pox and smallpox played in the choices that people made about dairy animals. There is a discussion in the book:

"Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver" by Arthur Allen

pconroy said...

John,

I don't know where you grew up, but in either case, while your comments are interesting, I'm not sure how they pertain to the discussion. It's a fact that in Ireland people drink cows milk and NOT ewe's milk.

I grew up on a dairy farm and know all about dairying in Ireland, and my cousin is the chief dairy advisor to the Dept of Agriculture in Ireland.

I grew up eating and drinking grass fed animal products too, from our own farm also.

BTW, cows that have been reared in close proximity to humans since they were calves, are easy to milk. I was able to milk cows by hand as early as 4 yo. Of course to be proficient, you do need to have quick reflexes to avoid being kicked.

Marnie said...

So, getting back to our cow/sheep/goat discussion, I'd first like to say that most Western and Northern Europeans do seem to be able to digest copious amounts of milk. I seem to be one of them. For most of my life, I've drunk gallons of cow mild per week.

I still do drink quite a bit of cow milk. That being said, even cow milk has different tastes, depending on origin and cow feed.

Here in California, it is very easy to get good goat's milk. And over the last ten years or so, I've developed a taste for it. I still drink both, but for pure taste, I think goat's milk is the better.

I would think that most people who drink a lot of cow milk can adapt to the taste of sheep or goat's milk.

I'm not sure of the reverse in Southern Europeans. I don't know if the lactose is different in goat or sheep's milk. I just know a number of Southern Europeans who do not drink cow's milk, but would not hesitate to drink sheep or goat's milk.

Some people were asking where I heard that cheese making is seasonal.

According to my mother-in-law, from Liknades, who's family kept some sheep when she was a child:

Winter: the lambs would get most of the milk, no cheese making and not much milk drinking then. Hard cheese from the previous Spring would be eaten.

Spring: Sheeps milk would be used to make a hard cheese called "Batzos". When I asked why this cheese was made only in the Spring, she said that it was because the sheep's milk is thinner then and Batzos has to be made from this kind of milk.

Summer: Sheeps milk would be made into feta. Apparently the milk is thicker then.

Fall: Not much milk.

I'd note that the climate in Liknades is cold and rainy or snowy in the winter. Arid and hot in the summer. So, in the Spring, there is plenty of green grass, but by the fall, the grass is dried up.

So this seasonal making of cheese is obviously an adaptation to that.

Also of note: In a neighbouring village, Avgerino[Kostansko], about seven miles to the southwest of Liknades, and about 500 meters higher, they keep both goats and sheep. In addition to Batzos and Feta, here they also make a cheese called Kefalograviera which is made from both sheep and goats milk.

Most children drink sheep or goats milk, as well as some adults.

It seems odd to me that current maps of lactase persistance indicate that SE Europeans have a low tolerance for lactose.


Villages:

Liknades, Voiou, Kozani

(Google: liknades voiou)
http://wikimapia.org/10182010/Liknades-Voiou


Avgerinos, Voiou, Kozani

http://wikimapia.org/7554128/el/Avgerinos

eurologist said...

Most children drink sheep or goats milk, as well as some adults.

It seems odd to me that current maps of lactase persistance indicate that SE Europeans have a low tolerance for lactose.


You answered your own question: it does not matter what children do/can do: they have the necessary enzymes, anyway.

At any rate, adult milk drinking of any kind is very rare in the south compared to the north - there is no question about it. My wife's relatives are all predominately lactose intolerant (from Italy). Conversely, I have yet to meet such a person from northern Europe (they do exist, but are rare). There is a huge difference - similar to the difference in cattle predominance 7,000 years ago. The grass is always greener in the north, and for much longer. And initially, it was too wet and lush for sheep and goat except in the mountains.

Maju said...

"At any rate, adult milk drinking of any kind is very rare in the south compared to the north".

The south of where? SW Europe seems to be lactose tolerant mostly. Per Wikipedia (sourced but to lazy to check): Spaniards are 15% intolerant (like Germans or Austrians), Basques less than 1%. That fully agrees with my experience because I don't remember ever meeting someone who could not drink milk for whatever reason.

Italians instead are like 53% intolerant both in north and south, a rate similar to the Balcans.

North Africans in my opinion must be mostly tolerant too because they drink their coffee with lots of milk (and sugar) but I don't know any phenotype studies there.

Achaean said...

Please do not troll Maju.

His comments are always insightful and he adds quality to this blog.

Nobody is perfect and it is less-than-chivalrous to strike down someone who has just had his knee bent through a slip.

:-)

Marnie said...

Hi eurologist,

I don't think that lactase persistance is a black and white issue. It is a matter of degree.

"At any rate, adult milk drinking of any kind is very rare in the south compared to the north - there is no question about it."

I'm saying, exactly, that at least in Avgerinos and Liknades, it is not rare at all. Even today. They just don't drink cow milk.

"At any rate, adult milk drinking of any kind is very rare in the south compared to the north - there is no question about it. My wife's relatives are all predominately lactose intolerant (from Italy)."

I don't think it is correct to lump lactase persistance in Southern Europe. There are obviously regional differences, as is clear with the Basques. By the way, we haven't discussed Buffalo milk. (Sicily)

"You answered your own question: it does not matter what children do/can do: they have the necessary enzymes, anyway."

Again, it is a matter of degree. Some children cannot drink milk after the age of five, and some after the age of fifteen. I don't know what the "cutoff" is in SE Europe. But it would be interesting to find out. And interesting to compare groups who have a tradition of herding against those who don't.

I won't comment further, except to say that the milk drinking habits of the villages of Kozani are hardly isolated to that region. I've run across descriptions of adult Greek Islanders who drink quite a lot of sheep or goat's milk.

It would make for an interesting study, for a curious person with an eye for nuance.

onur said...

Here in Turkey, traditionally four animals' milk is drunk by both children and adults with local variations in preference: cow, sheep, goat and, where it can be found (as it can only live in wetlands), water buffalo. I know lactose intolerance only from scientific papers and haven't encountered any real life example of it in Turkey.

onur said...

Of course, we aren't heavy milk drinkers like North Europeans. At least we don't drink milk in every meal (believe it or not, this is what my cousin experienced while staying with a Finnish family in Finland for one week).

Marnie said...

onur,

I don't drink milk with every meal either! I drink maybe one or two glasses a day, a latte in the morning and maybe a glass, with cookies, of course, in the evening.

And I like tea with milk.

But I do know people who really don't drink milk at all, especially people of Asian ancestry. So it is a real phenomena.

As I've said, Turkey, Greece and the Southern Balkans deserve a closer look.

So, what do you like to drink with milk? (I don't imagine you are drinking lattes!!) And yes, I like Turkish coffee.

Also, on another thread that you were posting to, several weeks ago, you were mentioning a few Turkish words that appear in Greek. My husband was looking at something the other day and apparently Modern Greek has absorbed more than 10,000 Turkish words. Words that start with the "ts" sound are almost always of Turkish origin. And "chenak", a village word, which means a piece of junk. Or lots of junk "chenakia". I should be careful, because I just hear these words, but I'm never sure if they are swear words, or not. Anyway, in our family, that word is used to refer to a broken diswasher, or something that someone sold you that turned out to be defective.

onur said...

I drink maybe one or two glasses a day, a latte in the morning and maybe a glass, with cookies, of course, in the evening.

Exactly the same for me with the sole difference that I usually prefer plain milk (always cold) to coffee with milk or latte.

And I like tea with milk.

Nah, too deformed for my tastes.:) I only drank it once, but I don't think I'll repeat that.

So, what do you like to drink with milk?

Nothing mostly, plain milk is good enough.

And yes, I like Turkish coffee.

My all-time favorite hot drink! It is more bitter than Western coffee but less bitter than Arabic coffee, so it is in a sense more balanced than other coffees.:D

Unlike Western coffee, we never drink Turkish coffee with milk.

My husband was looking at something the other day and apparently Modern Greek has absorbed more than 10,000 Turkish words.

There were even more Turkish words in Greek (especially in Anatolian and probably Thraco-Macedonian Greek dialects) before the Greek language purification movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.

And "chenak", a village word, which means a piece of junk.

The closest sounding modern Turkish word to it I know is "canak" ('c' is pronounced like the 'ch' in "chain"), which has meanings like "crock", "ovenware", "dish", "earthenware pot". But it has also slang meanings, which I am not knowledgeable about enough. So if the village word "chenak" comes from the Turkish "canak", it probably comes from one of its slang meanings.

Btw, there are many village and slang words of Greek origin in colloquial varieties of Turkish (in eastern Turkish dialects, Armenian village and slang words). I think that is because village and slang languages are usually less affected by the formal written language than the town languages of the higher classes.

Maju said...

What I don't gather is how people can devour rice pudding and be lactose intolerant. Rice pudding is a common desert in supposedly high lactose intolerant phenotype areas like the Balcans, Turkey, Latin America, Middle East, South and SE Asia.

Marnie said...

Maju, forget about it. Rice pudding is just the tip of the iceberg. There's cheese and yogurt everywhere in the Balkans, if not milk, so the little bit of milk in rice pudding is "bubkas".

onur, you've got it. It's "canak" for sure. You'll be happy to know that "canak" has made it all the way to San Francisco and right now our washing machine in a "canak." Very satisfying to say that, with extra emphasis on the "ch" when you're dealing with an unwanted household repair.

We came up with a few more:

"shapano", and it's shortened form, "shapan", which my husband translates as "up yonder".

"shakato" ("shakat") -> "down yonder".

"tsolia" -> rags.

"tsaksmo" -> really far.

"zerzavoul" -> a small, ferocious animal, sometimes used to describe children. not sure about the origin of this one.

I have to admit that when I drink milk with coffee or tea, it has to be cow milk. Goat milk with coffee is a disaster.

And yes, I like my Turkish coffee σκέτο. Do you have the cup turning, reading the grinds custom?

Maju said...

But yougurt and cheese are edible for all or most lactose intolerant people: the lactose is processed in those dairies. Instead rice pudding has raw milk in it (ok, cooked, but all "raw" milk is cooked for hygienic reasons). This dish should not be edible by lactose intolerant people.

Marnie said...

Maju, I don't think that people in the countries you are describing are extremely lactose intolerant. A little bit of rice pudding is not big deal. And I think rice pudding is kinda kids food. Greeks and Turks have much nicer desserts than rice pudding.

By the way, patisserie desserts are a Turkish invention, not a French one.

Maju said...

"And I think rice pudding is kinda kids food".

You must be kidding! The gods themselves probably eat that and only that.

(Well, chocolate too - let's respect Aztec traditions).

"Greeks and Turks have much nicer desserts than rice pudding".

There's no better dessert than rice pudding. And the one I tasted at Istanbul was even better than the one we make here: super-creamy, ultra-nice, perfect!

And I ate it at popular restaurants only, could not find it in the ones for tourists.

onur said...

Do you have the cup turning, reading the grinds custom?

Yes, of course. One of my aunts and one of my cousins are adept at coffee grind reading. It is a very common and deep-rooted custom in Turkey. Normally it is performed at homes and mostly to have some fun (though there are still some who really believe the grind readings), but nowadays you can find in Turkey many cafes and the like (especially in tourist attraction places) where fortune tellers read their customers' coffee grinds in exchange for some money.

And I think rice pudding is kinda kids food.

NO WAY!!! Many (I guess most) adults (myself included) in Turkey eat it with pleasure. In fact, in traditional Turkish cuisine there are many kinds of desserts made of milk (with or without rice) whose lactose is unprocessed, including sutlac (classical rice pudding), muhallebi, kazandibi, tavukgogsu, keskul and gullac among others, all of which are frequently and delightfully eaten by both adults and kids.

onur said...

There's no better dessert than rice pudding.

Completely agree!:D Especially the baked and slightly burnt ones!

And the one I tasted at Istanbul was even better than the one we make here: super-creamy, ultra-nice, perfect!

I live in a relatively small town of Istanbul, but even here there are some restaurants which make rice pudding (sutlac) and other milky desserts perfectly.

Marnie said...

It seems that I have inadvertently stumbled into a field of rice pudding lovers. It's OK. I'll just say that it's not the favorite Greek/Turkish dessert in our house.

I'm not a big dessert person anyway, but of village desserts, I like the cookies, gliko (very good perserved black cherries), honey comb, and of course, home made cherry flavored tsipouro. Superb locally made feta is also a popular dessert.

Of course, in Thessaloniki, where my husband's family also lives, on Venizelos Street, you can get just about any Turkish style dessert that you want. They're amazingly good and it was kind of a revelation to discover this.

So the cup turning custom in Avgerino and Liknades is practised exactly the same way as you describe it. It's mostly for fun for the younger generation, but my mother-in-law and our great aunt Antigone, are true believers, on most days. Well, they also believe in the warding off the evil eye, but that's another story!

Onur, you'll be happy to know that Achillaes, our great uncle (who recently died at the age of ninety) took great pain to explain to me that you could not understand Greece without understanding that it was at the crossroad of East and West. He didn't reject that and he seemed more than happy to live in a polytheistic and tolerant world.

Anyway, I'm going to sign off for today. Dienekes has put up an interesting post.

Have a nice weekend.

onur said...
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onur said...

Onur, you'll be happy to know that Achillaes, our great uncle (who recently died at the age of ninety) took great pain to explain to me that you could not understand Greece without understanding that it was at the crossroad of East and West.

Marnie, Turkish-Greek similarities or differences aren't subjects that I investigate emotionally. Otherwise how can I be objective about them? I'm investigating these because human communities don't live in a vacuum, there are always interactions between various communities and no community is exempt from such interactions. As Greeks are one of the ethnicities (I am using the word "ethnicity" in a loose and flexible sense, not in an essentialist, racial or nationalistic sense) that have coexisted with Turkish ethnicity in the same territory for the last thousand years, it is very normal for me, as an ethnic Turk, to investigate such subjects like Greek-Turkish similarities and differences. There are many other ethnicities that have been living and interecting with Turkish ethnicity for a long time, so they also deserve investigation.

onur said...
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onur said...

but my mother-in-law and our great aunt Antigone, are true believers, on most days

Yeah, so are some of my oldish relatives.

Well, they also believe in the warding off the evil eye, but that's another story!

That is even a more widespread belief in Turkey, even among young generations! What kinds of charms and amulets do they use in Greece and the Balkans in general? In Turkey we have "nazar boncugu"s (means "evil eye bead" in Turkish) and small amulets containing passages from the Koran among many other kinds of amulets and charms. We even have minuscule Korans whose writings are so small that they are impossible to read without a microscope! Many of the charms and amulets can also be worn around the neck and wrist, you can see them on many people's necks and wrists in Turkey, especially the nazar (evil eye) beads.

Btw, the 'c' in "boncugu" or "boncuk" (bead) is without cadilla, so it is pronounced in Turkish as the 'j' in English "jam". The 'g' in "boncugu" is with breve, so it is silent in Turkish. The rest is pronounced as in Spanish. "Nazar" is pronounced as in the Latin transliterations of modern Greek.

Marnie said...

onur,

Yes, the evil eye bead is given as a protection to children. It's blue, black and white, which leaves me to believe that the evil eye evolved as a protection against blue eyed invaders from the north. or against sickness. variously, both.

my mother-in-law's greater practices against the evil eye have to do with various uses of salt. Yes, salt. Especially given to children.

in fact, I don't entirely disqualify these practices as pure superstition as salt is a known antibiotic.

Maju said...

FYI: blue beads have been used in the Eastern Med since Neolithic times, apparently as magic protection. The explanation I read is rather that the color blue (water-related?) was considered beneficial.

onur said...
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onur said...
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onur said...

Yes, the evil eye bead is given as a protection to children. It's blue, black and white

Exactly the same description with the nazar boncugu. Is it like these:

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=%22nazar%20boncu%C4%9Fu%22&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

my mother-in-law's greater practices against the evil eye have to do with various uses of salt. Yes, salt. Especially given to children.

Just like nazar boncugu (evil eye bead), using salt as a protection against evil eye, sickness and so on - especially for children - is very widespread in Turkey. My grandmother used to give sanctified (with prayer and puff) salt to my father and aunts when they were children.

Using water - like salt, sanctified - for the same purposes is also very widespread in Turkey.

FYI: blue beads have been used in the Eastern Med since Neolithic times, apparently as magic protection. The explanation I read is rather that the color blue (water-related?) was considered beneficial.

Interesting, Maju, can you tell us more about blue beads and their origins and original functions?

Maju said...

I've lost the links, Onur. All I can tell is from memory: blue or turquoise beads were already in use in early Neolithic in Palestine (not sure if PPNA or PPNB, which comes from further North).

Maju said...

NVM, it's green beads, not blue.

Marnie said...

onur,

I looked at the google images of "nazar boncu." Those are exactly it. And the beads are blue, Mediterranean blue (azure) or sky blue (a bit lighter). Those pictures make me feel like rushing out and buying some more. I like the images of the "nazar boncu(s?)" in the trees.

Regarding the salt customs, I'm not fully up on all the variations. My husband had a "declaration of independence" moment when he was at about seven-y-o, on Greek Independence Day, when his mother took him on a Philadelphia bus in full foustanela dress. As a result, my mother-in-law has scaled herself back a bit.

On of her more enduring practices is to give children salt (a pinch of salt on the tongue) after someone comes over to visit. There are all kinds of implications of this, which I don't understand and I try not to think about!

onur said...
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onur said...

nazar boncu(s?)

Its singular is "nazar boncugu", not "nazar boncu" (meaningless in Turkish). That 's' I used above was nothing but the English plural suffix "-(e)s". The Turkish plural suffix is "ler" or "lar" depending on the vowels (as a result of the Turkish vowel harmony).

to give children salt (a pinch of salt on the tongue)

Just as in Turkey.

In Turkey, salt and water have to be ingested (eaten/drinken) in order to function as protectors. Consecration - performed by first praying (always) and then puffing at the end (not always but mostly) - of them is another necessity for their functioning as protectors, though I am not actually so sure whether consecration is a necessity for salt, but it certainly is for water.

Marnie said...

onur, thanks for the information. I will have to check this out.

Do you know of any customs regarding springs(water)? The ones coming out of the ground?

In Avgerino, the local springs seem to be sacred, but I haven't had a chance to fully delve into it.

onur said...
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onur said...

Do you know of any customs regarding springs(water)? The ones coming out of the ground?

This subject is beyond my knowledge as it almost exclusively pertains to rural culture and I don't know much about Turkish rural culture, as I was born and have lived in Istanbul all my life. In my father's village (I've been there for an exceedingly short time in total) in central Anatolia, I feel a little bit like a tourist. Even if there are sacred springs in Turkey, I have no knowledge of them as such subjects have usually been away from my sphere of interest. This is a natural result of living away from the countryside and I don't feel regretful about it.

Marnie said...

Thanks onur. It's been a pleasure talking with you.

onur said...

Thanks onur. It's been a pleasure talking with you.

It's been my pleasure, Marnie. Thank you for the very valuable information you've shared.