Friday, December 26, 2014

Review 2014

Quick, quick review of 2014

"A tree from Beaker times" Wales News Service, 2014
Four and a half thousand years ago, a Beaker bowyer looking for stavewood glanced at the trunk of this gnarled yew tree before moving on through the woods.  This tree sticks out in my mind as something uniquely special that is a living relict of that ancient age.

But trees aren't the only living relicts of those ancients.  We see their faces when we look into the mirror and DNA may make 2015, 2016 and 2017 the biggest years in the study of Beakerfolk of the last 100 years.

Here's a few highlights from 2014 that stick out in my mind:

1.  Even though there hasn't been much published Bell Beaker DNA in 2014, there have been quite a few important studies on remains of Neolithic and Paleolithic Eurasians to add to last year's.   A larger picture is continuing to develop of the genetic situation leading up to the Chalcolithic and the metal ages that followed.

There were two important studies updating the branching dates of Europe's biggest Y-Chromosomes, R1b (Larmuseau et al, 2014) and R1a (Underhill et al, 2014).  Whatever the mechanism, it's clear that a rapid accession of foreign male lineages supplanted native European ones around 5,000 years ago.  It probably didn't happen in a day, as you can see from the Kromsdorf cemetary, it may have involved the burden of a landed class smothering peasants over many, many centuries.

Autobahn Girl, 2014  (Photographer Steffen Schellhorn)

2.  A tiny segment of a hemp bowstring was preserved over a copper Palmela point in Portugal.  (the braid was not measurable and the twist pattern has not been identified)  The yew longbow with a linen string has probably been the backbone of European archery since the Neolithic.  However, hemp adds a new dimension to Beaker bowyery.  Stuart Piggott suspected at some point Beakers were using doubly-recurve composite bows with sunken gripes.  I think the "radial class" (as I put it) stone bracers* may further evidence along with hemp the brief presence of recurve composites.

3.  A number of personal artifacts were recovered.  The Kirkhaugh second half was discovered after 70 something years and reinforced the notion that 'basket earrings' are always pairs.  The Danish Dagger showed us for the first time what the birch-bark hilt of the Scandinavian daggers looked like.  A metal detectorist in Britain found another lunula, more minature items were recovered from the graves of Bell Beaker children.

4.  Bell Beaker people were unearthed everywhere.  Two children from Buckinghamshire.  A young woman killed by a hammer blow was found near the Autobahn in Germany.  A double burial in Scotland.   A woman in the Highlands, a noble woman in furs and jewelry in the south.

5.  The realm of the Beakers continues to expand, both at its margins in Northeastern Europe and Africa, but also its saturation level in places where Beaker artifacts hadn't been found before.

And of course, the heretical Bell Beaker Blogger made its debut.  Next up, things to come and predictions for 2015.

* BTW, I haven't forgot about my floundering and poorly named Beaker bow draw weight series.  I've put it off awaiting something else.

1 comment:

  1. Composite bows probably don't exist before 2000BCE, and certainly after the Beaker period. Most Beaker bows are of the Holmgaard / Mollagabet design. Bracers/armguards are a given, when shooting a longbow. Draw weights on the Beaker bows are higher than most people would shoot today, when hunting. Most I've seen are in the 80-100lb @28 range. They were serious about their archery.