Monday, March 9, 2015

The dogma of the Iberian origin - Jeunesse

The dogma of the Iberian origin of the Bell Beaker: attempting its deconstruction.  Journal of Neolithic Archaeology. Christian Jeunesse, 2015 [Link]

Hubert Schmidt, Iberia first, 1912 (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
"The hypothesis of an Iberian origin of the Bell Beaker has been advanced from the beginning of the 20th century on. For a time challenged by the assumption of a cradle located rather in the northwestern part of continental Europe, it is currently making a comeback and is supported by most specialists of the Bell Beaker phenomenon.  An examination of the conditions related to its construction demonstrates that its dominant position owes more to contingent causes such as the charismatic personalities of its creators and their study areas than to an objective analysis of the archaeological record.  A small exercise of archaeology-fiction in which we will trace back the history of research based on the assumption of a central-European origin highlights the structural weakness and the dogmatic character of the hypothesis of the Iberian cradle."
Jeunesse criticizes what he views as the uncritical acceptance of the 102 year old Iberian hypothesis, it remaining fairly dependent on typology rather than a large body of empirical support.

He points out how chronologies were built using subjective pottery typology, which in turn identifies intrusive or native elements before self-validating the preconceived paradigm.  So with Bosch-Gimpera's original Iberian evolution being invalidated by the re-sequencing of Early Neolithic materials, Jeunesse sees no reason to accept the current paradigm.
"Some will tell me that this exercise is only of anecdotic interest in that the matter is closed today.  First, I want to say to them that their reaction perfectly demonstrates the force of inertia of the Iberian paradigm and, second, that they are wrong to assume that « the game is over »."
Student of Schmidt, Pere Bosch-Gimpera 1927 (National Library of France)

And so it is called, The Beaker Engima.


  1. Much blah-blah and no data.

    I was used to the "Bohemia first" paradigm and the "Dutch model" was even then a mere side note that nobody seemed to find backed by anything, while the Iberian model seemed mostly obsolete. But this guy does not even mention the Bohemian model which was dominant at the end of the 20th century.

    Now again in the 21st century it seems that there are powerful radiocarbon reasons to reclaim the Iberian model what, as Jeunesse admits: "is supported by most specialists of the Bell Beaker phenomenon". One would expect that if you're challenging the academic consensus of the day, you'd be bringing forward powerful evidence and arguments but there's nothing: just a rampage of complaints and disqualifications. I'd say that Jeunesse is at best a crybaby and at worst an academic troll.

    My impression from his own paper anyhow: where's the data that justifies all that rampage? Nowhere!

    1. One of the stronger points the Iberian model is simple reduction. There's a lot of places that BBC definitely did not originate. If challenging the Iberian model, there is still a wall of evidence showing a significant cultural materials out of Iberia. Then you have to construct some sort of reflux model involving implantation, evolution and immediate spread from Iberia. "lex parsimoniae"

    2. Actually the Bohemia First model allowed for that. AFAIK it was claimed an initial Corded style originating in Bohemia (Moravian influences) that migrated south along the Rhône and then a second phase centered in Vila Nova civilization of Portugal (Maritime style) and finally a third phase with regionalization and some return to Bohemian centrality but mostly affecting Central Europe.

      But C-14 rules and if Maritime style and Iberian BB in general are older by several centuries across the board, then it's clear that the Bohemian model (which seems mostly typologically based) was a misinterpretation. There's still the issue of where do the lower quality corded style pots originate (Central Europe probably) and what their presence in the Rhône-Catalan area particularly might mean (also some in Portugal) but AFAIK, it seems a local development of some sort, maybe fueled by more direct contacts with the Rhine region.

    3. I figured that trade up the headwater of the Tagus might have been the pipeline where the two met, but if more Corded beakers are found in the NW part of the peninsula, maybe Northern Portugal is where the more standard style emerges. I agree that the conditions are right for this to have happened in Iberia.