Monday, November 2, 2015

Interesting Corded Ware Grave

This is the silhouette grave of a Corded Ware person in Twello, Central Netherlands (published Jan 2015).  He or she was buried latitude-wise in a ditched rondelle, except looking North, in the center of a later Urnfield.  The vessel at the feet was Protruding Foot Beaker identified by the authors as a type 1d, after Lanting and VanderWaals (1976).  Here's an example of how this beaker is categorized (within the perspective of the 'Dutch Model', see chart on page 193)

The Twello Silhouette Grave.

After looking at the typo-chronological chart on page 193 of Folkens & Nichols, the following context will show why this as an interesting transitional grave.  Up to this point in the history of the Corded Ware in the Netherlands, the authors explain that daggers are made of Scandinavian flint in the PFB phase, suggesting a culture that is socially oriented to the North and East of Europe along with other things.

The beginning of the Dutch All-Over-Ornamented phase (confusingly interpreted as Bell Beaker, transitional from CW to BB, other times as a hybrid of the two) is typically associated with finer honey-colored flint from the Paris region, called the Grand Pressigny flint.  The flint blade of this grave is neither, but is a ghost gray flint called Hesbaye flint, that come from a mine near Avennes, Belgian Wallonia.

Type 1d Protruding Foot Beaker after Lanting/VanderWaals 1976

The axe is also abnormal to a typical SGC flint battleaxe.  This one is made from grano-diorite, as they believe coming from the Hautes Fagnes area in eastern Belgian Wallonia.  This windsock change in resourcing prior to the AOO phase may reinvigorate some debate in the genesis of AOO beakers, particularly in the Lowlands.

Harry Folkens mentions in his paper on the "Background to Beakers" on page 19, that type 1d & 1e PFB's often are found among All-Over-Ornamented beakers (AOO he considers to be Bell Beaker as differentiated from many Dutch archaeologists), but AOO and Vlaardigan hillbillly ceramics also co-exist in the marshy lowlands of this transitional phase.

2631 – 2454 cal BC
This grave has the potential to be interpreted in a number of ways.  One group may say that this shows the correctness of Lanting and Van der Waals original evolutionary scheme in the Veluwe region (Central) Netherlands, from the type 1d phase to the AOO phase ushering in the Bell Beakers, expanding throughout the Netherlands.  (This is probably a good time to pause and refer to Harry Folkens simplified narrative of the Dutch Hypothesis to non-Dutchmen, which can illuminate a confusing topic)

Another way to look at this is that the PFB culture, and specifically its late type 1d phase, has come under the influence of outsiders, typified by the AOO Bell Beaker folk who are simultaneously extending their influence upon the Vlaardingen Culture of the North and West as well as the indigenous Corded Ware of the Central and East.  In this scenario, there still may be Corded Ware influence, but not from here.  Either way, this would be evidence of an intrusive network, disrupting an older network.

Or they are simple hybrids, a fission between two different cultures and peoples at the atomic level, possibly Maritime folk and PFB folk?  I think in a number of places we see Beakerized Corded Ware folk, the Lowlands may be one of those places.  I've commented before on the haplogroups of Northeastern Scotland, which may be evidence that some Corded lineages fared better in the West, like the Lowlands, fared better than others.

The Dutch were brewing wheat beers even when this Protruding Foot Beaker was buried as it contained a 'primitive wheat beer', which I guess is supposed to mean, un-hopped.* Also interesting is that the interior appears to have been glazed with animal fat.  Glazing the lining beakers with wax and animal fat is noted by (Heron and Evershed 1993; Charters and Evershed 1995).

See also
Dutch Chronology Revisited, Sandra Beckerman (2012)

A Late Neolithic Single Grave Culture burial from Twello (central Netherlands): environmental setting, burial ritual and contextualisation
Lucas Meurkens, Roy van Beek, Marieke Doorenbosch, Harry Fokkens, Eckhart Heunks,
Cynthianne Debono Spiteri, Sebastiaan Knippenberg, Els Meirsman, Erica van Hees and Annemieke Verbaas (2015)  [Link]

* A little more on gruits, Reinheitsgebot,etc.   (I'd roll the dice and guess that a juniperberry-based gruit, such as Finnish Sahti, was common among the Northern Corded Ware**)


  1. A quick note: Grand Presigny is not from near Paris but from much further south, half way between Paris and Bordeaux, also half way between Tours and Poitiers, a bit to the East of the straight line.

    Anyhow I'm interested on better understanding Dutch-Belgian relations in this period or in general the whole Rhine province. Belgium at the very least began the BB period within the Artenac culture (Le Gord northern facies), which is Megalithism continuity in the essence. On the other hand the Netherlands would be rather in the Corded Ware area. However somehow both regions were brought much closer, it seems, in the aftermath of Corded Ware, i.e. within Bell Beaker. Any insights?

    1. Thanks for making that clarification. Also, thanks for asking this question since it otherwise never would have entered my mind.

      I'll first link this document which discusses the Artenacization of the Paris basin including on the Oise into Wallonia (also mentioning GP flint and the trade networks) Also on page 22, she states that GP flint is also found with the late Dutch PFB's as well as AOO Corded Ware which is I think somewhat different than described here.
      "SEINE-OISE-MARNE, ARTENAC, GORD ET LES AUTRES..." by Roussot-Larroque,

      I can only speculate on a limited basis, one being clueless about the existence of Artenacian Culture until recently. But here is a good or bad narrative. It appears that Artenac has a very defined pre-Beaker phase that is fully Neolithic in pottery, lithics and customs.

      Then this culture begins expanding from Southwest France along trade networks, very likely with the aid of horses.
      These 'Artenacians' might have been distinguished as short-headed folk with rugged features among the more Neolithic type in a megalithic tomb, at some irresponsible moment in history.
      Either before this, or during, Artenacians begin a slow drift toward Beaker-like cultural patterns, lithics, pottery imitation, warrior gear etc.. But it never becomes Beaker 2.0, instead becomes Artenac 2.0.

      So they dated this Rondelle to about 2,500ish with Wallonia flints and rock which is a hair earlier than Rousset gives Artenac, but the fact this is quickly followed by GP flints (in Netherlands) seems to indicate that this network was coming together at this time and the GP flint quickly became preferable among the Dutch. That'd seem to make Artenacian look like it was involved in this, assuming that it was for a while the main distributor.

      I don't really think the Veluwe and Wallonia regions are necessarily closer, but it could mean that the trade network that brought Scandinavian flints had been disrupted. Previously, it might have been tenable to suggest that Grand Pressigny was simply superior and more attractive and the shift represents bigger and better with AOO Beakers, but I suspect the Wallonia flint is just 'average' or 'will do'.

    2. The Persée site seems to be down (search does not work, link goes to "document does not exist" page). Hope to be able to check later.

      I only know so much about Artenacian but something that is characteristic in all descriptions is their usage of bow and arrow, what is anyhow common in Iberian Chalcolithic contexts like VNSP and also with the BB phenomenon. They seem to have expanded northwards in the context of the Middle Chalcolithic, paralleling the expansion of Corded Ware in the East (basically both expansions mark the end of Danubian Neolithic in these parts of Europe), following a previous SOM expansion on Armorica and bringing a more modest type of Megalithism (smaller dolmens). My "geopolitical" impression is that the Artenacian expansion draws a line to Corded Ware (IE) expansion (a line that seems to be solid enough to withstand for a thousand years) and might even be a partial source or support for later BB expansion. I have not clear what is their exact relation with the SOM substrate in the North, if either foes or friends or something ambiguous, but in any case they overlay SOM to form the Le Gord facies of Artenac.

      What you mention about horses and trade sounds interesting. I can only imagine that effective weaponry (bows but also the mobility of horses) was important in their expansion and their ability to stand up to the Corded Ware "horde". Trade is even more intriguing because, even if trade is a characteristic feature of the period, it is particularly associated with BB.

      As for Grand Pressigny flint, it seems it was very valued by the ancients for its unusual color even before this time (Chassey culture), being common in most of present day France, with some diffusion further north into the Low Countries, parts of West Germany and also Switzerland.

      As for the burial, I wonder what defines it as "Corded Ware" when there is no corded ware as such and no kurgan tomb either (instead it is within what you call a "rondelle", although it's not the typical Danubian rondel/henge either but rather reminds me of the Portuguese ditched enclosures at small scale (am I missing something?) A "battle axe" alone is not enough to describe it as Corded Ware, as those items were widespread long before this culture in all of Central Europe (it seems a trans-cultural prestige fad).

    3. Maybe a 'ring-ditch enclosure' is a better term, I think rondel is equivalent in German, although it seems to refer to circular forts as well.

      I had trouble with the website as well, but it eventually came up.
      These ring-ditches are thought to have had a small palisade with a small wooden mortuary chapel inside. Neither a wooden casket, chamber or palisade timbers could be discerned on this one though. The site also contained a few sherds of AOO pottery or late Urns; they theorize the mound was still visible in Medieval times and was being ploughed around.

      As I understand the ring-ditch comes into being in the LN of Central Europe and is an individualized form of monument, combining attributes of Kurgan mounds with longbarrows. I think Turek viewed the memorialzation of ancestral longhouses into longbarrows 'houses of the dead', then this was miniaturized and made suitable for the Corded Ware, who erected little (so it's thought) little temples or houses upon the mound. Then Bell Beakers do nearly the same, and so on.

    4. Those terms are a bit nightmarish but in general I've seen "rondel" ("rondelle" being probably the original form) and also sometimes "camp" meaning what in English is usually called "henge", i.e. a large earthwork surrounded by ditches and maybe earth wall-like structures but also with a wooden enclosure with gates, typically four in cross-like form with astronomical orientation of some sort. Key concepts are large and surrounded by a pallisade (except in the gates). It's typical from 'Danubian' (LBK or derived) culture, in England too. Henges or rondels are normally not a burial structure but rather some other sort of ritual building (originally archaeologists imagined even as cattle pens or village defenses but no evidence of such domestic use was ever produced so they had to accept they were ritual.

      As for being a mixture of kurgan and longbarrow... where is the barrow (mound), round or elongated? It's not even large enough for any such feature unless it was tiny, and the same that we see the ditch clearly excavated with archaeological care in part, we should see the mound or at least some indication of it. Instead it looks a very flat type of tomb. I may well be misled by the extreme type of excavation, where it's apparent that machinery has been used in a brutal way but really I don't see any such feature. I'll see if I can find some online reference about this Twello dig. In any case thanks for the explanations.

    5. paper on the dig at (lots of info)

      They mention that no mound was preserved but might have been originally present. They assign it to a so-called Single Grave Burial tradition (which I used to believe it was an Scandinavian-specific variant of Corded Ware but maybe I'm wrong about its geographical extension) but they also mention unexpected links to the South. Still reading.

      The Persée site is up already. :)

    6. Well, after reading it all, it seems apparent that (separately) both Artenac culture and the Twello burial are very indicative of processes that prefigure Bell Beaker in one or another way. In the case of Twello, I find most interesting that the burial has "male" features (axe) but, relative to Corded Ware/Single Burial traditions, is positioned like a female. Assuming that the male gender identification is correct, I think the reverse of position strongly suggests transition towards BB features, which do reverse (where such BB burials do exist, particularly in the Eastern province) the CWC patterns in a way that rather resembles those of Globular Amphorae and that can be interpreted as some sort of ideological reaction vs. CWC. Of course the footed beaker also indicates such transition and it is very notable that it does not have corded decoration but a peculiar one which I have no idea what relations it may have.

      Do you think this reading makes sense?

    7. By and large, I think a cumulative set of points make it a fairly standard CWC grave, but it has a few oddities at a curious time that would suggest that when this man lived there was a break with the past and new comers or traders in the area.

      You make an interesting point about the flipping of the body. I suppose it's possible to view it as a social distinction or ethnic expression. Actually, that kind of makes sense in the context of its other differing features.
      On the other hand, sometimes CWC or BBC grave orientation can be erratic or opposite of what it should be. And otherwise Corded Ware stuff are found with Beakers with 'bell beakers'. A lot of this is shades of grey IMO.

    8. Since I first read about it many years ago, it truly caught my attention how the pattern of gender-biased burial was reversed by Corded Ware (relative to its precursor Globular Amphorae) and then again by Eastern Bell Beaker. I think that it is a powerful sign of both general continuity but also ideological concept-reversal. It's like Satanists being Judeo-Christians of sorts: for someone detached of the Yahvist paradigm, Satan has no meaning at all, still for a Christian or similar turning Satanic is a powerful act of ideological reversal. Or like Assassins at some point drinking wine with their backs turned to Mecca, what makes all kind of references to Islamic tradition but it is an active act of negation and defiance, of attempted change with a powerful symbolism.

      Of course these comparisons have their limits but there is a clearly strong intent of culturally continuous negation or reversal of ritual first with CW and then again with BB. This Twello guy is somehow transitional (unless there is a gender misinterpretation) because, as you say, there is clear CW elements in all his burial yet the key CW tradition, negation of GA one, is already being reverted. Another distinctive trait is the beaker but also the fact that the ax has been used and is not just a mere prestige weapon. There's something especial about him, really.

      His especial status is somehow underlined by the fact that Urnfield people, more than a thousand years later set up their own necropolis around his tomb. There was some legend about this guy that survived all those years, although it may be something totally unrelated to the cultural change itself. As Urnfield is also somehow derived from CW and Eastern BB, there is in this tomb a lot of "continuity through change", if you get what I mean.

      "On the other hand, sometimes CWC or BBC grave orientation can be erratic or opposite of what it should be".

      I don't know enough but it's not the case most of the time. Some of those cases may be gender misidentification (i.e. women with weapons, men without them) but in other cases they may indicate ritual transition or dissidence one way or another. Many studies underline that, in the Rhine and Eastern provinces, CW and BB sites are not the same, although I guess that there may be exceptions, so I'm reluctant to accept the thesis of "shades of gray" unless there is a meaning to them, because in most cases things are black or white, so to say, so if gray exceptions do exist, then why are they gray exceptions in an otherwise uniform landscape?

    9. In this case it is more when mixed features appear in a subset of graves. Like Beaket communities buried in an EW format or Swedish Battleaxe in a NS format or Beakers with battleaxes.
      In those situations its kind of glass half empty because as we saw recently with one BAxe Swede, he was more Western like and R1b from the West of Sweden.

      If have a feeling that NE Scot Beakers will be more Corded Ware like and then it's really a question as to how graves or culture are typed based on materials.