Thursday, January 29, 2015

Boscombe Bowmen Collective Grave?

In 2014 there were a number of papers from authors around Europe tackling the assumptions and misconceptions of Beaker burials.  Three of many [here] [here] [here]

These centered around monumentalism and monument reuse, the lower numbers of women and importantly, individuality.

Boscombe Down Grave (Wessex Archaeology)

The Boscombe Bowmen are one of the more frequently mischaracterized graves IMO, being supposedly an example of a continued practice of Neolithic collectivism due to its seven occupants.  Not quite convinced of this.  Here is what I think is a proper interpretation:

This is an individual grave of a mature man in the flexed position with typical man gear.  The six boys buried with him are certainly his sons who died at different times and at different ages.  This is not a "collective" grave in the classical sense.  It's a parent-child grave which is impossible to saddle with a re-constructed notion of individuality.

The first boy, maybe a toddler, was cremated and placed in an urn.  Given that Boscombe-dad traveled a great distance in his life (isotopic analysis) this child could have died 10-20 years prior in a far away land and remained on the mantle for a long time.

The eldest sons, 2 young men and a teenager, were probably exhumed from a nearby grave to be buried with their father.  The two other children may have been buried during a re-opening.


Organisation of the grave (Wessex Archaeology)

There's a few important things to learn here.  One is that cremation doesn't necessarily reflect some kind of metaphysical or religious difference from those that practice inhumation.  It's clear that these closely related individuals believed their cremated brother would be present in the afterlife, hence his beaker.

We also might understand a few things about the people who buried these people.  All of these boys had a mother who, if she was alive, probably wanted to ensure that her youngest sons had safe passage through the underworld.

If we were to reconstruct Beaker mythology from what is definitely known and what can be reconstructed through triangulation (looking at Beaker habits through the lens of Greek and Egyptian mythology), then it is likely that death was followed by a journey through Hades (underworld) where, once disembarked, the dead would face obstacles, tests and trickery.  It may have comforted Beaker mother to know that the younger kids were received in the company of her husband and oldest sons who could ensure they weren't ensnared during this passage.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ghost Grave or Party Pit?

This paper addresses party pits in Iberia.  It was published before a similar find in Supraśl, Poland and it answers or adds to other recent papers concerning bodiless graves in the Meseta and possibly other places as well.

Essentially, what you are looking at is a pit with two beaker bowls and a bunch of pulverized beakers on top.  Sometimes a gold artifact, an amber bead or bunch of arrowheads are deposited, then covered with stones.

It may be a very widespread phenomenon and so these authors echo Blanco-Gonzales in saying that the inventory of Beaker barrows need re-examination.  Originally, I thought that these random field finds were agriculture related, but now as they pile up it looks clear that many of them (but maybe not all) are indeed ritual related.

To add to the weirdness, only occasionally is a single body part located within similar pits.  So re-approaching the situation,  it seems in some of these cases we might be able to point to a few possible facts:

The ceremony was attended by multiple individuals who drank and then smashed their beakers.  In the Ambrona Valley, it seems two bowls are set inside the pit.  One or two individuals deposited something of value to them.  The pit is enclosed and preserved as a monument to this event.

In this light, several scenarios might be cause for a meeting such as this.  I'm shooting from the hip as always:

1)  Tribal arbitration?  Literally, to "bury the hatchet", make peace, end a dispute, bury the past.
I'm sure these people had boundary disputes, failed marriages, in-law wars, cattle theft, broken contracts, etc.  

2)  Covenants?  These people sold land, bonded brides, made deals, and contracted wainwrights.  When you make a covenant, you will make a bloody oath and drink to it.  When you proclaim your oath, cut your hand and raise your glass, a bunch of drunk guys with daggers are going to remember what you said that night.

3)  Harvest ritual?  There might be a lot of organic stuff that didn't survive, like "corn mothers", effigies or dolls.  Stalks may have been piled at the end of the harvest and covered with stones.  So the materials could literally be offerings.

BEAKER BARROWS (not) for the dead: El Alto I & III, Las Cuevas/El Morrón and La Perica (Soria, Spain) CuPAUAM 40  Manuel A. Rojo-Guerra1, Rafael Garrido-Pena, Íñigo García-Martínez-de-Lagrán, and Cristina Tejedor-Rodríguez, 2014 [Link]

Abstract
In this article we will discuss on a peculiar and interesting feature recently discovered in the archaeological record of Copper Age Bell Beakers in the Ambrona Valley (Soria, Spain), that is the existence of barrows which look like tombs but they were not. They even include valuable items (finely decorated pottery, gold jewellery) but no sign of human bones. This absence could not be explained by selective preservation of the materials, since those barrows are not located in acid soils, and faunal remains are usually found in other sites of the same area. We could interpret this special finds as the archaeological testimonies of eventual ceremonial activities, perhaps including commensality rituals (intentionally broken pots are found inside them), being the stone mound the commemoration in the landscape of those important events (a possible cenotaph evoking the death of someone important away from his hometown?) or places (the location of special features of the environment in their mythic geographies).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Origin of Cogotas Pottery

Cogotas Ware replaces the old Beaker Ciempozuelos in the North Meseta of Iberia.  This paper explores how Cogotas retains, mimics or was influenced by the old pottery.

As I mentioned on the DNA page of procrastination, the end of a nominal Bell Beaker identity in Europe has received much less interest than its origins.  While the beginning of the Beakers is exciting and full of debate, its end should be more interesting to those involved in genetics.  Cogotas may or may not be an example of cultural continuity, but the continuation of mesetan motifs hints at a stable identity or belief.

As Blanco-Gonzales mentions (others have mentioned this in other regions as well), there are a number of confusing allusions to Beakers in later times.  What do you make of a bell beaker dated to a much later period?  Or golden beakers?


Another dynamic not mentioned in this paper is the potential influences back and forth between the Irish Channel and the Meseta over a long period of time. (Savory, 1978)  Maybe Agaric and British influences shaped the body of Mesetan pottery but not the Mesetan message?





Copying from sherds. Creativity in Bronze Age pottery in central Iberia (1800-1150 BC) Creativity: An Exploration through the Bronze Age and Contemporary Responses to the Bronze Age. Oxbow Books: Oxford.  Antonio Blanco-González, 2014 [Link]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Island of Man

This thesis considers "change" using the emergence of the Bronze Age in the Isle of Man. 

Celtic-Norse foundations on Mann (Greg Kingsley)

For this paper, the subjects are kind of secondary to the subject matter of 'change', so I really can't condense this in a way that would be faithful to the actual topic or theory of the paper.  But the crest the change wave in the Isles is the Beaker culture, so even its presumed absence on one island is noteworthy.

Crellin uses Man for her subject since islands, by convention, are supposed to be like Petri dishes and this island has its own peculiarities during the timeframe in which copper began spreading in the Isles.  Man develops uniquely in the Late Neolithic/EBA so it is a bit of a test case for identifying the causes of cultural change in the 3rd millennium.  

The apparent scarcity of Bell Beaker material in the Island of Man has been used, among other things, to support the notion that Man was a very backwards place that the world bypassed.  However, Crellin challenges its supposed insularity and argues that lack of exposure to Bell Beaker or Grooved Ware were not the reason for its uniqueness.  Clearly Grooved Ware and Bell Beaker identities traded or lived on the island to some degree.  So the question is why the uniqueness of Man, or are we projecting insularity and innovation that just isn't there?

You'll see in some of the graphics of this paper, slate plaques similar to those of pre-Beaker Southern Iberia, but less refined,  located within Ronaldsway arrangements.  It is one of several solid examples of outside influence on the island.

"Ronaldsway Culture" occupies a period in Mann when Grooved people and later Beakers were moving into other parts of the Isles.  In some cases Grooved materials occur with Ronaldsway materials in Man, and even appear to be fabrically similar, but defining what Ronaldsway materials are can be dicey. 

The evidence for Ronaldsway being a distinct culture is generally kind of thin, Crellin notes some of the problems and criticisms associated with it.  She also notes the lack of organic material at these sites, although some dates have been obtained.

Figure 3-2: Colby Mooar Ronaldsway Earthfast Jar
The crude, pudding texture of Ronaldsway jars look in some ways looks like a 19th century reduction pot.  This round base pot and a bowl are the only ceramics that define the culture.  They appear to be found near gullies, not cemeteries or homes.  Also, she notes the presence of a few dome ingots in fields at these sites that are not dated.  Man has glacial chalcopyrite.*

On the other hand, the presence of slate over the tops and the way they were deposited (buried, one was upside down) would seem funerary or ritual related. On the third hand, they've been found empty, without human remains. Whatever their purpose, they don't seem to have any remotely plausible domestic function and have zero aesthetic appeal, which calls into question the Ronaldsway domestic sites.

It would seem if the cultural credibility of Ronaldsway crumbles, then the chronological question opens up.  Although this is a unique question to Man, the space between the end of the Middle Neolithic and the EBA cultures appears to be a persistent problem in the Isles.  For example, it takes about three seconds to see Petersborough and Bell Beaker traits in Food Vessels of the EBA in Ireland or Britain.

Rather than having a neat sequential chronology of A followed by B, followed by C, followed by E; it could be rather something more like A followed by E.  'Gronaldsway' may be nothing more than seasonal mining camps (or whatever strange activity) and Bell Beaker nothing more than a red herring.

I have more comments regarding the Beaker section of the paper, but more than ten paragraphs on a blog is yelling, so I make those in upcoming posts.

Changing times: the emergence of a Bronze Age on the Isle of Man., Newcastle University, Rachel Joanne Crellin, 2014 [Link]

*Two or three posts ago, I linked to a paper that questioned some of the traditional techniques for determining the provenance of copper ore.  Although Ross Island is credited with much of the early insular copper, the situation may turn out to be more complex.

**While EBA Manx copper may have been from Ross Island, it doesn't necessarily mean that an earlier phase of production wasn't performed on Man in the Late Neolithic.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Old is European Falconry?

One hundred and fifty years ago a Bell Beaker warrior (c38) was excavated by Lord Londesborough in Yorkshire.  He wrote that this man was buried with a hawk before him.  In addition to the raptor, the grave included warrior gear, amber beads and a bell beaker.

The incredible state of preservation not only preserved the top of the hawk's head and beak, but some of the wooden artifacts and burial shroud or bed blanket were also partly preserved in the burial.  (excavation notes)
"The Falconer" Petrus Christus c. 1445 A.D.

Revisiting these old papers, modern archaeologists Ann Woodward and John Hunter (2011) proposed the possibility that some of the bracers on the forearm of Beaker males were in fact hawking equipment.  This argument builds from previous discussion on the excessively robust bracers compared to anything used in archery.

Several months ago, Robert Wallis challenged the non-bracer theory of Woodward and Hunter and essentially put the bracer issue to bed.  However, the possibility that c38 was a hawker is still an open matter. (Wallis, 2014)  Wallis, a hawking historian, gave a great interview [here] on the matter.


Opinion on early falconry is all-over-the-place.  I favor the view that it is much older and widespread than we might imagine.  The oldest secure dates appear to occur in the third millennium in Syria and Anatolia (Charles Brunley, 2004).  Falconry is possible in proto-dynastic Egypt or before this, however a lot of the papers on the matter are decades old.  Falconry is also apparently old in China with the same dating problems.


Enki's son with a falcon?  (Enki sometimes portrayed with an eagle from his hand or two eagles)

I think this subject will eventually come up again. 

Footnote - How to identify archaeological evidence of hawking (Wietske Prummel, 1997)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Composite and Compound Bows of the Sahara (Jean-Lois Le Quellec)

Stuart Piggott suspected that some Bell Beaker archers possibly used compounded or composite-laminate bows.  He had reasons for this view, one of which was the amulets of Central Europe [here], which also have a parallel among African diaryists [here].

In any case, there are curious areas of Beaker bowmanship that diverge from normalcy and point to three possible different bow constructions.  It is commonly believed that composite bows enter the historical record late from the Asian steppe.  Le Quellec challenges this opinion, at least offers a more complicated picture of its emergence.

Camouflaged Archer from Tassili n'Ajjer.

But first, a little background.

I commented on a paper by Jan Apel [here], who further defined the origins of the Western European Copper Age lithic industry.  Although the majority Beaker points were hollow-bases, I chose to focus on the barb-and-tang, which has a simpler diagnostic of the directionality of North African lithics; for that time period, almost uniquely so (late 4th millenium).  Both were very common and ancient in the North African steppe and both appear sometimes in the grave of a single individual.  (notice the barbed, symmetrical projectile in the warrior above)

I've also commented on the discovery of a hemp bowstring that was partially preserved over a Palmela Point [here] at Perdigoes [here].  Hemp takes us to varsity-level archery.  More importantly, the uniformity of the string can tell us how the bow was likely strung which tells us about the bow.
If Andrew Sherratt's views stand, then corded pottery in Europe and Africa may have been impressed with hemp bowstring. 

In Sherratt's view, hemp was possibly used as a psychoactive additive within beaker beverages, which is entirely possible in the pre-hopped beer days.  I tend to believe that it was rather acacia [here] and that the beaker herringbone motif is actually stylized acacia, with acacia continuing for a while on its own.  (I think a good argument can be made for this and some appear intermediate, to me at least)

So on to Jean-Lois Le Quellec who has many interesting papers on North Africa.  He has made a compelling case that within the Western Desert of Egypt, Southern Libya and Algeria (and possibly Morocco) that a much more ancient history of composite or laminated bows in this region.  At least a compounded bow, and probably composite, is clearly visible in the bovid rock art which is reasonably well dated.



Bovid rock art of the Sahara has really three basic genres.  (1) guys walking around with bows
(2) people with cows, milking cows, or just cows (3) people bathing or humping.  The importance of archery for these people is quite evident, by it presence, but also by their bow's sophistication.

Le Quellec makes some observations concerning aspects of these bows that can be used when looking at those of Europe.  One is the position and style of the bracer, which is sometimes depicted.  This relief of Thutmosis IV (later) shows a bracer that is concentrated over the radial bone instead of the wrist or the fore-muscle.  You'll notice Thutmosis IV is also holding his bow vertically, not canted like a longbow.

I commented how the classes of Beaker bracers can tell us how bows were held, which tells us about the types of bows they used. [here] 


Another aspect that Le Quellec mentions is the parity of certain projectiles, historically, with certain types of bows. 

He notes (translated)

"...according to Edward Morse's classification, [the composite bow] one of the most widespread in the world most often uses arrows with a slotted shank."
We know from the Saharan pastoralist lithic industry that the projectiles we see are the types we could expect to be used with the composite or compounded bow.  About 5,000 years ago we see projectiles and bracers begin to spread into Western Europe via Iberia.  


A few quick notes.  The yew longbow was from the Neolithic to the invention of gun powder the preferred bow of Western Europe.  The reason is simply the native yew which makes an incredibly powerful but simple bow.  So composites, while present, never really replace longbows in the facade.

Also, Beaker bracers still present a problem.  They are overkill.  I've thought that their stone weight may have absorbed release shock.  The appearance of over-extension and shock injuries in the left arm of LN to Bronze Age men, will be my next topic.


Arcs et bracelets d'archers au Sahara et en Égypte, avec une nouvelle proposition de lecture des "nasses" sahariennes. CEMAf - Centre d'Etudes des Mondes Africains, Jean-Loïc Le Quellec 2011 [Link]

Abstract : The question of the composite bow in the Sahara is again examined, without it being possible to be sure of its presence. The existence of laminated bows is nevertheless possible, and some paintings show the use of archers' wrist-guards. The examination of the Egyptian archers' wrist-guards makes it possible to think that it is perhaps these objects that are represented by the famous Tazina style "traps".



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Provenance of Copper? Not so Fast

I promised I wouldn't link to these "Paper-$", however de-validating the provenance of copper could definitely upset the EBA apple cart so I posted.  The abstract at least begins an interesting discussion, even though the content is buried in a Early Paleolithic form of media.

If you took a Late Bronze Age widget and knew the no-kidding elemental history of the item, there is no reason that all or any of the material was recently mined.  For example, a bronze sword probably consisted various items that were hoarded, sold and then melted down by a smith.  Early in the life of those donor items, those materials were created from items that were hoarded and melted, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

If you apply this to the Beaker problem of Britain, for example, could we know that any of the material was mined directly from Ross Island within the Beaker period?  Obviously Beakers had mining camps on Ross Island, but does that necessarily mean anything for a copper dagger in Britain?  How much of the Bell Beaker copper in Britain came from Grooved Ware culture copper?  Would we even know?  The Isles definitely had a short pre-Beaker Copper Age period, but it apparently didn't make it to the grave.

Twentieth Century archaeology probably never really considered the fact that 90% of any metal item ever made in the history of mankind was made of recycled material.  If you were to consider 1% yearly growth in the total amount of refined metal over five thousand years, or really, ten thousand years if you want to go back to the source, then how much additional material would actually have to be mined per year?

Abstract

The analysis and interpretation of the chemical composition of copper-alloys is one of the longest ongoing research projects within archaeological science. Beginning in the late 18th century these data have been consistently used to try and link objects with distinct metal sources. This paper argues the traditional provenance model for copper alloys is fatally flawed. Through pursuing a ‘pure’ source signal, chemical and isotopic datasets have been removed from their context and history. Social engagement with metal through processes such as reuse, recycling, and curation were rarely considered important by analysts. We offer an alternative model that unites the available legacy scientific datasets with process-metallurgy, archaeological and geographical context, and new conceptual approaches. Rather than provenance, we offer an empirical model of metal flow. Here objects are seen as snapshots of a wider metal stream; their final scientific characterisation including echoes of their previous forms and contexts. Through a series of case studies we highlight how the reinterpretation of existing datasets can disentangle the complex life histories of units of copper.


Form and Flow: The ‘Karmic Cycle’ of Copper Bray, Cuenod, Gosden, Hommel, Liu, Pollard, January 2015 [Link]

Mesetan Longhouse

This North Mesetan longhouse appears to have been built (possibly) first by Beakers using Ciempozuelos.  This is followed by a long period in the Bronze Age with pottery sherds of Protocogotas, which is one of the many derivatives of beaker-styled pottery, in this case probably with influences of the Argaric Bronze Age in the Southeast of the Peninsula.



The authors discuss this longhouse with surrounding structures, which were pits of some sort, and they invite further research to see if these differing structures were contemporary.  I believe the question of similar, richly-filled pits is gaining attention elsewhere, if I understand correctly (more below).


The authors here question the notion that these surrounding pits were for refuse or burial, even though the material is conglomerated, silty garbage-looking stuff, like orphan pottery fragments.  I believe this might be similar to a subject Blanco-Gonzales tackled in a paper earlier in 2014 [here], concerning the Central Meseta.  This again being what looked like burial cairns or trash pits, but for one, lack a body and two appear to have been re-used.  I speculated then that these might be silages, since winter haying does not appear to have existed before medieval times.

The issue of orphan pottery fragments in silages is something I speculated on [here], being that the farmer may have used pulverized pottery as supplements, which sounds crazy but has a practical value.  (Modern cattle are given licks.  Still they will eat rocks, presumably for minerals)  Whatever this main building was (i.e. tavern, house), it certainly had livestock there as well.

As a side note, I posted a study discussing the provenance of some of earlier bell beaker pottery near this area in Arlanzón [here].  This was done using chemical analysis and the authors concluded that some of the Bell Beaker pottery appears to have come from a potterhouse on the Guadiana in Southern Portugal or Spain.

MARTÍN, LUIS VILLANUEVA, EDUARDO CARMONA BALLESTERO, MIGUEL ÁNGEL ARNAIZ ALONSO, and MARÍA EUGENIA DELGADO ARCEO. "La articulación del espacio en el “campo de hoyos” de Manantial de Peñuelas (Celada del Camino, Burgos)." June, 2014 [Link]

Monday, January 5, 2015

Houses of the Dead (Part 2)

This paper dovetails on the previous theme of "Houses for the Dead" begun with a paper by Jan Turek in Part 1.



This doctoral thesis by Maxime N. Brami examines the deliberate, ritualized torching of houses by Neolithic farmers in the Balkans, similar to their ancestors in PPN Anatolia.  Houses were repeatedly torched and rebuilt in the exact same spot.  Brami speculates that the house to be torched contained the remains of family members.

Turek mentions no similar burning practice in Central Europe, however a similar transformation of a habitation to a tomb is suggested.  In any of the examples, the continued reverence or knowledge of a home site, sometimes hundreds of years later is evidence that the site's memory was maintained as a monument.  This was shown in a separate article linked in the previous post on Polish longhouses.  While the Balkan houses burned, the ones of Middle Europe were maintained or entombed for hundreds of years.  Either way, they seemed to have had a life in the after life.

There is no reason to conflate everything into a single hypothesis, however, it does seem reasonable to see a pattern of behavior amongst farming folk.  People and dead people live in a house for several decades, maybe grandma is buried under the floor.  At some point, living people decide to move out.  Maybe it gets a little weird with too many dead people in the walls.

Turek views these behaviors as critical for understanding the development of monumental tombs and tomb re-use by Corded Ware and Bell Beaker peoples in much later times.  If mortuary practices in early times were ancestry-land-entitlement driven, then it is easier to understand why these practices are modified & co-opted by later peoples.  In other words, right to land is through heritage, a genealogy that can be seen in the landscape. 

Title, deed and possession are almost synonymous concepts to a modern person.  Title is more than just a right to something.  Simply buying or killing for land doesn't get you title or peace.  There is one easy way to get title though.  Get married. 

(As a side note, house/tomb torching wasn't limited to the Neolithic Balkans.  It seems a similar tradition was maintained in NE Iberia.  It may have happened other places as well)

House-related practices as markers of the Neolithic expansion from Anatolia to the Balkans.  Bulgarian e-Journal of Archaeology V4, Maxime N. Brami, 2014
[Link]

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Houses of the Dead

Jan Turek discusses the transformation of a home where people live to a house for the dead.

We know that early Near Eastern agriculturalist buried the dead underneath the floors of their home.  You could fill a hard drive with such images from Byblos and Anatolia.  Their genetic descendants bare-knuckled their way into Europe, cut down stone-cold oaks with flint hand choppers before cursing the ground and dying.  If they were anything like their ancestors, they might have buried people in the floor of their longhouse.

Thanet Archaeology Ring Ditch.
Turek suggests that these Early Neolithic longhouses not only became primarily tombs within a generation, but even after they collapsed that the sacred mound that was created became the template for the longbarrow.  A somewhat similar view can be found from a 2013 article in Past Horizons [Link]

He views this as a continuous process through the ages where people recognize the holy places of their perceived or real ancestors, or their fabricated ancestors in the case of bastards, pretenders and tyrants.

The issue of tomb re-use is being examined more closely.  Here's two recent posts covering Colin Quinn on the Mound of Hostages [here] and the Burial Myth Buster from Christian Jeunesse [here]

Turek asserts that the ring ditches may have a distant history to the longhouse, expect its a one-seater, of course, it had no purpose other than to support the burial enclosure and the chapel.  One last item of interest is his use of 'negative burial evidence' for Corded Ware and Bell Beaker peoples.  He makes a convincing case that the majority of these burials were above ground or above primary burials which is why they are now gone.

*Update*

Footnote:  There is mention of the saddle ditches found along the length of the longhouses or the longbarrows.  There is quite a bit of controversy over ditches and filling of ditches and types of ditches.  In the case of post-and-beam construction, some of these ditches may simply be French drains.  This is/was common for pole barns or other colonial construction where beams are driven directly into the ground, unlike a pile which can rot and be replaced. 

Also, longhouses had large roof surface area that was gutter-less.  Length-wise ditches may have been necessary for heavy rain.  They may have even begun to form naturally and were manually deepened over time.  Any ditch, even a simple rondelle ditch, may reflect the design of a structure's roof.

Houses of living and houses of dead in the Neolithic and Copper Age of Central Europe
Prehistoires Mediterraneennes, Jan Turek, 2014 [Link]

Abstract:


One of symbolic roles of Neolithic long houses in central Europe might have been burial of ancestors. There is no solid evidence for the funerary function of long houses, however, it is commonly assumed (Bradley 2001). Already during their dwelling function some houses were possibly used for primary deposition of remains of ancestors. The burials were later in the time of abandonment of the house removed elsewhere or remained resting inside the building. This is the process of transformation from the house of living to the house of dead. The main purpose of the second part of the paper is to discuss the question on missing evidence of barrows of the late Eneolithic Corded Ware and Bell Beaker period in Central Europe. Variety of problems of demographic representation of cemeteries, burial customs and spatial structure of funerary areas are connected to the missing barrows. I emphasise the variability of late Eneolithic funerary monuments, including the discussion on burial chambers and circular ditches, yet another type of funerary construction without an earthed mound that may be described as houses of dead.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Year Ahead. 2015.

2015 will be a thrilling year for those interested in the ancient past.  Here's a few things to look forward to:

Sheep at pasture (Michael Ely)


1.  We should see some published DNA from Saxony-Anhalt, Portugal and the UK.  I'm still trying to get digs on what's out there.  The Amesbury Archer and his 'son' were supposed to be tested according to Wessex Archaeology's webpage to determine their relationship.  If you've got scoop, reply to this post.  thx

2.  University College London's Beaker People Project/Sheffield's Beaker Isotopic Project is now putting pen to paper on the results of the isotopic and possibly some? genetic analysis conducted on 285 Bell Beaker individuals of the British Islands, this in concert with Aberdeenshire's Beakers and Bodies Project. UCL's final report and several other outputs may be in store this year.

3.  A paper out in the Spring will look at war related deaths in a Beaker cemetary in NE Iberia.  Granted, an arrowhead between the eyes is probably not a grave offering, however re-consideration is being given to arrowhead 'offerings' around the body found in previously excavated graves throughout Europe.  Re-evaluation has already re-categorized cause of death in a number of individuals.  **This just in...surprising evidence that people buried with weapons may have led violent lives.  More to follow**

4.  Garrido-Pena 2014? makes reference to the presence of strict vegetarianism (using phosphate analysis) among a select portion of an Iberian Beaker population.  A similar phenomenon is witnessed in final Bell Beaker and early Bonnanarro Cultures of Sardinia, vegetarian estimates are about 7.5%. (Luca Lai, 2008)  I'd guess a similar percentage will be shown for the mentioned Iberian population.

I'd like to know 'who' was a strict vegetarian and why this avoidance.

5.  Ciempozuelos has some apparent connection with the British Isles.  Presented in September, hopefully we'll see this soon.

6.  Also, from the Burgos conference, Peska Jaroslav gave a presentation Beaker metal workers from Moravia.  **Updated 1/6**  (To clarify here, he seeks to conduct chemical analysis of the bones and teeth to better understand the smith's processes.  I had previous stated that this had already been done and briefed, but is rather in the beginning stage.  It's possible to run with the ball quite a bit here.  For example, you may be able to understand what age apprenticeship started, or if extraction was performed by smith's, what fuel was used for heat or if smith's were specialized.)

Here's an unrelated 2014 paper concerning osteological indications of arsenic poisoning.  I noticed that in some descriptions of Early Bronze Age remains that "some men" have indications of osteoporosis and phosphate degradation usual for men of their young age.

One individual described by Samatha Walsh 2013, was a thirty-someone year old man, strongly built, but with osteoporosis of the spine typical of an older women?  Another possibility is emasculation in the priesthood.  I don't know if osteology can tell this from the skeleton of an adult male.

7.  Dental plaque could be a big deal this year.  LP alleles don't tell you if the individuals are actually lactose intolerant.  Tooth plaque will add new questions, answers.  In the entire human population, this question is uniquely pertinent for Chalcolithic/EBA Europeans.  The universally accepted meme is that the sudden rise of European LP is due natural selection.  I believe it is due to immigration of dairyists from Northern Africa.  All my chips are on the table.

8.  Prieto-Martinez and Salanova have another pan-European Beaker book coming out in the Spring.  [here]
It looks to have some interesting chapters on changes in palynology, linguistic associations and the North Sea.

9.  Animal DNA.  For whatever reason, it seems easier to get yDNA from ancient chicken crap than a Bell Beaker warrior.  There will certainly be studies out on the genetics of warm bloods, short-horns and woolly sheep.  All are important to Beakerhood.  In the case of Woolly Sheep, again we are starring down the barrel of a 3,000 B.C. date in which wool is sheared, spun and wove into hobbit clothes.  The short-horn, I've already commented on, and the egger chicken as well.  All of these probably originating in the mountains of Iran, originally.

10.  Bell Beaker Procrastinator will try to get a few things off my plate.  Yes, I look forward to stuff from myself.

With an already exciting year ahead, there will be surprises as well.  I look forward to the news and papers ahead!