The first was a discussion on the transition away from positive funerary structures to negative ones in the third millennium in Portugal (Valera, 1). The other involved gypsum inlay paste of funerary ware (Besse, 2) (Calcium carbonate and bone paste or a combination mash seem to be more common than gypsum alone) This got me thinking about the significance of the most basic features of Beaker pottery.
Gypsum will normally occur as stratified veins in oxidized sedimentary layers, so the image to the left is something that might be visible in a creek bed or escarpment in some regions, more often outside Europe with the exception of Portugal.
Funeral pottery is almost always an oxidized red and they almost always have stratified bands of horizontal, white inlay. Red, white, horizontal, stratified. I've seen very few that defy this formula even if some bend at the margins.
The actual motifs could be sometimes borrowed from other ancestral cultures. For example, the Polish cup on the right has what might be tablet weaves, especially on the second to bottom band. Again, I'll try not to over-project (and this is all theoretical), but the character seems to be suggestive of the cavernous depths of the Earth, and in the above case, maybe weaves associated with identity.
I'll get to the point and state that character of the beaker looks to be metaphorically connected to being buried in the Earth, the underworld and the contents of the beaker itself.
We can look to later Bronze Age religions, those of the Greeks and Egyptians, an sensibly extrapolate some concepts about the sequence of events after death to Beaker religion. Immediately upon death, the person needed to cross a river in a ferry or solar boat. In Egyptian religion, the sun god cycled from the sky to the underworld each day taking the day's dead with him. The Greek paid his way across the river into the Greek underworld with the money placed under his tongue.
The Atlantic gold lunulae look very much like solar boats [this post], and while found near burial sites, don't yet seem to have been worn by the dead but were instead hidden in weird places. Were they possibly worn by someone regularly officiating the funeral?
What we can be certain of though, is that Bell Beakers were oriented in a side-prostrated, flex position towards the rising of the sun. A strange body preservation story may be developing as well. The accompanying beaker seems to have contained beer, and in a few cases it appears sufficiently provable that beer was bittered with henbane (herb of the sun god in European history).
Burials might contain offerings or payment in order to find passage or protection during this crucible. The dead faced trials, tests and trickery and that this happened in the cavernous depths of the Earth.
At the same time, I don't want to suggest that Beakers were even consciously aware of this metaphorical meaning, assuming it's at all valid. We say and do many things that are riddled with metaphors and history, but we just do them because that's the way things are done.
1 Valera, A. "Twilight of Enclosures" 2015
2 Besse, M "Territorialités, transferts, interculturalités dans les contextes de la diffusion du
Campaniforme en Europe" 2015