Thursday, January 28, 2016

Salt Production and Beaker Pottery (Doce et al, 2015)

I'll start today with a chapter entitled "Bell Beaker Pottery as a Symbolic Marker of Property Rights: The Case of the Salt Production Centre of Molino Sanchon II, Zamora, Spain" by Doce, Abarquero, Delibes de Castro, Palomino and del Val Recio.

It is a continuation of the reading from "The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe" by Prieto-Martinez and Salanova.  As usual, I'll give you a brief description then streak across the soccer field of ideas.


In ancient times people procured salt in a variety of ways, but the most accessible way since the Early Neolithic appears to have been the process of briquetage, which reduces brine down through boiling.

Molino Sanchon II is a salt production site where salt was produced through boiling salt marsh water.  Many types of coarse ceramic sherds are present.  What's puzzling though, is that there is a substantial amount of broken Bell Beaker funeral pottery, the largest concentration of this pottery at one site anywhere in Iberia.  This is a site that was flooded most of the year, so no one was buried here.  Unlike Fuente Camacho* (more below), we can positively exclude habitation as well, so that presents us with a basic problem.

Analysis of the funerary sherds do not show that the pottery was used for salt production, so the volume of Beaker pottery (2% of the total sherds, but still a large amount) is somewhat out of place and its purpose at this site doesn't really make a lot of sense.  Nevertheless, someone put it there on a regular basis over a period of time.

It's not a case where extremely clumsy people are eating out of funerary ware and breaking pots all over a salt reduction site.  The authors make a case that the people making the salt were making votive offerings and smashing pottery (something Beakers did) and this also had the effect of establishing their ancestral claim to this turf.  Sounds high-brow but is very inline with what is likely to be the thought process of a person at that time.  All very, very plausible.

Contemporary salt glazed stoneware (Commons)


To preface this next segment I'll say that I use every paper on the Beakerblog as a means to open discussion on a problem rather than critique the paper.  I think this is usually in line with the character of most academics, to present a problem and propose likely solutions as a means of soliciting alternatives or confirmation.

I'll submit a far-fetched, second possibility that may account for both the volume of funerary ware and its presence at a site where salt was being generated.  That is the possibility that Beaker funerary ware was being salt glazed (with sodium chloride) at this site in addition to general salt production and, as is often the case with kilning, many pieces do not survive firing or do not come out well.

Since sodium silicate is water soluble it is unlikely that any hypothetical glazed sherd would keep from breaking down over such a long time, especially for being such a thin layer.  Also depending on how a pottery is kilned, there may be an absence of glazing on the inside of pottery.  It's more likely that the interior of liquid bearing pottery would have been burnished with beeswax. 

The volume of salt needed to salt glaze pottery is fairly substantial, so it could be funerary pottery was made in several distinct phases.  The other thing is that the level of silica and iron in Beaker pottery would be very conducive for producing a dull semi-gloss red, even though using sodium for glazing is first used in Europe during Medieval Times.  Glazing with lead salt goes back to at least Roman Times, so its not impossible that certain types of glazing were known and fell in and out of fashion at different times.  Here's some modern salt glazing on youtube [here]


There is also this paper concerning a similar phenomenon in Andalusia at the similarly aged Fuente Camacho, lots of salt and lots of varied, special purpose pottery in addition to the more abundant coarse pottery.  Whereas Molino Sanchon is definitely not a habitation, Fuente Camacho probably was not as well, since it's in an unusual place for a settlement and the fact it is situated near a salt water spring.  Like in Molino Sanchon II, the problem in Andalusia is the pottery is extremely varied table ware and funerary ware, and interestingly notable, includes funerary ware from the Agaric Culture.

If Fuente Camacho is not settlement, then it can only be a strict salt production site.  If that's the case, then why the volume of highly varied ware?  If the potteries were votive in nature, should be expect such a variety?

Let me close in saying that my purpose here is not to offer serious criticism or well thought out alternative hypotheses but to engage in fully self-serving gratification by streaking naked through the university campus.  It is gonzo archaeology.  Someone writes a serious paper and then I take it and go to wacko world.


See also:

"EL APROVECHAMIENTO PREHISTÓRICO DE SAL EN LA ALTA ANDALUCÍA. EL CASO DE FUENTE CAMACHO (LOJA, GRANADA)"  (The prehistoric use of salt in upper Andalusia. The case of Fuente Camacho (Loja, Granada), Jonathan Teran Manrique and Antonio Morgado, (2011)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Missing Magical Fossils (Peter Leeming, 2015)

There's a chapter in this book by Houlbrook and Armitage I found interesting.   Two of the chapters are preview-able for free.


The highest order of archaeology is, IMO, to get into the minds of prehistoric people and to gain a realistic understanding of who they were.  This book talks about the material evidence for something that real prehistoric Europeans did a lot of and believed in - magic.

"The Materiality of Magic" has a chapter called 'Also found ... (not illustrated) ...': The curious case of the missing magical fossils by Peter Leeming.

Leeming illustrates a problem with a number of archaeology papers in failing to appreciate the motives of deliberate human action.  He looks at Bronze Age monuments of Britain and Ireland and finds buried, almost unworthy of reporting, the presence of echinoids (sea urchins) in graves, circles and tombs.  It seems that sometimes these are fossilized "thunderstones" and in other cases may actually have been urchin remains.

I learned something very interesting, the Amesbury Archer was buried with about fifteen sea urchins (it is not mentioned what kind).  In fact, the sea urchins in his grave were treated this way and quoted by Leeming:

"One small fossil ... was recovered from the fill during excavation, but as 15 small fossil sponges, a shark's tooth, and four other fossils were recovered from the sieving of the grave fill, it is not considered likely that the fossil was deliberately placed in the grave. (Dagless et al. 2013, 71)"

British Geological Survey (interesting stuff here) [Link]
Having dug a little deeper it would seem that this was possibly common, at least in the Isles.  (I also found a book that explores this phenomenon a little deeper "The Star-Crossed Stone: The Secret Life, Myths and History of a Fascinating Fossil" by Kenneth McManara)

If we extrapolate the Iron Age beliefs and meaning of this, it might point to a belief in a thunder and lightning god.  What's interesting is that a number of prehistoric motifs may mimic echninoid fossils.  The Scottish Stone Balls [2] might literally be "thunder balls" (ha ha)  Some of the spirally motifs in prehistoric European art could be more stylized or schematic versions of echinoid motifs, they having a metaphorical significance of the lightning god.


Previously I've referenced this book.  It's also a worthy reference: "Magical Medicine: The Folkloric Component of Medicine in the Folk Belief, Custom, and Ritual of the Peoples of Europe and America"  by Wayland D. Hand [Link]



Friday, January 22, 2016

Symbolism, Metaphors & Beaker Underworld


Reading two recent papers sparked some ideas about funerary wares. 

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. 

What I find striking is that Beaker funerary ware, despite its many influences, generally retains core characteristics that necessarily must have been important.  After all, cars have changed a lot in the last hundred years, but most still have four wheels, and having four wheels seems to be more important than the shape or size of the car. 

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Menorquinas

A very inbred type of dairy cow caught my attention last week.  It is the Menorquina [2] of the Balearic Islands, hypothesized to have been most plausibly introduced by Bell Beakers (William H. Waldren?) and apparently having a fairly isolated history.  The milk is used mostly for Mahon cheese, and how could I resist not putting this out there [here] for a little gastro-archaeology.



Previously, I've directed attention towards several hypotheses from archaeo-zoologists and taxonomists that the short-headed cow* (more often a dairy cow) entered Western Europe from North Africa via Southern Spain about the time of the Bell Beakers.  The Beakers are also coincidentally the people likely responsible for the frequency of lactase persistence genetics in Western Europe.

There is no empirical proof just yet, but the Balearic Islands seem to provide an interesting test case scenario given the unique history of settlement and activity on the islands.  The islands offer possibly the longest continuously Beaker cultural areas in Europe and possibly one of the more severely impacted.

See Also:
"Guia de Campo de las Razas Autoctonas Espanolas" [Link to Page 104]

* The naming conventions, taxonomy and genetics is a jungle.  For the purpose of this page, I'll rely on what has generally been understood as a sub-species of bos taurus with a certain set of racial characteristics.  Also, the majority of dairy cattle, at least in the U.S., are not shorthorns (as oppossed to the shorthorn which is not a shorthorn, or otherwise the shorthead (not the sometimes distinct shorthead subclassification of shorthorns, the shorthorn or shorthead (variously) also being known as the longface (longifrons, as called in the U.S., as opposed to bos brachyceros in continental Europe, which is also a Nubian water buffalo.  brachyceros/longifrons. Trust!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Slash and Burn (Costa, Lopez, Kaal, Martinez, 2015)

"Environmental Changes in North-Western Iberia Around the Bell Beaker Period" is a chapter looking at evidence of changes in the landscape, soil and climate during the time of the Beakers, keeping in mind that they are one group among many.  (The hyperlink should be visible above)

This is a continuation of the previewable portion of "The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe" by Prieto-Martinez and Salanova.

Burning the Brushwood (Eero Järnefelt, 1893)
It may be easy to oversell the environmental impact of the Beaker period since it is really a continuation of Neolithic clearing practices and exasperated by climate change at the end of the third millenium.

Nevertheless, these authors see a fairly dramatic acceleration of soil erosion and clear evidence of slash and burn indicators in the soil.  The Beaker Period marks an intense increase in land use (in this area) for agricultural activities.*   It's during this time that many rock surfaces at high elevations became exposed, creating the canvass of Bronze Age rock art.


We already know from multiple isotopic studies that Beakerfolk had a diet rich in meats and dairy.  Aside from diet, loom weights suggest that much of their clothing was made of wool, so it follows that more pasture would have been required.

In addition to needing more room for animals, some crops like barley might have needed sandier soil at a higher and cooler elevation.  During the Beaker period many places experienced a cooler and wetter trend and this may have partly caused the shifting of preference between the varieties of barley and wheat grown, or maybe even where they were grown.

One thing that has been common in the United States is to use goats to clear lush underbrush in a deciduous landscape.  It'd be interesting to know if there was a relationship between the goat population and deforestation/defoliation during the Beaker period.


* I seem to recall in other areas of Europe, older fields are no longer maintained.  I'm not sure how the population size is estimated (concerning the population crash of the Late Neolithic), however erosion and drainage may have required seeking out previously unused land.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Children and Questions in the Jarama Valley (Almela et al, 2015)


This is a chapter from the book "Children, Spaces and Identity" entitled "Infant Burials During the Copper and Bronze Ages in the Iberian Jarmama River Valley".

A young Madrid woman, child behind her.

The authors take a chunk of time in the Jarama valley of Iberia, 3,000 B.C. to 1,500 B.C., and look at how children were treated in death over time.  This is in the center of the Iberian Peninsula.

Period 1: The Early Chalcolithic before the Beakers.

We have a Early Chalcolithic phase that is basically community tombs.  Bunch of people piled in a cave or in a barrow.  Children over a year of age are buried with everyone else and become community ancestors.

Period 2: Beginning of the Beaker Age.  We have two types of people that are contemporary and live close to one another...

a)  Children/Adults buried without Bell Beaker pottery.

The skeletons of these people suggest they worked hard, died young.  Adults are single burial in pits with little worldly goods.  No children under six months old are ever found, all other children are grouped together and no single burial of a child is found, and certainly without worldly goods.

b)  Children buried with adults and Beaker pottery is present.

These people are often buried in small, nuclear collectives, something along the line of mom, dad and children or otherwise closely related people.  Men outnumber women like everywhere in Beakerworld.

They appear to have been wealthier in burial having exotic, costly or rare items.  They also occupy spaces that took a lot of effort to construct.  Isotopes show their diet was high in meat and dairy and the mortality numbers suggest they lived longer than people buried without beakers.  People buried with Beaker pottery don't exhibit the kind of repetitive physical stress markers that the people buried without exhibit.  Beaker children above the age of 6 months are buried, but always buried with an adult.

I suspect that graves were reopened for children so they could be buried with an adult.  At a later time I'll expand on some evidence for the 'Beaker underworld' and the kinds of tests and trickery found in a Bronze Age Hades.

Period 3:  The Bronze Age

Basically this is now our modern situation.  All children of any age from their first breath are buried completely and fully as an individual person.  A strange caveat is that these children are buried with a dog.  That's right.  The authors suggest the dog was a protector for the afterlife, and again I'll pitch my sometime-in-the-future-canoeing-through-purgatory comments.

Lastly, the authors note that the Beaker children were not achievers and did not earn or merit a higher status by our understanding.  Again, I think this has the marks of ethnicity, but only a few hundred miles up the Tagus and Douro Rivers!  What!?

That's why I love this.  Bang head here.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Folk Who Will Never Speak (Falileyev, 2015)

Continuing with "The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe" by Salanova and Preito-Martinez, we'll now look at a chapter written by Alexander Falileyev concerning problems of Bell Beaker language.

This is a very short read, but very condensed and well-written.  There's two topics examined closely, one is that Beakers spread Old European (or the Alteuropaisch) of Krahe's hydronymy.  The other is the possibility that some Beaker communities spoke something ancestral to Celtic, being more or less a proxy.

Beakers have been variously implicated in the origin of the old European hydronymy because after all, what other archaeological horizon has unified such a vast region?  But there are problems with this possibility as Falileyev lays out, the least of which is the old naming system is theoretically larger that the effective area Beakers are thought to have inhabited, assuming 1) any unity existed among Beakers 2) or that they were sufficiently present for enough time to change an existing hydronymy.

I think Falileyev really channels us into one conclusion: the sporadically settled Beaker phenomenon has no plausible role in creating the European hydronymy.  In a paradoxical sense, the stability of the hydronyms over the last 2,500 years really questions their vulnerability to begin with, so it's hard to seriously accept the possibility that an ethnic minority changed all naming conventions, then after crystallizing, those names remaining stable through all the turmoil over the last 4,000 years.

I'll also throw this out there, that Beakers post-date putative IE speakers in much of the zone in which the area this hydronymy exists.  Really, the smart money is implicating the earliest Near Eastern farmers of Europe.
The next option is a little more dicey.  That is the chronological age of Celtic and whatever linguistic evidence we have for European languages in the prehistoric West.  So this is where the real food-fight starts. 

First, let's accept that the Celtic question really is not about the Celtic family in the regular sense.  Here we are using it as a proxy for a language that no longer exists.  Celtic itself, as Falileyev explains, is also a developing story and it may have no relation whatsoever with the West and certainly not the Beaker people.  Or it could.

The Beakerfolk don't exactly help with this question either.  If Bell Beaker had drove in from the Pontic Steppe and left a neat trail of breadcrumbs across Eastern Europe, then maybe this question would be less difficult.  Instead Beakers come from the other direction, at least in their immediate history.  It also doesn't help that many archaeologists reject questions of ethnicity, especially as it relates to cultural and linguistic transmission.

From a glottochronogical standpoint, in many schemes of mainstream linguistics IE-speaking Beakers is still doable.  Celtic and/or Italic are sufficiently old enough to have been seeded by early Martime Beakers and rising to the top of the primordial foam by the Urnfield period.  Many of the phylogenetic trees place them and Tocharian at the base, or the most diverged after Anatolian. 

Aside from the favorable clockwork, it's also noteworthy that Tocharian and I-C are physically the most distant of the recorded European languages.  In this sense, although the Beaker story is strange, it offers a framework that other archaeological periods fail to demonstrate.

Falileyev criticizes the 'Celtic from the West' as argued by Koch and Cunliffe, seeing a number of weak points that can't be reconciled.  He does however give a preview of a work by Gibson and Wodtko that he thinks is more promising in which a linguistic mosaic was formed by pockets of Beaker settlements over the continent and this theoretical language possibly becoming ancestral to Celtic (or not exluding Celtic).  In this scenario there is no nucleus or geographic origin of Celtic, or whatever, just pockets of communities that speak a similar language.

I'll look for the Gibson and Wodtko work.  It looks interesting [link].

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Children as Potters (Garrido-Pena, Herrero-Corral 2015)


I just changed my mind on ten things.  Seriously, this paper approaches Beaker pottery production through the lens of modern ethnography and then looks at the archaeological record in a way that makes greater sense.

Tiny Beaker (Thanet Arch?)
One item discovered throughout the ceramic-making parts of the planet are miniatures like the one above.  In the Late Neolithic of Europe, items like this found their way into graves which gives us a rare opportunity for some prehistoric insight.  Miniature grave items, whether they are tiny pots, battle axes or arrowheads, have sociological dimensions in the Late Neolithic as relates to idealism and the afterlife (Turek), but really there is another dimension too.

What Garrido and Herrero demonstrate is clear signals of prehistoric childhood apprenticeship using Bell Beaker as an example.  They extrapolate the ethnographic data from pre-modern cultures to show that tiny, medium-sized, and poorly-made Beaker pottery follow the natural trajectory of apprenticeship and learning by growing children.

Throughout the world, girls sat with their mothers at an early age, watching, playing and finally pinching tiny play pots.  Given the standardization of the Beaker pots, I previously believed before reading this paper that Beaker pottery was a specialized craft, executed by certain individuals.

There is now a more appealing explanation for the production of Beaker ceramics, that it was always made by ordinary women, and that all Beaker women participated in its production.  These women, every woman, began learning this craft and other crafts in early childhood.  That has profound implications for the miscegenation of regional pottery styles and the begleitkeramik itself, and I will absolutely go out on a limb and suggest that the genetic data (right now) can already complement this view.

To put it another way, we know that ethnic Bell Beakers intermarried frequently with local folks and, unsurprisingly, local character makes its way into the local Beaker pottery (or the other way around).  The only way to fully appreciate Irish food vessels or Dutch Zone Corded beakers or Artenac culture beakers, is to quite literally accept these material items as one product of actual ethnic miscegenation, largely between men of an Iberian Maritime Beaker ancestry and women of Carrowkeel Neolithic, Single Grave Culture and Artenac I culture, etc.  Blended families, blended pottery.


Another question is the poorly-made pygmy pottery that sometimes appears in the graves of adults.  In other respects there appears to be (IMO) at times evidence of sentimental grave offerings, such as single beads or an extra cup or equipment, and in the case of pottery appears likely that child pottery was sometimes deposited by those mourners in attendance of the funeral.

Really, I think the implications of this subject are more important that the many analyses of pottery and decoration.  This cuts right down to the important question of 'who' and the topic of 'cultural learning'.

Allow me to now put a slice of pizza in the punchbowl.  If all Beaker girls are learning how to make Beaker pottery at a young age, this would more likely be the result of "Unbiased Cultural Transmission".  It is the 'infinite alleles' model in which there is a tenancy for natural drift, but no explicit bias for prestige or non-conformity.

Most of the late models for the spread, adoption, imitation or trade of beaker pottery has been a preference for the later, that it was 'prestigious' or was part of some weirdo bonding ritual.  But I'll put this to brass tacks and get to the point:  Unbiased Cultural Transmission through childhood learning involves a stable and mature culture transmitting itself through the vehicle of ethnicity.


Papers can be found here.  Published 2015 [Link]


*Footnote for a paper involving lots of math and cultural transmission in archaeology assemblages:
"Neutral Cultural Transmission in Time Averaged Archaeological Assemblages" Mark E. Madsen Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (2012)  [here]

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Wrist-Guards as Symbolic Male Ornament (Turek)

I'll begin this year with a new book "The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe" and a chapter written by Jan Turek concerning the unusual arm guards of the archers. [Preview here]

I won't rehash this topic since chances are you already know a little about the arm-guards.  Instead, I'll condense this down to basic arguments and questions:

Figure 4.  Bohemian Wrist-Guards

A problem raised by Harry Folkens was that the stone wrist-guards are functionally overkill for the assumed job of string slap, whereas a simple piece of hardened leather would sufficiently protect the skin. 

The decoration of Central European boar's tusks may suggest that a dominant bow used at this time (in Bohemia) was similar to the Meare Heath bow [here].  Reconstructions put it in the ball park of a 55-90 lb draw weight to the cheek for a 27-28 reach.  So again, no need for a titanium wrist-guard.

As Turek outlines here and as previous authors have done, there is a reordering of functional requirements of its design, moving aspects such as appearance or significance higher in the design criteria than as a safety device.  This is illustrated in the title "Symbolic Male Ornament"

Folkens makes this case as well by showing that 66% appear on the outside of the arm in burials, and this could be reinforced by the gold sheet bosses that appear in the tie-down holes of a few bracers.  Turek they are more likely to have been worn in the interior of the arm but was simply rotated when not in use.

Amesbury Archer (Jane Brayne)

The facts do support the stone, or some stones, being attached to leather as some exhibit tannin etching.  The stones show evidence of being worn, repaired, repaired again.  The color of the stone as Turek mentions here, appears to have been very important and it would seem reasonable that the stone would be at least visible instead of a mere insert.  And in the same way the bow is slung over the shoulder when not in use, the bracer may be rotated in a comfortable position as well.

But as we may or may not see in the upcoming paper by Ryan [here], shock injuries may have the real culprit, not skin irritation.  In this case the stones could have been functional by adding dead weight to the forearm.  The focus on the stone itself may be an artifact of the reality that it is only one component of a larger assembly that has disintegrated.  So while we were at the earliest time correct to assume this item has something to do with being an archer bracer, we may be incorrect to assume that it is in fact an archery bracer.

Finally, the chronology and evolution of the stone-wrist guard is discussed.  Here Turek suggests they originate in Central Europe then spread elsewhere and he gives evidence for this by their absence in early All Over Ornamented Bell Beaker graves.  I'm assuming that the stone wrist-guard lacks a forerunner in a preceding culture and originates within the Beaker culture.

Interestingly, he sees the earliest stone wrist-guard as an elongated river pebble with perforations on either end.  This simple and primitive design might be the best explanation for their origin.  The link is at the top.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Controversies and Discoveries for 2016

2016 will be a watershed year for the study of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon.  A rapid data metamorphosis is radically changing the resolution of prehistory.  I don't think we need to be worried about get stuck in a rut or being bored.


This year we'll see a lot of Atlantic genomes, possibly soon.  I don't have any special gouge, however the ripples are what you'd expect [here] and [here]. In addition to the shaking bushes, there's always one study that jumps out of nowhere with a big surprise.

Here's some papers and posts ahead:

- A sufficient amount of "The Bell Beaker Transition in Europe" by Prieto-Martinez and Salanova is now preview-able that I can begin posting and commenting.  Each topic covers some very interesting questions, timely as the genomic question has moved to the forefront of discussion.  From linguistics to ethnicity, there's plenty 'cage match' worthy material. 

- "Children as Potters" is an interesting subject discussed by Garrido-Pena and Herrero-Corral in a chapter of a recent book "Children, Spaces and Identity"

- Another chapter by Aliaga-Almela, Liesau, Rios, Blasco and Galindo look at Beaker babies in "Infant Burials During the Copper and Bronze Ages in the Iberian Jarama River Valley"

- There's a paper in Quaternary that was presented at a conference this last Spring about a horse butcher site at Portalon.  Young foals appear to have been selectively butchered (I commented on this before and the context is pre-Beaker or non-Beaker).  This sounds simple, people eating horse chili, but it becomes increasingly problematic, especially because of the effective population size. 

It's likely that the Atapuerca horses were genetically similar to the Sorraia and Lusitano.  In fact, H.P. Uerpmann (page 70, Olsen) theorized that the smaller Bell Beaker horse around Europe was essentially something akin to the Portuguese Lusitano, and then boom, the same menage that happened between Beakers and the Corded Ware people also happened with Beaker and Corded Ware horses (Warmuth et al, 2011)

What! What!  (Fig.1, Warmuth et al, 2011)
So aside from the genetics of migrating people, the genetics of migrating animals offer the second biggest artifact of Beaker history.  I've previously commented on the brachyceros/longifrons [here].


- There's a coming thesis examining the biometrics of Beakerfolk by Jos Kleijne, Kiel University (I'm not sure of the date of this paper)

- There's a thesis (Jessica Ryan) looking at musculoskeletal stress indications of Bell Beaker archers.  There have been various examinations and comments on the bodies of Neolithic or Medieval archers, however this will be the first study that examines this specific phenomenon, and certainly that of the Beaker time-frame.

- I believe there will be sequel coming out on Beaker pottery from Moroccan rock shelters.

- Google Earth and zebra mussels are cranking out Neolithic and Bronze Age discoveries on a daily basis.  A gigantic and previously unknown circle anomaly was discovered in Britain last week by amateur mousing around the terrain. This year will rock for discoveries.


Dr. Tibor Bader (Sudwest Presse Photo Initiative)

- In 2015, I had hoped to see a study on vegetarianism in a certain portion Bronze Age and/or Neolithic people.  The issue was mentioned by Garrido-Pena (?) in an abstract from Burgos and I looked further into an earlier isotope study and found what look like a small but visible portion of isotopic vegans.

I find this interesting because vegetarianism is most often engendered by people with a certain metaphysical worldview, although a minority in practice.  Given what we know about Bronze Age religions, which gave us the majority of modern religions, we may be able to extrapolate how they may have viewed the nature of man and the material world.

And finally, I have a long list of quacky, heuristic, loose-on-the-facts, but free blog posts.  This year is going to be for me suckingly busy, but I will not relent.  Long live the Beakers!