Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Szczepanowice Mass Grave, Eulau Redux (Archeowiesci.pl)

A Corded Ware family was discovered in the village of Szczepanowice, Southern Poland (Malopolska).  See the article and 3D video at Archeowiesci.

This grave is weirdly similar to another Corded Ware family in Eulau, Germany.  [here]  There is a man and woman in the traditional gender-opposed Corded Ware rite.  They also have two young children before them looking face to face.

Like Eulau, the family at Szczepanowice appears to have suffered a sudden, violent death.  The man had several broken bones including a broken nose.  Upon burial, the Szczepanowice family was richly equipped in a labor intensive grave setting that included rare and foreign objects.

Via Wyborcza News.

In part 3 of this German documentary, the Beakerfolk are implicated but ultimately exonerated after detailed inspection of the arrowheads.  It seems more likely that this grave format is in some way part of a Corded Ware ideal, either about the nuclear family or unity in the afterlife.

As the article in Archeowiesci eludes, there is some controversy to the interpretation of these violent multiple burials.  One regards it as a tragedy in a violent world.  Another sees something too standardized for chance, possibly a more ancient Indo-European practice of sati.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Stonehenge Once Decked?

Julian Spaulding [MailOnline via "Stonehenge News and Information" blog]

Julian Spaulding has a theory that Stonehenge was decked at some point.  I'm not sure if whether this was true or not, but it does seem reasonable to suggest that the stone structure is a skeleton of a heavy organic structure.  The fact that the sarsen stones are flat seems rather convenient.  On the other hand, if the structure was covered it would seem to take away from the view of the sky, so it seems less likely.

Le Neolithique nord-atlantique du Maroc: (Daugas et al, 1989)

This is an older paper but worth a revisit.  I'll go off tangent and add some comments at the bottom.

Le Neolithique nord-atlantique du Maroc: premier essai de chronolgie par le radiocarbone
Jean-Pierre Daugas, Jean-Paul Raynal, Aziz Ballouche, Serge Occhietti, Pierre Pichet, Jacque Evin, Jean-Pierre Texier et Andre Debenath.
C.R. Academy of Sciences Paris, t. 308, Serie II, p. 681-687, 1989  [Link]

Neolithic of north-atlantic Morocco: first radiocarbon chronology attempt

Abstract - Nice 14C dates, compared to previous data, are used to propose a chronological framework for the north Atlantic Neolithic of Morocco.  The Cardial established late, from 5300 B.C., over a poorly-known autochtonous population, and spread to the south.  The scarcely-evidenced Middle Neolithic followed, from 4500 B.C., with Saharian influences.  Circa 3700 B.C., the upper Middle Neolithic expanded over the entire area studied, with a pottery industry of the Proto-Bell-Beakers type.  The final phase of the Middle Neolithic was a favorable environment for the birth of local metallurgy.  At about 2700-2500 B.C., it participated in the emergence of the Iberic Bell-Beakers civilization which would return its products to Morocco.

See also [Link]

Obviously this paper is about pottery decoration influences, not people or culture.  Since the "Beaker package" is an international conglomeration of neat things from other cultures, the cultural origin of those 'things' means absolutely nothing.  The Beaker culture also had several formative phases in Europe, and the culture or people did not exist before this because it is at its heart a synthesis of "the best of Europe" at that time.

At the same rate, it's not a bunch-o-cultures and its ethnicity, at least before our psychotic understanding, was not an open-membership organization.  The Bell Beakers were a genuine people or group of peoples who were related to each other.  They moved into the domains of other people and established themselves at the expense of others who often rejected their culture.  So the genetic formulation of an ethnic core is absolutely valid.  There's no reason to beat this to death with overly nuanced disagreements as I think we all understand that human mixture and identity is complex.

For all intents and purposes, the average Bell Beaker person in Europe will draw a majority of his heritage from the ethnic Corded Ware people of Northern Europe.  I think we already started seeing this with the first genomes of the Mittel-Saale and the Elbe and culturally, this was always true. Regardless of how much localized Neolithic ancestry any Beaker may have, which is probably very substantial, almost all Beakerfolk can trace their common heritage to an ancestral denominator emanating from the general vicinity of Rhine.

Beakers have an additional ancestry that makes them distinct from Corded Ware people.  This is probably indicated by the distinct Y-chromosome and possibly by some fringe elements of African ancestry.  This likely comes from Southwest Europe, and given its history, Atlantic Morocco of the Middle Neolithic shouldn't be discounted.

Other scenarios are possible as well, but whatever happened it was born in circumstances unique to Europe.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Durrington Walls (Nick Snashall in USA Today)

USA Today inters Dr. Nicola Snashall, who also blogs FragmeNTs Stonehenge & Avebury blog in the sidebar.  "You Know Stonehenge.  This is Superhenge."  USA TODAY

This excavation wrapped up sometime last week, so now that I've had a few moments to get my mind around this discovery I'll speculate on what could be the significance of this dig based on just a few things Ive read.

Posted by MegalithomaniaUK

Durrington Walls was excavated by the National Trust of Stonehenge and Avebury [here].  It was previously thought that the enormous enclosure was partly surrounded by large megaliths as ground radar had previous suggested.  Rather what archaeologists found was very deep post holes that were weirdly uninstalled after their installation.

Durrington Walls and nearby Stonehenge had either complementary or competing purposes depending on the interpretation.  Likely, Durrington Walls contained a bunch of huts where the people who built Stonehenge lived, and then both structures had a (possibly simultaneous) phase where they were improved, again 'possibly' concordant with the Beaker phase, although I'm not sure anything from the Beaker culture is found at the occupation site.

So unlike the very sad and disappointed headlines of the British press for not finding gigantic stones beneath the soil, I'll say that this find opens up a very intriguing possibility instead, based on where these posts were located outside the ditch.  

It seems possible that these post holes could be the piles of a large lever engine, similar concept to a shaduf, and used to excavate the enormous fifteen to twenty-something foot ditch that surrounds the town, or whatever it is.  I imagine something like this being reassembled many times as the shadufasaurus is moved along the perimeter.
If I understand correctly, some of the timbers appear to have plucked out of the ground which could mean that, like modern tower cranes, the 'excavator' was used to partially assemble and disassemble itself or at least its footings.  This is all speculation based on reading a couple of paragraphs and it could be that the ditch is too far from posts for it to make any difference. 

It's entirely possible that people with baskets, picks and shovels excavated all of this one basket at a time, however two miles away the same people stacked stones at Stonehenge.

On a separate note, thinking more broadly about ditched enclosures in general and quickly infilled ditches and so forth, I kind of wonder if these ditches of any size are nothing more than benjo ditches.
If a bunch of people lived in a place like Durrington Walls, you've got to have a big benjo ditch, maybe additional small ones and a big one to catch the runoff.

She provides a description on the dig and the archaeologists for the project [here]
See also a paper by MP Pearson regarding his view on the connections [here].

Old concept.  SciNews.

See also "Huge ritual monument thought to be buried near Stonehenge doesn't exist admit archaeologists"  Telegraph UK

"New Stonehenge' was made of WOOD:  Vast 4,500-year-old timber circle may have been erected to commemorate the builders of its famous neighbor"  DailyMail

'New Stonehenge' at Durrington Walls 'had no standing stones'  BBC

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ritualized Ball Games in the Neolithic? (or venationes, Michael Bott)

Here's a theory from Micheal Bott suggesting that some of the circular monuments of Atlantic Europe may be sporting monuments where important, possibly even religious, ball games or venationes took place.  Before you dismiss this possibility, listen to his argument and then consider a few examples from other primitive religions below.

Thanks to Charles for linking the short clip below:

Henges: Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Avebury & Stanton Drew from Michael Bott on Vimeo.

Bott suggests that some of the henges could be the structural precursors to a number of ancient venues, using as a loose example the Amphitheatrum Flavium, itself having a recent architectural lineage by way of Classical Greece.  At 4:22 he compares the structure of Stanton Drew with the substructure of the Flavian Amphitheater, suggesting that the close timbers may have been piers for decking. 

It's possible that when large numbers of people converged on a single site like Stonehenge (as a bad example) that the archaeological indication of multi-day feasting could have been a sort of religious sports-orgy, such as those of a number of ancient cultures.  Lacking satisfyingly abundant sacrificial or burial remains, some round monuments are often called calendars or observatories; but that still doesn't tell us procedurally 'what actually happened' when the monuments were being used.  Bott wonders if the 'what actually happened' were blood-sports, such as those of the Roman Era.

Since many of the Atlantic monuments seem to be oriented around the sun [recent article], we might want to consider activities that would be becoming of a proper sun worshiper.  So here I've considered two very different cultures a world away just to give an example of what kind of worship might be pleasing to a solar deity of the Beaker Age.  (not suggesting any relationship with the following)

Woodland Lacrosse "The Warrior's Game" by Robert Griffing [here]
There is lacrosse, a modern North American game with origins in the Eastern Woodland Nations.  A reconstructed view of the stick-and-ball mythology is a battle among primordial beings (either between gods or a contest between animals and ancestral humans) for the sun and moon, the volley representing this struggle of dominance of the two celestial spheres.  Although played for a number of occasions, it is possible that important games were played either in the Winter Solstice or quarterly.  The word "game" is almost a misapplication in that it trivializes a sacramental event that was played with rackets consecrated by a holy man.  [USAlacrosse], (Vennum, 2004)

Another solar game is Meso-American handball, which probably descended from the same ancestor as the Woodland ball games.  The rubber ball comes to represent a living version of the sun in a cosmic battle that took place before the time of men.  The stone scoring ring, as seen below, represents the equinox through which the sun passes.

The ball court itself, the tlachtli, is more than just a sports stadium.  It is a solar portal oriented with the sky that literally transports the players into the cosmological realm.  It is here that the death and re-birth of the sun is re-enacted and the fertility of a nation can be ensured through the sacrifice of players.

Whether lacrosse or ullamaliztili, these were formalized, high-stakes events, not only for the players but for the treaties and wagers made on the game.  In the case of ullamaliztili, the sanctioned games by the Classical Period appear to have ended with the beheading of losing team captain and often, the entire losing team.  Also [here]

"ullamaliztli" - The ball "sun" spiked through the stone ring "the equinox"
There is an extremely rich array of ancient European ball games, combat sports, venationes and competitions.  Many of our seemingly modern sports belong to categories of sports that can be traced fairly well into the Early Bronze Age.   

These European competitions were often religious in nature; and that begs the question:  if we reasonably assume that sport events were one of the most central pillars in the life of a Neolithic European, shouldn't we see some evidence of this in the landscape?  No one is suggesting that this is going to be the case, but if we look at monuments again, could they be?

Michael Bott considers round monuments with embankments.  He wonders if the ditched embankment enclosures were designed for venationes, such as a bull ring, or a rodeo ring.  It's worth considering that European stick-and-ball games typically have round courts or infields as well.  In the English language, boxers fight in a boxing 'ring', even though modern rings are square.  Most European combat sports are now, or were at one time, fought in a circular enclosure.

There are also other unusual structures found in Europe, such as the cursuses and holed-stones
Of course there may be better explanations for some of these, but if we had a number of Neolithic monuments, let's say a thousand, there should be a high logical probability that a certain percentage had events taking place that spectators might actually want to watch!


Here is an interesting bit of information about Stonehenge...  There are now about a hundred and fifty images discovered on the Stonehenge sarsen stones from the second millennium.  What are they?  deer?  stick people?  boats?  cows?

Unless there are images that I've missed, all of them are axes and daggers.

...and they continue to be found.  These are just the ones that haven't faded or remain to be discovered.  What's interesting is how the daggers and axes are sequentially listed on the sarsen stones, much like a tally.

Papi Boyington, American Ace pilot

More on the Roman coliseum   [Link]

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Beaker Smith? Stone Hoard from Netherlands (Drenth, Freudenberg, Williams, 2016)

Drenth, Freudenberg and Williams review a bunch of metal working tools that were buried together in a pit.

A compelling case is made that these are the remnants of smith's tools and were buried within a rectangular style box.   Weirdly, the arrangement of the stones look as if it they were placed in a toolbox!

On page 47 there is a fascinating description of how the tools were placed into the toolbox to protect the work edges and faces.  The reason why the authors have come back to this find is the significance of the arrangement.  There have in various places been found fish hooks, weights and fishing lures; imagine if an archaeologist one day found a complete Late Neolithic tackle box.

Snip of page 43, Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 37-58. Online. 30.06.2016.
The inventory, quoting from the paper:

  • a non-flint stone axe with a rectangular cross-section or Fels-Rechteckbeil, variety A (width < half of the length) with a rectangular outline as viewed from above (cat.no. 3);
  • a hammer-stone with two polished short ends (cat.no. 19);
  • three hammer-stones (cat. nos. 6, 7 and 12);
  • two cushion-stones (cat. nos. 1 and 2);
  • two arrow shaft smoothers (cat. nos. 4 and 5);
  • six to seven whetstones (cat. nos. 8, 9, 14, 18, 20, 22 and 23);
  • one or two rubbing stones (cat. nos. 10 and 15).   (Drenth et al, 2016)

Also, from the table below you can see a little more clearly the intelligent selection of certain types of materials for certain purposes.  In a way, this reminds of the diversity of wood materials of Otzi's backpack and personal gear.

Snip from Fig 1 Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 37-58. Online. 30.06.2016.

Finally, they consider why the box was buried.  It appears that all of the tools are well used but still functional; a number of them are no longer functional or broken.  The authors suspect that the person who buried the tools did not intend to return, given the worn and sometimes broken state.  They suggest the tools were buried respectfully.

I think we are channeled towards the possibility that these were once the tools of a man who was no longer around.  Someone took a box of mostly functional tools and some broken tools, buried it, and never came back.

Drenth, Freudenberg, Williams 

The Belongings of a Bell Beaker smith? A Stone Hoard from Hengelo, Province of Gelderland, the Netherlands (*.pdf)  Erik Drenth - Mechtild Freudenberg - Gavin L. Williams
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 37-58. Online. 30.06.2016. [Link]

Abstract: This paper discusses a pit in which 23 stones were discovered during the excavation of a cover sand ridge at Hengelo, province of Gelderland, the Netherlands, in 2007. In all likelihood it concerns the isolated deposition or hoard containing (part of) the belongings of a smith dating to the Bell Beaker period. Amongst the stones are two cushion-stones and a hammer with two polished short ends. They have been interpreted as metal-working tools that served as anvils and percussion instrument respectively. Copper and gold traces, revealed by neuron activation analysis, on the cushion-stones and a whetstone support this theory. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Beaker Box Cremations in Bourgogne, France (Christian, Docreaux, Fossurier, 2016)

This paper describes several box cremation burials.  During the burning of the funeral pyre, it appears the beaker cups were placed.

On top of the burial was built a small timber mausoleum and surrounded by a ring ditch.

F. Gauchet via Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 21-36

The configurations appear slightly different.  M8 appears to have some similarity to arrangements in Central Europe.
F. Gauchet via Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 21-36

Cutout of Fig. 1 Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 21-36

Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 21-36. Online. 30.06.2016.  [Link]

Abstract: The two cremation burials of Genlis, the Nicolot are outstanding representations of the Bell Beaker period for the East of France and Burgundy region. Very few cremation graves are attested in Western Europe and the Genlis burials can certainly attest to cultural links with Central Europe where this type of funerary practice is better documented. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

First Bell Beaker earthwork enclosure found in Spain (University of Tübingen)

First Bell Beaker earthwork enclosure found in Spain: Archaeologists have discovered an earthwork enclosure in southern Spain dating from the Bell Beaker period of 2,600 to 2,200 BCE. The complex of concentric rings may have been used for holding rituals; such earthwork enclosures have previously only been found in the northern half of Europe.  (Science Daily)

via ScienceDaily

The new enslosure, La Loma del Real Tesoro II is very large and begins and ends with the Bell Beaker Culture, according to the release.   The site is close to Seville, which is the southern part of Spain in the plain of the Guadalquivir, about an hour north of Cadiz.

See also Heritage Daily and the press release from the University of Tübingen.

Image: SFB 1070 RessourcenKulturen, Javier Escudero Carrillo and Elisabet Conlin

Beaker-people-without-Beaker-pots (Zilhão, 2016)

Zilhao identifies possibly four individuals from the Portuguese "Galeria da Cisterna" on the Almonda as belonging to the Beaker culture.  He looks closely at the radiocarbon dates and the materials present, sperm whale buttons and the additional presence of a gold spiral.  Although no pottery was present, he excludes other scenarios.

The remains were found in the Almonda River Karst with this particular gallery containing large amounts of Early Neolithic material.  The site includes material from almost every phase of late history, spanning the Magdalenian to the Iron Age.

Aside from the strange baseball bat toggle, the combination of whalebone buttons and the presence of a gold spiral does seem to offer a reasonable assignment to the Beaker culture.  The pots could have been present at one time, but it seems likely also that they were never included.   That's not a huge problem, but it does add some ambiguity, as Zilhao says, about the certainty of assignment.

DNA testing is on-going and he says two of the individuals are genetically female.

Almonda River

"Beaker people without beaker pots:  the Chalcolithic funerary context from the Galeria da Cisterna (Almonda karst system, Torres Novas, Portugal)  João Zilhão, 2016 [Link]
Del neolític a l’edat del bronze en el Mediterrani occidental.
Estudis en homenatge a Bernat Martí Oliver.
TV SIP 119, València, 2016, p. 379-386.

Even though no characteristic ceramics were found, a small set of V-perforated buttons indicates that the Galeria da Cisterna cave was used for funerary purposes by people of the Beaker culture. Direct dating of human bone corroborates that the bodies of at least four adult individuals were laid down here during the second half of the third millennium cal BC. The buttons belong to well-known types and their textural properties suggest that, as with all the other Portuguese specimens analyzed so far, sperm whale ivory is the raw-material used. A small fragment of a gold spiral completes the site’s Beaker context.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Isotopic and DNA analysis from El Virgazal (Liesau et al, 2016)

Quick teaser in the Slovakian journal, Musaica Archaeologica.

These papers appear to be revisits or updates(?) from a conference in Slovakia in 2014.  This one concerns high status items that demonstrate long-range contacts among Iberian Beaker groups.  An interesting out-take is that there will be isotopic and DNA evidence from El Virgazal mound near Burgos.

Given the context that Liesau et al give concerning this site, it will be very interesting to compare this genome with that of the Amesbury Archer in particular.  There are several connections between the artifacts of this site and the artifacts in the Amesbury burial suggesting a directly-reciprocating trade relationship between the two areas.  It would be interesting if that relationship extended beyond trade, perhaps as family ties or recent ancestry.(?)


Friday, August 5, 2016

"Beaker World and Otherness" (Turek, 2016)

Real life Bell Beaker culture existed in a world with other cultures.  Some of those other cultures in Europe rejected it and did their own thing.  Some embraced parts of it.  Outside Europe there appears to be trends and influences that tell of a world that is far more connected than commonly assumed.

Userkaf, 5th Dynasty (2494 to 2487 B.C.)

When considering that cultural and ethnic Bell Beakers inhabited pockets within two continents and most of the islands of the Western Mediterranean, we might see their participation in, or influence on, international trends at that time. 

Beyond the 'Beaker package' which is itself international in origin, the ideology and cosmology of Beakers appear to be part of a trend that affects many regions.  Turek examines some of these...


Abstract: Recently I have discussed the question of genesis and spread of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon and its cultural impact on its periphery and neighbourhood (Turek 2011; 2013; 2014). In this paper I would like to look at the Bell Beaker World from the outer
side. The social processes that we are able to reconstruct for the 3rd Millennium Europe were, however, not isolated from the civilization development in other parts of the Old World. From the point of view of the first civilization centres the European Continent has
to be seen as a periphery. The main purpose of this article is to compare the different civilization aspects within the proto-historical early state formations of Near East and North East Africa and within the Mediterranean and Continental European communities.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Pursuing the Penumbral" Beakers in Monuments (Neil Wilkin, 2016)

Down below is a linked paper by Neil Wilkin concerning beaker sherds at Scottish monuments.

The complexity of the British Beaker 'groups' and the events at these monuments are rather complicated, and to be honest, I may have to update this post after reading a few more times.  I'll try and reduce this down into bit-size pieces as best as I understand it. 

The penumbra Wilkin speaks of is the shadowy space between the Neolithic world and the Beaker world, especially as megalithic monuments begin yielding Beaker materials.  Big social changes occur at the monuments after some hiatus, but it's difficult to understand what exactly is happening.  One of the big questions has been the presence of Beaker pottery at these older, Neolithic monuments, which have been assumed to be evidence of disturbed burials. 

Callanish Standing Stones (Stuart Herbert via EducationScotlandUK)

So with Beaker pottery found at so many monuments here and elsewhere, several memes had evolved to explain their presence (as being assumed that they were part of funerary rites):

1) ethnic Bell Beakers were re-utilizing abandoned or seized megalithic structures for their own burials, thereby de-bastardizing their title to the land.  Think of this in the frame of European royalty creating a landed legitimacy through imagined or fake genealogies.  This has been said for the Indian ancestry of red-blooded Americans or the 'traditional' representations of Ptolemaic Pharaohs.  This first theory presumes sort of a co-opting of indigenous racial title and governance where an alien folk effectively write themselves into the culture and enduring history of another.  or,

2) a continuation of older traditions being revitalized through kinship (marriage) or even the direct genetic continuation of people who had only adopted a superficial culture.  Basically, Beakers marry their way into British estates and life.  A new nation of mixed heritages and allegiance carries forward the traditions of its ancestries at the monuments, albeit slightly altered. 

Wilken argues that after understanding all of the relevant factual data, there are several different things going on at Scottish Neolithic monuments at different times and places.  Looking closely at the facts, he sees burial as highly over-rated when it can be positively identified, but more importantly it appears that other activities are coming to light.

He breaks the subject up into three parts:

1.  Beaker completeness, decoration, morphology and chronology

It turns out that the majority of the Beaker pottery at these monuments are neither complete (highly fragmented and missing), nor are the pots positively associated with burial.  The sherds also have an all-over decoration more often, unlike the complete funerary pots that are found with bodies or contemporary short cists.
Some of these smashed potteries appear to have laid on the ground, being exposed for some time near the monument, and more often exposed when closer to the monument.  Wilkin supposes the mess was deliberate and scattered in a way to be seen.  But the most important point is that the pottery sherds that are found really don't jive with local funerary ware...
"There is, therefore, an important contrast is between bounded, single burials with whole ‘complex’ comb vessels and fragmentary, more generically decorated vessels involved in more functional and communal events at pre-existing works of communal labour. It can be further revealed with reference to morphology and chronology."
The beakers at the monuments also appear to have been more often cordoned on the lip.  He notes that this was interpreted by Clarke to mean that these beakers could be closed with a lid even though this is just speculation.  (American readers, and maybe more, will be familiar with the 'Mason jar', which has a screw lip intended for canning or storage but is more often used by hillbillies for drinking alcohol.)

Wilkin points out that these cordoned beakers are also found with prestigious warrior burials, so they should not be thought of as a cheap throw-aways.  But it does suggest that the beakers brought to the monument were more functional than funerary and importantly, because of the similarity and number of the deposited items, likely a social gathering.

And he summarizes:

"It has been shown that Beakers from Neolithic monuments do not belong to a particular, early phase and include fragmentary vessels (often from assemblages of three or more) from non-angular necked vessels, with all-over, decoration, often with cordons, which may have signaled different, less particular, and perhaps less individualistic or personal, information than those from funerary contexts. The presence of cordons in a considerable proportion of the assemblages may relate to the functional use of vessels deposited at monuments (also indicated by their size)."

2.  Beakers at the monuments

At the monuments, beakers or sherds are found in these contexts:

They are found sometimes at the barricaded entrance of a chamber tomb, although it is not known who exactly barricaded the tomb or when the beaker sherds were deposited.

The beaker sherds are also found in re-used tombs, but evidence associating a few sherds with a 'disturbed burial' was never more than a conjecture made by early archaeologists (tomb + beaker sherd = burial).  The actual evidence for these 'burials' grows thinner within the context of this paper. 

And finally, sherds are present in post holes and previously cut ditches near these monuments.  It is suggested that they avoided cutting new ground in these sacred areas.

"Instead, recent discoveries, and the consistency of decoration, form and completeness noted in the preceding sections, suggests that Beaker deposition may have been the culmination of complex non-funerary practices surrounded by certain prescriptions regarding where and how they could be deposited."
"Secondary burials clearly did form an important reuse of Neolithic monuments but importantly these occurred either early or late in the Beaker period." 
3.  Inter-regional and local traditions.

The condensed version is that there are at least two main activities that Beakers engage in at monuments that vary by region and by phase.  One is actual Beaker burial, most of which appears to happen rather late and to varying degrees at different places and a few at the very beginning of the Chalcolithic.

The other is a formalized event where people bring a lower grade beaker and smash it at these monuments and remove some of the sherds, or they just bring sherds to scatter or bury.  Something similar to this second scenario seems to have taken place in many areas of Europe, the fragmentation and division of pottery at a meeting place. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"About Bow-Shaped and Rod-Shaped Pendants" (Kern, 2016)

Here's a quick article by Daniela Kern looking deeper at the mysterious, moon-shaped boar's tusk pendants.

Boar's tusk pendants are sometimes found with Bell Beaker men across much of the central continent.  As Daniela Kern notes, they are considered by Christian Strahm to be one of the more diagnostic parts of the material package even though they are not exceedingly common.  In other words, while they appear only with a small number of burials; fashioned this way they are certainly a Beaker cultural expression within the Central and Eastern spheres.

Archaeologists have struggled to understand the purpose of these items which were usually found face down (frowning) around the collarbone or at the right hip/butt-cheek.  As you will read, several archaeologists viewed them as functional, perhaps as a toggle or clasp for hobbit clothes.  Others viewed them more as spiritual or medical amulets, noting how the banding and nocks resemble the roughly contemporary Meare Heath bow and the fact they are more often found with archers.

However, Kern has framed the facts in such a way to give a new or better understanding of the situation.  For one, she notes that there is an exclusionary relationship between boar's tusk pendants and bone toggles, such as the one below.  The bone toggles are more often plain but may be similarly perforated.  They also appear in a similar relation to the body, at the pectoral or over the hip.

Regarding toggles:
"Pieces of various shapes were found in male graves of an early phase of the Bell Beaker culture like Boscombe (Fitzpatrick 2011, Fig. 11, Pl. 18), Flomborn (Gebers 1978, 32/38, Taf. 30: 6) and Ilvesheim (Gebers 1978, 126/193e, Taf. 30: 10).  They were located on the breast or near the pelvis, in a similar position to the bow-shaped pendants."

Boscombe Down (Wessex Use)
While the two devices are exclusive to each other, the two exceptions she describes at Tödling and Osterhofen-Altenmarkt are situations in which the two are literally found on top of each other as 1+3 and 1+4 on the upper chest.  Therefore, she leads us to a situation where we are likely looking at items that are convincingly functional, functionally related, and probably slightly different in use.

Although she doesn't indicate a preference, after reading this paper I'd say that Andrew Fitzpatrick's original idea that these were in someway parts of a quiver seems to make the most sense of the various options.  Ordinarily a quiver is worn on the strong side of a Western archer behind the right hip so that he can draw arrows with his weak side.  If he was traveling some distance or riding a horse, he may have slung it over the back when not in use.

A quiver needs a ridged mouth so that barbed arrows can be drawn without snagging.  Looking at Wenceslas Hollar's drawing of a Bohemian quiver from the Renaissance Period, you'll notice that the mouth of the quiver is crescent shaped.  I wonder if a boar's tusk pendant was the frame-lip (visible) of the decorated bag?

A Bohemian Quiver.  Wenceslas Hollar
You'll also notice how this moon-decorated quiver is slung.  The top sling attaches to the fat side (tooth side) of the bag mouth.  The bottom of the sling attaches to a midsection that may be similarly structured, in those cases where more that one tusk of differing sizes are found together.

Atlantic quivers for long arrows developed slightly different than those of Central Europe, being more of a tiny golf bag design.  The English archers also had a flap at the top to cover the fletching.  It was either Bosch or Fitzpatrick that suggested the toggle could have been the flap-toggle for the bag.

What I imagine at the closing of the grave is that the archer has one of two common, but not necessarily ridged, configurations for the quiver.  One is where the quiver is attached to his belt with the arrowheads pointing down.  One example of this would be the Barbing Bowman of Bavaria (although he did not have a boar's tusk).

The other configuration is similar to the Amesbury Archer where the toggle is before him and his arrowheads are behind him pointing the opposite direction.  This is more of a horizontal placement of the quiver, perhaps clasped beneath the right arm or possibly the bag was laid directly on top of him.  In this case the lip of the bag might be found in the position the tusks have often been found and maybe this is the reason for the position of most pendants.(?)

*In the case where several pendants are found together, then maybe in this case the additional ones form the structure of the bag, as in decorative external ribs.  If you look at the picture at the top (and I'm not sure these were found together, but assuming they were), then maybe they are similar to the fuse stations of a aircraft fuselage.  And then at the bottom of the bag, perhaps a softwood foot for the arrow points.

Forgot to add the link, here it is:

"About Bow-Shaped and Rod-Shaped Pendants" Daniela Kern, 2016
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 95-104. Online. 30.06.2016.  [Link]

See also:

"The Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen: Early Bell Beaker burials at Boscombe Down, Amesbury, Wiltshire"  A.P. Fitzpatrick

Monday, August 1, 2016

Musaica archaeologica 2016, Slovakia (Open Access)

Here's the very first issue of the Slovakian journal, Musaica archaeologica (primarily in English).   The first issue is devoted to the enigmatic Bell Beakers.


Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 1-10. Online. 30.06.2016.
Copper Weapons, Gold and Ivory: Long-distance Exchanges and Emulation among the Atlantic Beaker Groups (*.pdf)  Corina Liesau - Elisa Guerra-Doce - Germán Delibes - Concepción Blasco - Patricia Ríos
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 11-20. Online. 30.06.2016.

The Bell Beaker Cremations at Genlis (Bourgogne, France) (*.pdf)  Lucie Christin - Franck Ducreux - Carole Fossurier
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 21-36. Online. 30.06.2016.

The Belongings of a Bell Beaker smith? A Stone Hoard from Hengelo, Province of Gelderland, the Netherlands (*.pdf)  Erik Drenth - Mechtild Freudenberg - Gavin L. Williams
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 37-58. Online. 30.06.2016.

Corded Ware, Bell Beakers and the Earliest Bronze Age in the Hegau and the Western Lake Constance Region (*.pdf)  Matthias B. Merkl
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 59-80. Online. 30.06.2016.

 Elements of Proto and Early Mierzanowice Culture on Settlements Sites near Jarosław (SE Poland) (*.pdf)  Paweł Jarosz - Mirosław Mazurek - Anita Szczepanek
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 81-94. Online. 30.06.2016.

About Bow-shaped and Rod-shaped Pendants (*.pdf)
Daniela Kern
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 95-104. Online. 30.06.2016.

Forerunners of the New Epoch in Lithic Chipped Industried of the Moravian Young Eneolithic (*.pdf)  Jerzy Kopacz - Antonín Přichystal - Lubomír Šebela
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 105-118. Online. 30.06.2016.

Dílna kultury zvoncovitých pohárů na zpracování rohovce typu Stránská skála (Brno, katastrální území Slatina) / Bell Beaker Culture Lithic Workshop on Stránská skála-type chert (Brno, cadastral area Slatina) (*.pdf)  Lubomír Šebela - Petr Škrdla - Antonín Přichystal - Jerzy Kopacz
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 119-128. Online. 30.06.2016.

Súčasný stav poznania kultúry zvoncovitých pohárov na juhozápadnom Slovensku / Current State of Research of the Bell Beaker Culture in South-Western Slovakia (*.pdf)
Jozef Bátora - Peter Tóth
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 129-154. Online. 30.06.2016.

The Beaker World and Otherness of the Early Civilizations (*.pdf)
Jan Turek
Musaica archaeologica 1-1, 2016, 155-162. Online. 30.06.2016.

Facial Reconstruction of Late Beaker Ava (Hew Morrison via MtoE)

Here's an article from MessagetoEagle entitled "Facial Reconstruction of Ava: 3,700-Year-Old Bronze Age Woman"

The reconstruction of this Late Beaker woman was created by forensic artist, Hew Morrison.  He used tooth enamel to estimate some of the soft tissue.  I don't know if DNA has been taken from Ava, however it would be nice to verify hair and eye color in the near future.

Ava's reconstruction by Hew Morrison (Via MessagetoEagle)

Ava is noteworthy for having an especially deformed head.  Not only is she hyper-brachycephalic, but her occiput is flat as a pancake.  Two good examples of flatheads are the deformed standard-bearer of UCL's Beaker project and the Mesetan woman hyper-linked in the same post [here].

See this post "Ava of the Highlands"

See Maya Hoole's  "The Achavanich Beaker Burial Project"