Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Beaker Folk in the Cotswolds" (Elsie M. Clifford)

Here's something that came in the mail...


an autographed copy of "The Beaker Folk in the Cotswolds" by E. M. Clifford.


I had assumed E. M. Clifford was a man since she signed by her initials, more common for men at that time.  Well, I was surprised when I saw her full name, Elsie Margaret Clifford (1885-1976).    Short Story of her career...

E. M. Clifford at excavation

This article is short and covers a number of Beaker sites in the Cotswolds up to the mid-30's.
"The Beaker Folk in the Cotswolds"

Corded Ware Chief Discovered (iDNES.cz)

What's described as the grave of a Corded Ware chief is discovered in the Czech Republic.  The story can be found at iDNES, "Na Rychnovsku objevili náčelnický hrob, v Česku jich je jen deset"
.

Jan Boček via iDNES.cz
The archaeologists are surprised by what they consider a false chamber which hid a much deeper lower chamber containing the body.  They believe steps were taken to prevent looting.

They were able to retrieve a battle axe and flints, no mention of pottery.  The grave was surrounded by a ring ditch holding a palisade.  Graves like this likely had a small shrine directly over the burial.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Mesetan "Mesa" (Diaz del Rio, 2017) Redux

Here's an update on the last post.  Hat tip Davidski

About 4% of the 82 Mesetan individuals were non-local.  At least three of four non-local individuals from the Los Berrocales site were women, but they probably came from the nearby Guadarrama sierra.  More on that in a moment...

Based on δ18O values of the more recent molars, dairy products may have been important to the Mesetan-Madrid adult diet.  But as δ13C values continue to climb, the authors suggest that a C4 plant, such as millet, or a CAM plant, often desert plants, is needed to square everything since the other main culprit, marine proteins, are not sufficiently available in the high steppe plateau of Spain.  (More on photorespiration from Khan Academy)

Other possibilities are left open, such as the use of fertilizers, fallow grazing and the 'canopy effect', but these are not likely given elevated results in other environments of Spain.   So, of the two remaining culprits, millet looks to be a good candidate. 

The authors consider the implication of millet production to be reduced or no seasonal mobility, given the growing season of this plant.
Millet (commons)
The other possibility would be a native CAM plant that is sufficiently available and widespread.  Not sure what that could be, whether a carbohydrate, tea or seasoning. They don't give any possible candidates for a plant in this category.

Lastly, going back to the migrant percentages.

Almost all of these individuals are directly dated to the Chalcolithic to Bronze Age:

Archaeol Anthropol Sci (Diaz del Rio, 2017)

We may learn more about these specific individuals in an upcoming study, but the insular nature of this group doesn't seem to indicate strong family ties with outside region.  It could also be the Meseta geology is so large that the Madrid group, to whatever degree may be foreign or native, is better insulated against first generation movers.



"Diet and mobility patterns in the Late Prehistory of central Iberia (4000–1400 cal bc): the evidence of radiogenic (87Sr/86Sr) and stable (δ18O, δ13C) isotope ratios"

Díaz-del-Río, P., Waterman, A.J., Thomas, J.T. et al. Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2017). doi:10.1007/s12520-017-0480-y [Link]



Monday, March 20, 2017

Isotopes from Central Meseta (Diaz-del-Rio et al, 2017)

Anyone have access?  All these folks are from around Madrid.

Based on this paper, it seems clear that some non-local people moved in to the Spanish plateau region during the Beaker period, however isotopes wouldn't necessarily show this since most people who live in a region were born there, regardless of their heritage.

In any case, the authors speculate on origins of the foreigners.  Unfortunately, it's PPV.
Encyclopedia Britannica

Diet and mobility patterns in the Late Prehistory of central Iberia (4000–1400 cal bc): the evidence of radiogenic (87Sr/86Sr) and stable (δ18O, δ13C) isotope ratios

Díaz-del-Río, P., Waterman, A.J., Thomas, J.T. et al. Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2017). doi:10.1007/s12520-017-0480-y [Link]

Abstract

This study examines strontium, oxygen, and carbon isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr, δ18O, δ13C) in dental enamel and bone apatite from 82 individuals interred at Late Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age burial sites near Madrid, Spain, to discern variations in dietary patterns and identify possible migrants. Questions about mobility patterns and subsistence practices have played a central role in the scholarship of Late Prehistoric central Iberia in the last 20 years, but the archaeological record has still not been able to provide clear answers. This study adds valuable data to this line of research. The results of this study suggest that migration from regions with different geologic landscapes was uncommon in these communities. For the identified migrants, based upon the 87Sr/86Sr values, several of the identified non-local individuals originate from regions with substantially older lithological features and possible places of origin are being investigated. As it is not possible to discern individuals who may have moved from regions with similar geologic landscapes using this methodology, these data provide the minimum number of migrants, and it is conceivable that the number of non-locals in this sample may be higher. Combining multiple lines of material and biological evidence and the completion of Sr isotope mapping in the Iberian Peninsula will help to clarify these findings. Stable carbon isotope data provide new and direct evidence of regional changes in consumption patterns. In particular, this study provides some possible evidence for the consumption of C4 plants in third-millennium bc central Spain.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Beaker Ponies in Britain (Kaagan, 2000)

I found a 2000 study by Laura Kagan (UCL) "The Horse in Late Pleistocene and Holocene Britain" which outlines the pile of horse bones in Britain.  The opinion of the author is that horses were re-introduced to Britain at the end of the Late Neolithic/Beaker period.
Exmoor Ponies in Britain (commons)
The Exmoor pony (Celtic Pony) may be something similar to what has been often described as the pony-like or tarpan-like horses of Beakers.  Either due to the lack of refinement or to its feralization, the Exmoor may be close to the real thing.

Karol Schauer
A work of a Mittle-Saale Beaker by Karol Schauer has one of these old ponies.  Ironic since immigrants came to Southern Britain from the region between the Middle Rhine and Elbe among others, maybe this very man and his horse.


Sudden Evolutionary Change 2,500 B.C.

Ok, being a little facetious.  Anyhow, whatever the mechanism, stuff changes in Bronze Age Northern Europe.
drip, drip...

Selection in Europeans on fatty acid desaturases associated with dietary changes

Matthew T. Buckley, Fernando Racimo, Morten E. Allentoft, Majken K. Jensen, Anna Jonsson, Hongyan Huang, Farhad Hormozdiari, Martin Sikora, Davide Marnetto, Eleazar Eskin...More
Mol Biol Evol msx103.   DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msx103

Published:
16 March 2017

Abstract: FADS genes encode fatty acid desaturases that are important for the conversion of short chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to long chain fatty acids. Prior studies indicate that the FADS genes have been subjected to strong positive selection in Africa, South Asia, Greenland, and Europe. By comparing FADS sequencing data from present-day and Bronze Age (5-3k years ago) Europeans, we identify possible targets of selection in the European population, which suggest that selection has targeted different alleles in the FADS genes in Europe than it has in South Asia or Greenland. The
alleles showing the strongest changes in allele frequency since the Bronze Age show associations with expression changes and multiple lipid-related phenotypes. Furthermore, the selected alleles are associated with a decrease in linoleic acid and an increase in arachidonic and eicosapentaenoic acids among Europeans; this is an opposite effect of that observed for selected alleles in Inuit from Greenland.  We show that multiple SNPs in the region affect expression levels and PUFA synthesis. Additionally, we find evidence for a gene-environment interaction influencing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels between alleles affecting PUFA synthesis and PUFA dietary intake: carriers of the derived allele display lower LDL cholesterol levels with a higher intake of PUFAs. We hypothesize that the selective patterns observed in Europeans were driven by a change in dietary composition of fatty acids following the transition to agriculture, resulting in a lower intake of arachidonic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, but a higher intake of linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid.

... and Bronze Age Pigs (Caliebe et al, 2017)


A few ancient pig mitogenomes are looked at.  From the earliest Neolithic, domestic pigs come from the South, but around the time of the Funnelbeaker and Globular Amphora cultures, pigs have a little more North Eurasian boar in their mtdna, which the authors reasonably guess was intentional crossbreeding.

On the other hand, is it possible the introgression is really from Eastern European domesticates??

European Wild Boars, Walter Heubach (commons)

Caliebe, A. et al. Insights into early pig domestication provided by ancient DNA analysis. Sci. Rep. 7, 44550; doi: 10.1038/srep44550 (2017).  [Link]


Abstract

Pigs (Sus scrofa) were first domesticated between 8,500 and 8,000 cal BC in the Near East, from where they were subsequently brought into Europe by agriculturalists. Soon after the arrival of the first domestic pigs in northern Europe (~4500 BC), farmers are thought to have started to incorporate local wild boars into their swine herds. This husbandry strategy ultimately resulted in the domestication of European wild boars. Here, we set out to provide a more precise geographic and temporal framework of the early management of suid populations in northern Europe, drawing upon mitochondrial DNA haplotype data from 116 Neolithic Sus specimens. We developed a quantitative mathematical model tracing the haplotypes of the domestic pigs back to their most likely geographic origin. Our modelling results suggest that, between 5000 and 4000 BC, almost all matrilines in the north originated from domesticated animals from the south of central Europe. In the following period (4000–3000 BC), an estimated 78–100% of domesticates in the north were of northern matrilineal origin, largely from local wild boars. These findings point towards a dramatic change in suid management strategies taking place throughout south-central and northern Europe after 4000 BC.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Our Darker Angels

A grant is awarded for team examining a massacre site in Somerset.  It looks a large family was beaten, then hacked to death, dismembered, burned and discarded.

I'll bet "a range of scientific analyses" will include DNA to see how these individuals are related to one another, and how they figure into social dynamics of the time in which they lived.

Photo by Ian Cartwright via Oxford Arch



via Oxford University Archaeology:

"The darker angels of our nature: a butchered prehistoric human bone assemblage from Charterhouse Warren, Somerset, England

Rick Schulting and colleagues have received a British Academy Small Research Grant for the study of an unusual Early Bronze Age human skeletal assemblage.
Steven Pinker’s 2011 book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ reflects on the decline in violence over the course of human history. The site of Charterhouse Warren in Somerset reveals the darker side. Excavated in the 1970s, and dating at least partly to the Early Bronze Age, ca. 2200 BC, the scattered remains of more than 20 men, women and children were found in a 20m-deep natural shaft. This largely unknown assemblage is striking for the sheer number of cutmarks indicating dismemberment, alongside perimortem fracturing of long bones and injuries to skulls, as well as apparent charring. While evidence for violence is not unknown in British prehistory, nothing on this scale has been found, and the site joins a small number of Continental Neolithic and Bronze Age sites showing extreme violence and postmortem processing of human remains. This project aims to fully document and characterise the extent of the modifications on this assemblage, which has never been fully analysed, to say something about who these victims were, and to understand the site’s place in the wider context of the European Early Bronze Age.
The research will involve a detailed osteological analysis as well as a range of scientific analyses. Louise Loe of Oxford Archaeology is Co-Investigator, and project collaborators include Teresa Fernández-Crespo, Fiona Brock, Christophe Snoeck, Ian Cartwright, Tony Audsley and David Walker. The results of the project will inform a new display on the site at the Wells and Mendip Museum."

Monday, March 13, 2017

R-173 Coalescent Times (Kivisild, 2017)

This paper came out last week.  Nothing new, but this graph does give a good illustration of a cultural phenomenon affecting some of the R1 sub-clades at 5,500 years before now.


There has been astonishing uniformity in the paternal markers of diagnostic Corded Ware and Bell Beaker males thus far.  Regarding V88, one thing I will be watching for is if any of the 200 Beaker samples can be categorized in this group. 

The study of human Y chromosome variation through ancient DNA

Kivisild, T. Hum Genet (2017). doi:10.1007/s00439-017-1773-z
Human Genetics [Link]

 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Three Quellengruppen - Even More Speculation

I don't have have the full 1974 thesis of Richard Harrison, but it may offer a favored interpretation of Beaker origins from the perspective of the upcoming paper.  The Harrison and Heyd 2007 paper on the Rhone Beakers is available on-line and I'll take that as a preview of Heyd's paper, which comes with his knowledge of the results.

This is all guesses, so don't hang your hat on anything mentioned here.  Plus there's a thousand of variations that could fit as well.  We'll all find out the hard facts soon enough.

Michael Hammer presentation
I suspect the data will show that the origins of the Bell Beakers do not fit with the diffusionist theory (single origin) or the dual theory (a binary between Iberian Maritime + Rhine Corded Beakers) or any theory that says Bell Beaker is basically nothing consolidated.

It must be that they are able to show three distinct ethnic source groups (Quellengruppen) that collided in the territory where three great rivers come into close proximity, these being the upper Rhone, the upper Rhine and the upper Danube.  (or a process involving the three, regardless of the geographic location)

Since Vucedol 2.0 extends past Prague, it's reasonable that a nation of its size was trading heavily with other groups in this European flea market to an even greater degree.  The confluence of cultures would have included cultural sources from Northern Italy, the lower Rhine and certainly those trading up the Tagus and across the Pyrenees.

As trade often intermixes more than objects and opens avenues to migration, it's possible the trade avenues, the trading outposts, or even the trading caste, came to be dominated by an emerging class of people with this mixed background.  The roots of L23* make a lot of sense in this regard, being in the Upper Rhone and then back to the Western Black Sea area.

Perhaps this is what they have discovered, one or several of the following:

1.  They are able to show in burials of the Vucedol Culture that its most expansive elements in the West are found the earliest representation of the Atlantic Modal Haplotype which came as a direct intermingling with Western Yamnaya. 

2.  This Vucedol 2.0 nation or its trading posts extended in a meaningful way further than Prague along the Danube to a point near the Upper Rhone and Rhine.  Perhaps within these trading families or cartels the highest status males (the metal workers) began to dominate these kin groups.

3.  The diffusionist and dual origins of the Beakers are proven or disproven.

4.  Maybe they are also able to demonstrate that the Wessex/Middle Rhine Group is more directly descended from the Yamno-Vucedol group.  They may show that some of the NE Scotland Beakers are R1a.

5.  They show a strange situation where the Maritime group results from another related process...I'll leave that alone for now, but will remind of the amphibious nature of the Beaker phenomenon from the beginning and the coastal defenses erected in Portugal.

Harrison 1974
Just throwing more mud pies at the wall today.  In some ways, this makes a lot of sense.  L23*, hyper-H, common ware and other things.  I'd be careful to understate the Iberian-ness of the Beaker phenomenon, since it is a driving force in the culture, and it may take a while (beyond this study) to fully understand its beginning.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Additional DNA - Basques, Mesetans (Update)

Someone stop the DNA studies!


I rewrote this post because it was garbled on a confusing subject.  Let me try again.

In yesterday's post a puzzling question was the maternal discontinuity in the Mesetas of Spain beginning in the Bell Beaker period.  The results are strange, but not due to Roth 2016's observed discontinuity.  The results are strange because these Beakers have a very different maternal profile.

Four hours after posting that, Eurogenes posted some genetic results, which shows a Basque Country (NW Spain) Megalithic Dolmen “El Sotillo” with remains of people possessing Beaker identities, but again, not genetically aligned with North European Beakers tested thus far.  The El Sotillo dolmen included Ciempozuelos materials (as some Basque sites have this common Mesetan ware)*

I commented at Eurogenes that "El Sotillo" folk looked like proto-Basques and posted a link to some of those profile predictions from commentors at Eupedia.

Then Nirjhar007 posted this paper that literally just hit the wire concerning ancient remains in the Basque country going back to the Mesolithic.

Ancient mitochondrial lineages support the prehistoric maternal root of Basques in Northern Iberian Peninsula

Leire Palencia-Madrid, Sergio Cardoso, Christine Keyser, Juan Carlos López-Quintana, Amagoia Guenaga-Lizasu and Marian M de Pancorbo

Abstract
The Basque population inhabits the Franco-Cantabrian region in southwest Europe where Palaeolithic human groups took refuge during the Last Glacial Maximum. Basques have been an isolated population, largely considered as one of the most ancient European populations and it is possible that they maintained some pre-Neolithic genetic characteristics. This work shows the results of mitochondrial DNA analysis of seven ancient human remains from the Cave of Santimamiñe in the Basque Country dated from Mesolithic to the Late Roman period. In addition, we compared these data with those obtained from a modern sample of Basque population, 158 individuals that nowadays inhabits next to the cave. The results support the hypothesis that Iberians might have been less affected by the Neolithic mitochondrial lineages carried from the Near East than populations of Central Europe and revealed the unexpected presence of prehistoric maternal lineages such as U5a2a and U3a in the Basque region. Comparison between ancient and current population samples upholds the hypothesis of continuity of the maternal lineages in the area of the Franco-Cantabrian region.
http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ejhg201724a.html 

Which brings us to the formation of the Mesetan Ciempozuelos communities that were so confusing when I originally looked at Roth, 2016 [here].  Part of that question might now be answered if it can be shown that the Mesetans are a movement of people from the Pyrenees region (obviously they moved from somewhere).

In fact, if you look at La Sima burnt mound, then an interesting cultural mingling is possible.

If your not following any of that, let me put it in plain English, and one that may be soon relevant when interpreting the papers of Harrison and Heyd and Heyd's forthcoming paper.  Forget Maritime pottery for a moment and suppose that the AOC beakers in the littorals, especially in the Pyrennes region are sufficiently early enough that some cultural fusion occurred that produced the Ciempozuelos style.  Other possibilities exist with some of the other styles. 

So that's all clear as mud, I may update again later..


*See Also "Reflexiones en Torno Al Campaniforme.  Una Mirada Hacia El Caso Vasco"
Reflections beyond to Bell-Beaker.  A sight to the case basque"
Alfonso Alday Ruiz.

More and More Speculation

More speculation on an Anthrogenica teaser posted by Jean Manco [also].  The authors of this study are 'excited' with the results which include two yet-to-be-announced discoveries.

Let's say this subject is an on-going conversation to save space.  I'll limit the conversation to a few genetic studies haven't made a lot sense this last year.
Harrison and Heyd, 2007
 1.  Something weird is going on in the Northern and Southern Mestas of Iberia based on this paper by Christina Roth, 2016.  Substantial maternal discontinuity, but like the opposite of what has reasonably been expected since Brotherton, 2013.

Not only is the discontinuity pronounced, it's not really local based on my understanding of Neolithic Iberia.  This story may involve an AOC beaker/body or it may show a Maritime population that is distinct from Northern Europe.  Who knows.

Harrison, 1974

2.  This study by Hervella et al came out in 2015 showing the extremely high levels of maternal haplogroup H in the North Balkans at an early time in the Neolithic.  Keep this in mind while spying Harrison, 1974 and also keep a paper by Szecsenyi-Nagy, 2015 in mind.

I've blasted a number of researchers for early studies showing Mesolithic H in the Iberian Peninsula.  It still believe that those ancient (pre-2005) studies have a lot of contamination and missed calls.  Unfortunately, Brotherton 2013 built on some of these flawed studies which led to a directionality (out of Iberia) of the Beaker migration that seemed to be supported by radiocarbon dates of Muller and VanWilligen.  (Not that porto-beaker in Iberia isn't widely accepted, even here).

Overall, there has been an insufficient explanation for the rapid, stratospheric rise of haplogroup H in Bronze Age Europe, other than selection.  I asked mtdna Atlas that question here.

In a way, maternal frequencies are more difficult to explain outside migration. Migrants have to come from somewhere.

3.  Another possibility is that a Protruding Foot Beaker individual, or several, are Atlantic Modal Haplotype in Holland.  In this frame the PFB's came in trade contact with Iberian traders and the style evolved to the All Over Cord beaker which spread everywhere else.  The Dutch Hypothesis is no longer widely accepted, but in this view there is a reflux into Iberia of AOC beakers very early.

There's several other possibilities that may be, but Volker Heyd's Beaker paper may come out before then.  If not, I'll continue to throw darts at the possible.

Monday, March 6, 2017

One of the Beakers DNA Tested

Here's another Beaker that may end up in the Behemoth.

It looks like hyper-brachycephalic Ava of the highlands might be in there.  DNA was taken from her well preserved remain, although I'm not sure what relationship the Natural History Museum of London has with Harvard or Copenhagen



I've blogged on Ava several times [here], [here], [here].




A Week of DNA, some fallout

Drip, drip

In the ancient days of genetic genealogy (like ten years ago) it was hypothesized that the division of modern European haplogroups had formed during the Bell Beaker phase (R1b) in Western Europe, and the Corded Ware Culture (R1a) in Eastern Europe.

That was before a single ancient individual had been sequenced.  Now we sit befuddled that what we thought was true is in fact uniformly true, weirdly uniform.  The resolution is increasing and here's a few implications from last week.


Afanasievo:

The Early Bronze Age Afanasievo are so far mostly or likely R1b M269, although one later Afanasievo man from Mongolia was Q-242  (Clemence Hollard, 2016)  possibly representing the shift to the Okunev era.

This should not be surprising since Afanasievo is basically Yamnaya in another place, but now that the Y-chromosomes are published, we can confirm that, yes, they are identical.  (See also Bernard's blog)

The major implication is illustrated by distance.  It is approximately 1,684mi (2709km) from Samara to Minusinsk, Russia.  Let's pretend a moment for the sake of argument, that M269 L151/P310 in the West has a more recent origin in the Caspian steppe:

As the crow flies, from Samara, Russia it is approximately
- 3,826 miles to El Hierro, Canary Islands (R1b ~50% of Pre-Hispanic Bimbaches)
- 3,556 miles to Maroua, Cameroon (5723km) (90% of herdsmen) 
- 2,802 miles to Porto, Portugal (4509km)  (~83%)
- 2,327 miles to Minoreca, Baleric Islands (3745cm)  (73%)
- 2,102 miles to Iverness, Scotland (3383)  (~90% or higher along Irish Sea)

Now I say "for the sake of argument" since everyone seems to go bananas on this subject.  But the powerful implication here is each of these places was indisputably transformed at the cusp of the Bronze Age by dairy herder migrants.  Each of these places has experienced incredible male biased gene-flow, which is why we have the spectrum we have, yet all having youthful sub-clades.  And it just so happens that the people of the Minusinsk Basin can be shown (almost empirically) to originate in the Samara region of Russia at about the same time as the beginning of the Beaker phenomenon.

Now it could be that the genetic origins of the proto-Beakers is clarified very soon, but I have a feeling that the plot will only thicken.  That is unless it is shown that Protruding Foot Beakers west of the Rhine were all L51, then we'll have some kind of complicated Ruckstrom.

The other implication is that the means to confidently travel great distance becomes an unavoidable issue in the forefront.  Before jumping to conclusions, however, let me caution that the formation of the Beaker Culture is more complicated that a map with arrows pointing in different directions.  The Beaker Culture is a unique international animal and it will continue to puzzle for a while.

More Corded Ware Culture:

A new paper on Baltic Corded Ware shows are all R1a, which was apparently uniform (again recently in Poland) across the Corded Ware horizon and its derived cultures.  The surprising uniformity across many different cemetaries suggests a social structure similar to the Beaker Culture and its descendant cultures.

Supercession, youth and uniformity:

This article last week by Ann Gibbons, "Thousands of horsemen may have swept into Bronze Age Europe, transforming the local population" is the latest volley concerning the disparity of uni-parental lineages in Europe.

This is not a new issue, and despite new analysis from ancient DNA, the situation hasn't changed.  The question is the mechanism for the paternal change. One explanation may be elite sex bias, as can be demonstrated in Mexico from a new paper: DNAeXplained blog.

Mesolithic Sardinia:

Only two lineages are sequenced, but they look to me like they could be out of the Gulf area. 

Iron Age Scythians and Sarmatians:

A number of genomes from the Scythian and Sarmatian cultures were published Eurogenes again
and again.  It appears that a massive transition happened in the steppe away from the Yamnaya/Afanaseivo type population toward one more CWC/Androvono/Scythian type.


Expect more cracks in the dam.



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Animals of Castro de Chibanes (Periera, Soares, Tavares da Silva, 2017)

This paper examines the animal remains at Castro de Chibanes, mostly before the Beaker period.  Lots of young pigs, goats and wild rabbit remains along with fish and some birds.   They probably milked some goats.

Most of the butchered animals are domestics, but really very few cattle remains and some of those are rather big, which they are unable to eliminate the auroch.



University College London, [Link]

Understanding the First Chalcolithic Communities of Estremadura: Zooarchaeology of Castro de Chibanes, Portugal. Preliminary Results

Authors:

 

Vera Pereira 

 

Joaquina Soares

 

Carlos Tavares da Silva

Abstract

This study integrates archaeological, zooarchaeological and taphonomic results from the Chalcolithic, the earliest chronological period from the excavations at Castro de Chibanes (Palmela, Portugal). Preliminary results from the “Horizonte IA” (Phase IA1 and IA2), regarding the first half of the 3rd millennium BC will be presented.
The faunal assemblage consists of a total of 858 remains. These predominantly comprise of domestic mammals – particularly pigs, sheep and goats – which are interpreted as food supply. With low percentages of wild game, animal husbandry emerges as a central activity for these populations, complimented by marine fishing. In addition, small game hunting – mainly of lagomorphs and a few birds – is also identified.
As at other archaeological sites in the region, the material culture suggests that Castro de Chibanes can be ascribed to the cultural domain of the pre-Bell Beaker Chalcolithic of Estremadura. Particularly comparative sites include Leceia, Zambujal and Penedo do Lexim, also fortified settlements with high rates of domestic livestock (suids and caprines) and extremely low percentages of wild game, in particular red deer.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Beaker Blog Birthday

Getting ready for the three year anniversary of the Beaker blog.  Many more posts this weekend.


Can anyone guess who the model is?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Veiling the Dead - Part III (What the Heck is Apotropaism)

Back in the saddle today! Wheew!!

In the first post, a hypothesis is proposed that red burial pigment, however manifest, was intended to be an apotropaic device for the ancients, not a "cash bath" for the wealthy.  Whether a red shroud, dusting, veil or body rub, the motivation for red burials was wholly grounded in superstition (2nd post).

I'll try now to put red veils, rubs and cloaks into what I think is the correct context of the red burial phenomenon and how these burial rites may have been driven by beliefs regarding the evil eye.  The El Argar and Djumbulak kum folk can help me make that case.

As usual, the Greeks were conveniently poised in history to leave us a good proxy to begin pivoting into nearby cultures.  I'll begin with Athena who is a perfect synthesis of apotropaic virtue.

Athena, Chiaramonti Museum, Vatican (5th Century) commons

Her crimson, madder-dyed aegis  (Herodotus iv. 189) has fluttering gold tassels; the cloak also decorated with the head of a gorgoneion, and whose face is suggestive of a wild vulva (Dutsch, 2015).  She is strongly associated with the owl oculus image.  More importantly, her piercing blue eyes stare down any evil to threaten Attica or her sailors (significant in a Mediterranean context).  Her peplos is belted by two snakes.

All of Athena's attributes are meant to disguise, hide from or deflect evil.  She uses her persuasive and apotropaic powers to protect and advocate for the average mortal hero.  So let me build a context by deconstructing a few of these attributes.

In the ancient world, it was believed (by the Greeks most clearly) that blue-eyed people cast the evil eye.  (just as various superstitions dog albinos, twins and the disabled) Not surprisingly, a vast collection of trinkets and statues have inlaid blue eyes or blue eyeliner from the earliest Neolithic.  It is a type of deflective power similar to grotesques (fight fire with fire). 
 
Naqadan, Sumerian, Turkish, Eastern (commons)
Often, a single device will combine several apotropaisms together.  The Badarian image (far left) incorporates two forms of the oculus (big eyes and presented breasts), two forms of anasyrma (breasts and chi) and blue eyes.

Breasts, eyes and owls are conflated in other oculus forms as seen in the mix of Mesopotamian and Iberian oculado plaques below.  The two Syrian alabaster plaques incorporate the oculus, a bauboic representation, with stags or owls around a pubic triangle, which occur in both regions.  I would interpret it as "bauboic anasyrma conflated as an oculus", being in essence, a 'hooter plaque', a doubly potent deflector of misfortune (pun city).

The forth image from Mespotamia is more clearly an owl, and several of these demonstrate that the majority of Syrian oculados are in fact metaphorically schematized owls.  This is true of many of the Iberian plaques as well, some of which very accurately depict an owl, while others conflate several things together.  I've thought that the Freddie Mercury idols also incorporate this strigiforme imagery [here].

Second image cut from (Apontamentos de Arqueologia e Património – 8 / 2012)

Throughout the Mediterranean Basin and the Atlantic realm, owls are considered bad luck, vessels of dead souls or harbingers of impending death, misfortune and vanishing luck.   That makes the 'man inside', the 'stag man' or 'nuclear owl families' within the bosom of some of these have deeper meanings.  As with many grotesques and amulets, they may be protection by reflection.  Here's a paper that builds on Schumacher's, 2013 connections and the re-occurring themes Orrelle & Horowitz, 2016

So it's no accident that Athena, Ishtar or fill-in-the-Near-Eastern-goddess (tamer of beasts), stands on a defeated lion, girded by snakes and flanked by hooters while shining her headlights into hell.  It's possible that these beasts are 'familiar spirits' because of their big eyes, cats possibly being bauboisms as well (eg., a cat's face).  

Speaking of hooters, there is a category of idols and images that show women exposing the triangle chi, the vulva or presenting the breasts, either in-hand or chest forward.  The commonly accepted view is that these are fertility goddesses (which is dumb), or somehow lewd gestures of fertility.  But if you examine these figures very closely, a pretty good case can be made that most of them are anasyrmaic representations.  

Mesopotamian, Mycenaean, Scandinavian, 'Karanovo Culture' Bulgaria (commons)

A more recent example is the Sheila na gigs or 'evil eye stones' of the Isles.  Throughout Europe and the Near East (until this century) almost every single pocket of Europe all the way to China, had some bizarre tradition of women exposing themselves to chase away evil.  As Dorota Dutsch (2015) evaluates on ancient anasyrma, the flashing done by women was categorically different from the rude or comical flashing of men.  It had serious implications in the spiritual realm when used by mortal women and goddesses.

Country woman scares off demon. (Eisen, 1762)
I'd go further to suggest that the earliest ocher-covered Venus figures of the Paleolithic are also amulets, not a reminder of one's genitalia.  As you look closely to their distribution and the means to which they were displayed (either by peg feet or on pedestals), its clear most idols were prominently displayed (perhaps over doorways) or held in the hands (in childbirth or death throes, such as sheila na gig stones).

Finally, I'll end with the gorgoneions, horus eyes and grotesque figureheads have been used on ships from at least the Egyptian and Phoenician periods, before transitioning into the use of red coloring in many superstitions in the next post.

A Trireme (artist/publisher unknown)

A kind of Gorgoneion or eyes appears on many early ships: [junks][draakars][triremes] and the solar boat of Ra/Horus and larger Egyptian galleys.  Modern figureheads mounted under the bowspirit developed out of the Viking/Italian tradition, although some boats, such as luzzus, continue with the older tradition.  But is this limited to ships?

A British archaeologist by the name O.G.S. Crawford, wrote a book entitled "The Eye Goddess" where he makes the case that Neolithic monuments of Europe with swirly circles or concentric circles are really a kind of psychedelic eye (my twist) , along with the power eyebrows found on many megalithic tombs.  

left (Mary Lawler) and commons
Like all of the amulets before, that crushing heap of oculus images, I think these 'eyes' were put on tombs to keep bad spirits, robbers and scavengers out.

Next up, superstitions about burials!

As JV points out in the comments of the last post, notice the blue stones over the eyes of this Taklamakan infant.  Notice the red yarn plugging the orifices and the coloration of the burial garment.




Good grief, what a month.  I've discovered that a blog series is bad luck.  March will be interesting.