Saturday, June 28, 2014

Life in Copper Age Britain (review)

Quick Review

Julian Heath brings us up to date on the latest research of the Neolithic - Bell Beaker transition period in his recent book on Chalcolithic Britain.

Click to view E-book [link]

The British Islands are a particularly interesting study for Beakerists due to the diversity and saturation of Beaker cultures there.  Heath covers the origins of several distinct Beaker immigrant cultures in Britain in addition to the poorly understood Grooved Ware people who overlapped early on.

He suggests AOC beakers may signify the earliest prospectors or traders moving from Ireland eastward across Wales and then England.  I've also thought it more reasonable that Ireland and small islands, such as Ross, would be scouted and implanted initially since establishing large agricultural settlements peacefully in Southern Britain seems a little 1960's to me.

On pottery, he mentions a theory by the late, great Andrew Sherrat that the AOC beakers were actually impressed, or corded, with hemp.  Hemp has recently been discovered among Beaker stuff in Southern Portugal.  Antonio Valera posted the find [here]

The "cup and ring" motifs in the Art chapter reminded me of this, even though it's probably a stretch.  Finally, in the last chapter, evidence of flint arrowheads in the graves of Beakers is given consideration.  It has been assumed, uncritically, that a lone arrowhead in the grave of a woman was a keepsake or memento, or that scattered arrowheads in the grave of a man were tributes.  New evaluation is painting a grimmer picture.  It's a quick read; two or three chapters are accessible for free.

*BTW, He gives some history on the age system controversy in Britain.  Obviously the title of his book 'Life in Copper Age Britain' gives his position.  In fairness to the Brits, the age system rarely makes sense anywhere.  This is an especially big problem for Beaker studies.*

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