Friday, August 15, 2014

Paper: Portuguese Burials (Pre-Beaker)


Fig 7, #337, Adult Female, Monte Canelas (Boaventura, 2014)

I meant to post this earlier in the week along with another paper, but I'll go ahead and post now before it gets buried in a stack of 50k PDF files.  This paper covers the types of burials in Portugal (before the Beakers).  Of course, as with England's troubled Middle Neolithic, one of the main concerns is properly sequencing diverse burial traditions that now apparently/probably co-existed in many places.  There is some interesting re-analysis of the bones, health, endogamy and physical types in this paper.

Reading this paper through the lens of the North Meseta DNA from this week, it seems to make an exotic origin of the Beaker phenomenon more likely.  Theoretically, if you believe Iberia was a Pleistocene refuge that harbored many of Europe's modern lineages, then the Meseta should have been carpeted with ultra West European lineages, but it wasn't for the people of Mirador who had traditions similar to some of the people described in this paper on Portugal.

Footnote:  With dig season coming to a close, we are entering the exciting closing months of the year when we can begin expecting weekly fireworks on ancient Eurasian and African DNA.  There's some exciting stuff in the works, so I think within the five months the entire conversation in Beaker archaeology will be in an entirely new place.  Worlds colliding, total paradigm shift!

ABSTRACT: This paper reviews and updates the anthropological knowledge about Middle-Late Neolithic populations in Portugal. This territory is rich in prehistoric burial sites, particularly those of the designated Middle and Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic periods (4th–3rd millennia BCE). In the past 150 years, more than 3000 tombs, namely natural caves used as tombs, dolmens, rock cut tombs and tholoi (vaulted chamber tombs) were identified and hundreds of
them explored. Within these funerary structures, generally used as collective burials, the bones were frequently found and registered as disturbed and in a very fragmentary condition with total or almost total absence of anatomic connections. The systematic study of these human remains started in the 1990's and are mainly based on data obtained from tombs located in Estremadura and Algarve, two regions with limestone bedrocks that contributed to a better bone preservation. Those studies led to the assessment of anthropological profiles of several tombs. Among the more relevant data is the frequent sex ratio in favor of females, a greater mobility than that expected for agricultural communities and a low rate of main types of pathologies. Meanwhile, mainly due to an increase of Management Archaeology in South Portugal hinterland (Alentejo) new sites and types of tombs were located in the last 15 years: rock cut tombs were unknown in Alentejo, as well as pit graves; also pockets of cremated human bones have been found, as well as human bones lying inside ditches. Besides suggesting a more diversified funerary practice by those prehistoric populations, this new data raises many more questions: Were all contemporaneous? Was there different treatment according to belonging within the groups? Are there regional patterning for those differences?


1 comment:

  1. My university project inculdes work on all the ways visitors may arrive at a website. Please see our burial site and cremation process page