Tuesday, October 28, 2014

African Origin of Bell Beaker Lithics (Part 3)

There is a false dichotomy that exists for some lithic continuity arguments, particularly how it relates to the demography of Europe.

1)  It is argued that arrowhead typology is driven by environmental selection.

(For example, the transverse pictured below should be optimal for wetland bird and small game hunting in marshy (boggy) environments, such as the Nile, Red Sea and North Sea lowlands.  The Medieval re-invention of this Mesolithic-Neolithic point would seem to give credence to this.)

Egyptian Old Kingdom transverse "chisel" arrowheads
2)  The same may argue for the supremacy of a particular typology, "the barb and tang", which they reason would naturally replace the regional varieties of inferior transverses, kites, leaves, obliques, Eiffels, etc. This would come as a sort of "punctuated equilibrium" since after millennia it suddenly became obvious that radical change was needed to continue hunting water fowl. (joking)

Barb and Tang from Thrupp, Abington [Link]

But these statements can't be used together to justify a smooth evolution in European point typology.  In fact, it's very non-smooth in most places.  As far as the inevitable accession of the pressure-flaked, barbed projectile, it was almost completely replaced by the crude transverses in the Red Sea, Nile and Sinai in the Early Bronze Age. 

Recently discovered Neolithic Danish Tri-face
There is also the efficiency argument.  In the time it takes to make one barb and tang, the next guy can make fifty transverses or three kites.  So we have an arrowhead that is more difficult to make, easier to break, and does average jobs slightly better, like a gold-plated spoon.

These questions strike at the heart of the "cultural inheritance" models which Crema, Edinborough, Kerig and Shennan addressed on Clarivaux and Chatain lithics changes.

To me, the non-gradual change in Western European LNE lithics is a no brainer given the demographic changes happening at the time.  Again, I will summon the growing weight of paternal genetic studies on Neolithic Europe.

Crema et al (2014) essentially concluded that there were two possible inheritance models for LNE southeastern France that achieved equifinality, one being unbiased transmission and the other, anti-conformist bias.  I'll put words in their mouth and simply this down to factors attributable to uncritical knapping (mass migration) or imitation of a cultural minority (foreign elite).  I'll leave that one for you.

Speaking of the "foreignness" of the Beaker projectile, I'll wrap up with one last post on the Middle and Late Pastoral projectiles of the Saharan Dairy Farmers in Part 4.

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