Thursday, October 30, 2014

African Origin of Bell Beaker Lithics (Part 4)

Which arrowheads belong to the North African Dairy Pastoralists?

Montage of Bell Beaker and Saharan Middle/Late Dairy Pastoralists
The montage is a mixture of barb-and-tangs, but also two or three hollow bases from both the Bell Beaker horizon and the (presumed) Dairy Farmers of the Middle and Late Pastoral Saharan Steppe.
A semi-provenanced box set from a local collector may also give you an idea, although his collection is mostly from Northeastern Algeria [El-Oued Souf blog]

This fourth post wraps up a series that I began on Jan Apel's recent paper.  In the first two posts I discussed the archaeological movement of a knapping technique called "bifacial reduction through pressure flaking", which for Western Europe was re-introduced via North Africa and spread from there mostly with the Bell Beaker identity.  Other technicalities include the soft mallet core reduction in the Western sphere, but also the basic typologies, which also have very similar antecedents in North Africa.

From Jan Apel's paper (dates are B.C.)

In blog post 3, I pointed out a paper by Crema et al (2014) which should torpedo any notion that the new projectiles simply evolved from a primordial stew of European lithics.  Clearly, this is an ancient, but foreign, lithic tradition that came from the Northern Middle East via North Africa where it saturated Europe by the Bronze Age.  This episode also accompanies a very marked change in the paternal genetic history of Western Europe and I also pointed out that knapping is a "male grammer" that boys learn from their father.

One of several triangular projectiles shown in hair dressing scene of Uan Amil, Neolithic Acacus

Around 6,000 B.C., the North African coasts and river valleys were settled by farmers migrating from the Near East.  This may have been slightly preceded by cattle management in the Subpluvial phase.  The interaction between farmers and hunters probably involved "war and integration", much as it did in Northern Europe.  Sometime around 4,500 B.C., a new wave of eastern pastoralists migrated into the Central Sahara, marking the beginning of the "Middle Pastoral" or "Heavy Pastoral" in which positive evidence exists for dairying.  The very early emergence of dairying in the Saharan steppe may explain why the genetic factors for lactase persistence are of the greatest diversity here.

It's during this Middle Pastoral phase that the Euphratean "hollow base" and "barb and tang" that define Bell Beaker lithic tradition became widespread throughout the Steppe whose daily life is documented in the rich bovid art of the steppe belt.   In the Uan Amil "hair dressing" scene and you will notice at the washer's feet is an arrow with a triangular projectile.  Several panels from which this Neolithic "Smurf head" scene belongs not only show the importance of archery in the lives of Saharan pastoralists, but quite clearly show the pastoralists' triangular arrowheads.

If we were to exclude all other factors in archaeology and focus solely on lithics, North Africa offers the simplest explanation, and possibly the only explanation, for the changes that happen in Western Europe.

It was indeed these very people who were in communication with the late 4th millenium trading forts of the Tagus estuary, who brought Sahelian Elephant Ivory, ostrich eggs and all sorts of African exotica to Iberia that was craved by Neolithic Europeans.  These forts were not built for trade with Siberia or Zanzibar, but they existed to service the cartels that supplied fine things from Africa that were much in demand.  Those forts came to be slowly dominated by a mysterious new group of foreigners with a thin-walled, red slipped pottery.  I'll posit those foreigners were in fact the sellers!

"Armatures de pointes de fleches neolithieques du Nord de l'Erg Isaouae (Algerie)  J.P. Savary 1968 [Link]

"Essai sur la chronologie prehistorique de l'Afrique Occidentale Francaise.  Furon and Laforgue  1930 [Link]

"Essai sur les  armatures de pointes de flèches du Sahara" 1936 Henri-Jean Hugot

Presentation d'une serie d'armatures de pointes de fleches du neolithique Saharien.  Alain LE GUEN.

*I've excluded some of more regional and later African points.

*The Southeast coast of Spain and the east coast of France may have seen influence as early as 3200.  Keep in mind, regardless of what the earliest Iberian Beaker carbon dates are, the dates in the rest of Western Europe are not that far behind.  This can mean several things, but it is unlikely that Iberia was settled in a day so we should probably expect a grey period of influx. 

*I've focused on barb and tangs in this piece, however a fairly large amount of Beaker projectiles are hollow based.  Some archers have both in within the same grave.  I've ignored this for three reasons: being that Beaker and Corded groups seem to be intermarried over a very large contact zone, quality of flint within certain regions and finally the fact that both versions appear in the North African steppe.  I view the barb and tang as a bit more diagnostic due to its complexity and rarity.