Friday, February 20, 2015

Bella Vista 5 (Valera)

Almost a year ago, Antonio Valera announced the discovery of a Palmela point with a fragment of preserved string of cannabis sativa from the last quarter of the third millennium, one of the earliest representations in Western Europe.  Now that the paper is out (free); here's a little more background.

Bella Vista 5 is a double ditch enclosure with about eighty or more offering pits but so far yielding only one central grave.  The enclosure opening was aligned to the summer solstice and within the inner circle is pit 1 which contains the body of a woman.  She was buried with pottery, an arsenic copper Palmela point and a copper stylus.

Ferradeira Woman in Pit 1

The woman's grave has the diagnostic of the problematic Ferradeira Horizon which in a simple narrative heralds the EBA (or Epi-Chalcolitic) in Alentejo as a distinct culture apart from, but containing, Bell Beaker influences. 

A. Stylus B. Palmela Point and Braided Hemp String

The elemental composition of the woman's Palmela point is a high arsenic copper, but certainly not provable to be intentional bronzing.  I thought initially the braided hemp was part of a bowstring (not knowing how small a diameter the string was), however the paper seems to indicate the presence of resin that would indicate it was used to secure the point to a shaft, maybe like a javelin point.  This is probably correct given the graphic above. (You can see how tiny the string is in the blown up graphic)

Hemp is mentioned as curiously absent from the palynological record, at least so far this period in Northern and Central Europe (Valera).  But it was certainly grown and perhaps lacking in quantity to reveal itself just yet.

The woman's grave goods
There have been some papers on 'girls with guns' of Central Europe and how political power has traditionally been expressed with certain regalia, such as Egypt.  Given the seeming importance of this woman in burial, a fair guess may suggest that the arrowhead or spear indicates she came from a noble situation.  The many votive pits that surrounded her burial may have contained the offerings from the miserable souls her family ruled.

BELA VISTA 5:  Um Recinto do Final do 3º Milénio a.n.e. (Mombeja, Beja)
António Carlos Valera (Coordenador) Era Monográfica 2 ISBN: 978-989-98082-1-8 (2014)

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