|Boar's Tusk Pendant (Left) Meare Heath Bow (Right)
Musculoskeletal Stress Markers as Indicators of Physical Activities: A Case Study for Archery in Bell-Beaker Burials
The Bell-Beaker culture is one of the most distinguished cultures from the Final Neolithic period in Europe and North Africa due to its unique material culture, diffusion throughout Europe, and funerary processes. During this time, certain inhumations begin to contain a distinctive type of stone wrist guard. These stone wrist guards are currently interpreted as a piece of protective equipment used by archers, however their fabrication in stone and lack of evidence of usage raises the question of their practicality. Were they used in the everyday lives of warriors or were they symbolic? If these wrist guards were, in fact, symbolic, that indicates a higher importance placed on archery during this time. This study aims to answer the question of whether or not the individuals inhumed with such objects were archers themselves, an answer that could influence the symbolic interpretation of these Bell-Beaker wrist guards. This study examines archaeological archery contexts throughout the Final Neolithic Period and then applies those interpretations to individuals buried with traditional archery equipment, mainly stone wrist guards, but also artifacts associated with archery such as arrowheads and bow-shaped pendants. Secondly, the anthropological aim is to create a methodology using modern medical reports, human biomechanics, and analyses of enthesial changes and musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM) in order to identify the probability that a certain individual was a specialized archer based on the presence of likely Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI). This method is applied to a control group of individuals from the 16th century coming from a known context with specialized archers, which then allows this method to be applied to a group of Bell-Beaker individuals from numerous Bohemian burials. Advancements in the study of RSIs and MSMs can better solidify the existing hypotheses pertaining to the daily activities of various individuals and cultural groups from a very important and innovative time in human history as well as contribute to the current understanding and processes of comparative human osteology. A better understanding of these individuals enhances the overall comprehension of the possible symbolic meaning the stone wrist guards particular to the Bell-Beaker culture.
If you look closely at the bow-shaped pendants, you'll notice that they have what looks like banding which would indicate the use of bows like the Meare Heath Bow, roughly contemporary with the Beaker phenomenon. The reconstruction of that bow is roughly 90lbs draw weight, so if this was a common draw weight for an average man of that time, then there should be plenty of injuries.
In old European mythology, the moon goddess was associated with archery and boars, presumably due to the crescent-shape of the tusks. It's possible that archers wore these amulets as protection from shock injuries, tendonitis or arthritis.