Thursday, March 24, 2016

Beaker folk (Video with Andrew Sherratt)

Andrew Sherratt was a leading British archaeologists that contributed a number of prominent theories, notably the concept of a 'secondary products revolution'.

This is a good video with re-enactment.  Don't get to wrapped up in periodization or terms.  It's an older video that predates newer discoveries and archeo-metrics, particularly the DNA of the last two years, but the larger concepts are still on track.


  1. How accurate is the clothing, tools, pots, homes, weapons, customs, etc in the video?

    1. I give them quite a bit of latitude on details since it's a reenactment and the narrative is strong enough to make it interesting. (kind of like sci-fi)

      I'll make some observations in the next comment...

    2. Since they are recycling footage for episode 1 and 2, you get some mixed technology like the bronze arrowheads, which came after Beakers. Also, one thing to know is that in some archaeological circles (like in Britain), the points of demarcation between the Beakers and Bronze are viewed as being weak or non-existent in my interpretation, whereas elsewhere there is a cultural transition of sorts. This video is British centric so some of those points come out in here.

      The horses would have been smaller and less refined. A gold breast plate is not impossible, certain gaudy equipment was probably worn by some cocky warriors.

      Episode 1 focuses on the farthest fringe of the shores where hunter cultures overlapped some. I think these people, like Vlaardingen or Peterborough are being undersold since they did keep livestock and farm and there is no proof that cultures like this didn't have carts or wagons.

      The goblets are exact replicas, although the color may be slightly too buff for the original IMO. The size is accurate, they are like big beer steins and being symbolic as one whose cup overflows (this is a German tradition maybe with roots in the Beakers and giant Beakers). Knives look good to me.

      Wool, felt, belts, man-purses, feathered hats, elf shoes and laced boots: probably not that much different from the BA to early Medieval period, although Beaker clothing may have been more patterned than just drab wool.

      The bow: There may be several possibilities that are all correct. One may have been like the Meare Heath bow, which is roughly contemporary...
      There is some debate on whether its banding was decoration, support or compounding support. Deciduous deforestation may have greatly increase the yew population in Western Europe at this time, so a Neolithic style longbow was probably also becoming more used. Recurve bows have been speculated, but there is no solid evidence apart from a probable Polada Culture bow in Italy.

      I would interpret the flexed burial position as indicating that footed beds were not used yet, as we don't see extended, supine burials just yet. Therefore, since they didn't use standing furniture like tables and chairs, then they probably would have eaten in a circle on the floor like other prehistoric peoples or Arabs.

      Some Beaker knives are incredible. Gristhorpe man's whalebone knife pommel gives you an example of how fine some of their personal items could get. It look like a modern knife almost.

      Mead is horrible, tastes like cough syrup. They may have made mead at times, but more likely is beer with a wax burnished water proofing. The rest of part one fades in and out of the EBA and later BA.

  2. That video had my eyes rolling in less than a minute. Bell Beakers were hardly some advanced group bringing culture to the primitive natives. Neolithics created structures which lasted for thousands of years and demonstrated distinct knowledge of astronomy, what did the Beakers leave? Other than collecting metal objects and having beer pots they were a regression in terms of development and never had a single innovation (for thousands of years). Wheeled vehicles? I suppose when creating this video they weren't aware of the Funnelbeaker Bronocice pot. Bronze? Chieftans? Also back to Cucuteni, another Neolithic culture. Not trying to bash your beloved Beakers, we're all significantly Beaker after all, but I think the narrative baloney and the truth is quite the opposite. There isn't a single structure in Ireland created during the Beaker period (dumping trash on existing structures doesn't count), contrast that to the thousands of Nuraghe in Sardinia. The true narrative is like that, much like the Mongols and the Huns after them, the Steppe people delivered an almost fatal blow to the development of civilization in Europe.

    1. Most historical reenactments or movies will have a bunch of problems. I know it's hard to watch a movie like 'Gladiator' without being acutely aware of every inaccuracy. Your criticism is valid, and I made this point, that Neolithic Europe might have even invented the wagon, Bronocice pot as one example. Copper technology preceded Beakers in most cases and beer may have been known from the earliest Neolithic.
      I think the broad point is valid, however, that Beakers heralded major social change.