Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Beaker and Aegean, Similarities and Differences (Rahmstorf, 2008)

I've been wanting to cover the emergence of the Bronze Age Aegean a little closer as time permits.  This paper by Rahmstorf is a good place to get some context.  The paper is fairly short and readable, maybe twenty pages or less.

Here's a map of stone wristguards from the paper.

As we have been learning, the y-chromosomal DNA of Bell Beakers has belonged uniformly to the haplogroup R1b.  This is painting a picture of catastrophic change, certainly not annihilation, but a very clear super-cession of male lineages that is unfriendly to outsiders.  Please see [here].

This presents some challenges to understanding the phylo-geogarphy of the dominant lineage of Bell Beaker males.  This is because we are looking at a shotgun blast, not something that is clinal.  This can be very problematic when looking at the R1b distribution of Greece, in particular.  So lets jump of a cliff together and ask the question: "does Greek R1b come from Switzerland?" or hell, for that matter: "does Greek R1b come from the Estremadura?"

I wrote about this problem [in this post].  For that matter, can you completely discount [this]?  It might have seemed stupid for several weeks until Haak et al published the genome of man from Els Torcs!

The link is below...

See also [here] and [here]


The rise in complexity of the social-economic systems in the Aegean in the third millennium BC, starting around 2700 BC with Early Bronze Age II (EBA II), is most obvious. Near Eastern influence brought new innovations (like administrative storage procedures, metrology and complex metallurgical technologies) to the Aegean mainly via the Anatolian land-bridge, especially during the second part of the Aegean EBA II (c. 2550-2250 BC). In many parts of Europe, the contemporary Bell Beaker phenomenon showed some structural similarities, most obvious are the much intensified regional contacts.
To what extent could the Bell Beaker networks be compared to the contemporaneous Aegean-East Mediterranean spheres of interaction and what was the exchange between these ‘different worlds’ like? In the paper I would like to discuss some common characteristics by their chronological development and functional interpretation. In this context not only similarities but also differences shall be emphasized.

 "The Bell Beaker Phenomenon and the interaction spheres of the Early Bronze Age East Mediterranean: similarities and differences" [Link]

'Construire le temps. Histoire et méthodes des chronologies et calendriers des derniers millénaires avant notre ère en Europe occidentale. Actes du XXXe colloque international de Halma-Ipel, UMR 8164 (CNRS, Lille 3, MCC), 7-9 décembre 2006, Lille, ed. A. Lehoërff, Collection Bibracte 16. Bibracte: Centre archéologique européen, 2008, 149-170'

Monday, April 18, 2016

Crux in the 3rd Millennium (Michael Hoskin)

Some Beaker pots, more it seems from southerly latitudes, had a cross on the bottom, usually interpreted to be sun rays or maybe a wheel.  There is sometimes also instead a cross that is more sun-like corona or solar blazing.  Regarding the general pot decoration, it's probable that Beaker funerary pots were making references to the sun (makes sense for people buried facing the sunrise).

The ale of these pots could have been gruited with henbane (the herb of the sun god) as in much of Europe during the Bronze and Iron Age.  (At least one Spanish beaker has been shown to contain this substance)  It may have been the over-gruiting of henbane that caused berserkergang, where Iron Age Scandinavian warriors stripped off their clothes and became like wolves, boars or werewolves, panting and foaming at the mouth, furious like the god himself.  The nudity of Celtic warriors in battle could be another ancient reference to this battlefield, performance-enhancing drug.

I'll continue now, for your consideration, to throw a few more items into the cosmological stew of Beaker mythology.  The idea here is more or less to put the pieces of their material culture in a particular context.  As I've said before, using the beliefs of proto-historic and modern Europeans is a sufficient and plausible starting point IMO, especially since the underlying metaphysical worldview and genetics of Western Europe has changed little since the Early Bronze Age, at least its constituents.

In the previous post on the Beaker settlement of Son Oleza and its Son Mas Sanctuary of the Balearic Islands, I became interested in the interpretation of an astroarchaeologist, Michael Hoskin, who looked through the viewing stone to the saddle between two mountains.  From the rear sight post to the saddle, he envisioned a spectacular prehistoric object of Bell Beaker attention, Crux.

The Southern Cross in 2,000 B.C. through the Siting Stone of Son Mas (Time Team)
A good place to start is with Hoskins in his own words..
The video is embedded to the exact location where Michael Hoskin explains his reasoning.  The image of the sighting stone can also be found at 25:39.

The constellation of Crux (the Southern Cross) was slowly setting on Europe in the third millennium and in the procession of the constellations, Crux slowly slipped beneath the horizon year by year.  It was visible at the beginning of the third millennium from Stonehenge, although the star Acrux had already disappeared; and within the first millennium it would have disappeared from almost all of Europe.

Stonehenge itself, BTW, appears to have had a long runway oriented towards Crux. (Ruggles, pg 345)  Wayland's Smithy is also hypothesized to have had Crux aligned 'windows'. (North, page 38)

From a mythological standpoint, this is an interesting twist given Crux's association with a dying sun, descent into the underworld, and the sun's rebirth or resurrection.  In most of Iron Age Europe, the end of the calendar year was followed by an unregulated period during which the Saturnelia festival and the Winter Solstice occurred, representing the death of the sun and the current order.  Remnants of this persist in the names of days in the English week, with the week being born on Sun-day and the death of the week on Saturn's-day.

The waning solar year brings shorter and shorter days until finally the Winter Solstice arrives (being Latin for 'sun-stopped').  It's at this time that the Sun dwelled in cross for 2-3 days before being 'reborn' right around Christmas, to which the days begin increasing.

Cross Symbol Gold Foil from Britain (British Museum, order FI-000820937)

I've speculated a little about what descent into the underworld might have looked like for a people native to a certain geology [here].  In many ways, this belief is somewhat similar to Egyptian religion in that the dead are transported via a solar barque [here] and [here] via the Southern Cross (to which Egyptian pyramids are oriented). 

See also [here]


Michael Hoskin [here]

Thursday, April 7, 2016

William H. Waldren, Boquique and the Balearics (Time Team)

Here's a full episode of Time Team as they explore a Bell Beaker settlement in Mallorca, Balearic Islands with William Waldren.

The settlement appears to have had an aqueduct that fed at least two large buildings within a fortress type enclosure.  A nearby temple site or complex had an observation post was oriented in the saddle of two mountains, very directly oriented toward Crux, or "The Southern Cross".*

William Waldren basically wrote the history for much of the Balearic Islands [here]

Here's the obituary of William H. Waldren, archaeologist. [here]

American painter and archaeologist william waldren memorial

* I'll have to do more reading on the various mythologies of the Crux, but in Christian times it was associated with the death of the Sun in the equinox, symbolizing the death of Christ for three days and then his victory over the cross and resurrection.  Because Crux disappeared in the Northern latitudes, its myth survived in Greece the longest as the beastial parts of the Centaurus.  It nearly completely disappeared from Europe at the very beginning of the Christian era, so it was widely accepted to be a sign.  In Greek mythology it is again associated with the sun, but in a less direct way.

As a side, side note...

You'll remember that a number of the funerary Beaker potteries have cross bottoms... 

Upcoming stuff...

Here's some more stuff coming down the pike...

Dalton School Cist (unkown)

Every year there is a "Beaker Days" conference/site tour hosted in a different country.  This year it is being hosted in Mediterranean France on 11-15 May 2016.  This one is entitled "Beaker Days in Mediterranean France Twenty years of 'Archéologie et Gobelets'".  The call for papers is out and maybe this summer we'll see some of the presentations or papers.  You can be sure the topics will be interesting.

The Perdigões Research Program website announced that it will participate in a DNA collaboration project “Beaker origins: Testing the hypothesis of late Neolithic dispersals from Iberia using both ancient and contemporary mitochondrial genomes”.  [Link]

If you read this blog, you are already well familiar of the mitochondrial mosaic of the Neolithic Europe and how much of this 'changed' to what it is now.  My own view has been fairly consistent, Haplogroup H is clearly Euphratean and it's subclades are too young to be parked in some nude, rock-throwing culture that was sufficiently dispersed in the Pleistocene.  The question is how an when its subclades were dispersed and why are there two brackets of H subclades moving into Europe at different times?

The Brotherton paper of 2013 made a good case at the time that the sub-H frequency in Europe was a product of a Bell Beaker folk expansion out of Western Iberia, and this largely came at the expense of the continental mito-salad.  I wrote about this [here].  Hervella (2015) somewhat complicates Brotherton's observation, but it might actually complement Brotherton's theory with a few tweaks in interpretation [here].

I should point out that I am well aware of other dogs and cats out there, but really we're talking about large population shifts across vast regions.  Changes in Europe's mitogenome is important for establishing the 'folkness' of a folk movement, not simply the bastard children of wandering magical metal-smiths as some might claim. 

From the Perdigoes Research site, we will also soon have:

"...a synthesis about the Bell Beaker phenomena at Perdigões will be presented at a meeting to be held in the University of Lisbon next May."

Although the Alentejo region had an apparently mild and late reaction to Bell Beaker when contrasted with other Portuguese regions, it's interesting that the copper used in some of the earliest Beaker sites, for example at Zambujal, appear to come from this region, possible through Perdigoes itself.  So hopefully there will be a narrative that is simple and straightforward enough for me to latch on to, because right now my mind is a blank piece of paper.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Boars in the North (Kovarova, 2011)

Here's a few dog ears in a 2011 paper about the boar in European mythology by Lenka Kovárová.
The paper is Norse-centric in its focus, but it offers a detailed account of the history's history of boar in mythology.

With Northern Europe facing an explosive return of the wild boar [here], [here], [here], [here], the boar's ultra-fecundity is once again getting the attention of Europeans as it rapidly enters the exponentiation phase.    Europe's angry peasants are no longer a threat, competition is scarce, food sources are abundant.  Life is great for boars!
It's easy to see why wild boars would both be reviled as destructive force and esteemed as proliferous one.  This duality is a common theme in Europe at this time.  The boar is again a subject of this duality in the brother-sister, night and day gods who are associated with it: Freyr and Freyja or Apollo and Selene. 

I've picked out several sections from this thesis that are especially interesting:

Section 2.1.4. "The Warrior’s Equipment"

Section 3.2.2  "The Boar as the Sun Symbol"

Section 7.2    "Shape-changing"

Section 7.3.2  "Identification with a Boar: The Boar Warrior"  AKA the úlfheðnar or berserkir

See also [here], [here], [here], [here], [here], [here], [here], [here]

Kovárová, Lenka, 1980- "The Swine in Old Nordic Religion and Worldview" (2011)