Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Beaker-people-without-Beaker-pots (Zilhão, 2016)

Zilhao identifies possibly four individuals from the Portuguese "Galeria da Cisterna" on the Almonda as belonging to the Beaker culture.  He looks closely at the radiocarbon dates and the materials present, sperm whale buttons and the additional presence of a gold spiral.  Although no pottery was present, he excludes other scenarios.

The remains were found in the Almonda River Karst with this particular gallery containing large amounts of Early Neolithic material.  The site includes material from almost every phase of late history, spanning the Magdalenian to the Iron Age.

Aside from the strange baseball bat toggle, the combination of whalebone buttons and the presence of a gold spiral does seem to offer a reasonable assignment to the Beaker culture.  The pots could have been present at one time, but it seems likely also that they were never included.   That's not a huge problem, but it does add some ambiguity, as Zilhao says, about the certainty of assignment.

DNA testing is on-going and he says two of the individuals are genetically female.

Almonda River

"Beaker people without beaker pots:  the Chalcolithic funerary context from the Galeria da Cisterna (Almonda karst system, Torres Novas, Portugal)  João Zilhão, 2016 [Link]
Del neolític a l’edat del bronze en el Mediterrani occidental.
Estudis en homenatge a Bernat Martí Oliver.
TV SIP 119, València, 2016, p. 379-386.

Even though no characteristic ceramics were found, a small set of V-perforated buttons indicates that the Galeria da Cisterna cave was used for funerary purposes by people of the Beaker culture. Direct dating of human bone corroborates that the bodies of at least four adult individuals were laid down here during the second half of the third millennium cal BC. The buttons belong to well-known types and their textural properties suggest that, as with all the other Portuguese specimens analyzed so far, sperm whale ivory is the raw-material used. A small fragment of a gold spiral completes the site’s Beaker context.

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