Thursday, June 29, 2017

Samborzec Beakers from Małopolska, Poland (Olalde et al, 2017)

Polish Bell Beakers can be divided into three distinct, relational clusters most likely reflecting their places of origin.   Czebreszuk and Szmyt outline these groups in "Bell Beakers and the Cultural Milieu of North European Plain".

Essentially they define (1) a northern group of Beakers, with strong ties to the Danish Single Grave Culture and CWC, (2) a southwestern group in Silesia, with ties to the Bohemia Basin (3) and in Southeastern Poland or Małopolska (Lesser Poland), they are more directly connected to, or largely originate from, Moravian Beakers.  The latter two groups belong to the Eastern Domain and the former to the Northern. 

The three individuals profiled in this post are from "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.  It follows several related posts of the past few weeks of individuals sequenced from this study.

From "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland"  Budziszewski, Haduch, Wlodarczak
The Samborzec Beakers are typical of the Beaker ethnic as repeatedly described by osteologists, being an often tall, powerfully built, short-headed people with a flattened upper occiput bone (among other hereditary and environmentally-influenced characteristics). (1)  The features of the skull are discussed in (1) and by Elzbieta Haduch in "Bell Beaker and Corded Ware People in the Little Poland Upland - An Anthropological Point of View".

So far genetically, these Beakers are very similar to other Beaker groups, especially the Eastern Group of Central European Beakers.  There is a great deal of heterogeneity in the Csepel Group, with sites like Szigetszentmiklós being very differentiated, but the profile flattens west of Hungary, possibly reflecting the founder phenomenon.

Haduch appears to suggest (1) that within this Upper Vistula Beaker community there are at least four local Neolithic women that married Beakers based on their hereditary characteristics compared to the previous populations.  Maybe as more Southern Polish Beakers are sequenced we'll see greater diversity than exists so far.

And to illustrate just how weird the Beakers are, the graphic below from the same paper:

Weirdos.  From "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland"  Budziszewski, Haduch, Wlodarczak

Examination from this older study showed that the boy in grave 1 (I4252) may have died of craniosynostosis, in which the plates of the skull fused too quickly.  Two other people, including the woman above, died of multiple myeloma cancer.  Despite this, a lot of the Upper Vistula Beakers lived to a ripe age, much like those of Bohemia and Moravia.  Grave 7 (I4251) is a radiocarbon outlier (as discussed on Anthrogenica), and this is also mentioned on page 167 of (1), believing the date is out of sync for a number of reasons.

Here's the narrative from Olalde et al, 2017:

"The site was located on the loess upland in the vicinity of the Vistula valley (western Małopolska; SE Poland). The excavations were conducted in the 1960s. A complex of small cemeteries dated to the late and final Neolithic has been found (Złota, Corded Ware and Bell Beaker graves). The cemetery from the Bell Beaker period consisted of 10 graves. The features were linearly structured and oriented on the N-S axis. Grave pits presented simple rectangular constructions without any additional outer elements. The deceased were lying in contracted position, males to the left side and women to the right side. Their equipment was typical for the Eastern group of the Beaker complex. Anthropologically, the skeletons from Samborzec show very characteristic morphological traits distinguishing them from other Neolithic and Early Bronze groups from SE Poland. The skulls are classified as short or very short. Their main characteristic is the shape of the back part, namely the distinct flattening of the upper part of the occipital bone and of an area of the parietal bone. Such a morphology suggests that this population was genetically foreign to the territory of Małopolska. We obtained genome-wide ancient DNA data from three individuals:

I4251/RISE1122/grave no. 7: 2837-2672 BCE (3990±60 BP, Ki-7926). Male inhumation burial (25-30 years) with northwest-southeast orientation, located on the left side. The grave goods consisted of two vessels (bowl and unornamented cup), a flint blade dagger and a flint scraper.  [R1b1a1a2 + H1]
Tablica XVIII

I4252/RISE1123/grave no. 1: 2463-2142 BCE (3820±50 BP, Ki-7921). Child inhumation burial (11-13 years; genetically male) with northeast-southwest orientation, located on the left side. There was a ceramic bowl and an undecorated cup.  [R + U5a1a1]
Tablica XI
I4253/RISE1124/grave no. 13: 2571-2208 BCE (3920±60 BP, Ki-7929). Male inhumation burial (25-30 years), with N-S orientation, located on the left side. The only element of equipment was a ceramic bowl, posed in the northern part of the grave." [R1b1a1a2 + U5a2c]
I'm not quite sure about this number 13.  The quote specifically mentions 10 graves from Samborzec to the Beaker period and those ten graves are discussed in (5).  So it may be a misprint, not sure.


(1) "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland" Budziszewski, Haduch & Włodarczak
(2) "Personal Identity and Social Structure of Bell Beakers: The Upper Basins of the Oder and Vistula Rivers" by Makarowicz.
(3) "Northern and Southern Bell Beakers in Poland" by Makarowicz
(4) "Chronology and Bell Beaker Common Ware"  by Piguet and Besse
(5) "Kultura pucharów dzwonowatych na wyżynie MałopolsKiej" Budziszewski & Włodarczak, 2010

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bell Beaker Buddha? (The Samborzec Sage)

Beakerblog is back in the saddle.  I'll start with an interesting icebreaker, Buddha Burials.

This Beaker from the Samborzec cemetery in the Malopolska region of Poland might have been buried "Indian-style" (American usage); various leg formats come to mind such as "Lotus Position", etc.  If so, after being dead for a few days the arms and legs might have extended out of position in the casket or wooden enclosure.  While the pose of this man may not be very convincing, in several other frog-like burials, the pose is more strict.

This odd "frog-like" pose, as Makarowicz called it, is distinguished from the extended supine position thought to derive from the Volgan and Pontic Steppes.  The frog pose is found a number of times in the Corded Ware Culture and subsequent Central and East European Bronze Age cultures and it is only found with males.

Male Archer looking East.  Samborzec, stanowisko 1, grave 3 (Makarowicz)
I think it is possible that these men were 'posed' without ties during the rigor mortis phase of death, in which the stiff limbs were positioned more tightly contracted.  After this lactic phase subsided the limbs started to relax a bit within the box.

After some searching, I finally found the graphic I had been looking for which came from a paper by Włodarczak.  It's the Corded Ware male from Kietrz, Poland (C) whose legs were tightly contracted, very intentionally, much like the so-called 'proto-Shiva' seal below.  Also, notice the Ketegyhaza individual (B) has his legs crossed at the ankles.

Piotr Włodarczak, 2006 from "Unique burial..." [below]

It should be pointed out that the Samborzec Sage has also the most elaborate of all Polish Bell Beaker graves, so the unusual position of his body is especially significant [see Włodarczak]. 

Several of the Samborzec Sage's kinfolk were genetically sequenced in the Olalde paper, and the Alpine-headed Samborzec Beakers are an interesting group anyway, so I'll get to those a bit later.  For whatever reason, grave 3 wasn't tested or didn't sequence.

The green or blue man.  A character of virility and wildness. (Cernunnos and 'Shiva'(?))
Below is a Maros Culture pit, sitting grave.  I'm curious as to the position of the palms since this grave may have been directly infilled.  The important points to remember is that these positions deviate from the norm, they make a statement about the deceased who is a high-status male that is in some way distinguished from other high status males.

A Maros influence sitting burial 3. kép: Csanytelek-Palé 27. sír [Link]
3: Csanytelek-Palé,
If we were to assume, I think correctly, that some of these cultures (such as the Corded Ware) had a religion closely related to later attested Indo-European religions, then one interpretation of the status and pose of these men could be viewed as something like 'Devaraja' or sacred kings.  To use the 'Devaraja' as a more familiar example, the iconographic pose of a 'god-king' mimics that of Shiva (king of gods).

Looking back to Iron Age Europe, you have below (again) Cernunnos depicted sitting 'Indian-style', as is often the case, and also the Germanic god of sacral kingship, Freyr or Ingwaez, who is by the way is the only Germanic deity ever depicted in this cross-legged pose.  Like Cernunnos, Saturnos of Rome is depicted in a relaxed cross-leg manner and Chronos, like the presumed proto-Shiva of the Indus Valley seal is depicted with three faces, to see the past, the present and the future.  (Chronos = Father Time)

Cernunnos and Freyr

At the Roquepertuse Celtic 'head cult' religious center commemorating are likely enemy 'heads of state', so to speak.  There are several of the centers with crossed leg figures surrounded by heads.  The Roquepertuse figures wear armor and there is an indication of sheathed swords.  At this site there was also the telling occurrence of a bicephalic Janus-like head, and bicephalic and tricephalic heads are found at others as well.

See also "Headhunting and the Body in Iron Age Europe" by Ian Armit
A Celtic Warrior from the Acropolis Roquepertuse (Robert Valette)

Pretty far out on the ice, but the pose of the Samborzec Beaker conveyed a certain meaning to people of that time. Not out of the realm of possibility it is an indication that he was some sort of chief, dare I say 'priest-king' without vomiting.


'frog-like manner'  from "the bell beaker transition in Europe..."

UNIQUE BURIAL OF THE BELL BEAKER CULTURE FROM THE CEMETERY IN SAMBORZEC (SOUTHERN POLAND) Piotr Włodarczak from Proceedings of the 10th Meeting “Archéologie et Gobelets” (Florence – Siena – Villanuova sul Clisi, May 12-15, 2006)

PRZEMYSLAW MAKAROWICZ, Przegl^d Archeologiczny. Vol. 51, 2003, pp. 123-158
PL ISSN 0079-7138

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Britain o' Beakers.

Here's a podcast from the Guardian UK's "The Bell-Beaker folk - Science Weekly podcast ".

Hannah Devlin interviews Durham University archaeologist Ben Roberts on the findings of the largest ancient genome project of ancient Europe, "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe"

Frame from "Tatort Eulau - Das Rätsel der 13 Skelette" (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen - ZDF TV) 

Trying to get back in the saddle this week but currently hamstrung with other commitments.  Hopefully a few more posts before week's end.