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


  1. Very interesting that pre-Yamnaya( and certainly if researched well, Yamnaya) Bell Beaker & Corded Ware Cultures shared this burial pose. Does this reflect a tribal leader, shaman or storyteller? Corded Ware Culture burials had symbolic arm poses in burials. Will we ever know what these symbolic poses for the deceased really mean? Link to CWC article: https://assemblagejournal.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/the-structure-and-complexity-of-corded-ware-mortuary-practices-by-jan-turek.pdf

  2. I am changing the subject just a bit here. I see illustrations, artist's renderings of Bell Beaker female clothing and jewelry. However, I searching for an example of Corded Ware women's apparel & personal ornaments. I have read many articles that they wore animal teeth necklaces and shell amulets with solar crosses. Also, they found many tiny little mussel shell beads( also found in the Funnel Beaker Culture) and animal teeth beads in burials. The authors mentioned that these were sewn on to dresses or robes. Also, there is evidence of dog tooth studded purses in Germany! Yet, I can not find an artist's rendering of a Corded Ware Culture female's clothing & ornaments! I am a very disappointed.

    1. You may have already done so, try searching in other languages. I have a CWC name list at the bottom of the page

  3. Some people have, in my view, convincing arguments to show that the Buddha himself could have belonged to a steppe tribe (Saka , Shakyamuni) rather then having pure Indian cultural roots. That would put the Buddha's original teachings and cultural references closer to the Indo-European worldview and mythology. (I am referring to the book "Greek Buddha" by C.I.Beckwith.) And he was supposed to be a king too until he choose a different path. The origin of this crossed legged pose (Yoga?) can perhaps also be found in the Indo-European past. As recent as 200 years ago Buddhist monks where mummified in this cross-legged position and displayed as statues. Some Buddhist insist the mummified monks are just meditating and are still alive. The Indus-valley seal example is out of place in time and space, as far as I know this culture had no Indo-European influences. Unless its image came into that culture through trade with Mesopotamia?

    1. Apologize in advance for the lengthy response, but it's an interesting topic.

      I agree that the Buddha meditation (cross-legged) pose is directly related to his 'princeliness', as depicted from around the second or first century B.C. In the original context of the people who depicted Buddha this way, I believe the projection is that Buddha became a 'divine prince', or Devaraja, having cast away the worldly things from his days as a real prince 'of this world'.

      Now the pose is widely interpreted as being a contemplative and transcendental pose, but originally it must have conveyed a slightly different message, one of 'true' sacral kingship (part of my argument).

      Whether or not Buddha or his followers thought that way, over time in the minds of converts, that perspective may have evolved. So within the mental context of a Scythian (where sacral kingship was common), the divinity of Buddha would be morally challenging. Basically, it similar to a meeting of Herod Antipas and Jesus Christ, a rightful and divine King not of this world and a carnal and illegitimate king. In that way, I see Buddha as the antithesis of a Scythian (or other nationality) warlord-polygamist-priest. (More on that)

      Whether or not Buddha was a Scythian I don't think necessarily matters, more so the opinions of those exposed to Buddhism and how they depicted him in art or practice.