Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beakers of the Bothros Brotherhood

I've done a quick search combining "Bell Beaker" with "bothros" or "bothroi" in the English language.  No results!

I started think about bothroi sacrifices reading this paper, "Un dépôt de céramiques Michelsberg à Obernai « Parc d’activités économiques intercommunal" by Lefranc and Feliu, 2015

Bodiless burials seem quite common throughout the entire Bell Beaker world.  Usually they contain smashed drinking sets and personal offerings such as daggers, bead singlets or odd things.  Some sites  are in cemeteries, but many are just kind of out there by themselves.  Aside from the religious aspect of this, I've wondered pits were instruments or monuments for covenants

"Hades abducts Persephone" (One of the more anti-social gods)

But a simpler explanation may be available if Bell Beaker and Michelsberg drinking pits were among the precursors to Greek bothroi.

If that was the case, then a fairly satisfying explanation can be found in "The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero-Cults in the Archaic to the Early Hellenistic Period" by Gunnel Enroth, beginning in paragraph 74 of Chapter 1.

But it's also possible that the most serious oaths, pledges and contracts were made, even at the Greek bothroi.  After all, the boundary of the underworld is where the gods made theirs [Styx].  There may be some clues as to the Beaker conception of the underworld.


  1. Enroth on bothroi is fascinating. It is reminiscent of voodoo and Louisiana necromancy such as leaving alcoholic spirits and tobacco near graves to commune with the dead, and to a lesser extent like Shinto ritual grave tending. This kind of activity is very familiar in the contemporary/urban fantasy literature. My gut says that better understanding the location context that naively seems random, might be key to understanding them.

    The smashed drinking sets evoke a mix of the custom of smashing glasses at a wedding as they can serve no higher purpose than the one for which they were just used, and bothroi notion documented in the Odyssey of pouring mead and wine and juices from sacrifices into a pit while ritually summoning the dead for their counsel. It would be interesting to see if the daggers in these bodiless burials have residues suggesting that they were used to conduct an animal sacrifice.

    1. I know that animal remains, or at least parts of animals, are frequently encountered. I never really paid much attention to the type or age of the animal, but it'd be interesting to know if there were patterns.