Thursday, November 8, 2018

Gimli of Grimisuat?

For some reason this Sion Beaker just wants to have a beard.  Maybe that's because of how the amber beads are situated across the upper chest. 

The helmet appears to be an early form of the common nasal helmet of Western Europe which is at least as old as the Late Bronze Age.  My guess is that it would have been constructed of boiled leather over a wooden frame, the kevlar of its day.  The guy's dress is commonly thought to be a patterned tunic, but I wonder if it is instead scaled armour, also of hardened leather.  Someone's probably mentioned that before, but I can't think who off hand.

One of the interesting things about Bell Beaker men with dagger injuries, they are most often found in the armpits and forearms, at least in Britain.  As demonstrated in the video linked above, in a knife fight you have to get under the scale which indicates how the knife is held and thrust.  But it should be remembered that body thrust wounds may be under-represented in the skeletal record.

Doctored Late Sion Stele by Sebastian Favre, right (Bocksberger Memorial Site)

I'm pretty sure those are amber beads around the guy's neck.  I don't know if this Gimli was a lord or a war king, but he was important no doubt.

One interesting bit is the changing pattern from chest, the apron, then lower portion.  It can't be a single tunic, or at least it wouldn't seem so.  I'd propose that there are two layers of scale, the outermost covering the torso, and then the actual tunic is the bottom-most pattern.  Maybe you see something else?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Maritime Marnotos? Bread of Salt (Guerra Doce, 2018)

Elvira Guerra Doce has a new paper in 2018* about the original economic currency of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon.  Some of Guerra's ideas here are pretty interesting food for thought.  One of them not so much.  But this first one is really interesting.  So lets' start with a story.

Discriminating Russian oligarchs salt their bread with only one kind of salt and it only comes from the Algarve region of Portugal.  The Portuguese Flor de sal (Times) “Cream of the Salt Pan” is a finishing salt for fine food.  Local salts are for the snotty peasants outside the pallisades and for cow licks.  Since I belong to the second or third category, it wasn't too obvious.

Fleur de sel (Wiki), or any ole' salt generally, is a natural currency for obvious reasons.  It's divisible, transportable, everlasting, and is accepted by everyone.  It has already been proposed by Jonathan Thomas in 2014 that shell beads in the Estramadura region were a kind of proto-currency at this time. See Bead Wampum.  Guerra believes that "white gold" facilitated the development of a Beaker pan-regional phenomenon.
herringbone pattern esparto bag from Portugal (commons)

The Algarve region hasn't exactly been known as Beaker country in the past, but right to the north they fill dump trucks with Beaker pottery.  Guerra Doce believes that the maritime herringbone decoration is a skeuomorph of the traditional, desalinization esparto bags of this region.

Skeuomorph?  Fig 3. Comparison of esparto bag and maritime pot

She believes that somehow the style traveled north by way of fancy salt containers that were of themselves an object of prestige and want.  And why not put a fancy whiskey in a fancy bottle?  Perhaps this skeuomorph copied itself to hillbilly AOC style pottery to create a hybrid pottery form.  Below you can see how a salt container in an esparto bag might have been filled over time.

I'm having a difficult time understanding what "bread of salt" means in Spanish or Portuguese.  It has a similarly weird significance in the Slavic languages as you might treat a guest.  In the Germanic and  Celtic languages there is an association between salt or mixed like *brac and bread, maybe both of which mean break or *bhreg.

In any case, the 'salt loaf' is important for covenant-making, as in the wedding covenant, which is why throughout Europe the bride and bridegroom exchange bride-cake, which is a salt-bread loaf.  There are other customs like the bride throwing salt over the shoulder and whatever.

The deeper question is what this says about Bell Beakers if it were true that Portuguese salt was widely distributed in Europe.  They liked very fine things.  But why?  Would they have valued it for religious reasons, weddings or funerals?  Does currency necessarily mean anything, like the Spanish Dollar?

“La sal y el Campaniforme en la Península Ibérica: Fuente de riqueza, instrumento de poder ¿y detonante del origen del Estilo Marítimo?”. En V.S. Gonçalves (ed.): Sinos e Taças: Junto ao océano e mais longe. Aspectos da presença campaniforme na Península Ibérica. Lisboa: UNIARQ, Estudos e Memórias, 10, pp. 342-353  [Link]

ABSTRACT Among the mechanisms that Beaker individuals might have drawn upon
by the mid-3rd millennium cal BC in order to attain wealth and power, and consequently
acquire a social position, Iberian Beaker groups might have assumed control over the pro
duction and circulation of salt. This paper is aimed at further exploring this issue, and
assessing the possible link between the origin of the Beaker phenomenon, or, more specifically, the Maritime Beaker pots, and the production of salt in the Portuguese Estremadura region.
KEY-WORDS: Bell Beaker. Salt. Circulation. Tagus estuary. Skeuomorphs.
savory spices

*This forthcoming paper was mentioned in 2015 in "The Bell-beaker complex in Portugal: an overview" by Joao Cordoso.  He has this paper coming in 2016, but I'll assume that Guerra had already delayed some of these present ideas.  She did publish this in 2016 "Economic Foundations of Social Supremacy of Beaker Groups"  and this paper concerning salt production and beaker pottery in 2015.  I'm guessing that some ideas were delayed until this paper.

Amber in Prehistoric Iberia (Murrillo-Barroso et al, 2018)

Almost all the amber in Late Neolithic and Copper Age Southern Iberia is of Sicilian origin.  Simitite is a dark red color and found around the mouth of the Simeto River on the Eastern shore of Sicily.

This new paper by Murrillo-Barroso et al (2018) looks at the sources of Iberian amber through the ages.

It is proposed that Sicilian amber made its way to Iberia via North Africa, perhaps through Tunisia, rather than direct trade during the Copper Age.  Then strangely, this rich amber trade in Iberia is completely disrupted in the 2nd millennium along with most of Southern Europe when Baltic amber is most common.  The authors are not sure to what degree the Bell Beaker phenomenon is responsible for this.  Even then, Baltic amber appears somewhat restricted to the Northeast of the Peninsula in the Bronze Age, at least for the moment.

Also, the disruption in the southern amber trade is indicative of a larger disruption in the Mediterranean economic network involving other commodities and styling.  What kind of disruption?  Plague? Pillaging? Piracy?

Amber decoration and over 1Million shell buttons on thirty women in a prince's grave!

One interesting question I would ask is to what extent Bell Beakers eventually settled or traded in Eastern Sicily around the outflow of the Simeto.  Not much or nothing that I see.  So it would seem that the Beakers were either unable to wrest control of this resource from the natives in Eastern Sicily, and/or perhaps the Sicilian cartel was a competitor of an increasingly powerful Central European network?

Maybe Baltic amber was cheaper, more abundant, stronger networks.  But looking at other materials it seems more than just economics or social re-alignment.  Disruption seems like the right word.

Murillo-Barroso M, Peñalver E, Bueno P, Barroso R, de Balbõ Ân R, Martino Ân-Torres M (2018)
Amber in prehistoric Iberia: New data and a review. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0202235.
10.1371/journal.pone.0202235  PLOS ONE


 Provenancing exotic raw materials and reconstructing the nature and routes of exchange is a major concern of prehistoric archaeology. Amber has long been recognised as a key commodity of prehistoric exchange networks in Europe. However, most science-based studies so far have been localised and based on few samples, hence making it difficult to observe broad geographic and chronological trends. This paper concentrates on the nature, distribution and circulation of amber in prehistoric Iberia. We present new standardised FTIR analyses of 22 archaeological and geological samples from a large number of contexts across Iberia, as well as a wide scale review of all the legacy data available. On the basis of a considerable body of data, we can confirm the use of local amber resources in the Northern area of the Iberian Peninsula from the Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age; we push back the arrival of Sicilian amber to at least the 4th Millennium BC, and we trace the appearance of Baltic amber since the last quarter of the 2nd Millennium BC, progressively replacing Sicilian simetite. Integrating these data with other bodies of archaeological information, we suggest that the arrival of Baltic amber was part of broader Mediterranean exchange networks, and not necessarily the result of direct trade with the North. From a methodological perspective, thanks to the analyses carried out on both the vitreous core and the weathered surfaces of objects made of Sicilian simetite, we define the characteristic FTIR bands that allow the identification of Sicilian amber even in highly deteriorated archaeological samples.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hattem Houses Ahead? (De Stentor)

There is a settlement search underway in Hattem, Netherlands for the elusive klokbekercultuur settlements.  This yesterday from De Stentor Magazine.

They have an idea of what Beaker houses should look like and they are fairly optimistic of finding some near a previous graveyard.  Michael Klomp appears to be heading up the investigation.

Not local.
Excavation will last ten weeks from now. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Siret's Smile? Part 2 (Jean Guilaine, 2018)

Here's part 2 on Siret's Smile published in Antiquity.

Guilaine's counter-arguments to Kossinna's Smile are condensed here with a few notes.  Some concepts like 'diffusion' mentioned in part 1 need a little context when considering similarities and differences between Kossinna and Siret.  Here, diffusionism includes migration or outside stimulation and is opposed to acculturation or internal innovation.  Usage varies historically.

By invoking Siret, Guilaine is not arguing for an internally native Iberian origin of Beaker as opposed to steppic ones.  He sees different sources of the Iberian stimulation that were most important to the birth of proto-Beaker which is widely believed to have expanded from Iberia.  Whether or not this involves a genetic component would be irrelevant in this argument, and the cultural and genetic identity of Continental Beakers is probably irrelevant to this discussion as well.

Stele from Lacunae, Tarn, France (snip Fig 1)

Guillaine counters Heyd on three points and they really center around the origin of the Beaker phenomenon from exterior day 1, especially in Iberia:
"In the present paper, partly as a response to that published by Heyd, I wish to comment on three issues among the many raised therein: [1] the anthropomorphic stelae, [2] the Chalcolithic funerary rituals and grave goods of southern Iberia, and [3] the origins of the ‘Maritime’ Bell Beaker tradition."

1.  Guilaine doesn't see anthropomorphic stelae in Western Europe as evidence of steppe influence from the East.  He thinks the various groups of stelae are too diverse to represent a single source borrowing and that they more represent themes and objects of local Neolithic cultures.  Guilaine views some of the groups, such as the Amorican group, as being too old (3500-3000) to be linked with Yamnaya specifically or any known Eastern influx.  He also sees the Western European stelae as a continuous development from the early Neolithic and following a pattern of increasing detail comparable to a similarly-phased evolution in the Pontic Steppe.

2.  Grave rituals and grave goods.  Guilaine doesn't see any special relationship between Pontic and Iberian sandals.  He makes reference to similar foot fetish in Southern Egypt and goes on to point to other exotic objects in Iberian tombs with North African or Eastern roots, rather than Pontic roots.
Sandal comparison by V. Heyd, "Kossinna's Smile"

3.  Guilaine believes the Maritime expression of the Bell Beaker is unrelated to events in Northern or Eastern Europe.  Like many others, he sees a uniquely southern expression in the Maritime beaker decoration that has no precedent in the Continent but does have antecedents in the decoration of pottery from certain Moroccan sites through which Southern Iberians traded heavily.  He also mentions the early dates.

It's important to consider that these archaeologists would probably agree on many points.  They probably agree on the importance of Iberia in spreading the early manifestations of Beaker Culture.  Kossinna's Smile took issue with holy archaeology denying what should have been obvious from the skeletal remains, but it also skewered the overly simplistic approach of ancient DNA.  Siret's Smile takes issue with the relationship between culture and ethnicity by disagreeing on what got the ball rolling in the first place.

Of course Beakerblog has opinions on a lot of this, but this post is already too long!  More stuff ahead.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Siret's Smile? Part 1 (Jean Guilaine, 2018)

Surprises in the tea leaves?  Sounds like new data ahead...maybe... "Siret's Smile" is discussed at Bernard's Blog.

And a little disclosure.  I've read the four sentences in the abstract and the references.  Hopefully a nice person will send me a copy of the paper!

The best I understand is that Gustav Kossinna and Louis Siret represent different flavors of a diffusionist archaeological interpretation.  From this viewpoint, innovation occurs rarely in humanity and when it does, like the invention of the airplane or the use of metals, it originates from an epi-center, a homeland, and by some process spreads to other places, sometimes dragging an entire cultural package with it.

Diffusion is demonstrably more often the lazy act of borrowing, but it can also be a full-blown, heads-spinning-off-shoulders population replacement in the other extreme.  Major disruptions in the archaeological record, according to the diffusionist perspective, are not evidence of a kind of localized punctuated equilibrium, they are instead actual disruptions from an external source.

Kossinna viewed culture as necessarily rooted in ethnicity and equated changes in material culture with changes in ethnicity, whereas Siret viewed religion and technology as the glue that bound most cultures together, however routinely stimulated from the outside.  "Kossinna's Smile" was published as a prelude to, and with foreknowledge of, The Bell Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwestern Europe.  From that study we learned that the heads-spinning-off-the-shoulders variety was the primary instigator for material change in the Island of Britain.

Importantly, Volker Heyd sees the original, external stimulation of proto-Beaker Culture in Iberia as potentially having subtle steppic tendencies.  That's probably a minority view, but he gives examples of this in his paper.  In other words, I doubt he would he would accept that the northern and southern Beaker domains had totally discrete origins that were simultaneously and coincidentally expanding on each other and somehow melded into pan-Beaker through acculturation.

"Siret's Smile" by Guilaine is a reply to Heyd's "Kossinna's Smile" which may be nothing more than an argument for what embodies the Beaker Culture center of gravity.  This question is dealt with by David Reich in the video presentation linked by Bernard, and Reich clearly sees religion as the glue of Beaker material culture in opposition to the ethnically monolithic Corded Ware.

Guilaine appears to be of an opinion similar to Oliver Lermercier, Convertini, Besse & co. in the idea of a Greek Implantation Model of the Beakerization of SW Europe.  It's a diffusionist view also, which emphasizes the evangelization of local people by elites.  It may be entirely valid for this region.  But I doubt he's arguing acculturation, and looking at the abstract, it seems that Guilaine's argument and style (Siret's Smile) is hinting (or taunting) at even newer evidence not disclosed, maybe genetic.

Although Siret's chronology for Southern Iberia is technically outdated, in broad terms he saw the beginning of the Metal Age in Southern Iberia as being stimulated from the Eastern Mediterranean, which he called "Phoenician".  These were colonies of skilled men devoted to mining and trade with high status who upgraded the local culture.  Then in the regular Bronze Age, Iberia went through the process of "Celticization", as he called it. (Aranda Jimenez, 2015, pg8) Which brings us to the tea leaves...

At 1:53 in the video Bernard linked, David Reich specifically says that there was almost "no shared ancestry between the Spanish practitioners of this culture..and the Central European ones...".  But let's look at that statement closely.  According to Siret's view (Guilaine), that's kind of irrelevant since most Spanish practitioners of this culture are native Spanish who have become indoctrinated in a new religion.  And Guilaine, at least from the snippets I viewed, emphasizes the role of the Eastern Mediterranean elites (Siret) in remaking early Metal Age Spain.

Of course, during the Bronze Age Spain is increasingly Steppified (Celtified), and later, actually Celtified.

So of course Guilaine presents new archaeological data in this paper to counter Heyd.  I haven't seen it yet, but when I do, I'll post part 2.  I imagine that it's new data from Valencia de Conception which will be rather conclusive, like isotopes or updated radiocarbon dates.  I may be reading too much into this, but I imagine ancient DNA (not disclosed in this paper) maybe be lurking around the corner to offer a new twist to the narrative.  Maybe not.


Recent palaeogenomic data have expanded the debate concerning the direction of cultural transmission during the European Chalcolithic by suggesting the western movement of people from the Eurasian Steppe. Heyd (2017) considers a simultaneous spread of material culture as supportive of these model. The author addresses Heyd’s suggestions in the light of new archaeological data from the southern Iberian Peninsula. These data strongly suggest both Eastern Mediterranean and endogenous influences and innovation in the spread of culture across Europe during the third millennium BC.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Handsome Horseman

A 20 year old Bell Beaker man was recently discovered in Rock, Northumberland wrapped in a horsehair blanket.  He was about 5'10" or 1.79m with remarkable skeletal symmetry and healthy, straight teeth.

A short video was later produced by the BBC here.

Handsome Horseman

You can see his grave is practically a vault.  Graves from Howick a few miles away are pretty stout as well.  Even though graves continue to be found in this area and along the beach, archaeologists have had a difficult time locating settlement activity in this neck of the woods during the time of the Beakers.

Head and horsehair (BBC)
The horsehair blanket is an interesting twist.  Assuming the coloration of the hair coat is in fact bay, then we should assume that the horsehair blanket was made from the hair coat of a domesticated horse.

the funerary beaker (Jessica Turner via the BBC)

Archaeozoologist Laura Kaagan has done work on the Beaker period horses and believes the Exmoor pony to be similar in form, if not an unimproved descendant of those early Beaker period horses.  Hopefully we will see some genetic testing of this horsehair blanket since we can be fairly sure of its color and utilization by the Beakers.  Although I'm not too optimistic about genetic analysis on domestics, we may get some surprise relations to the Exmoor.

Exmoor ponies (commons)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ava's Scapula - Supper, Supplication or Sound?

Archaeologist Allison Sheridan takes questions on "Ava the Beaker" in the Achavanich Beaker Burial Project podcast with archaeologist-interviewer Maya Hoole.

At 7:50 Sheridan discusses Ava's high status as indicated by a cow shoulder blade in the grave.  But does a cow scapula necessarily point to a food offering, or are there other possibilities?  If it was a food offering, could the preference of this cut tell us something about food preparation in the Scottish Early Bronze Age?

By Hew Morrison via Smithsonian Magazine

The right-hand scapula is an interesting selection for Beakers to have included in her grave.  After all, they were a cattle people and no strangers to the anatomy or mythology of cattle parts.

Since the animal may have been butchered for the occasion of Ava's death, we should assume that she had a favorable cut, or at least some non-random process determined what ended up in her grave.

I'll offer two and a half alternative purposes for Ava's cow bone selection.  The first has quite a bit of historical support, though I can't say to what degree if ever it was used as a grave item.  The second is much more speculative, but interesting nonetheless.  The third is just a few notes.

1.   Scapulimancy.  A scapula reader saw a good omen in the bone.

The prominence of European scapulimancy can't be under-appreciated when considering this case.  In Scotland, this is called slinneineachd in the old tongue, which is interpreting a boiled, right-hand scapula. (Spence, 1999).  Beakers were cattle folk and it would be difficult to see superstitious Beakers inserting an unread scapula into the grave.  OTOH, it looks as if Ava's scapula is a left-hand shoulder, so maybe not? Did this bone have meat on it?  

Also, does the bone appear to have a few red stains?  Is that cinnabar or ochre?  If so, how did it get on the bone?

In a scapulmancy scenario, we might imagine that different relatives came in for the wake.  Hillbillies walk by and touch her cold hands and they all drink very heavily and process a bullock, quartering it out for the guests.  Some bug-eyed person reads the boiled scapula, it's a message of fortune.  Maybe Ava shared a number of fears toward her end, like the well-being of her child(ren) or the meaningfulness of her own life.  The good answer may have been inserted in the grave for that reason.

See also Scapulimancy in occultopedia,

2.  Ava played some sort of harp or lyre.

Again, it's a bit curious that she is buried with a scapula, although it may be a left-hand. A hypothesis by Matahisa Koitabashi, 2013 concerned Near Eastern RH-notched bovine scapulas.  Basically, he believes it's the frame is some sort of scraper musical instrument, but not a lute bridge as previously suggested.  Without notches, it's hard to see it as a warping paddle, although I've suggested previously that Beaker women were often buried with sewing kits.

The scapular bone is easily scraped from the beef (here at two minutes), and you can see how large the harp-like bone actually is.  Maybe it's ironic that a scapula looks like a harp or lyre, or even that the harp is associated with a goddess like Egyptian Hathor or the bovine lyres of Sumeria. 

Freeze from "A Journey through Scotland's Part: The Age of Bronze"

3.  And finally, let's get to the beef cuts.

One thing that may not be so obvious is how beef is cut and prepared in the island of Britain historically.  In the United States, Bar-b-Que is a tradition originating in Southern England (Narnia) and in which the preference for meat was typically over the fire.  For this reason, blackening leaner cuts gives a flavorful taste and so the back cuts, rump and flanks come out pretty good.

The forward of the cow which has lots of marbling (the round) gets turned into ground beef or stew cubes.  This is important because in the borderlands and northern areas of Britain making beef stews was the cooking preference, so fatty meats may have been the prime for boiling with vegetables.

Even in the most primitive, hunter-gatherer society, cutting beef or buffalo is a science, so I highly doubt Beakers simply tossed a slab of beef over the shoulder into a grave.  That bone is evidence of something:  supper, supplication or sound. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Beakerfolk and Cystic Fibrosis (Farrell et al, 2018)

Smithsonian Magazine has an article of interest for Beakerwatchers and migration archaeology specialists:

"Tracking Down the Origins of Cystic Fibrosis in Ancient Europe" - Smithsonian Magazine

Farrell via Smithsonsian Mag

That Smithsonian article reduces down the most recent study by Philip Farrell et al in the August 2018 issue of Nature "Estimating the age of p.(Phe508del) with family studies of geographically distinct European populations and the early spread of cystic fibrosis"

Back in 2015 I blogged about their previous research in "Origin and Spread of Cystic Fibrosis".

That's enough reading anyway, but I'll give you the ultra Cliff's Notes version:

- Cystic Fibrosis is mostly limited to Caucasians and it clearly peaks in Northwestern Europeans
- The mutation spread around the time Beakerfolk were marauding through Western Europe
- Cystic Fibrosis sucks to death if you have two copies
- But for others, it must have some useful purpose - exposure to heavy metals is a strong possibility
- The ancestral carriers were from the neighborhood of the Black and Caspian Seas

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Moonmen from Far Away?

What genders were the primary solar and lunar deities of the Bell Beaker Culture?
It's generally agreed that among the gods worshiped by PIE's, two prominent gods were a solar goddess (*suh2lio-) and a lunar god (*Meh1not-).  These assignments were in opposition to the Mediterranean Basin where gender roles of the sun and moon were reversed, and different from the basque religion which apparently lacked opposing genders in favor of female celestial deities.

Proto-historical descriptions of the far north and northwest raise the possibility that this region at one time concentrated attention toward a feminine solar figure.  Because of the implications of steppe-like ancestry, let's re-examine the gendered artifacts that suggest celestial dualism.

Boar's tusk pendants as worn
It is only with men where we find the bone-colored, lunar pendants associated with many Continental European Beakers.  In previous posts, Greek mythology was used to interpret their suggestive values because it is better attested.  And while the attributes are sensible, there is some residual evidence that the original Proto-Greek moon god was instead male.  Do these masculine tusk artifacts point to the veneration of a god?

Is the down-facing position of these tusks in someway suggestive?  Maybe not, but have a look at the inverted, feminine lunulae and then compare to the representation of the goddess Nut and her consort, Geb.

via National Museum of Wales

Solar-boat lunulae were probably worn by women due to their geographical opposition to jet-bead lunulae in Britain.  At least in the far north of Europe, it might make more sense to see a goddess driving a solar-boat full of dead people than a male god like Ra.  Plus, we have many respectable warriors buried with the complete "man's room" - never this golden boat.

Excluding men's basket earrings*, the later golden solar hats and cape of the EMBA appear to be associated with women based on body and head sizes.  Though the phallic hats would seem rude for goddess worship, as Sulis was patroness of fertility, rude may have been the order of business.

man things and woman things

The metaphor of the wolf-tooth necklaces might make a little more sense when looking at wolf-teeth and bi-valve spring shell necklaces of Corded Ware women (might she be associated with springs like Bath?).  Maybe a more direct understanding of these necklaces could be made with Saule from the Baltic religions.  All this is just food for thought.  There's a lot of contradictions that can be seen.

Marian Catholics of both genders often wear a gold cross or Marian medallion.  Obviously Beakers of both genders are worshiping the same gods in ways that are similar and different.

*Until another idea takes its place, I proposed the idea that basket earrings were attached to quills.  Based on the shaped of the missing Kirkhaugh half, raptor quills that men wore in their headband.
I have no idea what that means.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Schnursprecher Glockensprecher? (Kristiansen et al, 2017)

Kristiansen et al, 2017endorsed and elaborated on the hypothesis that Proto-Germanic was born in the traditional North Sea urheimat as an intermingling between the likely IE-speaking Corded Ware/Battle Axe Culture and the local, non-IE speaking Funnelbeaker farmers, among others.

This older linguistic hypothesis posits that Germanic words without clear etymologies are probably not IE and that the early sound shift in Proto-Germanic is the influence of a native tongue.  Since IE daughter languages generally have native substrates, it is reasonable that PtG borrowed as well.

While the core intent of the Kristiansen paper is focused on the genetic influence of the PtG and PIE homelands, I think identifying the Corded Ware as the prime linguistic ancestor of the people who would become proto-Germans is problematic for a host of reasons. The Germanic substrate hypothesis is vital to this, and yet it continues to be pruned back from its former status as 'an explanation for everything weird in Germanic'.

Also important to this augmented hypothesis is an outdated linguistic phylogeny stuffing Centum Germanic into a North European node with Balto-Slavic, which I'm not sure even the most bug-eyed lumper would support today.

Rather than review a host of supporting facts evenhandedly, I'll just throw darts at this narrative. If you disagree, tell me why.

Odin and Frigg (Leeke)
1. Proto-Germanic is descended from a squarely centum language, sufficiently removed from the cultural zone of Balto-Slavic and Indo-Aryan. It would become necessary to say that satemization partially baked the eastern half on the Corded Ware nation, not the western half, after CW had spread into the continent.

But if Tocharian is descended from the language of the Afanasievo Culture (Yamnaya, jr.), then it would be a remarkable coincidence that the isogloss just happens to stop at the point where lineages commonly associate with the Corded Ware nation and its descendants transitions to that of languages and lineages associated with centumization and R1b.  (Also since publishing this post, a number of early historical German tribes have been sampled and unsurprisingly, are very R1b and very Western)

2. Here's a problem regarding the Nordic Bronze Age origin that can be summarized in a single axiomatic statement. When Bell Beakers existed near other human beings, even as small minorities, the Bell Beaker cultural expression and posture is always dominant, without exception. I think this is especially true with the development of the Nordic Bronze Age and the maritime culture emphasis.

So we would have to accept that Beaker language, while present and plausibly Centum, did not permanently influence this area, but that a "Centum" Corded Ware language did.

3. But it might not matter anyway. A more refined understanding of Proto-Germanic by specialists has shown that 'germanisms' are part of a natural linguistic process over a long period of time. Some of the most identifiable characteristics of parental proto-German may be rather late.

The point is that these changes didn't happen in a decade or a hundred year period or something. They happened gradually and that that inertia continued after the breakup of proto-German and continues today, self-stimulated.

4.  Like the probable spread of Celtic in Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Britain, it may disappoint a lot of Germanic language speakers if the origin and spread of proto-Germanic is no older than the Jastorf Culture in which elite speakers dominated a region of archaic tongues prior to the first millennium.

This doesn't mean that Germanic is not native to the region.  Germanic certainly broke off the mother tongue in its own right and it absolutely makes sense that it dwelled in a North Sea linguistic bubble for a long time.  It may even be the case that a host of para-pre-proto-germanic (!) languages existed in the region.  

What doesn't jive is that break-up of actual proto-Germanic is just too late to envision a wide-spread "Germanic proto-nation". Somebody's axe-wielding elite dominated somebody else recently. Jastorf looks red-handed in all of this - timing, language influences, directionality.

Here's a very short chapter "The Sea and Bronze Age Transformations" by Prescott, Sand-Eriksen and Austvoll in Water and Power in Past Societies (Emily Holt, 2018)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


We come in peace!

Still working on the Beakerbus.  Hope you like the front license plate.  

Beakerblog is almost back in the saddle. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Prince and His Twenty Wives (Garcia Sanjuan et al, 2018)

Try and wrap your mind around the size of the gigantic Copper Age site, Valencia de Concepcion.  If even a tenth of it was utilized at a time, that sector would still shadow most any contemporary site in Europe.  One of these sectors contains some very rich and interesting graves.  This large paper by Garcia Sanjuan et al is Open-Access, linked below.   

Crystal & Ivory from Valencina de la Concepción, S.W. Spain Garcia SanJuan et al
(foto: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia)

The grave above and beyond any other belonged to a man possessing this crystal dagger.  BTW, Be on the lookout for DNA that will follow these radiocarbon dates.  There is a related paper in the same journal by Antonio Blanco-Gonzales concerning demographic 'dynamics' in this region in the Copper and Bronze Age, so you know it's coming.  It'll be surprising if there are no surprises.  I'll start psyching myself out now.

The prince buried with the crystal dagger is identified in PP4-Montelirio Structure 10.049.  See also [link]   He is absolutely, positively the richest, big-man burial in all of Europe at this time with competition only from Goldfinger in Varna.

This Copper Age prince was buried in a vault at the end of a very long, stone-vaulted corridor (39 meters, or 127 feet).  The entire gamut was painted with priceless cinnabar.  Although the archaeologists shy away from any speculation based on the fragmentary evidence, it does appear that the prince of 10.049 was buried with around two dozen or so twenty-to-thirty-year-old women.

The large chamber also included a steppic-like steale and a number of gold, African ivory, ostrich and other objects.  Volker Heyd describes some of these in "Kossinna's Smile".   Using a large number of new radiocarbon dates from this tomb, a fairly secure date of build and burial puts it around 2850-2750 B.C.

In the discussion part of the paper, there is this comment:
Anecdotally, when excavations of this monument began in 2007, the Spanish media reported extensively on comments (intended just as informal remarks) by one of the team members, who claimed that the individuals buried in the main chamber (mostly women) may have formed part of the ‘grave goods’ of an important individual buried there, in a scenario similar to the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi from the Third Dynasty of Ur, in Mesopotamia.
Everything written above, including the title of the post, came from simply looking at the fact that a man buried with a crystal dagger was buried with a large number of young women.  In fact, I almost made a comment like this "similar to the tomb of Queen Pu-Abi from the Third Dynasty of Ur".  All of this without any knowledge of what was reported in the Spanish media.

If crystal daggers equal golden 9mm Brownings or gold AK-47's, and golden guns correspond to harems, then a crystal dagger correlates with roughly twenty women.  Oddly enough though, it would seem that these women wouldn't be the mothers of his children (his wives) for the reason that he would want his children to be raised successfully.

So maybe they're virgin priestesses, or the opposite of that.  Or maybe they were his wives and they were all killed by a political enemy at the same time, or an jealous wife. 

Several things I hope to see in the DNA.  1)  Verification that all the skeletal remains are women 
2)  Are the women genetically similar or are they different...flavors (Qaddafi)  3)  What the heck is this man's profile?  4)  Are the two individuals in the smaller tomb his mother and father  5)  Do any of these people cluster with Bell Beakers or other European groups  6)  Is the man racially distinct from the women, or most of them 7)  Are STD's or lethal toxins present or determinable?

Fig 1 from the paper.  Contemporary copper age sites around Valencia de C.

"Assembling the Dead, Gathering the Living: Radiocarbon Dating and Bayesian Modelling for Copper Age Valencia de la Concepcion (Seville, Spain)"  Journal of World History, 2018
Leonardo Garcia Sanjuan et al...  [link]

Abstract: The great site of Valencina de la Concepcio´n, near Seville in the lower Guadalquivir valley of southwest Spain, is presented in the context of debate about the nature of Copper Age society in southern Iberia as a whole. Many aspects of the layout, use, character and development of Valencina remain unclear, just as there are major unresolved questions about the kind of society represented there and in southern Iberia, from the late fourth to the late third millennium cal BC. This paper discusses 178 radiocarbon dates, from 17 excavated sectors within the c. 450 ha site, making it the best dated in later Iberian prehistory as a whole. Dates are modelled in a Bayesian statistical framework. The resulting formal date estimates provide the basis for both a new epistemological approach to the site and a much more detailed narrative of its development than previously available. Beginning in the 32nd century cal BC, a long-lasting tradition of simple, mainly collective and often successive burial was established at the site. Mud-vaulted tholoi appear to belong to the 29th or 28th centuries cal BC; large stone-vaulted tholoi such as La Pastora appear to date later in the sequence. There is plenty of evidence for a wide range of other activity, but no clear sign of permanent, large-scale residence or public buildings or spaces. Results in general support a model of increasingly competitive but ultimately unstable social relations, through various phases of emergence, social competition, display and hierarchisation, and eventual decline, over a period of c. 900 years.

Nope to Nabta Playa (Brass, 2017)

People, pots and domesticates move together.  In North Africa, this started around 6,500 B.C.

Early North African Cattle Domestication and Its Ecological Setting: A Reassessment
Michael Brass (March 2018) Journal of World Prehistory.  Volume 1 / 1987 - Volume 31 / 2018

Nearly four decades have passed since an independent North African centre for cattle domestication was first proposed in 1980, based on the Combined Prehistoric Expedition’s work in the Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba region of southern Egypt, and the initial rigorous debates between Andrew B. Smith and Fred Wendorf, Romuald Schild and Achilles Gautier. More recently, geneticists have entered the fray with determinations on the spread of haplotypes, and the timing thereof, that extend the scope and increase the complexity of the debate. Here, a new look at the botanical data and a re-analysis of the geology of Bir Kiseiba–Nabta Playa rejects the ecological foundations of the early African domestication model, while a detailed examination of the published osteological and radiometric data from the same area reveals a more nuanced picture than has been recognised to date. These results are placed into context by a wider review of the genetic and other archaeological evidence from the Western Desert of Northeast Africa, where no other cattle remains designated as domesticated have been found. It is concluded that (a) Bos remains from the early Holocene at Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba were those of hunted aurochs; (b) domesticated caprines were likely present in Northeast Africa before domesticated cattle; and (c) the domesticated cattle spreading across Northeast and northern Africa, including Nabta Playa—Bir Kiseiba, from the late seventh millennium BC or early sixth millennium BC onwards were descendants of Bos taurus domesticated in the Middle Euphrates area of the Middle East.
A recent theory proposed by David Wright is that the sudden expansion of domestic cattle in the Sahara contributed greatly to the speed of catastrophic desertification.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hepititis B-eaker (Muhleman et al, 2018)

The Dailymail reports:

"Strain of hepatitis B found on a 4,500-year-old skeleton is the oldest human virus ever to be discovered"   .

As promised by David Reich, research into ancient remains is yielding information that may help conquer some of our most deadly diseases.

Glockenbechergrab ORF.

Although HBV is now known to be millions of years old, scientists are trying to understand how and when it started infecting mammals and finally humans.  Some theories suggest it was party to the OOA exodus, others say it may be more recent.

The infected Bell Beaker man was RISE563 from the cemetery of Osterhofen-Altenmarkt, Germany.  In addition RISE386 from the Sintashta Culture in Russia and a number of other Scythian related groups of Asia have HBV infections of different variants.

The Bell Beaker and a few other individuals belong to a HBV sister clade of the Chimpanzee-Gorilla node, which these scientists points to a more recent infection from Africa spreading into Eurasia.  But a cluster HBV clades in Asian steppe pastoral cultures point to some variants having a deeper history in Eurasia, however deep.

The position taken in this paper is that HBV diversity in moderns is not that informative in light of the high mobility seen in these samples and in recent papers.  (In fact, this grave at Altenmarkt was shown by Douglas Price et al years ago to belong to a high mobility isotopic group)  With that and the extinction of this old clade, the scientist claim that HBV may be overwriting its geographic positions and that the only way to formulate a hypothesis of its human relationship is through direct evidence on ancient human remains.

* News outlets are reporting that the oldest sample is 7,000 years old.  That's because they cut and paste each other without reading the paper.  RISE563 is the oldest reported in this paper.

"Ancient hepatitis B viruses from the Bronze AGe to the Medieval period"
Nature 2018.  Muhlemann, Willerslev et al. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0097-z 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bear Claw to LPIE

A lot of fur has been flying in the PIE debate recently which has been brought about by the addition of the most recent Near East genomes.  Enjoy the wonder while you can.

I'm now going to take a big bear claw to the notion that PIE can exist without EHG.  A number of the chief Harvard scientists are essentially suggesting this possibility, Lararidis, 2018.  As a consequence, LPIE becomes a chapter in a kaleidoscope narrative.  I'm all about some Gordon Whitakker Proto-Euphratean, but that's a separate topic.  This is about PIE, exterior day 1.

I'll offer a short narrative below to mete out where I think the stronger points can be found to dispel a southern, one half of itself origin.  Maybe I'll expand on these later.

"Strange Wives Part 1"

1.  Proto-Indo-European was the inevitable development of a world-system seeking to gain access to patrilocal, riverine communities in its periphery.  Traders cemented their interests with these fisher-woodsmen around the northern half and western inlets of the two seas the old fashioned way - by making them cousins.  Look no further than academia or entertainment to see what factors drive marriage decisions (and to see how quickly they dissolve when nepotic incentives dry up).  For incipient IE, this had to have happened at leadership levels and perhaps on a more massive scale involving women.

Since these rather small riverine villages were strongly patrilocal, the issues of trade - protection, passage and privilege - could be cultivated by the marriage of a southern-speaking daughter to the foreign lord, with loyalties and shared interests being nursed and expanded generation after generation.  There was an incentive for southern outfits in this global economy to develop these relationships, if for no other reason than to crowd out competing interests.

Make no mistake, the contribution of southern ancestry in PIE (the steppe) originates from this sophisticated world-system on a continuous basis, not some well-positioned archaeological culture in the northern reaches.  These northern and southern ancestries combined to create PIE.

The development of PIE at its most fundamental level requires interaction between these two spheres.  In all likelihood, a global trade language emanating from the Southern Caucasus/Northern Euphrates was widely understood in the basins of both seas, its river villages, and - apparently in many northern homes.  Perhaps a dynamic was in place for hundreds and hundreds of years in which very fertile crescenters overwhelmed the men of renown.

"Strange Wives Part 2"

2.  What is Late Proto-Indo-European?  What should it be?

LPIE is the Corded Ware-ization of the surviving IE groups, excluding Anatolian, Tocharian and Euphratean (if that exists, which I think it does).  That means all surviving IE cultures, to which I would include the Bell Beakers, have significant CW ancestry by different means.  In the case of the Beakers, it is strangely female-mediated over a short segment of time.

Am I wrong about those points?

One point worth considering is the similar but different situation at transitioning Lepenski Vir.  A similar bridal arrangement tamed these patrilocal barbarians, except the stream of ladies is coming from Western Anatolia it seems.  You can see the social process is similar, and necessary.  What this shows is that the situation was the rule, not the exception.

It's exceedingly difficult to see IE developing south of the seas.  The social and linguistic ingredients just aren't there.  Well, half of it is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Iberian After All (Alberto's Runs)

Let's look at a Szigetzentmiklos Bell Beaker with zero Steppe ancestry, grave 49, I2741.

Previously, I had wondered if this guy was a Spaniard.  I'm pasting what Eurogenes Alberto came up with, although I don't know what methodology or tool he's using (otherwise I'd comment on everything)


Iberia_Southwest_CA 48.44%
Czech_MN 28.91%
Baden_LCA 6.25%
Tisza_LN 4.69%
Wales_N 3.91%
Globular_Amphora 3.12%
Koros_HG:I4971 3.12%
Ukraine_Eneolithic:I4110 1.56%
Distance 1.875%

Everything looks pretty square for a guy from Budapest...... except for the Iberia_Southwest_CA 48.44%!
How about another one.

Grave 2 Beaker, (Moslein, 2005)

This is one of two brothers that have the same mother in Alburg, Bavaria, Germany.  Maternally H1e1a.  Since CWC is excluded from these analysis (which is fine), we get inflated Yamnaya, Ukraine and Sweden MN, since it wants to find a big chunk of CW that isn't there.  This small cemetery is described by Heyd as belonging to the later begleitkeramik phase, so we should have a trickle of weird Balkanesque stuff that became increasingly prominent in those Csepel communities early on.  Check.

Again in this example, we're poking around at SW Europe in the mid to low teens.  And what is the inspiration for a decoration such as this?


Sweden_MN 33.59%
Yamnaya_Samara 33.59%
Ukraine_Eneolithic:I6561 14.06%
Iberia_Central_CA 11.72%
LBKT_MN 5.47%
Greece_N 1.56%

Distance 2.3907%

Most of these folks are within a few generations of being mixed so it's especially important to look at individuals and context.

Anyhow, Iberian (or wherever) is all over the place, albeit very unevenly distributed if real.  Hopefully someone can try Hegenheim again.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Beaker G25 Ancestry Runs (Rocca)

I thought I'd cut and paste some of R. Rocca's early Beaker ancestry runs from Anthrogenica.
Check out his comments.

I'd have preferred to do this myself, but I just don't have time for anything at the moment.  But Rocca's runs are plenty for some commentary, so I'll highlight some of his observations and add a few more with snips from his post.

The first thing he does is take the oldest, directly-dated Bell Beakers and sees what they prefer among Neolithic European populations.  Makes sense.  Here's a snip from the oldest Beaker, a Dutchman.

================================================== ====
>> Beaker_The_Netherlands:I5748
>> 2579–2233 calBCE (3945±55 BP, GrN-6650C)
>>> P312+
================================================== ====
[1] "distance%=2.2331"


Comment #1.  You can see that like almost all Bell Beakers, the Dutchman has a very strong affinity for the Corded Ware people, either the German CWC or the Baltic CWC in various proportions.  Except in the Dutchman's case using this measure, it is a whopping 80%.

What you see in these Beakers and other runs are digits for Comb Ware, GAC, Narva or Sweden MN.  This is unquestionably NE European influence coming very directly from the Corded Ware Cultures.  The expansion of CWC in Europe was probably multi-polar, fluid and web-like, so the differences in digits among individuals might reflect the personal genealogies of particular wagon bands.  (being more or less of Swedish Battle Axe, Moravian, Dutch Single Grave, Baltic, etc, etc.)

Culturally this makes a lot of sense to me.  Phenotypically it makes sense.  The very first Mittle-Saale Beaker made sense as being half local CWC and something else.

It's not lost on me that there is a significant presence of R1b in the Narva Baltic where the CWC intruded, but that's a lot late and apparently the wrong stuff, plus we'd be looking at huge chunks of Narva (not the case).

Next, a Z2103 Malopolskan.
================================================== ====
>> Beaker_Poland:I4253
>> Z2103+
>> 2456–2207 calBCE (3850±20 BP, PSUAMS-2339)
================================================== ====
[1] "distance%=2.2247"


Comment #2.  Rocca notes that this Beaker is interesting in that he has a respectable chunk of Vucedol ancestry that his clan and most non-Iberian Beakers lack entirely.  I'm either right or wrong about this (I don't care in the slightest), but I'm pretty sure that a few individuals in Csepel Island, and by extension the Malopolskan region, have direct Yamnaya influence from the Tisza River region and south of this.  In fact, there's cultural influence to suggest this scenario.

I'm not denying the relatedness of the Yamnaya and Beaker Y-chromosomes.  Instead I'm just pointing out that it just ain't that simple, people.  Yes, I'm suggesting Bell Beakers and Yamnaya mixed within an erogenous zone. [cymbal shot]  I mean contact zone.

Now the Italian
================================================== ====
>> Beaker_Northern_Italy:I2478
>> P312+
>> 2194–1939 calBCE (3671±40 BP, LTL-5035A)
================================================== ====
[1] "distance%=2.6952"


Comment #3.  None of the Continental Beakers like them some Remedello, not even the Italian.  But Remedello, Vucedol and SW Iberia seem to have something together not insignificant.  He asks if this is the Stelae Road.  Some-'ems up, don't know what.

================================================== ====
>> Remedello:RISE489
>> I2a-M26
>> 2908-2578 calBCE (4185±70 BP, ETH-12188)
================================================== ====
[1] "distance%=2.3032"


================================================== ====
>> Vucedol:I3499
>> 2884-2666 calBCE (4176±28 BP, BRAMS-1304)
>> R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103
================================================== ====
[1] "distance%=2.2451"


================================================== ====
>> Iberia_SW_Chalcolithic:I6601
>> 2800–2600 BCE (No radiocarbon dates, but only Copper Age Portugese sample)
>> I2
================================================== ====
[1] "distance%=3.2808"


Comment #4  Clearly, Bell Beakers are poking all around at low levels in the Yamnayo-sphere.  What I've seen here and in other runs is something that splits between Kalmykia and Bulgaria.  If we go back to the Dutch Beaker at the top of the page, there isn't a whole lot of clutter.  Basically we have a fairly clean ancestry of 80% Corded Ware 10% France MN/LN and 10% Yamnaya.

I5748 is early enough and clean enough that he could probably tell you about his great-grandparents on his mom and dad's sides.  Would he tell you that his father's side were full-blooded Yamnaya immigrants or is this an indication that we should be more careful in examining early steppe influence in NE France and Germany?

If you got runs, by all means post them.   

Thanks to R. Rocca for posting these at Anthrogenica, I'll put up Alberto's next, then Andrew K's.

Car Boot Beakers

The DailyMail reports on a box of miscellaneous stuff (probably from an old detectorist) that turned-up at a car boot sale.  Inside was a folded-up work of Beaker gold.

The foil has the characteristic points around the edge, certainly Beaker period.  Not sure how long the unfurled foil was, but it looks longer than the description.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cotton Henge to be Bulldozed

Cotton Henge, a 4,000 year old ditched enclosure, will be dozed to make room for a new warehouse that will go out of business in 4 years.  Video interviews in the link.

"Growing anger over new development on top of prehistoric monument"  ITV

I want to put this in context so you can be properly pissed.  The developer and land owner already knew of the existence of the Neolithic ditched enclosure.  Features like this are clearly marked on the plat, the geological-topographical survey, county maps, archaeological surveys and numerous other documents.  > and websites Megalithic UK

Most of the time, springs, mines, small cemeteries, old wells and other such features are marked on the documents used to transfer property.  So if you want to build a warehouse, don't buy a tract and pretend you didn't know there was a 4,000 year old ditched enclosure when you signed the papers.

As a land owner, depending on the country, you have full legal rights to a tract of land including all minerals, water courses, surface and timber rights, so long as they are properly conveyed without reservations.  However, if that tract of land contains a small cemetery or items of archaeological significance you do not have the power to control those because they ARE THE NATURAL RESERVATION of the former owners (or at least a public interest).  You don't have rights to certain waters, easements or public concerns, like hunting endangered species or damming up a navigable creek.

What has happened here is that the developer is claiming that he has been unfairly burdened by the "discovery of an relatively unimportant archaeological site" and that rescue archaeology is the reasonable compromise to satisfy archaeology and development.  Look closely at what their doing.

Here's the thing.  Try to build a picket fence in the village of Cotton without fifty permits from the county and get shot down every time because of the thrity thousand regulations in the building code.  This is a fast-talking company that is twisting the ethical norms for a cheap return.  They give two shits about the local people or their heritage.

The long term damage isn't the loss of one archaeological site, it's that the very concept of rescue archaeology is damaged by shenanigans like this.  Plus the definition of what rescue archaeology is expanded from "oh crap, our dozer hit a stone cist" to one in which the archaeologists drive up to a site driving a cement mixer.  The mutual cooperation and trust between developers, archaeologists, city planners, private property owners, and the citizenry is eroded.  That isn't good for anybody.

See also,
Northhamptonshire Telegraph