Thursday, March 21, 2019

Beaker Language and a Badass Reconstruction

This was going to be a comment at Eurogenes, but it got kind of long and preachy because the topic is complex, so instead I'm pasting that comment here.

The question Davidski asks is, "What are the linguistic implications of Oldade et al, 2019?"

But first, let me interject and introduce you to some badass re-enactment photos from Jak obléci pračlověka.  These are well done.  Very well researched and up to date in many details.
Here's his site.  I'd like to feature a subsequent post on just these, and of course, a few comments.


Czech Bell Beaker drawing down for the kill
Back to Beaker language.

I think Beakers spoke a single language or intelligible dialects.  I'm confident that that language was Indo-European based on how the child cultures develop in the EMBA in Central Europe, particularly those descending into Bronze Age Italy.  Also, the low countries have strong continuity in the Hilversum and Elp Cutures and these are hypothesized to be speaking an IE language that was neither Celtic nor Germanic.  That follows to pre-LBA Britain and Ireland.

But!

Rather than try and defend the IE character of Bell Beaker, I think I'd rather make a case that they spoke a single language based on their habits, regardless of what the DNA says. 

Why one language?

1.  The geographic expanse of Bell Beaker was enormous.  Janusz Czebreszuk went so far as to say that in the history of Europe only the EU was of comparable size.  Very large inter-regional networks generally communicate in a single language regardless of what is spoken at home. 

2.  Beaker spreads across Europe shockingly fast.  In a short time they are in Ross, Doagh, Man, the Orkneys, little islands in the North Sea and the Baltics. They're all over the Western Mediterranean, sometimes in islands previously uninhabited or seldom visited.  They are literally in the Arctic and the Sahara at the same time.  If you read Volker Heyd's comments on the early Aegean Bronze Age or Jan Turek's "Echos", it's possible these people were really canoeing waaaay out there.
They moved over long distances quickly because they were horse-riders and boatsmen. 

3.  It wasn't all style.  Most everywhere, Beakers lived by or with other people, maybe even in the same house.  Even when they lack Steppe ancestry, their heads are still deformed which means as infants they were raised as Beakers.  So their culture is more than hip artifacts and styles, it's their upbringing and their ancestry. 

4.  Beaker religion and superstition is clearly different from the Neolithic.  Their expressions are, as Antonio Valera commented, almost iconoclastic, being always schematic, geometric and skeumorphic.  Because they were not literate, traditions and myth were conveyed through storytelling and singing.  Beaker religion and Beaker language were almost certainly connected as we should expect for Bronze Age religion and language.

5.  Beakers essentially controlled most of the avenues of movement in Western Europe.  Lots of peoples lived around Csepel Island.  Lots of people lived around the Tagus Estuary.  But it is Beakers who impose themselves in these examples as the dominant, intrusive group.  This is an important point, because it really doesn't matter what language most people in Portugal or Hungary spoke, the important thing is that if you wanted something, or wanted to go somewhere, you'd be dealing with Beakers.  VanderNoort made a somewhat similar observation regarding riverine and island hopping settlements.

6.  Beakers seemed to have recognized and sometimes tolerated Beakers from other regions.  It's fascinating to see Beakers who plausibly come from different backgrounds in the same locality or even in the same cemetery as other Beakers (consider Southern Britain, or the Mesetas, or Little Poland).  This is huge because it tells us about how they viewed themselves as a nation.  Beakers from Brittany, the Middle and Lower Rhine, and probably Portugal, can be found within several miles of each other in Southern Britain.

Time, space, money, identity and God, I'll bet there was only one language.



Monday, March 18, 2019

"Bell Beaker Settlement of Europe" (Gibson, 2019)

If your local library has a wish list, try and get this pre-order added.  Sounds like it'll have some good graphics.  Here's the Oxbow order.  Here's the Amazon one.

There's 19 topic chapters and the list of contributors is phenomenal.  For readers of this blog interested in genetics and migration, this collection of perspectives regarding settlement patterns, settlement reuse and cohabitation will be most interesting.

Click on either link to see the Table of Contents.
Oxbow this September
"European studies of the Bell Beaker phenomenon have concentrated on burial and artefacts that constitute its the most visible aspects. This volume concentrates on the domestic sphere – assemblage composition, domestic structures (how they differ, if at all, from previous types, legacies), and provides the first pan-European synthesis of its kind. It is a Europe-wide survey and analysis of Bell Beaker settlement structures; this is particularly important as we cannot understand the Bell Beaker phenomenon by analysing graves alone. Neither should we view Bell Beakers in isolation but must consider the effect that they had on already existing Late Neolithic cultures in the areas in which they appear. This volume is therefore intended to view the settlement aspect of Bell Beakers in context throughout Europe. It is the text book for Chalcolithic settlements and society. Contributors to the 19 papers belong to Europe-wide affiliation of experts specialising in Bell Beakers and the Chalcolithic (Archeologie et Gobelets) which addresses common pan-European issues surrounding the appearance and spread of Bell Beakers. This book summarises that data from the UK and many of the continental European countries; an increasingly important element of Beaker studies following recent isotopic and DNA evidence showing that the phenomenon was a result of human migration and not that of cultural ideas, trade and ideology. Each chapter deals with a defined region or country and is fully illustrated, including a corpus of Beaker houses and comparing then with Late Neolithic domestic structures where they are known to exist. The following themes will be addressed: 1. Regional syntheses in the UK and in Europe; 2.What native cultures existed before the arrival of Bell Beakers?; 3. What domestic ceramics were being used before the arrival of Bell Beakers?; 4. What stone and flint types were in use?; 5. What did pre-Bell Beaker houses look like? What size were they?; 6. What (if any) changes to 1–4 above resulted after the appearance of Bell Beakers?"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Halberstadt Beakers Unveiling (26 March - Harz University)

If you're in the neighborhood of Halberstadt and interested in Glockenbechers, check out the link in this Hochschule Harz university newspaper.  Dr. Matthias Sopp has invited the public to attend the presentation.

Dr. Sopp via the university article

Since October, the German archaeologists have recovered 22 graves totalling 30 individuals.  Most of these are Bell Beaker graves, although several belong to the Unetice Culture that eclipses it.

Look at that head shape!  If anyone goes, post something about it in the comments.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Stone Married Up (Pearson et al, 2019)

M.P. Pearson & UCL have released a new study in Antiquity,"Megalith quarries for Stonehenge's Bluestones", and it confirms and pinpoints half of Stonehenge's bluestones to a time and specific place in a Welsh quarry known as Carn Goedog. 

The bluestones form the smaller Q and R circle & horseshoe of spotted dolerite within the outer sarsens trilithons (see diagram below), but still weigh up to two tons.  Since Carn Goedog is on the northside of Wales, Pearson and colleagues think they made much of the 150 mile journey over land.
 
Pearson and bluies (Adam Sandford via CNN)
One thing can now be conclusively crossed off the list.  Glaciers dumping these boulders off in the Salisbury plain - nope.  At least for the bluestones, these were collected and transported by people.  The researchers have found the ancient tools to quarry the stones and the exposed rock invite the possibility that this is the exact location where the stones will marry up. 


Based on the dates taken at Carn Goedog, the stones were quarried around 3,000 with considerable confidence and very closely corresponds to the Aubrey holes of Stonehenge.  The Aubrey holes are thought to be the original position of the bluestones before the entire monument was re-arranged for a new religion (probably by the Bell Beakers).

At the quarry, it appears that the remaining stones were 'protected'.  That means whoever controlled the quarry piled a bunch of crap around and below the native 'bluestones' to prevent any more from being quarried -weird!

The ancient quarry Carn Goedog (Adam Sandford via CNN)
Finally, it's possible that this half of the Stonehenge bluestones (and probably the other half as well), were originally part of another monument, if only a short while.  It might be a situation similar to Medieval relict-plundering - the stealing of religious items for another holy place.

That probably would have happened before the Beakers, however it was likely Beakers that moved the bluestones to their tighter position before finishing the monument in its current form.



Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Undead in Eching-West? (Sueddeutsche Zeitung)

Via Sueddeutsche Zeitung: "Lebenszeichen der Urahnen"

Archaeologists Delia Hurka and Birgit Anzenberger have uncovered a five acre site in Freising, Bavaria which includes quite a few Bell Beaker deposits.  The pits look like graves but appear to lack skeletal remains despite the presence of complete skeletons from later periods.  Hurka and Anzenberger wonder if children were buried whose delicate remains faded into oblivion.

Another possibility could be that this is part of a growing list of Beaker deposits that look like graves but are actually something else ritual related, involving smashed pottery and divided or single article offerings.  Rojo-Guerra et al, 2014 was one recent paper on this party pit phenomeon.


We'll see.  I think one satisfying possibility is these are bothros pits which may explain the underworldly nature of the deposit.  Whatever they are, they're everywhere.  All throughout Europe. 

I don't know if that is the case at Eching, but the brief description sounds like it has the prosphoric gift tendency (Prosphora- for the lack of an actual word, something that has been broken or divided in a small ritual gift of a piece of a whole that connects the living and the dead.) 

A single piece of gold foil was found in one of the pits, I'll try and find a picture.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Specialized Beaker Archers!! (Ryan et al, 2018)

This study on ancient archers has been in the works for a while, and eagerly anticipated.  Well, it's here.  As this work continues to develop in an upcoming doctoral thesis,  Jessica Ryan's data will add new social dimensions of the Bell Beakers.  There's some surprising results.

Mounted Beaker Archer

This is the first step in what will be an expanding collection of skeletal data on specialist Bell Beakers.  Since trade specialties often leave entheseal and other changes on the skeleton, it's possible to understand the repetitive motions and stresses that may be associated with certain activities.

Because of burial context, Ryan could associate or interpret certain entheseal stress and muscle-headedness with archery stress.  Jessica Ryan took 27 Bohemians, which included 10 suspected archers, and found differences that defined the suspected archers as a group of "specialist archers".  These Central European archers have been hypothesized to have used short composite bows, whose development coincides with mounted warfare.*

As Jessica Ryan will be expanding the study throughout the Eastern Domain for her doctoral thesis, the initial focus on Bohemia is to refine the methodology.  One issue she remains aware of, and in fact has evidence of here, is that most Beakers may have been archers of some competency (similar to the universality of archery in Medieval England). So comparison between groups is formally clarified to mean a distinction between suspected archers (or specialists) and non-suspected archers (presumably mom and pop folks who are not specialists). 

Ryan, Desideri & Besse identify archer burials with the typical diagnostic set.  They look at the stress indicators and musculature, comparing these individuals with non-suspected archer Beakers.  Although the differences between groups are subtle, it's important to define what that means here.  Most individuals had entheseal changes associated with archery, but the distinction between them and specialists is in the severity of those changes and the associated archaeological contexts.  The most important factor in interpretation is not comparison between individuals or groups, it is the network of changes that can be observed working together on the skeleton.  (If enough of the skeleton is present, then it can be used for statistical analysis between groups)

They present an additional line of evidence that stone bracers, whatever their function, are indeed associated with experienced archers.**  Importantly, it is possible to see in the human remains something akin to a social category or distinction in daily labor.  That's what's surprising here.  Non-specialist archers had 'other' physical stresses that the warriors did not.  I don't know what those were, but we've seen in other studies on Beakers where some people work harder than others.

A Mittle-Saale Beaker by Karol Schauer
I'll bet this study expands beyond the Eastern Domain and into potentially related areas, such as hip dysplasia.  This makes me remember Stuart Needham's recent work on Beaker knife fights or Horn's work on halbards.  The data continues to tell a story of a tough people who were frequently feuding with each other or in general war.


J. Ryan/J. Desideri/M. Besse: Bell Beaker Archers: Warriors or an Idealogy?  JNA 20, 2018S, 97-122 [doi 10.12766/jna.2018S.6]

*It would be interesting to see how these numbers correlate with the occurrence of hip dyplasia among archers.  Hip dyplasia is a consequence of frequent horse riding and has been observed in Beaker individuals from Germany and west-central Europe.

**Since I've had a few years to baste on the bracers, my current view is that bracers were worn on the outside of the arm as a dead weight or a shock weight to steady the arm for a short bow or for riding.  I'm guessing if Beakers did ride and shoot that they did not have stirrups and lacked the stability of an Iron Age barbarian.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sherford Sherlocks

There's a giant planned community being built outside Plymouth (Southwestern Britain) called Sherford.  Wessex Archaeology has been tasked with all the surveying and rescue archaeology.
You can get a glimpse of these barrows and other discoveries [here].

One of the finds was this guy (2200-1700 BC) who was cremated with an inverted Food Vessel. Apparently enough bone remained to have some data on height, but be on the lookout for this guy! 

Anyhow, the guy had a copper dagger with some (arsenic?) hardening.  Will Foster created this 3D visualization based on what is known of the period.


Will Foster recreation via Wessex Archaeology



Thursday, February 7, 2019

Lower Austria Beakers Discovered (Unterirdisch)

This article via unterirdisch.

Drasenhofen.  As the A5 North Autobahn punches through Mistelbach in Lower Austria, a Paleolithic mammoth kill site is discovered and these Bell Beaker graves.

Peter Vizi via unterirdisch

Boscombe 20.0

On second thought...


This just occurred to me.  Now having a better understanding of the bowmen's ancestral origins, I wonder if the style of burial does indeed reflect the collectivist habit of Megalithic farmers?

In the comments of that Eurogenes post, Olalde himself confirmed a likely 3rd degree relation.  So  we might reasonably guess that the person who dug this grave was more similar to peoples found in the lower left quadrant.  If so, their views on death and burial might be reflected in this grave.

And who dug this grave?  In my imagination I see the mother of some of these boys, but who knows.
Who was she and what were her beliefs?  I2416's plotting is instructive.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ceramic Beaker Census (Bilger, 2018)

This is a census of beaker pots and the context in which they were found: strays, settlements, graves and totals.

As Michael Bilger explains, there are many subjective elements to these analyses and many biases inherent to finds.  But an honest effort is put forth to create beaker maps like this and the many others in  "Der Glockenbecher in Europa - eine Karteirung".

It was published with other papers here.
Before sharing some observations, I'll remind that some of the vacant regions are not without Beaker activity.  Some were not studied and some purposefully excluded.  Population density or rejection of Beaker culture (Corsica) factor in some parts.  There is a bias toward heavily excavated urban areas where large earth-moving projects uncover disproportionate artifacts.  I'm saying this for the benefit of the reader since the paper is in German.

Having said that, there's some interesting out-takes when you look at the maps closely.

Often the volume of Beaker pottery around Lisbon and surrounds is cited as evidence of gravity emanating from this area and its seniority in the development in the Beaker phenomenon.  No doubt, it was a gravitational hub and exerted stylistic influence far away.  But looking at the numbers, almost 85% of that pottery is associated with settlements not graves.  A lot of those graves are also not straightforward.  To me, that's more of a question rather than a supporting fact.

The volume of beakers in the Czech Republic is mildly surprising.  It has more beakers than anywhere else, but that is partly an artifact of these gigantic, flat cemeteries that are continually in the way of major highway projects.  While a much greater percentage of pottery is coming from the graves, a good amount is from settlements.

If you look at France on the other hand, most ceramics come from actual graves, pried from cold dead hands.  So while the volume is much lower than Portugal or Czechia, the map is larger.  In other words, Bell Beaker may have been more significant in the French countryside than raw numbers tell.

The concentration in Central Spain seems to indicate Beakers like this area.  Madrid is probably disproportionately represented due to earth-movers and projects, but I'd guess in was an area of concentration anyway.

The numbers around Wiltshire aren't surprising.  It seems to have been a focal point of religion and trade with Stonehenge and all the other crazy mega-monuments.

If you take the results with some clarity and reservation, you'll notice some fairly reasonable patterns emerge that have been noted by Van de Noort, Lemercier and others.  You can see it in the map above.  The heaviest concentrations of beaker activity are found in favorable positions on the waterways, the mouths of rivers, major fordings and on the side of islands with favorable winds and currents. 

On the other hand, the distribution of beaker ceramic is found somewhat evenly across the map, suggesting that most Bell Beakers lived in small farm hamlets connected to distant villages across the countryside. 




Sardinia Looks South (Morillo, Pau, Guillaine, 2019)

This paper was mentioned in the comments two or three posts ago.  It's the final paragraphs of the paper that I'll mention here.

Archaeologists have always had difficulty reconciling the Northern and Southern cultural spheres of the Beaker phenomenon.  What linked them?  From where did the Beaker ideology originate? 

This paper looks at one of the satellites orbiting the Iberian sphere.  It's mostly about the various origins of elephant ivory used to make buttons for their woolen hobbit clothes.  In a time in which the origins of the Beaker cultural identity are being widely discussed, the authors make no secret of their preference by interpreting the materials from this site.


The point being made is that the earliest Sardinian Beaker layer looks to the Southwest and its supply chains.  The authors add to Schumacher's previous comments on the changing patterns of the ivory trade which they see as evidence of a new hegemon choking out non-affliates in the Western Mediterranean.

In other words, this outpost says more about the place from which they came and its age.  It's a similar situation to that recently discussed relationship between Britain and the Netherlands.  While the Netherlands has little to say about itself, Britain has a lot to say about the Low Countries and the Middle Rhine.


The situation expressed here is similar to the changing winds in the Sicilian amber trade.  For whatever reason, when Beakers show up everything gets renegotiated, maybe with a hail of arrows.

Whoever these Beakers were, they were mature enough and strong enough to jam their foot in these far away doorways.  Maybe instead of a cultural phenomenon, we are dealing with a bunch of gangsters.



The proboscidean ivory adornments from the hypogeum of Padru Jossu (Sanluri, Sardinia, Italy) and the mediterranean Bell Beaker

In the present work, we examine the personal adornment in proboscidean ivory from the Bell Beaker period at the hypogeum of Padru Jossu, Sanluri (Sardinia, Italy) currently preserved in the Museo Civico Archeologico Villa Abbas of Sardara. For the first time, a complete study –morphological, use wear and archaeometric– of this material has been conducted. The typological study established two categories: buttons and pins. Those categories were also subdivided into three groups respectively. Technological and functional analyses were made difficult by the strong degradation of the items and the presence of glue and varnish. The archaeometric study highlighted the diverse provenances of the proboscidean ivories, suggesting a chronological difference in the geographical sources, as well as in the mobility patterns implicit in the movements of the raw material. The ivory from the older Stratum iii is predominantly from the Asian elephant, and in the later Stratum ii the exclusive supplier species is the African Savannah elephant. It is also important to mention that in the ensemble from Stratum iii, one of the items seems related to the Eastern types of ossi a globuli, linking this Asian ivory with an Aegean and Oriental axis of mobility.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Think Global...Beakers in Europe 2018 (Kiel, Germany)

I saw this on from Jos Kleijne's twitter feed.  Lot's of new papers [Link].


Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 2018 (Special Issue 4): Think global, act local! Bell Beakers in Europe

This volume presents a selection of papers delivered at the Archéologie et Gobelets Bell Beaker workshop “Think global, act local”, held between the 17th and the 21st of May 2017 at Kiel University, Germany. The Archeologie et Gobelets is a research community and network of archaeological specialists from all across Europe who meet every few years, discussing new findings and research concerning the Bell Beaker phenomenon and the wider 3rd millennium BC in Europe.
Published: 2018-12-20 

Jos Kleijne
Editorial: Think Global, Act Local! The Archéologie et Gobelets workshop in Kiel and some future perspectives for research into the 3rd millennium BC

Maria de Jesus Sanches and Maria Helena Barbosa 
Campaniforme: chronology, pottery, and contexts of a long term phenomenon in the Portuguese Douro Basin

Miriam Alba Luzón, Gabriel García Atiénzar 
Beaker pottery in the Peñón de la Zorra (Alicante, Spain): Change and emergence of social complexity between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age

Olivier Lemercier
Think and Act. Local Data and Global Perspectives in  Bell Beaker Archaeology

Jessica Ryan, Jocelyne Desideri, and Marie Besse
Bell Beaker Archers: Warriors or an Ideology?

Jan de Koning, Erik Drenth
Heiloo-Craenenbroeck. A Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age settlement on the western coast of the Netherlands

Ralf Lehmphul
Bell Beaker common ware and Giant Beakers. A Final Neolithic to Early Bronze Age settlement model based on the sequence  of site Altgaul, Brandenburg

John Simonsen
Beaker Longhouses: Livelihood Specialization and Settlement Continuity in North Jutland

Jaroslav Bartík, Jerzy Kopacz, Miriam Nývltová Fišáková, Antonín Přichystal, Lubomír Šebela, Petr Škrdla
The Question of Chert Exploitation by Bell Beaker People on Stránská skála Hill (Brno-Slatina,Czech Republic)

Michael Bilger
Der Glockenbecher in Europa – eine Kartierung
The mapping of the Bell Beaker in European

Friday, February 1, 2019

D. L. Clarke (1974)

Here's an old article in the Dutch publication "Paleaeohistoria" by D.L. Clarke concerning the various classifications of Beaker pottery in Britain.

In fact, the entire 12th edition is available with many highly referenced works by J.D. van der Waals, Humphrey Case and many others.

So why does this work matter?  As Sheridan points out the good, bad, ugly paper several posts ago,  David Clarke reordered the scheme of British beakers and associated many of them with traditions originating in continental Beaker groups of the Lower Rhine, in particular.


While some of the material is outdated, many of his observations are relevant for questions regarding who settled where.  You'll notice in the graphic a tendency of the long-neck style beakers to take a shape similar to some SGC pots:

"The tendency for increasingly tall and slender vessel shapes begins to appear in both of the earliest beaker groups, presumably reflecting the influence of the Protruding-Foot beakers of the Rhineland.  This feature is particularly noticeable amongst some of the Maritime beakers and becomes a constant feature in some of the following beaker groups from the Rhine-land."


Here's the link for this paper [here]

A Tentative Reclassification of British Beaker Pottery in the Light of Recent Research (Fig. I)

D.L. Clarke

Abstract

(p. 179)
The history of the analysis and classification of British Beakers between I870-I960 is too well known to need any lengthy restatement here. This complex 'tradition' has been summarised and restated in a more modern guise by Professor Piggott in his recent paper (I963). All that I wish to do at this stage is to emphasise four salient features underlying the current classification of British Beaker material.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Nordwestblokbekeren?

That's a word, like some kind of noun or something.  Let's extend further out on the ice.

If Nordwestblock was a thing, a real thing, then what are the implications of Low Country Beakers storming the beaches of Britain?

I'll put money on the table that Islanders spoke a language akin to the big, Tang-colored area in the map below.  Linguists studying the proto-historical Low Countries up to the Elbe don't seem too keen on it ever having been part of the Celto- or Germano-spheres.

Different solutions have been suggested, but the most plausible is something kind-of... Venetic-ish.
we hebben geen angst!
That would mean Celtic replaced an Indo-European language in most areas; but when would this have happened?

The swift Urnfielders seem plausibly porto-celtic, or at least they roasted the European landscape in advance of the swifter Iron Age Celts. I would assume that the Celtic spoken in the Islands today has a heritage in that epoch, maybe as late as the LeTene era, but probably around the time cremation becomes the fad.

Nordwestblock via wiki
The Beakers are just too ancient to be associated with this or that.  Probably they are all of the above.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Kissing Beakers in Hesse?

I can't understand a freaking word of the video, but they speak of and show glockenbechers at the gravesite and in a box of fragments.  If any of this makes sense to you, please share in the comments.

Kissing Beakers? Via Hessenschau

Here's the video on Hesse by Hessenschau.  I believe the above is a woman and a child.

German documentaries on Bell Beakers always have the ominous background music with a burning map.  Awesome!

And some text to go with it [here].

Hessen Beakers? (via Hessenschau - Bild © Sascha Piffko - Archäologische Untersuchungen)

They suspect plague or flu wiped out a family, but DNA is submitted to be sure how these folks relate to each other.  I'm not sure who the other 18 individuals are, and older layer?  Other Beakers?  Hopefully a German speaker can clarify.

A pot snip from Hessenschau

Don't get too wrapped up in periodization or dating.  It's a news article.

"Das Baugebiet liegt in Hanau-MittelbuchenBild © Sascha Piffko - Archäologische Untersuchungen" via Hessenschau

This is in Hanau-Mittelbuchen in Hesse, West-central Germany.  The cemetery is a rescue work so the archaeologists are running to get everyone out of the ground before the housing development goes up.  I guess that's the nature of the beast in a place like Europe.

See also:

Der Standard


Beaker Half Full (Fokkens)

There might be two hundred or more Bell Beaker 'beaker' styles depending on how nuanced you want to get.  I've never bothered to make a list, but that would be an interesting blog post, right?

Anyhow, to answer a comment from David, I thought I'd post this chart of the 'Dutch Model' in "Background to Beakers: Background to Dutch Beakers" by Harry Fokkens.


David's question is whether All-Over-Ornamented (AOO) and All-Over-Corded (AOC) beakers are Single Grave beakers or are they Bell Beaker beakers.  Fokkens explains this in a way that 'finally' makes sense, you might say.


"One of the key elements in the typological discussion is the position of the 'pan-European' or 'maritime' Beaker (type 2Ia in the Dutch sequence) and the position of AOO/AOC pottery as a go between Bell Beaker Culture and Single Grave Culture.  The first point to make is that following Lanting (2008) the Bell Beaker sequence in the Netherlands starts with the maritime Beaker (type 2Ia).  Confusing for scholars outside the Netherlands, this implies that AOO/AOC Beakers are not considered to belong to the Bell Beaker Culture.  Drenth and Hogestijn consider them late Single Grave Beakers (e.g. 2006).  Lanting prefers to give AOO Beakers a separate place between both groups (Lanting 2008, 16), like also Van der Waals and Glasbergen (1955) did.  They indicated AOO pottery as 'hybrid' beakers because they combine decorative elements of both the SGC and the BB group."
The answer is that it is controversial.  Dutch archaeologists see Beaker pottery mostly developing in the Netherlands.  Mainstream opinion is less convinced of the primacy of the Netherlands in developing the Beaker package or maritime style.

If you're late to the discussion, this started last week with statistical analysis at Eurogenes "Dutch Beakers like no Other Beakers"

Related to this is the Dutchness of British Beakers in genes and culture, and what does it mean when a British Beaker is strongly reminiscent of SGC culture?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

"No Wait, This is the Real Ava!" - Smithsonian

Holy something

You'll remember Ava, one of the most diligently studied and interesting Beaker women ever.  Now with ancient DNA it is revealed her hair was straight and dark.  Update!

Via The Smithsonian

"Ava" (Hew Morrison via the Smithsonian)
I think any aspiring archaeologist should look to Maya Hoole as an example as how things should be done.  Many times over.  You take something ancient and you learn as much about it as is humanly possible and don't stop.  Respect and humanize the people you study and let the facts do the talking as the picture develops.

Many thousands of Beakers sit on the shelf; shoveled out of the ground by dudes with a coiled whip on the belt.  Ava was no warrior; her grave contains no copper or gold.  Her grave was nearly forgotten.  Now she is the most interesting woman in Britain.  The face of the mysterious Beaker Enigma.


Ginger Ava, before DNA informed coloration (Hew Morrison)



See also,

"Facial Reconstruction of Late Beaker Ava'

"Ava's Scapula: Supper, Supplication or Sound?'

"One of the Beakers DNA Tested"

"Archaeosoup Interviews Maya Hoole"

"Ava of the Highlands"


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reply to Davidski

Since there's some interest in comparing Dutch and British Beaker genomes, I'll start with some excerpts from Alison Sheridan's chapter entitled "Scottish Beaker Dates: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly".

Dutch-style (National Museum of Scotland via Sheridan Fig 9, Ch 11)
"This Dutch-style Beaker [11.9 AOO herringbone low-carinated beaker] was found in a Dutch-style grave, with a penannular ditch and a central rectangular grave-pit, the grave being covered by a small, low mound of large pebbles...The acid soild had destroyed all traces of the associated, E-W-orientated body, which had been buried in a very thin coffin, possibly...as its excavators pointed out... is reminiscent of that associated with Protruding Foot Beakers in the Netherlands."
I'd suppose that other low-carinated beaker burials would have similar profiles to this dissolved grave at Newmill, Perth & Kinross, such as I5367 Sorisdale on Coll.  Maybe Scottish Beakers are a suitable proxy for PFB's?  I was surprised that these guys weren't popping out a few typical CWC lineages, but that isn't the case yet.  Sheridan gives another examples of a CW-looking pots, such a Biggar Common on page 104-105, but notes that Sorisdale is the only example with human remains of these early Dutchmen in the Northeast of Scotland using Needham's scheme.  (see also Upper Largie and Dutch-Scottish connections during the Beaker period - Sheridan)

Sheridan speculates the earliest pioneers aren't well represented by cist graves which is why the style sequence should have a bit more weight in determining the earliest immigration.

*Day 2, a.m.  A few more excerpts from Sheridan.

"The second is that the dating evidence now available confirms earlier suspicions (as expressed, for example, by Ian Shepherd in 1986) that there had been a design influence from the Netherlands to north-east Scotland during the last three centuries of the third millennium - in addition to any previous Dutch (or other Continental) influence on Scottish/British beaker design."
"Clarke and Case (e.g. Case 2004) have argued for a possible lower Rhine conduit for the ultimately north European fashion of using battle axeheads as grave goods; and Needham has argued for the presence of a Veluwe-style Beaker, along with a tanged copper knife closely comparable with Dutch examples, at Shrewton"
The paper is worth reading several times over for a picture of Scotland.

*Day 3, mid-day

A few excerpts from Sheridan in "Upper Largie and Dutch-Scottish connections during the Beaker period.  [Also a quite note, Sheridan mentions on 254 that Sorisdale is isotopically an immigrant and the geology of the Netherlands cannont be ruled out]
"The Beaker grave at Upper Largie represents a striking novelty in funerary practice and associated material culture, owing nothing to pre-existing traditions in Scotland.  While it stands out as being different from most Scottish Beaker graves [and the earliest]... several of its features immediately recall Dutch funerary practice of the mid-third millennium BC... The practice of burying the deceased in a timber chamber or coffin in a pit... ring ditch...posts in fill....round barrow... [shortening comments].... is characteristic of the Single Grave Culture which preceded the Bell Beaker Culture, but whose traditions persisted into the latter, in the Netherlands.  [shortening again]... points forcefully to the Lower Rhine Basin."
The arguments made by Sheridan in this paper are difficult to condense, but here's from the conclusion:
"The fact that the early Beaker period graves described above represent such a striking novelty within mid-third millennium Scotland, and point so forcefully towards the Netherlands as the place of origin for their occupants, raises the very real possibility that we are dealing with Dutch immigrants during or around the 25th century BC.  Of course, the idea of incoming 'Beaker people', for so long unfashionable in Britain, has been revived by the evidence from the famous 'Amesbury Archer' in Wiltshire, who appears to have been and immigrant from central Europe, possibly Bavaria (Fitzpatrick 2002)."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Not So Simple (Lemercier, 2018)

This paper was mentioned over at Eurogenes.  

"It seems vain to want to comprehend all the Bell Beakers manifestations in a single theory."

That's from Oliver Lemercier, 2018.  Local Data and Global Perspectives in Bell Beaker Archaeology in the Journal of Neolithic Archaeology.
From the paper

There is an ironic and inverse relationship between knowledge and theory when it comes to the Bell Beakers.  The more you learn about Bell Beakers, the more difficult it is to make bold declarations.  I believe it was Turek that said this mystery isn't because Beakers were unusual people or something, but because they lived so long ago and left us no written account of their civilization.  So we have to guess at why they did the things they did, why they married who they did, what they spoke, and who they worshiped.

If I remember correctly, Lemercier has read, studied or collected an enormous body of documentation produced on the Bell Beakers; I recall it being several thousand documents.  Remember that much of the primary research on Beakers is documented in twenty-something languages spanning a century.  There's a lot out there.  So when Lemercier says 'it ain't that simple people', he has my attention.

Anyhow, that map above is amazing in the sense that the 'phenomenon' had such a wide arc of influence, even on very distant cultures.  The Beaker stylistic influences actually go beyond the yellow peripheral areas in theory.

While a single theory of their development and motivations may be impossible, some basic statements can be said of their civilization, see Czebreszuk









Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year 2019!

...goodbye and good riddance to piece of crap 2018!

2018 has sucked a lot for Beakerblog and many opportunities to blog about significant events in Beaker archaeology were missed due to other responsibilities.  Beakerblog shed two major responsibilities at the end of 2018 that should allow for many blogging opportunities this next year.

My new year's resolution is to outnumber previous blog posts by half!   Let's see what happens.



The advent of ancient DNA comes at a precarious time in European history.  Does migration mean nothing?  It looks as if European archaeology is struggling greatly with the facts on one hand, and an ideal on the other.

Expect a year of heated discussion, and more Beaker graves!