Saturday, March 30, 2019

Very Best Advice

Throughout the Beaker world there are 'apparent graves' that have everything a grave needs except a body.  Just a hole in the ground with personal items.

I remember first reading of this phenomenon from Rojo-Guerra et al, 2015.  The Rojo paper really started poking at something that may not have been so obvious in the past.   It appears bodiless graves are everywhere throughout the beako-sphere and quite common - they may include a smashed pot or two, a solitary bead from a necklace, a single arrowhead, maybe a dagger or two or three, other 'part' artifacts, like animal parts.

Some are near graveyards.  Many are just out there (apparently).  They're everywhere: NE Poland, Czech, Britain, etc, etc.
"So I've got this problem..." 
So what are these pits?  Are they bothroi?  What the hell is a bothros?

A bothros was a pit dug by early Greeks for summoning a dead person from the underworld.  Beer, wine, sacrifical blood and personal artifacts are used to conjure the spirit of a dead person, and then like Ulysses or Saul, prepare for the best advice ever.

Here's how they are described in "The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero-Cults in the Archaic to Early Helladic Period" by Gunnel Ekroth,

"More significant is the use of the bothros in magic rituals for direct contact with a particular dead person. In Lucian, for example, a young man has a magician dig a bothros and perform rites to summon his dead father and to make it possible for the son to hear his father’s opinion of his girl-friend.190 In the Aethiopica of Heliodoros, a mother performs an elaborate ritual at a bothros on the battlefield at night, to bring her fallen son back from the dead, so that she can inquire about the fate of her other son.191 By digging the bothros and sacrificing into it, a dead person or the divinity could be summoned and called up to the world of the living."
After re-reading many passages by Ekroth and comparing his descriptions to some of these Beaker pits, I think we might be dealing with people that needed a lot of advice.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Beakers in Space

Maps with shaded areas aren't particularly helpful for understanding Bell Beaker distribution.  A flaming map doesn't cut it either.  If Beaker finds are represented by dots and we see a lot of dots in one region, then our minds naturally fill in the white space - obviously this was Beaker country!
That's a problem.

Where something happened is an important characteristic in our communications.   We want to know location of things and people, whether it is in the context of a joke or describing a previous conversation.

When it comes to ancient cultures, maps are used extensively to organize our linear minds around the characteristics of a certain group.  Having a better understanding of time and space allows us to create some dimensional space, kind of like a box in which we can begin to add complexity as we learn details.

A lot of ancient cultures can be roughly depicted like the Zambolators and So and So's below.  They live in one climate which is their natural homeland.  They fish, or do whatever.  They might spread from one place to another.  They might be compared to each other.

This absolutely does not work for Bell Beakers!

The Beaker homeland is the arterial system of Europe and western North Africa, not necessarily a patch of grass somewhere.  They seem to have viewed their own far flung people as being closer to themselves than their own geographic neighbors.  They are grossly outnumbered except in just a few areas.

The Bronze Age is born in Europe as the direct result of the old Beaker Culture losing its international identity.  This was the inevitable result of local mixture creating local Bronze Age identities.  It's in the post-Beaker age that the full weight of the Beaker cultural and genetic legacy is brought to bear against Europe.  It's during this time previous cultural and genetic identities are extinguished.

It is important to understand that the "Bell Beakers" selected in these genetic studies aren't necessarily representative of humans that lived in that region.  They're not necessarily excellent examples of Bell Beakers either.  Many were selected because there were questions about the strength of the diagnostic set, their apparent gender, familial relationships, or to validate the osteological interpretations.

Identifying Zambolators for genetic study would be easy.  Time, place and a few stone tools might be enough context to assign a genetic profile to this culture.  It's a different situation with Beakers, especially in highly cosmopolitan areas.

Make no mistake, this was the Copper Age.  Paternity and family blood ruled the school.  They were at war with each other and they likely disrespected or hated everyone else unlike themselves.
Let's not mis-interpret "Pax Campaniforme".  Anything with "Pax" in front of it doesn't come nicely.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Reconstructions and Re-enactments

As promised in the previous post, here's some of the Bell Beaker folk re-enactment photos from this Czech group, Jak Obleci Pra Cloveka.

Jan Pulpan and Kristina Urbanova Bell Beakers portfolio here.

The fabric representation above has historical inspiration from cloth found in the Central European salt mines.  This example I'd suppose is linen and has fine herringbone and coloration agreeable with the times.

Extra credit for two-feather configuration.

'Bracer' is on the outside of the arm, which as Harry Folkens pointed out, seems to be how a lot of dead guys wore this item.  There's still a question as to how these move in the decomposition process, whether they are sliding off the radial bone in either direction, worn on the inside, worn on the outside, inserted in a cuff, or rotated for comfort.  They're a difficult item to understand and they may be nothing more than a dead weight to steady to arm while riding and shooting, or to reduce shock.

I'll guess the facial design draws inspiration from the tilaka of solar 'enthusiasts' in Hinduism.  I'm just shooting from the hip here.  Whatever the significance, examples abound of cosmetics and tattooing from all around in time and space.

The rest of the photos are are in the link provided.

They've also got a lot of historical recreations for sale.  Weaving cards, loom weights, warrior gear.

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 their 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.


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.