Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bohemian Burial Beheamoth

Not to be outdone, another big Czech cemetery at Slaného na Kladensku in Bohemia.  Via Ceska televize 24,, and

(Archaeollgicky ustav AV CR via Ceska televize 24)
So far there is about fifty Bell Beaker graves in this cemetery.  They are described as deep, timber-lined graves.  There is a wealth of artifacts including the typical beakers and archery equipment.  As reported in Tyden, the archaeologists note that the gold spiral earrings of the woman are the oldest examples yet found in any Beaker context. 

(Archaeollgicky ustav AV CR via Ceska televize 24)
Drahomira Malykova and Prague Archaeological Institute AV CR are doing the rescue excavations.  Remains from a previously excavated cemetery of Brandysek in Slany were recently included in a paper on the osteological dimensions of archery by Ryan et al, 2018.  Two individuals from Brandysek were analyzed in Allentoft, 2015, but they were later excluded from further analysis after being dated to a later period.

The site via

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Orignal Cornishware - Discovery Cornwall

Big discovery in Crantock, Cornwall.

There was a fully intact Beaker cazuela discovered in Southern Spain just two weeks ago, now this rare example of an unbroken bell beaker in Cornwall.  From CornwallLive


South West Archaeology has taken responsibility of the two pit graves containing three pots in a development site.   Both pits lined with slate and capped with quartz.  The beaker about is about a foot high


This broke over the weekend, hopefully we'll see a few more articles with more details in the coming days, especially concerning the remains if any were left.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Headless on the Henares

One of the notable things about the Magdalena cemetery Bell Beakers is that all but two are missing their heads.  Two of those headless Beakers are a woman and an old woman pictured below, 4598 and 4599.  Their mummified heads were cut off with a sharp instrument at some point before skeletalization, or perhaps were they alive?  This follows a series on Alcala de Henares.

The only two Beakers with their heads intact are the baby 4307 buried with the man with the most steppe ancestry (I6471), and the woman with zero steppe ancestry 4467 (I6475).  I have a hunch as to why it is these two individuals were spared head removal.

From Cabrera et al, 2012

But first, let's look at these headless women.  Cabrera et al, 2012 seem to suggest somewhat cryptically (no pun intended), that the two women were human sacrifices for a third headless woman (Beaker associated) buried underneath to which they were intentionally segregated.  To be clear, let me say that that is not Cabrera et al explicitly said but my interpretation of how they have framed the evidence (which is why their quote is below).  Only DNA could resolve this question, for if they are all closely related, like aunts or sisters, then sacrifice is much less likely.
"Más difícil de interpretar es la presencia, en una tumba del yacimiento de La Magdalena, de dos mujeres “decapitadas” a las que les faltan también las prime- ras cuatro vértebras cervicales. Están colocadas sobre el sellado de una inhuma- ción con ajuar campaniforme, al parecer removida (HERAS, GALERA y BASTIDA, 2011:19) y, quizás, depositadas tras dicho expolio. Aunque resulta difícil saber si su presencia está relacionada con la acción de violación de la tumba del individuo campaniforme o por su posible vinculación, en vida, a este personaje. Sea cual sea la causa de la inhumación de las dos decapitadas, lo que sí queda claro es que hubo una intencionalidad en no asociar directamente sus cuerpos con los restos del primer inhumado pertenciente a un colectivo campaniforme."

Whether or not the two women were sacrificed, beheading doesn't seem to provide any positive evidence for a sacrificial act since almost everyone was beheaded regardless of their position or status. Heras and Galera make this observation in Antropoarqueología en la Magdalena:
"Un claro ejemplo de acción antrópica es una de las tumbas campaniformes (Figura 07) en donde se han encontrado los esqueletos de dos mujeres, una adulta y otra madura, en conexión anatómica y, debajo de ellas, huesos dispersos de otra mujer también adulta. Las tres carecían de cráneo y de las primeras vértebras cervicales (C1 a C4). No se ha podido determinar la presencia de marcas de cortes en la vértebra C5, debido al mal estado de conservación del hueso. Es interesante destacar que de los 10 individuos campaniformes, únicamente en 2 casos conservan el cráneo la mujer 4467, y un niño el 4307. Parece que los campaniformes tenían algún tipo de ritual que consistía en el culto a los antepasados, centrado en los cráneos a modo de reliquia."
If we were get DNA on the three headless women, I think we'd find that they were first or second degree relatives deposited at different times.  The intentional segregation of the primary grave from the other two could be interpreted as an attempt to maintain distance between a putrefied, rotting corpse and a fresh interment.

Of course if that isn't true, and there is no meaningful genetic relationship between the three, then some other explanation would be required, and of course that doesn't necessarily require contemporary executions.  If I had to guess, we have something along the lines of a mother/daughter/daughter-in-law type of situation in which the grave was re-opened up to three times.

To the head-chopping.   Although it is possible that these Beakers were engaged in some sort of pre-Celtic head worship, and though the preservation and display of mummified relicts appear to have been in place with British Beakers, I'm somewhat skeptical that this is the case at Magdalena.

I find it interesting that the only graves with meaningful copper are those with heads, whereas in the case of 5005 above, we have evidence that copper was in the grave and is now gone (green stains on the phalanges).  I think what were are dealing with is smash and grab grave robbing (If you're German you may be re-reading that last bit).  Smash and grab.  As far as head removal, either these graves were intentionally desecrated or the heads were removed by the robbers for other reasons.

I'll guess the reason why 4467 (I6475) was spared the looting and head removal is because her grave was not apparent to the pillagers from the surface.  Was her grave older than the rest?  The robbers digging through the mound probably were not even aware a child was buried there as well.  They would rightly assume that it was a man's grave, which they found and looted before the sunrise.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Veiling the Dead - Part III (Interpreting Red Burials) asdf

Why are so many ancient burials red? 

Part 1 considered the widespread 'evil eye' superstition and red veils.
Part 2 considered resistance to red apotropaism in the Christian period.

The Red Ochre Tradition (ROT) is summarized in "The Geologic Model of Religion" by (Andrew Clifford 2012) starting on page 95.  While I don't subscribe to all of his hypotheses, it's good starting place for understanding the antiquity and continuity of this practice. 

He describes it as a component of the human Inner Core Religion; ROT being the oldest material evidence for spiritual belief.  At least within the core Neolithic sphere, I think some circumstantial evidence may suggest a certain kind of red apotropaism is the main cause for its inclusion in those burials.

Gøngehusvej [Mesolithic]...ochre are especially in the head and pelvis areas." (National Museum of Denmark)
The most common surviving burial pigment is red ochre (iron oxide).  In the Mesolithic Ertebolle Culture, folks often had their heads covered with red ochre.  Is covering the head or the whole body intended to hide the deceased?

In Egyptian mythology, the extermination of the human race by the 'Eye of Ra' was thwarted by creating a concoction of beer and ochre and pouring the blood-like mixture on the ground to fool the eye. (Remler, 2010.  pg 51)  The use of ochre as a war paint is attested around the world for similar spiritual concerns.

Djumbulak kum burial [Iron Age] (National Geographic)
In this Djumbulak kum burial, the red shroud over the face appears to have been dyed with Madder root.  Within the context of Greek mythology (Herodotus iv. 189), a madder-dyed cloak is emblematic of Athena's tasseled aegis.

The attributes of Athena are apotropaisms associated with those for warding off the evil eye.  They included the oculos, the gorgoneion, and the aegis, the last of which combines several apotropaic devices in a single garment (being golden tassles, a gorgoneion and a red color).  Athena's bright eyes (possibly blue) are also significant in a Mediterranean context.  (See also Sulis)  This is in contrast to the wild eyes of the Gorgons whose damning stare causes immediate death.

Presumed wife of Yax K’uk’ Mo, covered with cinnabar.  Margarita Tomb [Late Classical Maya] Copan, Hondoras (ASC)
Above is a burial typical of many royal tombs in the Americas.  Cinnabar is also very common to burials beginning in the Mesolithic of Southeast Asia, Chinese Late Neolithic and the El Argar cultural remains of Bronze Age Spain.

As hypothesized in Part 2, elder dye may be the source of a fairy tale red cloak. 

This has a relevant meaning to pigments because it prevents any one source of red dye from having the exclusive apotropaic power against the damning stare of Gorgons or whatever. 

Mulhouse-Est Grave 2 Linearbandkeramik [Early Neolithic] (Antiquity)

"Colored Bones, Varied Meanings" Katy Meyers

"Why is Ochre Found in Some Graves" National Museum of Denmark

"Red Lady of El Miron" New Scientist

If at any moment the beliefs and rituals of the Ertebolle people seem two dimensional, a small baby buried in the wing of a swan helps us realize how real the pain of death was even for tough log boatsmen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Heras Hermanos (Olalde et al, 2018)

I'll assume these two samples represent brothers because samples 11 and 12 are consolidated under I6472.  It may be the samples are from the same individual.  In any case, one or both under I6472 was R1b1a1a2 and HV0b.  This La Magdalena grave follows the last post on a girl.

Before continuing, Heras, Galera and Bastida (2012) enumerated three possible individuals in this scrambled up grave (5005), labeling individuals 5010a, b and c, being so they thought, a male and two females.  So the two samples are from the one man, or brothers.  The grave was a mess and perhaps the archaeologists took a chance on two bones.

From Olalde et al, 2018 supplement:
"The artificial cave 5005 was found greatly altered because it was opened and closed multiple times. This caused the breakage of the slab that acted as a door. This structure presents the inhumation of two undetermined adult men buried at different phases. The earliest one presents red ochre sprinkled on it (I6472). Two non-decorated bowls are bound to this structure, but it is impossible to determine to which remains they were associated with.I6472/RISE701, RISE702, sample #11,#12, STTL 5010: 2500–2000 BCE"
I find it interesting that at La Magdalena features a male doubles grave and a female doubles grave. Actually, the female doubles grave is really a triple, since the headless hermanas are laying on top of another headless woman from which they were intentionally segregated (Garrido Pena). The Heras Hermanos may be one guy and two chicks - Regardless, no heads!

Tomb 5005 Individual 1050a and 1050b (Heras and Galera, 2016)

It's less likely that either instance is a case of human sacrifice, instead it looks to be the case in the headless women that the heads were removed during the decomposition process and evidence from the grave confirms that these graves were opened on more than one occasion.

The view in Cabrera-Jimenez is that this represents some sort of cultic practice involving the head of ancestors.  There are reasons this is probably the case, but there is another fascinating element mentioned by Heras, Galera and Bastida - missing copper rings.

One or several phalanges in this grave were stained with green copper oxide, but no rings were encountered in the grave.  I find this suspicious because reverent, ancestor-head-worshipping relatives wouldn't steal the rings from the fingers of their dead relatives would they? And yet this grave is smashed beyond all comprehension.  This was only a fragment of copper laminate left is this grave.  Was this grave smashed and robbed?

I6472, up one from highlighted area.  Olalde et al, 2018 sup

Notice not only the position of I6472, but see that the Spaniards that are shifted to the left are all from Humanejos, Camino de Yeseras and La Magdalena.  See the map and comments in the last post.

This link actually includes about four papers in one pdf referenced here:

Cabrera-Jimenez et al, 2012
"El Campaniforme en la submeseta surEstudio antropológico de los restos esqueléticos de la Magdalena I (Alcalá de Henares)"

Heras, Galera and Bastida
"Enterramientos y ritual funerario en una necrópolis calcolítica con campaniforme en la submeseta sur: El Yacimiento de “La Magdalena” I (Alcalá de Henares)"

Sunday, May 12, 2019

La Heredera de Henares I6475 (Olalde et al, 2018)

Let's refocus on the Mesetans*, a people that deserve a much closer look.

The conventional wisdom (now) is that the root relationship between Iberian and Continental Bell Beakers is merely a cultural one, and not much more.  That's retarded, but ok, we'll start addressing this now.

This young wife, labeled I6475, tells us part of her people's story.  She has no appreciable steppe ancestry and, looking at her mtdna (U5b3), we can comfortably presume that her maternal stock is native to the Spanish interior where it enjoyed a relatively high frequency since the Middle Neolithic  (Szecsenyi-Nagy et al, 2017).

La Heredera de Henares, I6475, 4463 in the dig
However, her extended community in Alcala de Henares does have steppe ancestry, and I'd bet dollars to donuts her husband did as well.  Certainly the other two samples from her cemetery, the man in the mound I6471, and the Henares Hermanos I6472, had steppe ancestry.  The bros (I6472) were R1ba1a2 and the man with the baby (I6471) is negative for everything other than R, but lacks resolution.

So far it seems that the heterogeneous Beakers within the Madrid/Castile watershed generally do have steppe ancestry, and about the amount you expect for the offspring in the initial stages of admixture.  Most likely, this young lady represents one of the many mixed marriages between Beaker men and local women, and fully recognized and honored marriage, not just a woman being ravaged while thatch-roofed huts burn in the background.

She is clearly a full member of the Beaker society and her fine grave goods testify to this.  She appears to have either been sprinkled with cinnabar and ochre (more likely a red dress or blanket) and she had a v-perforated button of African ivory.  She holds a hardened copper awl in her left hand, and interestingly, a boar's tusk near her neck.  It also took some effort to dig this grave.  And more to the point, the presence of the copper awl in her left hand signifies her idealized status as the lady of a home (perhaps 'matron' if she had lived past her teenage years).

If you look at her head shape I think it would be fair to assume that she did not have a Beaker babyhood but was instead integrated into this local community by marriage (similar situation to I2787 Szigetszentmiklós).  Or was it the other way around? Maybe it was her husband who benefitted most from what she brought to this union -  ranchland along the river?

Although she was only buried with a cooking pot, some of the other cemetery ceramics are typical of the Ciempozuelos style and tradition  (Heras, Cubas and Bastida, 2012)

Above you can see just how different this girl (I6475 highlighted) compares to the man with the baby in the burial mound (I6471).  That guy is at the high end of steppe spectrum, so high the Olalde authors had to break out Alcala de Henares into MAD1 and MAD2 groups.

(Barroso et al, 2018
All of the below is from the big Beaker paper, and I've included this map to show the proximity of the follow sites.  This demonstrates that we're not dealing with one-offs in this area, but that the entire region has this mixed ancestry.  From the Olalde et al, 2018 supplement:

"Presence of steppe ancestry in five individuals from Camino de las Yeseras, LaMagdalena and Humanejos (Madrid, Spain)"

"Similar to the previous case, we show in Table S2 f4-statistics of the form f4(Mbuti,Test; BK_Spain_MAD1, BK_Spain_MAD2) and f4(Mbuti, Test; BK_Spain_MAD1,BK_Spain_Mag1). These statistics support the presence of Steppe-related ancestry inBK_Spain_MAD2 (individuals I6472, I6623, I6539 and I6588) and BK_Spain_Mag1(individual I6471), in contrast to the remaining 7 individuals from Madrid region(BK_Spain_MAD1) who lack this genetic signal. Sample I6471 is assigned a different label as it appears to have significantly more Steppe-related ancestry than theBK_Spain_MAD2 group (Figure S2a)..."

This matters because the truly diagnostic, bona fide Bell Beaker graves in the heart of Iberia, are all heterogenous steppic communities with native women and foreign men. I6475 is a snapshot of this process. Bros are in the next post.

"The archaeological site of La Magdalena is located on the youngest terrace of River Henares, on the right margin, northeast from the city of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid). This site is traversed by at least four paleochannels that lead into the previously mentioned river.
The artificial cave 4463 is the best preserved one. It is a single inhumation (I6475) of a young woman between 16 and 20 years old. She was buried with a V-perforated button made from African ivory and a suid canine next to her neck. Near her head, a non- decorated vessel and an arsenical copper awl in her left hand, were found. She was sprinkled with red ochre containing cinnabar."

The site was straight back, riparian zone of Henares in the background

Rio Henares (Raimundo Pastor, commons)

*Mesetan is used liberally to include the topographical mesetas, but also the Extramadura and the badlands suitable for ranching within the Spanish interior.  Most anywhere the expansive Ciempozuelos group lands, with the assumption that they represent a tribe or confederation of some sort, to be distinguished from other peoples.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Toastmasters in Alcala de Henares

A large Bell Beaker exhibit is now on display this summer at the Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid.  The exhibition is curated by two researchers from the University of Valladoilid, Elisa Guerra and German Delibes.  [Local interview with Delibes]

Although the exhibit will include early discoveries throughout Iberia, it appears to have a natural emphasis on the interior of Spain, which is timely since it may be the time in which the foundations of Spanish and Portuguese ethnicity rapidly take shape.

Intense salud here
Alcala de Henares is an interesting town to house this exhibit because it was home to Beakers of the La Magdalena cemetery, which is located in an industrial park behind a few buildings that were demolished. 

The man below is likely from the Magdalena group, but I haven't been able to find him in a paper yet, so I'm not entirely sure.  Here he is anyway.

Whoooaa!  Correction.  4467 is a girl!  Via the Beaker 2018 supplement:

"The artificial cave 4463 is the best preserved one. It is a single inhumation (I6475) [marked in the photo feature 4467] of a young woman between 16 and 20 years old. She was buried with a V-perforated button made from African ivory and a suid canine next to her neck. Near her head, a non- decorated vessel and an arsenical copper awl in her left hand, were found. She was sprinkled with red ochre containing cinnabar.
I6475/RISE704, sample #14, STTL 4467: 2500–2000 BCE"


These two girls are definitely from that group and were both beheaded.  Another girl (not pictured) appeared to have work a bright red garment.

Headless in Henares (Two Beheaded Girls from La Magdalena, 11 graves total (foto César Heras))

The exhibit will also give special attention to salt production in the region as it is suggested to be one indicator of the control of an economic elite.  There's a lot of photos online if you search Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid and Beaker.

Exhibit catalogs by Delibes and Guerra