Sunday, November 24, 2019

Brachyceros in Baden (Horvath, 2019)

Back to a subject of critical importance to the development of the Beaker Phenomenon and its life ways.

Tunde Horvath examines "Cattle Deposits of the Late Copper Age and Early Bronze Age in Hungary"

The paper is about cattle burials, but something else caught my attention.

from Fig 3. "Idealized picture of Budakalasz" (Judit Torma, 2005)
Although there is a smattering of research on classifying cattle races in archaeological deposits, archaeology is only now beginning to take the racial classification of domesticated animals seriously, or at least archaeologists have renewed faith that these questions can be settled with modern methods of verification.

This Horvath paper is one of the few examples that I can think of where he has clearly separated the brachyceros/longifrons and frontilis races from the common taurine beef cattle.  Identifying the longifrons (the long face, short head) is important because these are commonly used as dairy cattle and they spread rapidly throughout the continent and North Africa about the time of the Bell Beakers.

They were identified as being present as early as the Late Neolithic in the Swiss Cultures, but here they are clearly present throughout the Baden Culture horizon including Hungary.  Importantly, he points to the heterogeneity of the cattle sub-species within these cultural contexts which suggests an intent to use animals with different characteristics for certain purposes, such as dairying, traction, ranging, etc.

An excerpt:
"A heterogeneity could be noted among the individuals based on the horn-cores and the height at the hindquarters. Small-bodied (dwarf) cattle appear during the Baden period in Europe, but large-sized and very large-sized cattle breeds are also known. A short-horned brachyceros breed and a frontosus breed with wide forehead could be distinguished on the basis of the skull, the horn-cores, and the heights at the withers and the hindquarters. The frontosus and small-bodied brachyceros breeds are forest and mountain ecotypes, while the large-bodied brachyceros and primigenius breeds represent lowland ecotypes. The cattle at Balatonőszöd were milk breeds, and the proportion of the sexes was even. There was no apparent preference for a particular type among the cattle selected for sacrifice. The sacrificial animals included individuals of both sexes and all age categories: embryos, newborn and older calves, cows and bulls. However, we did note a 12.3% increase among young individuals selected for consumption and sacrifice in Baden culture compared to Boleráz culture within the Baden complex."

This isn't a simple change in preference, it is a cultural breakthrough and social revolution

It still doesn't resolve exactly where the longifrons evolved or developed.  One theory is that it may have been intentionally developed in cultures like the Alpine Horgen Culture as a cross between a Taurine bull and some sort of unidentified auroch cow from the mountains.

See also,
Busa Cattle, Cetina Culture and the Balkans

The Brachyceros and The Brachycephlics


Dunstable Echinoid Burial

Cattle Size, Before and After the EBA