Friday, May 15, 2020

Mounted Archery and.... "Bracer ornaments!" Clement Nicolas, 2020

Let's get down to the very dirty business of Bell Beaker bracers.  Simple?  Nothing is simple.

This is a paper by Clement Nicolas that re-attacks this issue.  Worn on the inside of the arm with use-wear?  Nope.  Try again.

Nicolas confirms Harry Folkiens' observation that these wristguards (bracers) were indeed most likely worn on the outside of the arm.

Snip from Fig 6 of the paper 

Since we're on the subject of mounted warfare this week, let me shamelessly promote my own (more recent) hypothesis, because I think the cockstrutting explanation is weak.

I believe these archery stones were used to steady the arm by mounted archers.  There's a popular Youtube Blogger, "Survive the Jive", that promoted my theory along with a graphic I made for Jessica Ryan's paper on enthesial skeletal changes... (click and wait a few seconds)

I think as we look at the Fages et al paper (Eurogenes), or the Harald Meller paper, or the skeletal indications of an archery culture (Ryan), we're looking at mounted infantry, calvary, or at the very least a culture of mounted warriors that is very unique in the history of Europe.

Clément Nicolas: "Bracer ornaments! An investigation of Bell Beaker stone ‘wrist-guards’ from Central Europe" JNA 22, 2020, 15–108 [doi 10.12766/jna.2020.2]


  1. As bracers are essentially male items and are dated here pre-2,200 BC, they look core Beaker, rather than Bronze Age.

    Central European Beaker males appear to have been highly uniform (all R1b-P312 and of mixed N W European aDNA). Later EHG-heavy people who spread across Western and Southern Europe during the Bronze Age had a minor and exclusively female presence in Central European Bell Beaker, so I would suggest they likely had little or no influence on bracer culture.

  2. It's odd enough when people talk as if EHG aDNA, male-centric culture and horse use & representation lay in the Steppe like sleeping bears until Yamnaya. Even odder that Fages' paper suggests that gender inequalities and horseback violence only emerged in Europe after 1,900 BC.
    The Suvorovo travelled striking distances between the Volga and the middle Danube, bore polished horsehead symbols atop their maces and brought male-centric culture into the core of Europe thousands of years before 1,900 BC.

    My only question is whether horseback archery using bracers was part of the original Iberian Beaker package, whether it was absorbed from cultures that fused with Beaker in North Western Europe or whether it arrived from the Balkans some time earlier.

    1. I've come across something that seems to help answer my own question - images of very similar-looking bracers found in a Spanish Chalcolithic grave (ATP12) dated to around 2,900 BC, some time before we see them in Central Europe and long before the West European Bronze Age.

  3. If anyone has a copy of this... please send. I'm not waiting three freaking years! -BBB

    CASSIDY, LARA, A Genomic Compendium of an Island: Documenting Continuity and Change across Irish Human Prehistory, Trinity College Dublin.School of Genetics & Microbiology. GENETICS, 2018