Thursday, February 25, 2021

Beaker in Southern Russia - A Thing? (Mimokhod, 2018)

Continuing the discussion on very long distance Beaker mobility...

After the previous post "Iberians in Suprasl?", someone sent me this recent paper, "Paleoclimate and Cultural Genesis in Eastern Europe at the End of the 3rd Millennium B.C." 2018 by Roman Mimokhod.

The question is, if Beaker influences in the SW Baltic now have the option of transmission from actual immigrants rather than chain transmission through intermediary cultures, should we more carefully consider that other peripheries expressing Beaker characteristics may have also recieved direct immigration?  

To put another way, given that we have ample proof that Beakers travelled very long distances in a single lifetime (perhaps even within a few weeks), and given their lack of respect for any sort of boundary (geographic, tribal, climatic, linguistic, moral), and given their propensity to dot regions with outposts in the backyards of native cultures, is it not simpler to assume peripheries with Beaker influences had local Beaker settlers, or at least traders, prospectors, marriage partners?

How about the Middle Volga?  How about early Abashevo?

This is not to suggest any part of the Abashevo Complex should have any significant Beaker ancestry.  If it did, it would surely be a fraction.  Rather, the point here is identifying those attributes that remind us of the Beaker Culture and trying to understand how these elements surfaced in such a far away place.  

Beaker settlements in the Ukraine/Southern Russia should not seem too absurd; as I have suggested before, their migration does not appear to have been a mindless process, like a liquid spreading equally in the absence of resistance, seeping into every crevice along the way.  Their earliest presence in any area appears to target raw materials or favorable positions.

There is no doubt that migrations from Central Europe laid the foundational layers for the rise of Abashevo.  Did cultural Beakers migrate?


РАМимоход, 2018

РОССИЙСКАЯ АРХЕОЛОГИЯ, 2018, No 2, с. 3348


At the end of the 3rd millennium, a block of post-catacomb cultural formations was formed in Eastern Europe on the genetic basis of catacomb cultures. It consists of the Babino cultural circle and the Lola cultural circle. The first of them was formed due to the migration impulse from Central Europe and the Carpathian-Danube region, the emergence of the second was stimulated by the migration of pastoralists of the North-Eastern Caucasus to the Ciscaucasian steppe. In turn, the movement of population groups from Europe led to the emergence of a bright, distinctive Middle Volgian Abashev culture of a Central European appearance. Large-scale migrations in Eastern Europe XXIII / XXII centuries. BC. coincided with the peak of aridization in the Old World. These two phenomena are in a causal relationship.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Iberians in Surprasl? (Manasterski et al, 2020)

In this paper, Manasterski et al. discuss the significance of the Suprasl Beakers in NE Poland.  The sites consist of what appear to have been bags full of intentionally fragmented and incomplete items (a man's room) with burnt bone in a few.  The objects are totally alien to this region.  A few of them are unprecedented anywhere.

They start out remembering the issue surrounding the interpretation of Beaker artifacts has always been what defines the standard cultural package because it differs around Europe.  When its objects and styles show up in other cultural contexts or in the periphery, what does that mean?  Was it imitation, immigration, or cultural imperialism?

Before the discovery of the Suprasl sites, the authors describe the prevailing interpretation of Beaker-like artifacts in the SW Baltic.  These "influences" were viewed as the products of a cultural pollination of Beaker styles via the neighboring Iwno Culture.  These artifacts appeared in previous agricultural centers, so it seemed mere imitation or trade by native farming cultures.  Pretty reasonable.

But the new sites in this periphery (which appear within a bottom-land of hunters) are unambiguously that of the Bell Beakers, and not a watered-down version.  Some of the objects are distinctly Southwest Iberian in their flavor, and others are reminiscent of British objects and jeweler tools, and others of Jutland, the Rhine and possibly Central Europe.

Suprasl really blows a hole through the necessity of diffusion to the periphery, whereby its style simply jumped neighbor to neighbor.  Here, we have the real deal.  The pots are literally not local - or most of them.

Surprising Suprasl (Fig. 1, yellow star)

In one of the cremation graves, a fragmented West Iberian Chalcolithic slate plaque.   WHAAAAAA!!!?  Good luck trying to explain that.  That's a long donkey ride.  The pottery decorations recall the Ciempozuelos style in large part, however some pots are more generalized decorations.   

Below is an amber pendant with the familiar Beaker motif.  It's a strange object, I assume to be worn about the neck.  Strange like the awkward amphibolite blade above, also without precedence. 

The idea of a Ruckstrom is brought up given the connections and pot cording seen between those items distinctly Iberian and those that are reminders of the Lower Rhine and Veluwe groups.  Also, the arrowheads combine features that suggest an origin in either SW Norway or the Czech group.

Hopefully we'll see more of the slate plaque (like actual photos).  The interesting take-away from Manasterski et al, is that these pit offerings/graves (basically in the middle of nowhere) are quite possibly that left behind actual travelers, whatever their business was in this part of Europe.