Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Werewolves and Hanno Wotan

As Halloween approaches, I thought it'd be fun to dig a little deeper into the distant beliefs of European prehistory.  Though only bones and stones, the Bell Beakers appear to have had some recognizable beliefs based on their materials, which I will link in my speculations below.

We know in modern lore that werewolves are normal men who undergo a transformation initiated by the moon.  This unleashes a crazed and uncontrollable blood lust that is merciless.  In various Indo-European languages he could be the "Lunatic" or the "Monetic" (after the moon), also known as "Zănatic" or "Dianaticus" (or madness from moon goddess Selene Artemis, σεληνιάζομαι).  He tears off his clothes running naked through the night like a wildman.  He pants and foams at the mouth.  He is the lycanthrope, λυκάνθρωπος, berserker, ulfhéðinn, wilkołak, vilkatis, lobisomem and about a hundred other terms.

A good place to begin understanding the werewolf phenomenon is to begin with North Sea berserker or ulfhéðinn.  These were the real warriors (shapeshifters*) of Hanno Wotan, otherwise known as Woden, Odin (Apollo, the sun god)  They either wore wolfskins, bearskins or were naked or both.  These wild shock troops were feared in Early Christian Europe because they were nuts

We are told by the ancients that the night before a battle, elite Scandinavian warriors began drinking heavily but not any old psychotropic beer at your mother's table.  The gruits of these beers were hotly steeped in hallucinogens such as hene-bane or heng-belle (in Ang-Sax "heng = death"), also Herba Apollinaris cognate in PtG with Henno Wotan (Liberman, 2008), and further PIE bhongo or soma, itself appearing to descend from an even more ancient word related to PtU for mushrooms.
Hanno Wotan and Berserker
The dirty little secret of warfare is that many belligerents typically consumed narcotics before battle.
Zulus, Somalis, Aghans, Apache, Inca, Paupans, suicide-bombers, whatever.  In the professional militaries of Europe, this became less common over time but with notable exceptions.  This is likely the human norm since the Paleolithic.  This is the mostly likely reason Celtic warriors famously doffed their clothing before battle, the intolerance toward clothing often felt by people who are ramped up on mood altering substances.

It's not difficult to understand why men did this and still do this.  One is the performance edge needed in active hand-to-hand combat which rarely lasts longer than a few minutes.  During this time maximum adrenaline, testosterone and metabolic function are exhausting the body.  Water, electrolytes, lactic acid, blood loss, hyperventilation, paralytic fear - all create a dangerous vulnerability in a contest to kill or be killed, with dying itself the least of his problems.

Some performance enhancers may also create inhibition, something important for the one who dons the suicide vest, volunteered for by his nice peers.  Although narcotics can cloud one's clarity and decision-making ability, this may pale in comparison to the paralysis caused by the fog of war.  The psychological effect of substance use may have its greatest impact in the confidence and carefreeness of someone who needs to focus on killing instead of worrying about problems at home.

The last aspect, again varying by the substance, is being able to tolerate pain and to be relentless in the attack.  The inner city crack-heads of the 1980's were notorious for having super-human strength.  Often, this resulted in a cop shooting a charging suspect multiple times, only to be accused of excessive force later.  This has an important psychological on the defender, who not only has less time to react, but also becomes convinced that his best and most lethal efforts are ineffective against a madman.

A lunatic.
 We can see these behaviors seeping into the historical era.  To quote the Yngling Saga via Wiki:

"His (Odin's) men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild oxen, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon them. This was called Berserkergang."
 And another interesting quote concerning Varangian Goths by Hilda Ellis-Davidson, again via Wiki:

"This fury, which was called berserkergang, occurred not only in the heat of battle, but also during laborious work. Men who were thus seized performed things which otherwise seemed impossible for human power. This condition is said to have begun with shivering, chattering of the teeth, and chill in the body, and then the face swelled and changed its colour. With this was connected a great hot-headedness, which at last gave over into a great rage, under which they howled as wild animals, bit the edge of their shields, and cut down everything they met without discriminating between friend or foe. When this condition ceased, a great dulling of the mind and feebleness followed, which could last for one or several days."
There is plenty of evidence that this was excessive henbane in most cases, however I'm not aware of any direct chemical analysis other than residue from pots and beakers.

But let's focus our attention on Bronze Age European warfare.  In both Greek and Germanic languages the hebane plant is known as the herb of the solar deity.  Apollo Helios (a divergent amalgam of the same deity) is associated with fire, fury and death and of course his plant, the death herb.  His crown is the halo.  His opposite is his sister, the moon goddess, who is associated with archery, boars, cornos and cattle.  They alternate rising and setting of the sun and moon via solar boats or chariots.

Hypothetically, if Iron Age berzerkers were hyped up on beverages that included henno-wotan (Herba Apollinaris) then the delicate balance of overdosing or being unable to come of a multiday high would have been a great danger.  So what do you do when you overdose?!

You need an antidote! (Thx)

What is the antidote for a frothing at the mouth warrior?   It would have to be a powerful sedative.
How about Wolfsbane! (aconitum) also (aconitum lycotonum)  It is a convenient choice since this is the traditional antidote for werewolf-ism, along with strenuous exercise, conversion to Catholicism (for Protestant werewolves) or burning at the stake (100% solution!).

Medicinally, wolfsbane is used to treat anxiety or sleeplessness.  It is "the queen of poisons" and like the henebane can be deadly, hence dead in the root.  In small doses though, it may bring our blood-spattered warrior back to Earth.

Here's a previous post about beer gruit [here].  Anyhow, Happy Halloween!
* Shapeshifting is also commonly associated with one other mortal, the witch.  I've offered my view on the Indo-European evolution of the witch, [here], and a few other entries.  I find it interesting that the two shapeshifters of lore are those that potentially made the gruits and beer, and those that drank it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Great or Lost Minds!

I almost fell out of my chair, when I read this:
"Bell Beakers have actually been compared to Coca-Cola as a well known symbol which helped to open up a continent of diverse but fairly self-contained communities [Fagan 1996]."  (Dopson, 2006)

I may have read Fagan (1996) at some point then forgot about it, but I honestly think I made a similar comparison independently at a later time(!?).
Coca-Cola also offers a way to understand the beaker pottery phenomenon in a number of ways:  Red background with white stylization, a highly recognizable motif that is both conservative and suggestive of certain cultural values.  You could call Coke emblematic of the "Coca Cola Culture" which suggests certain music, clothing and social values.

When people think of Coca-Cola, they don't think of polygamy, gulags, theocrats, goose-steppers or slums. 

Instead, a different social order comes to mind: monogamy, mobility, laissez-faire, prosperity.  Maybe that culture is viewed differently in some areas, but I think you can see how an object can exude certain cultural meaning.

Upcoming Lectures in France and Spain

For those of you near the Provence area of France, there is a free upcoming museum lecture on the Bell Beaker phenomenon by Oliver Lemercier on the 18th of November.  [Link]

On Thursday the 5th of November, Antonio Valera will lecture on the Enclosures Phenomenon of Southern Portugal at the University of Seville.  You'll have to email for specifics.  [Link] 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Re-writing Early Bronze Age [Radio Dates]

This paper reorders some of the chronology of the Bronze Age and pokes another hole in a long-held paradigm of European prehistory.  I'll give you some of the big take-away's:

There appears to be little or no overlap between the end of the Beaker period and the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (Central Europe), although some stylistic and sentimental materials seem to continue in conservative circles.  This transition occurred in the 21st century.

The Early Bronze Age of Central Europe has traditionally been divided into two phases A1 and A2 after German prehistorian Paul Reinecke, representing linear progress in technology and fashion.  The A1 EBA is the era of bone pins and hammered metal trinkets.  A2 EBA is true bronze with cast pins and tin bronzing.  The two now overlap significantly, meaning some areas were more conservative than others.

The Middle Bronze Age may have started almost two hundred years earlier than previously believed.  That would put its beginning in the ballpark of 1700 B.C., settling the Nebra hoard of Northern Germany in place that makes better sense.  By moving most of the metal age to the left, especially the Early Bronze Age, the entire scheme fits better for technological developments in Britain.

Nebra Sky Disk (1700 B.C.) - Commons

One quote of interest from the paper:

"It seems that Bz A2a objects, most of which are related to the Únětice culture, should be interpreted as the appropriation of foreign influences and objects in southern Germany, which basically “stayed Bz A1” during the complete EBA. The Bz A2a Únětice bronzes could rather be seen as supplement to the local inventory of the material culture."
"Moreover, it is most likely that Bz A2 in the area of the Únětice culture started considerably earlier than in the Augsburg region. An early start for Bz A2a already in the late 3rd millennium or at least around 2000 BC is indicated by Quenstedt, grave 34, a grave from Feuersbrunn and possibly also hoard II of Melz"
"Bz A2 finds in southern Germany and Bz A1 finds in the area of the Únětice culture should be explained as the local appropriation of foreign objects rather than autonomous chronological phases."
This partly confirms that Unetice should not be considered as a strictly chronological development radiating outwards, but more reflects social groups, possibly peculiar social groups.

I don't know if these dates were used in the Allentoft et al, 2015 paper or if these will be used in Allentoft 2.0.  Since isotopes were collected on many of these remains, there will probably be another large paper on mobility in the near future.

Rewriting the Central European Early Bronze Age Chronology: Evidence from Large-Scale Radiocarbon Dating

Philipp W. Stockhammer, Ken Massy, Corina Knipper, Ronny Friedrich, Bernd Kromer, Susanne Lindauer, Jelena Radosavljević, Fabian Wittenborn, Johannes Krause.  Published: October 21, 2015
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.013970  [Link]


The transition from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age in Central Europe has often been considered as a supra-regional uniform process, which led to the growing mastery of the new bronze technology. Since the 1920s, archaeologists have divided the Early Bronze Age into two chronological phases (Bronze A1 and A2), which were also seen as stages of technical progress. On the basis of the early radiocarbon dates from the cemetery of Singen, southern Germany, the beginning of the Early Bronze Age in Central Europe was originally dated around 2300/2200 BC and the transition to more complex casting techniques (i.e., Bronze A2) around 2000 BC. On the basis of 140 newly radiocarbon dated human remains from Final Neolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Age cemeteries south of Augsburg (Bavaria) and a re-dating of ten graves from the cemetery of Singen, we propose a significantly different dating range, which forces us to re-think the traditional relative and absolute chronologies as well as the narrative of technical development. We are now able to date the beginning of the Early Bronze Age to around 2150 BC and its end to around 1700 BC. Moreover, there is no transition between Bronze (Bz) A1 and Bronze (Bz) A2, but a complete overlap between the type objects of the two phases from 1900–1700 BC. We thus present a revised chronology of the assumed diagnostic type objects of the Early Bronze Age and recommend a radiocarbon-based view on the development of the material culture. Finally, we propose that the traditional phases Bz A1 and Bz A2 do not represent a chronological sequence, but regionally different social phenomena connected to the willingness of local actors to appropriate the new bronze technology.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 Year Old's Show-and-Tale (Isle of Wight)

The elementary school of a 5 year old in the Isle of Wight now has something interesting in the display case.

The youngster found a Beaker barb-and-tang which he thought was a dinosaur tooth.  The ailerons and tang are in perfect condition.

I saw this register in the Portable Antiques database several days ago and didn't think much of it.
However, the back story of how it was found makes it interesting.  From the BBC [Link]

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chronic Mercury Exposure in LN Perdigoes

This paper in Nature by Emslie et al (2015) piqued my interest having watched a documentary on sluicing in the developing world the other night ago.  So a paper about moderate to stratospheric mercury levels in ancient human remains naturally seems a little more interesting than it did last week. 

But first, let me delve into the paper and its conclusion before I get to my usual quackery.  A number of individuals from the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic (pre-Beaker) of Southern Portugal were analyzed with those of Perdigoes (n=37) being found to have very, very high levels of mercury.  Mercury, or quicksilver, was historically extracted from cinnabar and Iberia exported it since prehistory.  Cinnabar was used in pigments and in burials in many places, but especially these places.

Tested Sites (Fig 1 from the paper)

The authors consider a number of reasonable options as to the mercury levels in the 37 souls of Perdigoes, eliminating the more topical and environmental possibilities.  Clearly, within the lifetime of these people, they were coming into prolonged contact with the element.

It's always possible that the people were doing something weird, like using vermillion as a food preservative or a medicine, but certainly not as an embalming agent, since it would only affect the flesh and the authors exclude various post-mortem uses like this.  For practical purposes, use of red body paint or tattoo ink is viewed by the authors as the most likely origin of prolonged contact and there is circumstantial evidence that a similar phenomenon may have affected Plains Indians with neuropathy or other peoples who used paints this way.  This is the conclusion of the paper and it seems the most plausible conclusion.

However, even young children had elevated levels which makes me suspicious.  The toxic levels of mercury and the importance of the Ossea Morena and the iron belt below it are just too tempting for the Beaker Blog.  The isotopic signature of the mercury for these sites appears to have originated two to three hundred miles away in Almaden, implying some degree of economic scarcity.  Scarcity necessarily creates inequality.  So while cinnabar may have been more common or attainable by average people than other commodities, it would require a level of use that is potentially far greater than individuals in other periods and places, like Çatalhöyük, Ancient Rome or their regional neighbors.

It doesn't appear that these tested individuals were responsible for mining or reducing cinnabar either, since they were the consumers of cinnabar from the mines at Almaden, a more central region of Iberia.

But, could there be other possibilities as well?

Recently, I blogged on a paper where the authors showed that most of the gold and copper of the British Early Bronze Age more likely came from sluicing the rivers in Wales and Cornwall, rather than excavation mining.  There were several suggestions as to the collection method, but this is a fairly recent hypothesis in the developing stage.

It has been shown that gold mining using the mercury amalgamation process was used by 1,000 B.C.  It's worth noting that Almaden (again) was the primary supplier of Carthaginian and Phoenician amalgamation mercury (Olaf Malm, 1998) and the same by Romans in a later period.  (de Lacerda and Salomon, 1997b) 

Amalgamation is basically 'panning', but using amalgamation as a more effective way to capture particles, example> [youtube].  Hydraulic mining has become a big issue in the developing world, search Lacerda and Salomon...

Prehistoric Gold in Europe: Mines, Metallurgy and Manufacture (Morteani, Northover 1993)

Perdigoes lies in a small geological zone called the Ossea Morena, a zone which appears to have been the main supplier for the earliest copper metallurgy at the Zambujal (at this time) and neighboring Atlantic fortresses (Müller, Goldenberg, Bartelheim et al., 2007)

Prehistoric Gold in Europe: Mines, Metallurgy and Manufacture (Morteani, Northover 1993)

Amalgamation can be used to extract gold, silver and copper and it's always possible that this process was known much earlier.  Maybe this would answer some of the puzzling questions about Perdigoes?

Opened and quickly filled ditches?  The location of the site?  Heavily vitrified crucibles?

But then again, people used to salt their food with lead, so a simple answer may be the best answer.
Interpretation LBK EN by Karol Schauer

Chronic mercury exposure in Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic populations in Portugal from the cultural use of cinnabar
Steven D. Emslie1, Rebecka Brasso2, William P. Patterson3, António Carlos Valera4,
Ashley McKenzie1, Ana Maria Silva5, James D. Gleason6 & Joel D. Blum6

Cinnabar is a natural mercury sulfide (HgS) mineral of volcanic or hydrothermal origin that is found worldwide. It has been mined prehistorically and historically in China, Japan, Europe, and the Americas to extract metallic mercury (Hg0) for use in metallurgy, as a medicinal, a preservative, and as a red pigment for body paint and ceramics. Processing cinnabar via combustion releases Hg0 vapor that can be toxic if inhaled. Mercury from cinnabar can also be absorbed through the gut and skin, where it can accumulate in organs and bone. Here, we report moderate to high levels of total mercury (THg) in human bone from three Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic (5400–4100 B.P.) sites in
southern Portugal that were likely caused by cultural use of cinnabar. We use light stable isotope and Hg stable isotope tracking to test three hypotheses on the origin of mercury in this prehistoric human bone. We traced Hg in two individuals to cinnabar deposits near Almadén, Spain, and conclude that use of this mineral likely caused mild to severe mercury poisoning in the prehistoric population. Our methods have applications to bioarchaeological investigations worldwide, and for tracking trade routes and mobility of prehistoric populations where cinnabar use is documented.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Max Planck Institute - Jena Conference Abstract Book 2015

Here's the Abstract Book for the Genetics/Linguistics Conference Oct 11 - 14.  It's organized by Wolfgang Haak and Johannes Krause.  [Webpage]

Here's the [Program] and the [Abstract Book]

There is plenty of ammo here for a four day foodfight.  It's commendable that they have brought in dissenting opinions and skeptics of the recent marriage of linguistics, culture and genetics.

Every one of these speeches has an interesting speaker, I'll cut and paste just a few:

From Yamnaya to Bell Beakers: Mechanisms of Transmission in an Interconnected Europe, 3500–2000 BC Volker Heyd, Universtiy Bristol, Bistol and University of Helsinki, Helsinki 

Yamnaya Peoples in the East and Bell Beakers Users in the West are rightly seen as the apogees in a long-term process of individualisation, gender differentiation, warrior display and internationalisation/unification that fundamentally change the face of the European Continent from the mid fourth and throughout the third millennium BC. We can only approach the reasons why prehistoric peoples and cultures from regions across Europe, which were no more than marginally in touch before, join in the same emblematic pottery, new drinking habits, similar burial customs, anthropomorphic stelae, ostentatious display of weapons and other paraphernalia, and thus common values. However rather than seeing this development as an internal European progress I want to point to the importance of the Pontic-Caspian steppes, and a 2000 years lasting interaction scenario of infiltrating Suvorovo-Novodanilovka, Nizhnemikhailovka-Kvityana and Yamnaya peoples and populations with their more sedentary contemporaries in southeast Europe, the Carpathian basin and northeast of the Carpathian bow. A crucial part of this interaction –besides migrations and the exchange of genes and goods as recently highlighted in several publications not only in Nature and Science– is the forwarding of innovations in the sphere of subsistence economy. We see this archaeologically in a further importance of animal husbandry, with larger herds, specialised breeding and new forms of herd-ing management in particular for cattle. This obviously sets in motion a substantial shift in general mobility patterns and of communication networks. It is easily conceivable that this interaction must also have had a profound impact on the whole settlement organisation and people’s way-of-life, in consequence probably fundamentally affecting the basics of societies and thus challenging the whole system of ideas, imaginations, morale, symbols and terms – a new world-view and ultimately the base for a new language.

Old stories, new failures? Genetics, migration and mobility during third millennium European archaeology Marc Vander Linden, Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London 

Over the past few years, several publications based upon the application of scientific techniques (e.g. Sr isotopes, aDNA) have revived the interest for migration, mobility and demography during the 3rd mill. cal. BC in Europe. These contributions should be welcomed by archaeologists for forcing us to revisit our data from another perspective, as well as for bringing back the spotlight on a period sometimes forgotten between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. Yet, many archaeologists have expressed either doubt or a relative lack of interest for these papers, largely because some of their results worryingly echo interpretations which have been lurking throughout the history of the discipline for more than a century (e.g. steppe influences, Iberian homeland,...) This paper will briefly discuss the scientific and archaeological evidence for the 3rd mill. cal. BC, with a focus on the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker complexes. This review aims at showing the complexity inherent to this period, which cannot be read as a mere suite of migratory events which would have distributed artefacts, genes and languages across Europe. On the contrary, distinct facets of the archaeological record, genetics and linguistics all seem to tell different stories. Rather than proposing a mere cautionary tale rejecting cross-disciplinary dialogue, this paper will explore alternative ways aiming at retuning together these apparently discordant voices.

 The East European Steppe in the Discussion about the Expansion of the IndoEuropean Language Elke Kaiser, Institut für Prähistorische Archäologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin
Ever since the late 19th century archaeologists and linguists, using methods specific to their fields, have attempted to identify the region in which the proto-IndoEuropean language was spoken. However, today there is still no consensus in the many conclusions; several areas and time spans have been put forward as the “Indo-European homeland” and are yet a subject of debate. In the past year several scientific papers were published concerning specific features that could be determined, by using population genetic methods, in the skeletal material that had been excavated and analysed from grave mounds dated to the 1st half of the 3rd millennium BCE (Yamnaya culture) in the east European steppe area. The same features were then identified in graves of the Corded Ware culture in Central Germany, moreover in surprisingly high amounts. This population genetic shift has now been associated with processes that have been repeatedly postulated with regard to the spread of the proto-Indo-European language: namely, large population groups migrated from the east European steppe zone into Central Germany, a movement that led to marked demographic as well as cultural changes. Have we come closer to solving the puzzle about the spread of the proto-Indo-European language? In order to better judge this issue, we should be aware of the different levels at which the various conclusions have been made. Therefore, in my contribution I will focus on the Yamnaya culture which in general terms is archaeologically described by a specific grave construction and a specific burial custom. Following this I will present a few sceptical considerations concerning the possibility of correlating archaeological evidence with the linguistic construct of the proto-Indo-European language.
The Genetic History and Structure of Britain Nick Patterson, Broad Institute, Boston and David Reich, Harvard Medical School and Broad Institute, Boston 
The recently published paper on the genetic structure of Britain (Leslie et al. Nature 2015) has shown subtle genetic variation correlating with geography. Here we reexamine the evidence in the light of our understanding of the genetics of Ancient Europe and comment on some implications for how Indo-Europeans spread into Europe.
Indo-European in Atlantic Europe at the proto-historic horizon and before: some recent work and its possible implications John T. Koch, University of Wales, Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Cardiff 
The aim is to introduce briefly a few topics in current research of potential relevance for the workshop’s theme. These include the following: • the Celticity of the South-western (‘Tartessian’) inscriptions and their background in the SW Iberian Late Bronze Age ‘warrior’ stelae, Middle Bronze Age Alentejo stelae, and Copper Age anthropomorphic stelae of the north Pontic region; • the common Palaeohispanic name Arquius ‘bowman’ and the regional survival of archery from the Beaker Copper Age; • the recurring idea (= emerging consensus?) of Celtic as Indo-European on an Iberian and/or Aquitanian/Palaeo-Basque substrate; • Phoenicians (together with literacy and the historical record) reaching the West by 900 BC, catalysing the break-up of the Atlantic Bronze Age and Proto-Celtic.

Beaker Horseman and Two Women - Genetics Paper

Quick observations on this paper: Eight Thousand Years of Natural Selection in Europe, Matheison et al, 2015

QLB26 (a man) had mtdna previously reported in Brandt et al, 2013, now we have the rest of him. Although I don't believe the osteological observations are new, this is the first time I have read this of any Beaker... From Matheison et al:

"A notable observation from the physical anthropological examination is traits at the acetabulum and the femur head suggesting that the individual frequently rode horses."

Beaker Recreation from Tatort Eulau Mystery Documentary
...also included in the grave, ceramic sherds (apparently incomplete or intentionally destroyed), three flint arrowheads and unspecified animal bones.

Whether by horses or boats, mobility is key to the Beaker phenomenon.  I think this is why they have been such a troublesome group of ancients.

The two females are from the Benzingerode-Heimburg area, one is unspecified in age, the other is an old woman.  Both mtdna profiles were previously reported.

Hopefully, I can re-attack the paper later today or tomorrow...

Monday, October 5, 2015

And Now Another One... Tick Tock

We'll, I'm not sure exactly what this is, but it looks to be another homestretch for another big genetic study, this time focused on the West.  This is a conference by Rise Project people.

Within the last year there were two earth-moving papers, first came Haak et al, then Allentoft et al, both focused on transition in Central and Eastern Europe.  I'll bet within the next two months you'll see a similar succession of papers, except this time focused on the Western half.

Assuming this is what I think it is, you can partly tell what some of the remains could be by the speakers.  Man! I would swim the ocean...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mummification was Common in the Isles (Study)

Beginning sometime around 2,500 B.C., Britons started practicing mummification, lasting almost two thousand years.

A previously mummified individual (photo Geoff Morely via Sheffield)

What's big news here isn't the fact that mummification occurred, I've blogged about this before, rather it's that artificial preservation (apparently through mummification) was widespread or commonplace and that it occurred over a long period of time.  Here's the article from Popular Archaeology.

Of course, all that is ever left in damp Britain and Ireland is a skeleton in a cist grave.  The researchers used microscopic analysis to examine decomposition in the early stages after death to reach their conclusion.  These habits begin in the Early Bronze Age and continued to just before the Iron Age.  So there is a considerable period of continuity in burial practice.

It appears that the scope of the project may expand into the Continent to determine if this was widespread (I'll guess probably so).  More from the university website Sheffield UK.

This is in line with topics I've discussed before, one being a possible belief in resurrection [here].