Monday, August 7, 2017

"Death by Combat" Page 2. (Needham et al, 2017)

This is page 2 of "Death by Combat" by Needham et al, 2017.
Having now read the paper in its entirety, some interesting questions...

Racton's Dagger.  Fig 17  (Needham et al, 2017, photograph Stuart Needham)

We might carefully assume that the dagger buried with Racton Man (above) was on his person when he died, Racton apparently having lost a dagger fight.  If that were true, it'd be interesting that the victor and his company did not take Racton's dagger having the power to do so, an item that would be very highly coveted for the time.  This potentially tells us about the nature of the encounter.

In his book "Feud in the Icelandic Saga", Jesse Byock (1984) makes a case that certain fundamentals of conflict resolution are woven into the themes of Icelandic (and by extension, IE) sagas.  Every story has woven within it a blood feud, a holmgang or einvigi.

Needham et al seem to view this death in that light, as an einvigi (single combat dual) and they further propose that this was because of a leadership contest.  That may be the case, but it could be as something stupid as a foul remark and a challenge to dual.  Either way, it is reasonable to think that this fight was mano-to-mano.

Milston Hill Dagger of similar riveted style.  From Fig 22 (Needham et al, 2017)

Like most Beakers, Racton Man was buried in a wooden enclosure or container with his head resting on a pillow.  When his body decomposed, his head rolled off the pillow giving its position in the grave.  There was also no perceivable rodent activity, so it would seem the container was fairly well constructed.

In addition to this, it can't be ruled out that he was also beheaded at death.  The attacker very forcefully made a succession of blows, any of which could have caused death.

And finally, to add something concerning high status dagger burials...

"It is intriguing that among these injuries, a high proportion are arm injuries: for example, a forearm parry fracture at Chilbolton, Hampshire; a healed upper arm fracture at Liffs Low (Beaker burial), Derbyshire; healed forearm fractures at Pyecombe, East Sussex, Barnack, Cambridgeshire, and Fordington Farm, Dorset; an extensive wound to the left wrist at Callis Wold 23, East Yorkshire, which the recipient survived; and a possible upper arm injury at Tallington, Lincolnshire. At Court Hill, Somerset, a left humerus chopped right through was interpreted as the probable cause of death, and a burial at Amesbury, Wiltshire, had suffered the same fate, but also lacked its right arm, skull and mandible. Burial 11 at Staxton Beacon, East Yorkshire, had a major weapon injury to the left shoulder.103 Taken together, these begin to look significant, particularly since leg injuries seem to be negligible by comparison. There are also several skull injuries of varied kinds. All but one of the skeletons is sexed and all are males. Thorpe saw such injuries as evidence that recipients were ‘killed in the course of small-scale conflicts, whose bravery was then recognised by a prestigious burial’.104 It may now be possible to venture more on the particular social context of some conflicts."

With all the engraved daggers, what went on at Stonehenge and Mont Bego anyway?
And hat tip to Andrew, see part 1

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mother Lode

Beakerblog found the mother lode of all flint mothers this week.  Some of the nodules are huge, Danish dagger worthy.  This particular lot lode is weirdly like 90% flint, different colors, different qualities.  Not exaggerating.  There is literally several TONS (tons!) of it is this particular parking lot.

The best place to find flint is actually in the parking lots of offices and businesses that have decorative rock beds.  A lot of time they truck in river stone.  The best way to know for sure you've got flint is to strike it and it'll smell like a cigarette lighter.

Always ask permission to hunt for rocks, very especially on private lands, and probably the same for doctor's offices, banks and small businesses.  My advice for the buy-n-large box stores is, well, that's for another blog.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Death By Combat (Needham et al, 2017)

Racton Man died in a dagger fight, possibly from a knife to the armpit or from a slash to the elbow.  And what a dagger he had, one of a kind, the earliest detected bronze in Britain.

He was a big ole dude for his day.  If not a local king or village chief, some kind of honcho that made a few enemies along the way.  His opponent wielded a razor-sharp, metal knife, probably a rival Beaker.

PA via Daily Mail UK
The authors consider, buried in this Pay-per-no-view, that leadership was contested through combat trials, which brings to mind the locations in which dagger representations occur in abundance, such as  Stone Henge and Mont Bego.  The supplement is free and contains quite a bit of technical data.  Supplement1

"Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft superman" Dailymail

"Revealed:  Racton Man was a Bronze Age Warrior chief"  HistoryExtra

Needham, Kenny, Cole, Montgomery, Jay, Davis, Marshall (2017) The Antiquities Journal, Cambridge [Link]

"A previously unresearched Early Bronze Age dagger-grave found in 1989 at Racton, West Sussex, is profiled here through a range of studies. The dagger, the only grave accompaniment, is of the ‘transitional’ Ferry Fryston type, this example being of bronze rather than copper. Bayesian analysis of relevant radiocarbon dates is used to refine the chronology of the earliest bronze in Britain. While the Ferry Fryston type was current in the earlier half of the twenty-second century bc, the first butt-riveted bronze daggers did not emerge until the second half. The Racton dagger is also distinguished by its elaborate rivet-studded hilt, an insular innovation with few parallels.
The excavated skeleton was that of a senior male, buried according to the appropriate rites of the time. Isotopic profiling shows an animal-protein rich diet that is typical for the period, but also the likelihood that he was brought up in a region of older silicate sedimentary rocks well to the west or north west of Racton. He had suffered injury at or close to the time of death; a slice through the distal end of his left humerus would have been caused by a fine-edged blade, probably a dagger. Death as a result of combat-contested leadership is explored in the light of other injuries documented among Early Bronze Age burials. Codified elite-level combat could help to explain the apparent incongruity between the limited efficacy of early dagger forms and their evident weapon-status."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Danish Halberds (Horn, 2017)

This is a study specific to Denmark, and it looks at the functional use and maintenance history of halberds. The results of these personal halberd 'histories' reveals that these items were regularly and powerfully used against creatures, not the decorations of strutting roosters. Christian Horn looks at each weapon to reveal its maintenance history and the result is this: for the Cimbrian Peninsula and the Danish Isles, Halberds were used, repeatedly repaired, but very powerfully used by their wielders.
Now there is a viewpoint by Skak-Neilsen 2009, mentioned here, that halberds were basically used for pithingor essentially that or something, and a case could be made that Medieval slaughter techniques generally pithed with poleaxes, at least in the far West. But viewing the Bronze Age weapon within that functional sphere is problematic for a host of reasons, one being the decline of the halberd in relation to the ascendancy of the sword as a 'beyond-arm's-length weapon' is fairly correlated.

You'll notice on this weapon below and the other halberds in this series that repairs aren't just impact damage to the tip.  There are damages of different sorts along the weapon, suggesting a wide range of movements, hooking and defenses.  Clearly, the weapon below was involved in combat.

There's actually a long and varied list of reasons to view the halberd as a human-only weapon, and if pithing is excluded, quite possibly the very first weapon created by humans with the expressed and exclusive purpose of killing, often and efficiently, humans very specifically. Take all other weapons, remove its hunting value, and see what remains.  Basically nothing.

For the moment, I'll stop here and return later to Horn's thorough research on a continental scale. It's very extensive, and very damning. There is another paper penned by him and Kristensen concerning Early Bronze Age warfare forthcoming.

"Combat and ritual — Wear analysis on metal halberds from the Danish Isles and the Cimbrian Peninsula"
Christian Horn.  Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Leibnizstr. 3, 24118 Kiel, Germany


Use wear analysis was carried out on fourteen halberds from the Danish Isles and the Cimbrian Peninsula. Rather than presenting a summary of the results, each analysis will be described in detail to give a sense of the complexity of the use wear present on each halberd. This way a sense of the scale of combat they were involved in can be conveyed. This challenges older ideas that see in halberds only ritual implements or signifiers of status. The analysis of the wear traces indicates their use in both, combat and ritual.

Slovak, Czech Bell Beaker Osteology (Hukelova, 2017)

Does anyone have access to this paper? [here - Edinburgh Research Archive]

Zuzana Hukelova apparently builds on other osteological comparisons of other researchers, and interestingly mentions the disparity, not dimophism, of the Chalcolithic individuals (noted several posts ago by Kitti Kohler).  This appears to be a larger regional study and includes Slovakian Beakers in the analysis the first time that I can see.  Spread the wealth.

"Despite the potential of a biocultural methodology, osteology and archaeology are often approached separately in some parts of Central Europe. This osteoarchaeological thesis presents a rare comparative study of populations occupying modern-day Slovakia, Moravia, and Bohemia from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (EBA). By examining skeletal indicators of health and lifestyle, it aims to contribute to bioarchaeological research within the study region. It also provides new insights into a series of important sites where no osteological evaluation of skeletal remains have previously been performed. Human remains from thirty-four sites in Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia, 152 adults and 136 subadults, were analysed. Demographic, pathological and metric data were recorded and evaluated, and compared with previously published data for contemporaneous populations in order to create a more comprehensive representation of the populations in the area. The results suggest several differences between the Neolithic and the following periods, mostly as regards health status. Higher dietary and environmental stress was indicated in the Neolithic period, as suggested by lower mortality peak (especially of females and subadults) and about 5cm shorter stature, and generally worse health status of Neolithic population when compared to the Chalcolithic and EBA individuals. The Neolithic is also the only period where females were more numerous than males. Such a trend is quite common in the Neolithic of the study region. This may be a result of increased migration of Neolithic females, as raids for wives are suggested to have been practiced. As indicated by both the osteological and archaeological record, one of the sites examined, Svodín, could have been a site of contemporary elites and their family members. Chalcolithic populations revealed differences in cranial shape, being mesocephalic (medium-headed) or brachycephalic (short-headed), whereas both the Neolithic and the EBA populations were dolichocephalic (long-headed). Differences in male and female cranial features suggest a possible mixing of indigenous and incoming populations. Such results may contribute to the ongoing discussion about the ‘foreignness‘ of Chalcolithic Bell Beaker people in the area. Traumatic lesions suggest that males were more physically active than females in all three periods, including violent encounters. Even though violence was recorded in all three periods, especially in the western part of the region, and the intensity and brutality of the assaults appears to increase in the Chalcolithic and culminating in the EBA. In addition, poorer health status of EBA children was recorded, possibly related to more marked social differentiation in the period. In general, poorer health was implied for the prehistoric populations of today’s Slovakia. The results of this study can serve as the basis for future research and contribute to a more comprehensive image of lifestyle and development of prehistoric populations in the study area."

Friday, July 21, 2017

DNA - Protocogotas (Esparza et al, 2017)

Hat tip Bernard and Davidski

This triple burial dates to early Proto-Cogotas, sometime between 1918 and 1772 B.C.  The two women and unborn baby were buried atop a mattress, pillows or other organic material that decomposed, allowing rotation of the bones.

LTB-03 was a young woman who died while she was at full-term pregnancy or in labor with LTB-01, also a girl.  The nuclear and mitochondrial DNA further demonstrate this relationship beyond all doubt.  The older woman was not maternally related, but considering the nuclear DNA, the possibility of a paternal aunt or grandmother was not excluded.  (surprising that it's inconclusive)

Esparza et al highlight the importance of DNA in determining relationships of the past.  Before DNA was conducted, it had been thought that the elder woman was a man due to the robustness of the cranium and to the (seemingly) diagnostic posture; and that this was a small nuclear family that died under unfortunate and contemporary settings.  However, further osteological analysis of the cranial and post-cranial remains started to sow doubt about the 'man', and DNA finally revealed that she was a woman of uncertain relationship.

Triple burial from Fig 2.  (Esparza et al, 2017)
In past generations, many touching assumptions seemed reasonable of Early Bronze Age burials:  A man and woman in a pit grave were husband and wife.  A woman embracing a small child was the child's biological mother.  They weren't bad assumptions, most are likely correct; but they are not facts.  Obviously, DNA has excluded certain relationships in this burial.

Before getting to the gender identity of LTB-02, quick background. Esparza et al, 2012b previously came up with a theory for the gross lack of Cogotas Horizon burials in Central Spain, attributing them to exposure or something.  For the few discovered burials, when they did occur, they were exceedingly those of females.  They essentially make a case that Cogotas people dealt with taboo deaths, such as a woman dying in labor, differently from the general population.  In other words, this burial from Los Tolmas might have had been associated with a taboo death.  They make a compelling comparison to the treatment of taboo deaths of pregnant women in colonial Ghana.

Next, they offer some alternative scenarios for the relationship between these women from discussions at a recent workshop.  One proposal was that the elder woman was a mid-wife, who for whatever reason, was volunteered into this situation.  Given the lateness of the pregnancy, and obviously the poor outcome, it seems possible the mid-wife found herself in an inescapable cloud of superstition.  It's also possible that the pregger died before labor and some unfortunate, lower-class soul got the honor to deliver her lady's child in the next world. 

Given the manliness of the elder woman and the orientation of the burial, the conversation drifted toward 'gender identity'.  But in my view the circumstances surrounding this burial make more sense when focused on the tragedy of a very pregnant woman dying unexpectedly. 

Protocogotas is the tail end of Bell Beaker in this region, so their genomes might offer a fuller picture of the Mesetan ethnicies from the previous period.

"Familiar Kinship?  Palaeogenetic and Isotopic Evidence from a Triple Burial of the Cogotas I Archaeological Culture (Bronze Age, Iberian Peninsula)"
"Summary. This paper examines the identification of kinship relations in
archaeological multiple burials and advocates the application of different
methods and lines of research to clarify such issues in relation to funerary
practices. Recognizing family relationships – an important task in research on
prehistoric societies – is especially complicated and interpretations have often
been made without an adequate empirical basis. Bioarchaeological, isotopic
and DNA analyses applied to the triple burial of Los Tolmos (Cogotas I
archaeological culture, Iberian Bronze Age) have provided direct information
on this issue. In this respect, the new results also imply the need to consider gender
constructs in greater depth and to be more open-minded towards other forms of
relationship in the past beyond the traditional heteronormative nuclear family." 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

DNA - Cogotas I

If anyone has access to this paper, spread the wealth:

"Familiar Kinship?  Palaeogenetic and Isotopic Evidence from a Triple Burial of the Cogotas I Archaeological Culture (Bronze Age, Iberian Peninsula)"

Cogotas I is the product of the sophisticated El Argar hegmon expanding its influence deeper into the Iberian Peninsula.  But for all intents and purposes, Cogotas folk are likely, in the greater part, the progeny of Mesetan Beakers - we shall see.  Much of that older culture is remember in the schemes of Cogotas pottery throughout the period.

White paste infill on Cogotas II pottery at Museum of Valladolid (Benito-Alvarez - commons)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Barcelona Beakers (Olalde et al, 2017)

Continuing with narratives from  "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.

The Paris Street Beakers in Catalonia were mostly buried with Maritime and epi-Maritime ceramics, and two of the later Pyrenees Group.  Unfortunately, there isn't any specific information on which layer the ten individuals come from or with which ceramics they were associated with.  There was also an eleventh individual that did not make it into the study.

In a previous post, I noted that Beakers associated with the old school Maritime-inspired pottery, the best I can so far tell, appear to lack or have a reduced Steppe component.  This appears true in at least two other regions outside of Iberia [Hégenheim], and maybe a third.

The Cerdanyola newspaper reports that two of the women were first degree relatives.  If I am reading correctly, all of them were lactase persistent except for one woman.  
"Individual 5 from Level II"  Fig 1 of (Gomez-Merino et al, 2011)
Interesting are the paternal and maternal markers.  50% of the men are R1b of sorts, but essentially lack the East European ancestry.  The maternal profiles are 50% haplogroup H, 40% are H1.  No two are the same, so I'll assume the eleventh individual was a sister excluded from further analysis.

Looking on a continental scale, the Olalde authors concluded "...we could significantly exclude Iberian sources [for the Beaker complex]...These results support largely different origins for Beaker Complex individuals, with no discernible Iberia-related ancestry outside Iberia."

By "Significantly exclude", we might assume they have excluded from the continental ethnic a component directly attributable to early Iberian Bell Beakers, not just Iberians.  When the genomes are public, we might have more confidence or we might have more questions!  The unequal resurgence of hunter ancestry in the Middle Neolithic may give us some pause.

Fig. 7 of (Frances et al, 2006)
And the Harvard Team seems to be pausing in releasing the genomes.  Fine tuning?  Probably not, but the Middle Neolithic seems like it might have a few more surprises.

The narrative from Olalde et al:

"Paris Street (Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)
Contact person: Joan Francès Farré

During urban construction work at Paris Street in Cerdanyola del Vallès (Vallès Occidental, Barcelona province) in 2003, a large amount of skeletal material and associated pottery was unearthed. Follow-up excavation uncovered a Chalcolithic hypogeum with more than 9,000 human remains as well as lithic and ceramic material, the latter assigned to the Bell Beaker tradition.  The hypogeum displays several occupational phases. The 59 oldest one presented an ash layer underlying the first inhumations that could have a ritualistic significance. Charcoal from that basal layer was dated to 2878-2496 calBCE (4110±60 BP, UBAR-817). The first funerary phase (UE-15) shows a large number of successive inhumations (minimal number of individuals 36) that are still in anatomical position, placed in lateral decubitus and with flexed knees. Seven arrow points were retrieved from this layer. A thin, upper layer (UE-5) probably represents a re-organization of the existing funerary space, prior to the second funerary phase (UE-2). At UE-5, two Bell Beaker vessels of maritime style were retrieved. The UE-2 layer comprises fewer inhumations, and all of them were accompanied by typical Bell Beaker vessels: three in Maritime style, and two in epi-Maritime style. There were also numerous additional pieces of diverse typology. Over this layer, a final one, labelled UE-3, contained two more skeletons arranged over riverbed pebbles with a Bell Beaker vessel of a regional style known as "Pyrenaic". A bone from this layer yielded the youngest date in the hypogeum of 2469-2206 calBCE (3870±45 BP, UBAR-860). We recovered ancient DNA data from 10 individuals:
I0257/10362A: 2571–2350 calBCE [R1b1 + H1ax]

I0258/10367A: 2850–2250 BCE [H1q]
I0260/10370A: 2850–2250 BCE [I2a2a + K1a2a]
I0261/10378A: 2850–2250 BCE [R1b1a(xR1b1a1a2a) +U5b1i]
I0262/10381A: 2850–2250 BCE [U5b3]
I0263/10385A: 2850–2250 BCE [X2b+226]
I0823/10360A: 2850–2250 BCE [H1]
I0825/10394A: 2474–2300 calBCE (3915±29 BP, MAMS-25939)  [G2 + K1a4a1]                                                                  I0826/10400A: 2833–2480 calBCE (4051±28 BP, MAMS-25940) [H1t]
I1553/10388A: 2850–2250 BCE" [pre-H103]

From Fig S1, Olalde et al, 2017

The article concerning the testing of DNA

L’hipogeu calcolític del carrer París de Cerdanyola del Vallès, 2006 [Link]

Gibaja, J. F., Palomo, A., Francés, J., Majó, T., 2006 – Les puntes de sageta de l’hipogeu calcolític del carrer Paris (Cerdanyola): caracterització tecnomorfològica i funcional. Cypsela, 16: 127-133. [Link]

G. Gómez-Merino, T. Majó, C. Lorenzo, F. Gispert-Guirado, M. Stankova  et J. Francés, « Identification of Cinnabar by non-Destructive Techniques on a Human Mandible from Carrer Paris Chalcolithic Hypogeum (Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain) », ArcheoSciences, 35 | 2011, 241-247. [Link]

"Els grups del neolitic final, calcolitic i bronze antic.  Els inicis de la metal-lurgia"
Araceli Martin Colliga.  Cota Zero n. 18, 2003. Vic, p. 76-105 ISSN 0213-4640 [Link]

Monday, July 17, 2017

Liff's Low Beaker Reconstruction

Here's a facial construction of a man burial in a 'bowl barrow' at Liff's Low in Derbyshire, England.
The story from LiveScience 'Striking Face' of 4500-Year-Old English Man Revealed.

"Beaker reconstruction" Face Lab/Liverpool John Moores University

When Liff's Low was originally excavated, the first body included an unusual pot that Stuart Piggott believed might have been Peterborough Ware related (L.V. Grisnell, 1936 page 17).  The site was excavated years later revealing another cist containing a bell beaker pot and a skeleton [Historic England].  This individual appears to have been from the second excavation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Békásmegyer Begleitkeramik Beakers (I2364) and (I2365)

These next two Begleitkeramikers were excavated by Rózsa Kalicz-Schreiber, [page 2 in German] who defined the "Csepel Group" in 1973.  If you're interested in the anthropological background of Békásmegyer, Budakalasz is essentially several bars down [Link] and where in the world is Csepel Island? [Link], also two weird guys from Szigetszentmiklós  [Link] and how one of those might be directly 1/2 from these guys [Link].

Today, two more Beaker profiles from  "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.

The first individual of the double burial (I2364) had uni-parental markers H2 + U5a2b and a single grave burial tested individual (I2365) is R1b1a1a2a1a2b1 + V3 (R1b is specifically U152 > L2).  The first subject has little very little steppe-related ancestry in Table S1 of Olalde, but the second individual's personal paternity is located within the orbit of where his subclade has its greatest diversity and frequency (Eastern Group), which in archaeological terms probably also reflects the immediate origin of his paternal ancestry within Central Europe.  (see R. Rocca comments on L2 in the Po Valley)

With that are these contexts, the fact that the I2364 double burial lacked grave goods and both individuals were placed on their right sides.  On the other hand, I2365 was buried in a more diagnostic setting for the Beaker culture, has a more familiar ratio of steppe ancestry, but also culturally synthesizes local elements that define the Csepel Group.

"Old and New Narratives for Hungary around 2200 BC" Pusztainé Fischl et al, 2015 7th Archaeological Conference of Central Germany 
In the table below, notice the middle column of the Danube river region where Beaker is concentrated.  Before examining the most recently discovered Beaker individuals at Szigetszentmiklós, Kitti Köhler noted in 2011 that previous to this the stereotypical short-headed Beaker 'ethnic' had only been observed in subsequent or peripheral cultures, Kisapostag and Gata-Wieselburg.  Previously studied Beaker cemeteries showed a great deal of heterogeneity in cranial measurements, especially between the sexes (translation from Hungarian is a bit garbled).  With that, note that the only Gata individual tested to date is tested to R1b (Szecsenyi-Nagy, 2015)  Also in that study was one Vučedol period individual from Lánycsók in Southern Hungary as R1b which was directly dated to around 2800-2600

Fig 1b "
"overview of Late Copper Age, Early and Middle Bronze Age chronology, and cultures/groups in Hungary."
"Old and New Narratives for Hungary around 2200 BC" Pusztainé Fischl et al, 2015 7th Archaeological Conference of Central Germany 
Based on the recent Mesolithic study on Romania and the origin of the Cernavodă culture, it is a safe bet that within the period including Kostolac, Vucedol and Yamnaya Cultures of this region, there is already heavy paternal influence from the Western Black Sea as reflected in cultural trends, but it's also important to point out that the male ancestry of I2365 probably came from the West!

The degree of heterogeneity in this area (including I2364 and I2365) demonstrate that apparent influences from Somogyvár–Vinkovci/proto-Nagyrév are genetically and culturally associated with the spread of the accompanying ware which attenuates going west.  It would seem the association of Begleitkeramik with Central European Beakerfolk is one solution to the comparative reduction of steppe-related ancestry, or at least to a more mixed nature of the Eastern Group compared to those in the West and the Northwest (excluding Iberia).  So the social organization of the East Group must have been much more cosmopolitan than those of the Northwest Atlantic, the latter being in a genetic sense, more insulated in its late phase.
"Old and New Narratives for Hungary around 2200 BC" 
Pusztainé Fischl et al, 2015 7th Archaeological Conference of Central Germany
It's tempting to draw straight lines between points, but if it was that simple then all of this would have been figured out long ago.  There is a very complicate mess of interacting cultures in this area and to be honest, I understand less than 1% of it.

In the next posts, I'd like to move back to the Alpine area and Spain.
Fig S1 (a) from Olalde et al, 2017

Budapest-Békásmegyer, Királyok útja (former Vöröshadsereg útja) (Hungary)
Contact person: Anna Endrődi, Gabriella Kulcsár

"The site is situated in northern part of Budapest, on the western bank of the Danube
River. Rózsa Kalicz-Schreiber uncovered 154 burials of the cemetery between 1960 and
1983, at Budapest, Békásmegyer–Királyok útja. The cemetery, according to her
estimates, had originally contained between 200-300 hundred graves. Inurned burials
dominated in the investigated cemetery section covering an area of 7700 m2. The
inhumation burials of the Békásmegyer cemetery contained jugs of the southern type
rather than the Bell Beakers type. No more than four of the 30 inhumation graves
yielded genuine Bell Beakers, while five contained various elements of the Beaker
package such as stone wrist-guards, stone arrow-heads and bone buttons with V-shaped
perforation. Jugs of the southern, Somogyvár–Vinkovci/proto-Nagyrév type were
deposited in 15 inhumation burials; nine inhumation graves did not contain any grave
goods. Eighteen of the 28 scattered cremation burials contained genuine Bell Beakers,
while three yielded locally made copies or bowls with a stamped rim. New radiocarbon
dates were generated for three burials of the Budapest–Békásmegyer cemetery. The
individuals taken from inhumation burials yielded 1752 roughly similar dates for the
cemetery section: 3845±36 BP (Grave 193; DeA-2875), 3831±35 BP (Grave 432a;
DeA-2876), 3874±33 BP (Grave 445; DeA-2877). A Bayesian analysis of the three
AMS dates from the cemetery dates its use to approximately 2410–2220 calBCE"
"Grave 219/B (I2364, GEN 10a): Double burial excavated in 1966. Two individuals
were lying on their right side in contracted position, without grave goods. Individual B
is an adult male. The radiocarbon date for this individual is:
I2364/GEN_10a, Grave 219/B: 2470–2060 calBCE [2295–2060 calBCE (3779±28
BP, DeA-6749); 2470–2285 calBCE (3883±29 BP, DeA-7216)]"  [H2 - U5a2b]
"Grave 452 (I2365, GEN 11a): Burial of an adult male lying of his left side, in contracted
position, excavated in 1982. The skeleton was incomplete, and oriented north-northwest
to south-southeast, with hyper-flexed legs. Pottery grave goods (a Bell Beaker, an urn, a
bowl, and a jug) were situated beside the lower leg, at the southern part of the grave pit.
Other grave goods include an arrowhead, and two stone tools.
I2365/GEN_11a/Grave452: 2465-2205 calBCE [2465-2205 calBCE (3858±32 BP,
1767 DeA-6762); 2465-2213 calBCE (3858±32 BP, DeA-7220)]"
"Funerary Rituals Social Relations and Diffusion of Bell Beaker Csepel-Group" from Current researches on Bell Beakers Proceedings of the 15th International Bell Beaker Conference: From Atlantic to Ural.5th 9th May 2011 Poio Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain [Link]

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Michelsberg Thanksgiving (Beau et al, 2017)

Michelsberg folk sacrificed other people unlike themselves.  The results look pretty straightforward.

from Fig 1. "(mtDNA) haplogroups within the Gougenheim site"  Beau et al, 2017.
The Michelsberg expansion may be the largest involving H1 and H3 folk from the West into the Alpine, Central European area.  This may be the solution to the Brotherton paper. 

Bernard's comments on this new paper on the Michelsberg folk [here].
..and a leaf for latter, a possible similar racial segregation in Treilles, France with similar actors?

"Multi-scale ancient DNA analyses confirm the western origin of Michelsberg farmers and document probable practices of human sacrifice" by Beau et al, 2017.  Beau A, Rivollat M, Réveillas H, Pemonge M-H, Mendisco F, Thomas Y, et al. (2017) Multi-scale ancient DNA analyses confirm the western origin of Michelsberg farmers and document probable practices of human sacrifice. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0179742.


In Europe, the Middle Neolithic is characterized by an important diversification of cultures. In northeastern France, the appearance of the Michelsberg culture has been correlated with major cultural changes and interpreted as the result of the settlement of new groups originating from the Paris Basin. This cultural transition has been accompanied by the expansion of particular funerary practices involving inhumations within circular pits and individuals in “non-conventional” positions (deposited in the pits without any particular treatment). If the status of such individuals has been highly debated, the sacrifice hypothesis has been retained for the site of Gougenheim (Alsace). At the regional level, the analysis of the Gougenheim mitochondrial gene pool (SNPs and HVR-I sequence analyses) permitted us to highlight a major genetic break associated with the emergence of the Michelsberg in the region. This genetic discontinuity appeared to be linked to new affinities with farmers from the Paris Basin, correlated to a noticeable hunter-gatherer legacy. All of the evidence gathered supports (i) the occidental origin of the Michelsberg groups and (ii) the potential implication of this migration in the progression of the hunter-gatherer legacy from the Paris Basin to Alsace / Western Germany at the beginning of the Late Neolithic. At the local level, we noted some differences in the maternal gene pool of individuals in "conventional" vs. "non-conventional" positions. The relative genetic isolation of these sub-groups nicely echoes both their social distinction and the hypothesis of sacrifices retained for the site. Our investigation demonstrates that a multi-scale aDNA study of ancient communities offers a unique opportunity to disentangle the complex relationships between cultural and biological evolution.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Szigetszentmiklós Cemetery (Santa's Six Foot Elves)

Next up is a gigantic cemetery in Szigetszentmiklós township on Csepel Island (Shea-pel). In Hungarian, "Santa Claus Island" (I believe) is broken down: Sziget (Island) Szent (Saint) Miklos (Nicholas). Like the previous Neolithic, the Eastern Domain of Beakers preferred enormous cemeteries to which they grafted themselves.

The first Beaker immigrants were largely buried in the N-S gender differentiated format deriving from further west on the Danube. Over time Beaker graves in this area trend toward cremation urns, which is viewed as regression to native habits.  This cemetery at Szigetszentmiklós is noteworthy for a larger percentage of inhumations than other Csepel Beaker cemeteries.  It also has its fair share of bodiless burials, which is a freaky Beaker thing.

Like the Małopolskan Beakers from the previous post, the initial Beaker ethnic is wholly alien to this region, being characterized as a tall, Alpine, wide-faced, strongly-built people with pronounced brachycephaly.   The prominent noses, cheeks and mastoid processes are often remarked upon, including from the Köhler paper below.

The cemetery described in these three papers is "Felső Ürge-hegyi dűlő", which is a motorway site unrelated to a previous one at Szigetszentmiklós.  This part was excavated in 2006-2007 by Robert Patay (paper below).  These profiles are from "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.

Köhler, K   Anthrop. Közl. 52; 5576. (2011) [Link]

The Szigetszentmiklós occupants are considered by the osteologist to be highly heterogeneous and that may be evident in the craniometrics of the four individuals genetic tested here, 49, 133, 552, 688 (table 4 of Köhler). This cemetery is also, according to Kitti Köhler, the first time in the history of this Carpathian region that the Bell Beaker ethnic type is determined.

As we look to the Olalde paper, the Szigetszentmiklós individuals are in a genetic sense, a society of mixed ancestries. The individual pictured above (I2787) has the highest concentration of the Steppe-like ancestry of any individual within the Beaker world, and probably Western Europe for that matter. At the same rate, Szigetszentmiklós has an individual (I2741) who exhibits nearly zero Steppe-like ancestry.

It may be tempting to over-interpret the heterogeneity from Szigetszentmiklós, especially having an individual with such elevated Steppe-related ancestry, buried in the Beaker format. But there are several different narratives for these four individuals that can't yet be excluded.

When you look at grave 688 (I2787), you will see below his Y-chromosome haplogroup is identified as R1b1a1a2a2 (Z2103) which is unlike almost all Bell Beakers (that can be discerned) but absolutely like many of the Yamnaya sequenced to date. This can mean several things, but one reasonable possibility is that I2787 was ethnically half Bell Beaker and half Tisza Yamnaya. I could imagine his father as a relatively unmixed Yamnaya pastoralist from across the Tisza River and that his mother was an ethnic Central European Bell Beaker, which is why he was entitled to Beaker rites at Szigetszentmiklós.

It could also be viewed as fray from a region that in some past time sent out founder lineages; but whether true or not, I don't think that would really describe this man's personal history, not on Csepel Island. Some sites on the island have ridiculous quantities of horse remains. I2787's family history may reflect the horse trade and networks that connected different peoples in this area. Maybe his parents were some of those different peoples.

(graphic 1 only) from Robert Patay, 2007  [Link]
Fig. 13. Szigetszentmiklós-Felső Ürge-hegyi dűlő – 1–6: bell beaker examples in the cemetery 

The individual of these four that is most intriguing is the Bell Beaker man buried in grave 49 (The guy with zero steppe ancestry).  His grave is rather close to number 10, so he's reasonably early.  He has a good Central European ring ditch and has a good send-off.  Patay doesn't mention the decoration of his bowl and beaker in his 2007 paper, but I am curious if it is of a plain or epi-Maritime variety.  I wonder if this guy is a Spaniard.

Robert Patay comments on an early western-like halberd which is one of a great many things that connect these people to Central Europe and beyond.  (I've linked Patay's paper below)

Here's the Olalde narratives:

Szigetszentmiklós, Felső Ürge-hegyi dűlő (Hungary)
Contact person: Róbert Patay
The cemetery is located in the northwestern part of Csepel Island near Budapest. The
archaeological investigation of the site was conducted between 2006 and 2007. A total
of 716 features were uncovered, amongst them 218 burials of the Bell Beaker period.
One remarkable feature of this burial ground is the unusually high proportion of
inhumation burials: 102 graves of the 218 excavated graves were inhumations. Another
element of the central European funerary tradition could also be documented in the
Szigetszentmiklós cemetery, namely inhumation performed according to strict rites. The
proportion of the deceased laid on the right and the left side was roughly equal and they
were oriented either northeast-southwest or southwest-northeast. Anthropological
analysis of the skeletal remains indicated that men were always interred on their left
side, while women were laid to rest on their right side, with the face turned toward the
east in the case of both male and female burials. A comparable burial practice was
observed in cemeteries of the Bell Beaker East Group in central Europe.  A series of five AMS radiocarbon dates from the cemetery can be subjected to Bayesian analysis. If we assume that the graves represent a single phase, the time span of the use of the cemetery can be placed to approximately 2420–2190 calBCE
Grave 49 (I2741, GEN 20): Male individual lying of his left side, in contracted position.
The rectangular shaped grave pit, oriented northeast–southwest, was enclosed by a
round ditch. Grave goods include a Bell Beaker, a bowl, a stone wrist-guard and a
dagger. The radiocarbon date for this individual is:
I2741/GEN_20, Grave 49: 2458–2154 calBCE (3835±35 BP, Poz-83641) [I2a1a1 + H1+16189]
Grave 133 (I2786, GEN 56): Male individual lying of his left side, in contracted
position. The rectangular shaped grave pit, oriented northeast–southwest, was enclosed
by a round ditch. Grave goods include a bowl, a jug, and a stone silex. The radiocarbon
date for this individual is:
I2786/GEN_56, Grave 133: 2459–2206 calBCE (3850±35 BP, Poz-83639)  [I2a2a + I1]
Grave 552 (I4178, GEN 58): Male individual lying on his left side, in contracted
position. The rectangular shaped grave pit, oriented northeast–southwest, was enclosed
by a round ditch. Grave goods include a Bell Beaker, and a bowl.
I4178/GEN_58/Grave552: 2500-2200 BCE [R1b1a1a2 + J1c1b1a]
Grave 688 (I2787, GEN 59): Male individual lying of his left side, in contracted
position. The rectangular shaped grave pit, oriented northeast–southwest, was enclosed
by a round ditch. Grave good include a small jar. The radiocarbon date is:
I2787/GEN_59/Grave 688: 2458–2202 calBCE (3840±35 BP, Poz-83640) [R1b1a1a2a2 (Z2103) + T2b]

From S1 of Olalde et al, 2017

Köhler, K.: A Harang alakú edények népe Szigetszentmiklós-Felső-ürge Hegyi dűlő lelőhelyen feltárt temetőjének...  Anthrop. Közl. 52; 5576. (2011) [Link]

Bell Beaker Cemetery and Settlement at Szigetszentmiklós: First Results

This paper is a preliminary report on the excavation and evaluation of the Bell Beaker cemetery investigated in the outskirts of Szigetszentmiklós. A total of 219 Bell Beaker burials were uncovered. The cemetery contained a surprisingly high proportion of inhumation burials compared to the burial grounds earlier investigated in the Budapest area. The burial rites and the grave goods show strong ties with the Central European cemeteries of the culture, with the Bell Beaker East Group. The nds from the cemetery also bespeak the cultural impact of the local Early Bronze Age cultures. The halberd from one of the burials is a unique nd in the Bell Beaker heritage of the Carpathian Basin. The radiocarbon dates indicate that the cemetery was used between 2500–2200 cal BC.

"Anthropological examination of the Bell Beaker cemetery at SzigetszentmiklósFelső-Ürge-hegyi dűlő"

Anthrop. Közl. 52; 5576. (2011) [Link]
Köhler, K.: Anthropological examination of the Bell Beaker cemetery at SzigetszentmiklósFelső-Ürge-hegyi dűlő. The archaeological remains of the Early Bronze Age Bell Beaker culture, known from all around West-Europe, are present in Hungary along the Danube down to the Csepel Island. In this paper we present the results of the physical anthropological analysis of the cemetery found at Szigetszentmiklós, excavated by Róbert Patay, between 2006 and 2007. During the examination 100 inhumation and 74 cremations were analysed. Based on the results of the metrical and morphological examination we may establish that we can for the first time demonstrate the presence of the brachycranial, so called (“Glockenbecher”) Taurid type in the Bell Bea ker popula tions fr om the Ca r pa thia n Ba sin. P r eviously, the pr esence of this anthropological component in this region could be demonstrated only indirectly, through its appearance among human remains of somewhat later Bronze Age cultures. 

See also:

"Funerary Rituals Social Relations and Diffusion of Bell Beaker Csepel-Group" from Current researches on Bell Beakers Proceedings of the 15th International Bell Beaker Conference: From Atlantic to Ural.5th 9th May 2011 Poio Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain [Link]

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Samborzec Beakers from Małopolska, Poland (Olalde et al, 2017)

Polish Bell Beakers can be divided into three distinct, relational clusters most likely reflecting their places of origin.   Czebreszuk and Szmyt outline these groups in "Bell Beakers and the Cultural Milieu of North European Plain".

Essentially they define (1) a northern group of Beakers, with strong ties to the Danish Single Grave Culture and CWC, (2) a southwestern group in Silesia, with ties to the Bohemia Basin (3) and in Southeastern Poland or Małopolska (Lesser Poland), they are more directly connected to, or largely originate from, Moravian Beakers.  The latter two groups belong to the Eastern Domain and the former to the Northern. 

The three individuals profiled in this post are from "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe" by Olalde et al, 2017.  It follows several related posts of the past few weeks of individuals sequenced from this study.

From "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland"  Budziszewski, Haduch, Wlodarczak
The Samborzec Beakers are typical of the Beaker ethnic as repeatedly described by osteologists, being an often tall, powerfully built, short-headed people with a flattened upper occiput bone (among other hereditary and environmentally-influenced characteristics). (1)  The features of the skull are discussed in (1) and by Elzbieta Haduch in "Bell Beaker and Corded Ware People in the Little Poland Upland - An Anthropological Point of View".

So far genetically, these Beakers are very similar to other Beaker groups, especially the Eastern Group of Central European Beakers.  There is a great deal of heterogeneity in the Csepel Group, with sites like Szigetszentmiklós being very differentiated, but the profile flattens west of Hungary, possibly reflecting the founder phenomenon.

Haduch appears to suggest (1) that within this Upper Vistula Beaker community there are at least four local Neolithic women that married Beakers based on their hereditary characteristics compared to the previous populations.  Maybe as more Southern Polish Beakers are sequenced we'll see greater diversity than exists so far.

And to illustrate just how weird the Beakers are, the graphic below from the same paper:

Weirdos.  From "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland"  Budziszewski, Haduch, Wlodarczak

Examination from this older study showed that the boy in grave 1 (I4252) may have died of craniosynostosis, in which the plates of the skull fused too quickly.  Two other people, including the woman above, died of multiple myeloma cancer.  Despite this, a lot of the Upper Vistula Beakers lived to a ripe age, much like those of Bohemia and Moravia.  Grave 7 (I4251) is a radiocarbon outlier (as discussed on Anthrogenica), and this is also mentioned on page 167 of (1), believing the date is out of sync for a number of reasons.

Here's the narrative from Olalde et al, 2017:

"The site was located on the loess upland in the vicinity of the Vistula valley (western Małopolska; SE Poland). The excavations were conducted in the 1960s. A complex of small cemeteries dated to the late and final Neolithic has been found (Złota, Corded Ware and Bell Beaker graves). The cemetery from the Bell Beaker period consisted of 10 graves. The features were linearly structured and oriented on the N-S axis. Grave pits presented simple rectangular constructions without any additional outer elements. The deceased were lying in contracted position, males to the left side and women to the right side. Their equipment was typical for the Eastern group of the Beaker complex. Anthropologically, the skeletons from Samborzec show very characteristic morphological traits distinguishing them from other Neolithic and Early Bronze groups from SE Poland. The skulls are classified as short or very short. Their main characteristic is the shape of the back part, namely the distinct flattening of the upper part of the occipital bone and of an area of the parietal bone. Such a morphology suggests that this population was genetically foreign to the territory of Małopolska. We obtained genome-wide ancient DNA data from three individuals:

I4251/RISE1122/grave no. 7: 2837-2672 BCE (3990±60 BP, Ki-7926). Male inhumation burial (25-30 years) with northwest-southeast orientation, located on the left side. The grave goods consisted of two vessels (bowl and unornamented cup), a flint blade dagger and a flint scraper.  [R1b1a1a2 + H1]
Tablica XVIII

I4252/RISE1123/grave no. 1: 2463-2142 BCE (3820±50 BP, Ki-7921). Child inhumation burial (11-13 years; genetically male) with northeast-southwest orientation, located on the left side. There was a ceramic bowl and an undecorated cup.  [R + U5a1a1]
Tablica XI
I4253/RISE1124/grave no. 13: 2571-2208 BCE (3920±60 BP, Ki-7929). Male inhumation burial (25-30 years), with N-S orientation, located on the left side. The only element of equipment was a ceramic bowl, posed in the northern part of the grave." [R1b1a1a2 + U5a2c]
I'm not quite sure about this number 13.  The quote specifically mentions 10 graves from Samborzec to the Beaker period and those ten graves are discussed in (5).  So it may be a misprint, not sure.


(1) "Bell Beaker Culture in South-Eastern Poland" Budziszewski, Haduch & Włodarczak
(2) "Personal Identity and Social Structure of Bell Beakers: The Upper Basins of the Oder and Vistula Rivers" by Makarowicz.
(3) "Northern and Southern Bell Beakers in Poland" by Makarowicz
(4) "Chronology and Bell Beaker Common Ware"  by Piguet and Besse
(5) "Kultura pucharów dzwonowatych na wyżynie MałopolsKiej" Budziszewski & Włodarczak, 2010

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bell Beaker Buddha? (The Samborzec Sage)

Beakerblog is back in the saddle.  I'll start with an interesting icebreaker, Buddha Burials.

This Beaker from the Samborzec cemetery in the Malopolska region of Poland might have been buried "Indian-style" (American usage); various leg formats come to mind such as "Lotus Position", etc.  If so, after being dead for a few days the arms and legs might have extended out of position in the casket or wooden enclosure.  While the pose of this man may not be very convincing, in several other frog-like burials, the pose is more strict.

This odd "frog-like" pose, as Makarowicz called it, is distinguished from the extended supine position thought to derive from the Volgan and Pontic Steppes.  The frog pose is found a number of times in the Corded Ware Culture and subsequent Central and East European Bronze Age cultures and it is only found with males.

Male Archer looking East.  Samborzec, stanowisko 1, grave 3 (Makarowicz)
I think it is possible that these men were 'posed' without ties during the rigor mortis phase of death, in which the stiff limbs were positioned more tightly contracted.  After this lactic phase subsided the limbs started to relax a bit within the box.

After some searching, I finally found the graphic I had been looking for which came from a paper by Włodarczak.  It's the Corded Ware male from Kietrz, Poland (C) whose legs were tightly contracted, very intentionally, much like the so-called 'proto-Shiva' seal below.  Also, notice the Ketegyhaza individual (B) has his legs crossed at the ankles.

Piotr Włodarczak, 2006 from "Unique burial..." [below]

It should be pointed out that the Samborzec Sage has also the most elaborate of all Polish Bell Beaker graves, so the unusual position of his body is especially significant [see Włodarczak]. 

Several of the Samborzec Sage's kinfolk were genetically sequenced in the Olalde paper, and the Alpine-headed Samborzec Beakers are an interesting group anyway, so I'll get to those a bit later.  For whatever reason, grave 3 wasn't tested or didn't sequence.

The green or blue man.  A character of virility and wildness. (Cernunnos and 'Shiva'(?))
Below is a Maros Culture pit, sitting grave.  I'm curious as to the position of the palms since this grave may have been directly infilled.  The important points to remember is that these positions deviate from the norm, they make a statement about the deceased who is a high-status male that is in some way distinguished from other high status males.

A Maros influence sitting burial 3. kép: Csanytelek-Palé 27. sír [Link]
3: Csanytelek-Palé,
If we were to assume, I think correctly, that some of these cultures (such as the Corded Ware) had a religion closely related to later attested Indo-European religions, then one interpretation of the status and pose of these men could be viewed as something like 'Devaraja' or sacred kings.  To use the 'Devaraja' as a more familiar example, the iconographic pose of a 'god-king' mimics that of Shiva (king of gods).

Looking back to Iron Age Europe, you have below (again) Cernunnos depicted sitting 'Indian-style', as is often the case, and also the Germanic god of sacral kingship, Freyr or Ingwaez, who is by the way is the only Germanic deity ever depicted in this cross-legged pose.  Like Cernunnos, Saturnos of Rome is depicted in a relaxed cross-leg manner and Chronos, like the presumed proto-Shiva of the Indus Valley seal is depicted with three faces, to see the past, the present and the future.  (Chronos = Father Time)

Cernunnos and Freyr

At the Roquepertuse Celtic 'head cult' religious center commemorating are likely enemy 'heads of state', so to speak.  There are several of the centers with crossed leg figures surrounded by heads.  The Roquepertuse figures wear armor and there is an indication of sheathed swords.  At this site there was also the telling occurrence of a bicephalic Janus-like head, and bicephalic and tricephalic heads are found at others as well.

See also "Headhunting and the Body in Iron Age Europe" by Ian Armit
A Celtic Warrior from the Acropolis Roquepertuse (Robert Valette)

Pretty far out on the ice, but the pose of the Samborzec Beaker conveyed a certain meaning to people of that time. Not out of the realm of possibility it is an indication that he was some sort of chief, dare I say 'priest-king' without vomiting.


'frog-like manner'  from "the bell beaker transition in Europe..."

UNIQUE BURIAL OF THE BELL BEAKER CULTURE FROM THE CEMETERY IN SAMBORZEC (SOUTHERN POLAND) Piotr Włodarczak from Proceedings of the 10th Meeting “Archéologie et Gobelets” (Florence – Siena – Villanuova sul Clisi, May 12-15, 2006)

PRZEMYSLAW MAKAROWICZ, Przegl^d Archeologiczny. Vol. 51, 2003, pp. 123-158
PL ISSN 0079-7138