Wentink (2020): The role of grave sets in Corded Ware and Bell Beaker culture

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      Carlos Quiles

      Doctoral Thesis by Wentink, K. Stereotype: the role of grave sets in Corded Ware and Bell Beaker funerary practices. Supervisor: Fontijn D.R. Co-Supervisor: Fokkens H., Gijn A.L. van.


      Throughout northern Europe, thousands of burial mounds were erected in the third millennium BCE. Starting in the Corded Ware culture, individual people were being buried underneath these mounds, often equipped with an almost rigid set of grave goods. This practice continued in the second half of the third millennium BCE with the start of the Bell Beaker phenomenon. In large parts of Europe, a ‘typical’ set of objects was placed in graves, known as the ‘Bell Beaker package’. This book focusses on the significance and meaning of these Late Neolithic graves. Why were people buried in a seemingly standardized manner, what did this signify and what does this reveal about these individuals, their role in society, their cultural identity and the people that buried them? By performing in-depth analyses of all the individual grave goods from Dutch graves, which includes use-wear analysis and experiments, the biography of grave goods is explored. How were they made, used and discarded? Subsequently the nature of these graves themselves are explored as contexts of deposition, and how these are part of a much wider ‘sacrificial landscape’. A novel and comprehensive interpretation is presented that shows how the objects from graves were connected with travel, drinking ceremonies and maintaining long-distance relationships.


      Interesting excerpt from the summary:

      In the LNA all ‘exotic’ objects encountered in CW context are solely coming from other CW regions, most notably north-west Germany and southern Scandinavia (also see Chapter 3). This starts to change with the introduction of the AOO beaker when both ceramic styles and French daggers are indicative of new exchange contacts. With the start of the LNB, however, imports suddenly came from everywhere (see Fig. 9.1; see also Chapter 6). Gold and copper objects come in via both Atlantic Europe (including Britain) and Central Europe. Amber comes in from the north, either from the northern Netherlands or Baltic coasts. Well over a hundred Scandinavian flint daggers have been found in the Netherlands (see Van Gijn 2010, 189).292 It is clear that the regions that adopted the Bell Beaker package did not only share burial customs, in fact, the origins of many of the components of this package can be physically traced to the various regions of ‘Bell Beaker Europe’. As such, these items are not only indicative of a shared social front but also of the exchange that took place between the agents that adopted these fronts.

      Whereas the thesis looks quite good, especially for details on the evolution of Corded Ware to AOO to Bell Beaker in the Netherlands, it seems evident that (as the author explains) it owes a lot of it to a previous period, when he first worked on it in the 2000s, when the Bell Beaker package could be understood as a general social front unrelated to population movements. The author struggles thus when it comes to a proper understanding of the genetic data as described by the recent papers on Corded Ware and Bell Beaker peoples. Despite this, it has one thing quite right, and it is a pity that it wasn’t published before the boom of population genomics:

      Bell Beaker people therefore must probably have spoken PIE-daughter languages. In case of north-west Europe this would probably have been proto-Germanic (see Anthony 2007). The spread of the Bell Beaker package therefore seems to coincide with the spread and adoption of Indo-European, which may very well have been part of the non-material aspects of the Bell Beaker social front. A common – or at least linguistically related – language would have been an extremely powerful tool in establishing and maintaining long-distance (trade/exchange) contacts.

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