In archaeology, the meta-analysis of scientific dating information plays an ever-increasing role. A common thread among many recent studies contributing to this has been the development of bespoke software for summarizing and synthesizing data, identifying significant patterns therein. These are reviewed in this paper, which also contains open-source scripts for calibrating radiocarbon dates and modelling them in space and time, using the R computer language and GRASS GIS. The case studies that undertake new analysis of archaeological data are (1) the spread of the Neolithic in Europe, (2) economic consequences of the Great Famine and Black Death in the fourteenth century Britain and Ireland and (3) the role of climate change in influencing cultural change in the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Ireland. These case studies exemplify an emerging trend in archaeology, which is quickly re-defining itself as a data-driven discipline at the intersection of science and the humanities.
Interesting excerpt on Neolithization:
An enduring topic of wide interest is the neolithization of Europe, a cultural and economic development of virtually unparalleled significance given subsequent world events and the permanent environmental changes that were a result. This process began when early Neolithic culture moved from the Near East and Anatolia first through Greece around 7000 BC, then viathe Balkans and peninsular Italy to the interior and western edge of the continent. Much of central Europe was colonised by a distinctive cultural group known as the “LBK” around 5500 BC—an important few centuries that also saw the arrival of the Neolithic in Iberia and intensive activity throughout the Mediterranean region. The Neolithic eventually spread to Britain and Southern Scandinavia shortly after 4000 BC. The remarkable time depth to the process has led to a rich tradition of debate regarding the process of cultural and/or demic diffusion. Thanks to the success of recent, well-funded research projects, a large amount of spatial and radiocarbon data relevant to the phenomenon has been drawn together, much of which made freely available on the internet. A simple but visually effective animated radiocarbon map of the phenomenon can be drawn using data supplied (for example) by Pinhasi et al. (2005), who gathered together radiocarbon data addressing the earliest occurrence of Neolithic cultures in European, Anatolian and Near Eastern settings.(…)
The example animation (see Fig. 4 and the supplementary animation file) illustrates the nature of the process; rarely is the progress across the landscape smooth and progressive, instead activity jumps from place to place and appears in quite distant regions rather suddenly. A particularly notable moment occurs around 5500 cal. BC, which sees sudden expansion across several fronts. The intermittent patterns of movement evident throughout the animation call into question a Neolithic “wave of advance”; something that can be modelled in terms of a wavefront moving a certain number of kilometres per year. Instead, a more realistic model is one where people move sporadically, using multiple points of entry into new regions, and travel across both land- and sea-based routes, and “appearing”, archaeologically speaking, in new areas once a certain pattern of behaviour is established—a process that may take more than a few years (Drake et al. 2016). An alternative explanation, and a clear limitation of the conclusions that may be drawn from this case study (where “only” 765 dates span a 6000-year period in Europe and the Near East), is that the sudden appearance of the Neolithic in new and distant regions could be due to the poorly powered dataset.
The formation of social complexity often unfolded in non-unilineal ways in those regions of the world where the surplus product remained low enough to support institutionalized power and state bureaucracy. The Bronze Age of Northern Eurasia is a vivid example where social complexity arose based on herding economy, while population density remained low enough not to form territorially separate competing groups. Studying of such societies sheds light on how and under what conditions the social elite emerged. The undertaken analysis suggests that the formation, development, and decline of social complexity in the Bronze Age steppe societies were directly related to the intensification of subsistence practices and colonization of new territories. At the same time, some members of the society took upon themselves the role of community life’s managers, and, in return, received privileged statuses. The environment and the economy changing, the need for such functions disappeared. As a result, the Bronze Age social elites dissolved in the mass and lost their privileged statuses.
The paper features a substantiation of the understanding of Sintashta-type monuments dating back to the boundary of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages in the Southern Trans- Urals as a transcultural phenomenon, the establishment and operation of which has been associated with the clans of miners, smelters and smiths of the Southern Ural cultures of the studied period. In the author’s opinion, the variety of ceramic complexes from Sintashta burial mounds suggest a reconsideration of several cultural traditions and the peculiar nature of family and marriage relations practiced by the clans of Sintashta-type communities.
Interesting excerpts, from the conclusion (translated from Russian):
1. In contrast to the pastoral cattle-breeding cultures of the Alakul cultural-historical community, the Sintashta clan-communities, in the author’s opinion, were a more specific transcultural phenomenon with an original model of life organization, uniting clans of miners, metallurgists, blacksmiths and casters, sometimes from several neighboring archaeological cultures (my italics – N.V.), in particular, the Abashevo culture of the South Urals, some “proto-Srubna” culture of the Southern Urals and quasi-Eneolithic cultures of the Southern Urals and of Northern Kazakhstan.
2. The Sintashta phenomenon as a community of clans of miners – metallurgists – smiths functioned relatively independently, outside or under conditions of partial jurisdiction (?) Of the elites of the above mentioned cultures.
3. At the historical level, the facts presented by the author concerning both funeral rites and ceramics can be understood as a reflection of the characteristics, first of all, of the family-marriage relations system within the specialized communities. And it is not by chance that the ceramics of Sintashta cemeteries carry in themselves often reinterpreted (especially in the case of ornamentation) traces of several cultural traditions. The variety of ceramic complexes of Sintashta monuments and the rethinking, reworking of marker elements of ornament on vessels testify, in the author’s view, about the distinctiveness, the specifics of family relations in Sintashta communities.
The paper is devoted to the analysis of craniological materials from the cemeteries of the Bronze Age of the Volga-Ural region (Sintashta and Potapovo assemblages). The characteristic feature of the physical appearance of this population is the combination of different morphological variations with a dominant and the presence of the Uraloid components. At the same time, a group of individuals with a specific, different from other individuals, skull structure is distinguished: maturized, broad-faced men with a set of striking features in the face. Analysis of the funerary rites of these individuals indicates their high social status in the Sintashta-Potapovo society. The addition of such an anthropological complex occurred in the Eneolithic on the territory of modern Kazakhstan as a result of contacts of steppe sharply profiled Europeoid populations and groups of Uraloid origin. This led to the formation of a population, originally of metisic origin, conventionally called “steppe Kazakhstan”, which took part in the process of morphogenesis, and, indirectly, the cultural genesis of Sintashta and Potapovo communities.
While this paper reports mainly athropometric data, the team forms part of the Samara Valley project – including Khokhlov.
Here are interesting excerpts from the general conclusions (translated from Russian):
Summing up, it can be noted that the distinguishing feature of the carriers of the Sintashta and Potapovka traditions is the sharp heterogeneity of the anthropological features, the cause of which were active ethno- and culturogenetic processes in the Volga-Ural region at the turn of the 3rd/2nd millennium BC. One of the active components of these processes was probably a population group with specific craniological data, distinct from the rest of the craniocomplexes. These included mature, broad-leaning male individuals with a set of vivid signs in the structure of the face, such as unfolded and flattened cheekbones, and a strong nose protrusion.
The peculiarities of the burial rite speak about their high social position in the society: burials were made in large central burial pits, accompanied by abundant sacrificial remains in the form of skulls and limbs of horses, large and small cattle, rich funeral complements including bronze tools and weapons, artifacts of metal production, attributes of the chariot complex. It should be noted that such a craniological type is present in every mound of the Sintashta-Potapovka circle of monuments, and is found on the wide territory of the steppes and forest-steppes of the Volga region, the Southern Urals, and the Trans-Urals. The addition of the similar anthropological complex occurred in the Eneolithic due to the contacts, on the one hand, of steppe sharply profiled Europoid populations that extended to the east and, on the other hand, encountered groups of uraloid origin, which led to the formation of a population, originally of metisic origin, which can be conditionally called “steppe Kazakhstan”.
In duelling 2015 Nature papers6,7, the teams arrived at broadly similar conclusions: an influx of herders from the grassland steppes of present-day Russia and Ukraine — linked to Yamnaya cultural artefacts and practices such as pit burial mounds — had replaced much of the gene pool of central and Western Europe around 4,500–5,000 years ago. This was coincident with the disappearance of Neolithic pottery, burial styles and other cultural expressions and the emergence of Corded Ware cultural artefacts, which are distributed throughout northern and central Europe. “These results were a shock to the archaeological community,” Kristiansen says.
Still, not everyone was satisfied. In an essay8 titled ‘Kossinna’s Smile’, archaeologist Volker Heyd at the University of Bristol, UK, disagreed, not with the conclusion that people moved west from the steppe, but with how their genetic signatures were conflated with complex cultural expressions. Corded Ware and Yamnaya burials are more different than they are similar, and there is evidence of cultural exchange, at least, between the Russian steppe and regions west that predate Yamnaya culture, he says. None of these facts negates the conclusions of the genetics papers, but they underscore the insufficiency of the articles in addressing the questions that archaeologists are interested in, he argued. “While I have no doubt they are basically right, it is the complexity of the past that is not reflected,” Heyd wrote, before issuing a call to arms. “Instead of letting geneticists determine the agenda and set the message, we should teach them about complexity in past human actions.”
Many archaeologists are also trying to understand and engage with the inconvenient findings from genetics. (…)
[Carlin:] “I would characterize a lot of these papers as ‘map and describe’. They’re looking at the movement of genetic signatures, but in terms of how or why that’s happening, those things aren’t being explored,” says Carlin, who is no longer disturbed by the disconnect. “I am increasingly reconciling myself to the view that archaeology and ancient DNA are telling different stories.” The changes in cultural and social practices that he studies might coincide with the population shifts that Reich and his team are uncovering, but they don’t necessarily have to. And such biological insights will never fully explain the human experiences captured in the archaeological record.
Reich agrees that his field is in a “map-making phase”, and that genetics is only sketching out the rough contours of the past. Sweeping conclusions, such as those put forth in the 2015 steppe migration papers, will give way to regionally focused studies with more subtlety.
This is already starting to happen. Although the Bell Beaker study found a profound shift in the genetic make-up of Britain, it rejected the notion that the cultural phenomenon was associated with a single population. In Iberia, individuals buried with Bell Beaker goods were closely related to earlier local populations and shared little ancestry with Beaker-associated individuals from northern Europe (who were related to steppe groups such as the Yamnaya). The pots did the moving, not the people.
This final paragraph apparently sums up a view that Reich has of this field, since he repeats it:
Reich concedes that his field hasn’t always handled the past with the nuance or accuracy that archaeologists and historians would like. But he hopes they will eventually be swayed by the insights his field can bring. “We’re barbarians coming late to the study of the human past,” Reich says. “But it’s dangerous to ignore barbarians.”
I would say that the true barbarians didn’t have a habit or possibility to learn from the higher civilizations they attacked or invaded. Geneticists, on the other hand, only have to do what they expect archaeologists to do: study.
An insufficient number of archaeological surveys has been carried out to date on Harappan Civilization cemeteries. One case in point is the necropolis at Rakhigarhi site (Haryana, India), one of the largest cities of the Harappan Civilization, where most burials within the cemetery remained uninvestigated. Over the course of the past three seasons (2013 to 2016), we therefore conducted excavations in an attempt to remedy this data shortfall. In brief, we found different kinds of graves co-existing within the Rakhigarhi cemetery in varying proportions. Primary interment was most common, followed by the use of secondary, symbolic, and unused (empty) graves. Within the first category, the atypical burials appear to have been elaborately prepared. Prone-positioned internments also attracted our attention. Since those individuals are not likely to have been social deviants, it is necessary to reconsider our pre-conceptions about such prone-position burials in archaeology, at least in the context of the Harappan Civilization. The data presented in this report, albeit insufficient to provide a complete understanding of Harappan Civilization cemeteries, nevertheless does present new and significant information on the mortuary practices and anthropological features at that time. Indeed, the range of different kinds of burials at the Rakhigarhi cemetery do appear indicative of the differences in mortuary rituals seen within Harappan societies, therefore providing a vivid glimpse of how these people respected their dead.
Major environmental perturbations over the last glacial period, with considerable changes in sea levels, have significantly affected the spatial organization of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities between the Balkans and Italy. For this reason, these regions are an ideal case for studying how different environmental factors could affect connectivity among human groups and rates of innovation. Italy and the Balkans are also key transitory regions for various dispersal events in the evolutionary history of the European continent that brought different hominin taxa into Europe from the areas of Africa and south-western Asia. Yet, compared to various well-researched regional hotspots in central and western Europe, the picture of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic adaptations remains coarse-grained in particular in the Balkans as a result of a historical research bias followed by unsettled recent history preventing the application of new research methodologies. In this paper, we aim to highlight particular examples of connectivity across large tracks of land during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic and to point out the potential that social network thinking has in the study of the Balkans and Italy.
Excerpts (emphasis mine):
Shouldered Pieces (Upper Palaeolithic)
These are most frequently points (pointes à cran), but other tool morphologies (e.g., blades) are also found with recognizably tapered and retouched bases used for hafting. The appearance of this innovation has often been associated with the Early Epigravettian period in the Balkans and Italy. It has been assumed that this innovation spread from Gravettian cultures of central Europe, possibly even as part of actual population movements from central Europe into southern European refugia at the time of the worsening of climatic conditions in the course of the LGM. Such processes might have led to the patterning of archaeological evidence that is referred to as ‘the shouldered point horizon’ (Kozlowski 2008).
An alternative or complementary explanation could be that the spread of this particular hafting innovation as a possible improvement in hunting techniques was part of knowledge transfers that were enabled by the existence of well connected social networks that might have in part been prompted by the worsening of the climatic conditions with the onset of the LGM. One could envisage that the frequency of ‘arrythmic’ processes of population contraction and dispersal across these regions during the Gravettian and Early Epigravettian periods might have in part contributed to the need for reliable social networks across long distances with transferability of knowledge and know-hows between forager groups. In this context, the emergence and spread of a particular technological innovation is only an epiphenomenon of social arrangements that were at this time already in place beyond the territories of the adjacent regional bands.
Decorative motifs (Epigravettian – Younger Dryas)
In the Late Epigravettian period, very similar geometric decorative motifs occur contemporaneously at sites separated by hundreds of kilometres in the Balkans and Italy
Similarities between the Epigravettian levels of Cuina Turcului and Climente II in the Danube Gorges and Settecannelle are also found in their respective lithic industries, and include the presence of backed curved points and numerous circular thumbnail scrapers, backed blades and double backed blades with inverse proximal retouch (Chirica 1999). These techno-morphological traits are common for the Tardiglacial lithic industries across the central-eastern Mediterranean regions: southern France, Italy, and the Balkans (Broglio/Kozlowski 1987; Kozlowski 1999). In addition, a similar range of ornamental beads made of marine gastropods, in particular Cyclope neritea, as well as red deer canines were used at these two distant and broadly contemporaneous Late Epigravettian sites.
While some of these similarities between these regions must have stemmed from older shared cultural repertoires and can be interpreted as a consequence of branching cultural processes, striking similarities in decorative motifs used around the same time can hardly be explained by convergent and independent innovations in these two distant regions. The distance between Settecannelle and Cuina Turcului is around 900 km as the cow flies and certainly longer taking into account geographic and other limitations and difficulties in traveling. In our opinion, the observed similarities could better be explained by long distance connections along established social networks beyond adjacent maximal/regional band territories. During the periods in question, either during the Bølling/Allerød interstadial or in the course of the Younger Dryas, one should envisage relatively open and in places sparsely forested landscapes.
It should be noted, however, that based on more recent syntheses of the pollen data, and additional direct dating of macro-charcoal remains of identified tree species, during the glacial periods, south-eastern European landscapes were not steppe lands as previously thought. Around 40% of the total pollen comes from coniferous, needle-leaved tree types, such as pine (Pinus). But there is also good evidence of the refugial survival of deciduous, broad-leaved species of trees, such as oak (Quercus) and hazel (Corylus), as small pockets in predominantly coniferous forests. In addition, south-facing slopes might have also preserved deciduous tree species. In particular, midaltitude, mountainous locations with higher levels of precipitation might have been favourable for the survival of forests, with low altitude locations being too dry and high altitude locations being too cold (Willis 1994; 1996; Willis/van Andel 2004). All the same, traversing long distances across Tardiglacial landscapes of southern Europe might have been a considerably easier task than during the Early Holocene.
In addition, the lower sea levels in the Adriatic might have still allowed a short-cut communicative route from the Balkan hinterland when traversing across the northern half of the Great Adriatic Plain into Italy. These environmental and geographic factors, coupled with the need to maintain long-distance contacts, perhaps partly as safety nets in unpredictable and harsh climatic conditions among small-world societies (see above), could be a possible way to explain the existence of such long-distance connections during this period. But, as previously emphasized, connectivity need not be interpreted as stemming out of utilitarian and rational motivations only.
Featured image, from the chapter: Map showing the distribution of sites with shouldered points in the Balkans and Italy. Bathymetric contours show the drop of sea levels –110m during the LGM climax and –60m by the end of the Pleistocene. 1. Arene Candide; 2. Cala della Ossa; 3. Canicattini Bagni; 4. Cavernette Falische (Cenciano Diruto, Lattanzi, Sambuco); 5. Cipolliane C; 6. Clemente Tronci; 7. Crvena Stijena, layer IX; 8. Fanciulli; 9. Kadar; 10. Kastritsa; 11. Kephalari; 12. Klissoura 1, layer IIb; 13. Maurizio; 14. Mura; 15. Niscemi; 16. Orphei (Tchoutchoura); 17. Ovcˇja Jama; 18. Paglicci; 19. Paina; 20. Poggio alla Malva; 21. Romito; 22. Šalitrena; 23. Šandalja II; 24. Seidi; 25. Settecannelle; 26. Taurisano; 27. Vrbicˇka; 28. Zakajeni spodmol; 29. Županov spodmol.
Within the past decade or so, archaeology has increasingly utilised and contributed to major advances in scientific methods when exploring the past. This progress is frequently celebrated as a quantum leap in the possibilities for understanding the archaeological record, opening up hitherto inaccessible dimensions of the past. This article represents a critique of the current consumption of science in archaeology, arguing that the discipline’s grounding in the humanities is at stake, and that the notion of ‘interdisciplinarity’ is becoming distorted with the increasing fetishisation of ‘data’, ‘facts’ and quantitative methods. It is argued that if archaeology is to break free of its self-induced inferiority to and dependence on science, it must revitalise its methodology for asking questions pertinent to the humanities.
Thus, I argue that what we are witnessing with ‘the third science revolution’ (Kristiansen 2014) is precisely the proliferation of an already very authoritative science ideal in archaeology. And I worry that this dominance will limit research possibilities and potentials rather than encouraging plurality and radical experimentation with different forms of knowing.
I do believe in the coexistence of disparate academic principles and that collaboration is very often necessary, but I am also of the conviction that some degree of epistemological friction keeps both fields of research progressing. Nurturing distinctions, in other words, is no less useful than aiming for assimilation. What I am arguing for is thus a more respectful friction than the one characterising the processual/post-processual collisions, hoping for an academic environment where differences between research ideals are humbly accepted and cultivated precisely for their disparate strengths.
So, what I am arguing for is a more kaleidoscopic academic landscape, where different positions do not always have to assume a defensive or compromising stance, especially in confrontation with paradigms that are prospering politically. This also implies that science is not simply in the service of archaeology, as Lidén argues, but that we need to consider how archaeology may benefit science more generally by continuing to debate epistemological grounds, methodology and our modes of inquiry. And so, my fellow archaeologists: ask not what science can do for us, but what we can do for science.
In my original article, I addressed the widespread tendency in archaeology to disseminate research findings with sometimes too much conviction, where ambiguous results (and limited statistical data) are adopted with little concern for the inherent uncertainties. It is precisely this valorisation and authority of scientific observations that I claim to lead to an implicit devaluation of studies based in the humanities. The problem is – as stated numerous times in my original article – not science, but the consumption of scientific observations in archaeology, where the subtleties and not least ambiguities of scientific results are filtered out, leaving space almost exclusively for scientifically ‘proven’ facts and unequivocal results. This mode of consumption stands in direct contrast to the epistemological observation in the sciences, dictating that ‘“proof” and “certainty” are actually in short supply in the world of science’ (Freudenburg et al. 2008, p. 5). Hence, the risk is that archaeology somewhat uncritically adopts scientific observations that are in fact ‘empirically underdetermined – based largely on evidence that is in the category of the “maybe,” being inherently ambiguous rather than being absolutely clear-cut’ (Freudenburg et al. 2008, p. 6).
As I said recently on the article Massive Migrations…, by Martin Furholt, we are living a historical debate on essential questions for the future of all these disciplines.
And, as always, there is no shortcut to reading the texts. Unlike in Science, you cannot write a table with a summary of findings…
Featured image from Allentoft et al. “They conclude that the Corded Ware culture of central Europe had ancestry from the Yamnaya. Allentoft et al. also show that the Afanasievo culture to the east is related to the Yamnaya, and that the Sintashta and Andronovo cultures had ancestry from the Corded Ware. Arrows indicate migrations — those from the Corded Ware reflect the evidence that people of this archaeological culture (or their relatives) were responsible for the spreading of Indo-European languages. All coloured boundaries are approximate.”
Nevertheless, it means a definitive rejection by Anthony of:
The multiple patron-client relationships he proposed to justify a cultural diffusion of Late Indo-European dialects from Yamna into different Corded Ware cultures in the forest-steppe and Forest Zone (see one of his latest summaries of the model in 2015). Now the language change is explained as a pure migration event, and cultural diffusion is not an option. Ergo, if no migration is found from Hungarian Yamna into Lesser Poland, then Corded Ware cultures were not Indo-European-speaking.
Ringe’s glottochronological tree for Proto-Indo-European languages (Ringe, Warnow, and Taylor 2002). An early and sudden split of Late PIE dialects in all directions is substituted by a common, Old European language that expanded from a very small area of settlers, in the Carpathian Basin. This is coincident with the current view on North-West Indo-European, and I think that his final acceptance of a sound linguistic model is essential to solve Indo-European questions.
The simplistic assumption of Yamna -> Corded Ware -> Bell Beaker migration found in genetic papers of 2015. The new model implies Yamna->Yamna settlers (Eastern Hungary). Yamna settlers are known to have developed into East Bell Beakers (as described by Gimbutas and accepted by Anthony originally, and now also found in the adoption of Heyd’s theory for his new model); therefore a Yamna settlers (Hungary) -> East Bell Beaker evolution is evident and mainstream, now clear also in genetics. It remains to be seen if the additional Yamna settlers (Hungary) -> Proto-Corded Ware migration proposed by him as a novelty in this new model is also right, i.e. if Yamna settlers from Hungary did in fact migrate into sites of Lesser Poland (to form a Proto-Corded Ware culture). If not, then only Heyd’s model remains.
Since Anthony has stuck his neck out in favour of this new theory – changing some of his popular theories, and rejecting what many geneticists seem to take as certain – , and because of his previous impressive improvements over Gimbutas’ simple steppe theory (now apparently fashionable again), I think he deserves that his proposal of Yamna/Late Indo-European expansion in the Balkans be further investigated, if only to be improved upon.
I recently found the paper 4000-2000 BC in Hungary: The Age of Transformation, by T. Horváth, in Annales Universitatis Apulensis. Series Historica, 20/II, 51-113. While it deals mainly with the potential survival of the Baden culture into the late third millennium BC, it gives some interesting quite early dates for Yamna (‘Pit’) graves in the Carpathian Basin, and potential cultural (and population) movements within the Balkans.
A note about the Corded Ware culture in the Carpathian Basin:
Many researchers may assume that it is unnecessary for us to deal with the Corded Ware and Globular Amphorae cultures of north Germany, Poland and Denmark, and if so it does not matter what the names of the periods are. It actually matters a lot. It is true that in these areas there was no Baden complex, but the period had many Baden (and other) culture “period phenomena”. These seem to part of a larger formation than cultures – evidenced by traces such as cattle burials, the relationship between copper metallurgies and jade – which link these territories even when the culture complexes were different, because these phenomena appear not just in the Baden, but in the Corded Ware and Globular Amphorae area as well (and these cultural complexes partly overlapped each other both in space and time!). Even the characteristics of sites show many similarities: e.g. in the northern part of corded ware distribution area, mainly burials have been discovered (similarly to the Pit Grave culture in the Great Hungarian Plain) and in the southern part only settlements appear.
At the moment we have no explanation regarding the nature of the relationship between them (it is supposed that as a result of geographical conditions the people of the same culture lived in different ecological conditions and they adapted differently to their environment). In considering the whole of Europe around 3500-3000 BC, easily observable settlement signs disappeared (Milisauskas and Kruk, “Late Neolithic/Late Copper Age,” 307), similarly to Hungary, even though in Hungary this occurred from the end of the Middle Copper Age to the Early Bronze Age, between 4000 and 2000 BC. If we do not take into account that the cattle burials of the Baden culture between 3600 and 2800 BC, and possibly even longer than that, have analogies with the cattle burials of areas in the Early and Middle Neolithic Corded Ware culture (because “logically” analogies would be sought in those areas in the Bronze Age but this period is not analogous with that period in those areas), we would not find any spiritual resemblance in their relationships that lies behind their spatial and temporal analogies; cf. comp. Niels Johannsen and Steffen Laursen, “Routes and Wheeled Transport in Late 4th-Early 3rd Millennium Funerary Customs of the Jutland Peninsula: Regional Evidence and European Context,” PZ 85 (2010): 15-58; Horváth “The Intercultural Connections of the Baden „Culture,” 118. It is painful to think about how many relationships we have not explored or even assessed yet!
On Yamna culture and burials in the Carpathian Basin:
Looking at Pit Grave kurgans on the distribution map, it is apparent that burials are the densest where there were no Boleráz or Baden occupations (in this respect this was a kind of “no man’s land”, but from the whole Late Copper Age perspective it was not: the sites of the Baden complex and Pit Grave complemented each other and even partially overlapped). Apart from burials, no Pit Grave settlements or other types of Pit Grave sites are known in Hungary, therefore we do not know whether Pit Grave settlements were situated near the kurgans or whether were somewhere else entirely and we simply have not found them yet.
Since the Pit Grave people had a different lifestyle from the Baden, we can assume that, up to the line of the Tisza River, small animal-keeping mobile groups (Pit Grave) met more populated and settled, agriculturalist, indigenous Boleráz-Baden groups. Animal keepers (Pit Grave) settled in areas where agriculturalists (Boleráz and Baden) did not; in some places, however, they crossed each other’s paths (Fig. 5, 7). Sometimes their sites are very close to each other, sometimes they appear on one site and they can be identified in the stratigraphy of a site. In the latter case the kurgan is always situated on top of a Baden settlement, indicating that Pit Grave not only followed the Baden at these sites but may have represented a somewhat higher social power and belief system than the Baden.
The relationship between pastoral, patrilineal, combatant nomadic tribes and agriculturalist communities is often described as some sort of patron and client relationship. In reality, the signs of such assumption are not visible in the Pit Grave-Baden relationship. There are cases when more aggressive herders conquered more developed agriculturalist communities, but there are also cases when the conqueror’s culture was more developed or stronger than that of the conquered. Always, the conquering nomads are the patrons, the rulers and the empire builders.
In our case, timing is important. How much time had passed on those common sites where a Baden settlement was followed by a Pit Grave kurgan? In these cases, it is certain that the kurgan is younger, but how much younger?
To sum up, the Pit Grave and Baden in the Late Copper Age were certainly contemporary from 3350 BC in the Great Hungarian Plain, and they had common sites, sites which were very close to each other, sites which were far from each other, and also independent sites. The Pit Grave culture surely survived in the transitional period, and into Early Bronze Age I, but perhaps even longer. For the most part, the Baden had ended by 2900 BC in the Great Hungarian Plain. Mapping and some other data (e.g. the discovery that Younger-type, not Mondsee-type, metal objects, which can now be considered to be Baden, even appear east of the Danube River) does not exclude the possibility of searching further for traces of Baden surviving in the Great Hungarian Plain together with or alongside to the Pit Grave. On the common Baden-Pit Grave sites, even without carbon dating, we can assume from already known stratigraphical data that they closely followed each other in time.
For those of you interested in more detailed radiocarbon analysis and assessment of Yamna burials and settlements, from the steppe to the Balkans, to investigate Anthony’s theory further – apart from those authors referenced by him – , I can recommend reading Y. Rassamakin (e.g. Import and Imitation in Archaeology, 2008), S. Ivanova, or Claudia Gerling (e.g. Prehistoric Mobility and Diet in the West Eurasian Steppes 3500 to 300 BC).
Featured image, from the article, by T. Horváth: Distribution map of the Pit Grave.
Researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Leicester and Durham created the database in 2015 with support from the Arcadia Fund, a non-profit that seeks to preserve endangered heritage sites. The EAMENA team wanted to build a uniform catalogue of historic locations that are facing a growing onslaught of threats, according to a University of Oxford press statement. The resource was only recently made available to the public.
Not all damage and threats to the archaeology can be prevented, but they can be mitigated through the sharing of information and specialist skills
The official Agerpres news agency reported on Wednesday that a village established in the Bronze Age has been recently discovered near Zalau town, northwestern Romania. The discovery was made following an archeological discharge relating to 2 square kilometers in Recea, close to Zalau.
“It is for the fist time in Transylvania, central-western region of Romania, when a village dating back to the Bronze Age iscompletely examined,” said Ioan Bejinariu, the archeologist of the History and Art Museum in Zalau. “Only by conducting digging works on large areas of land can one have an overview of a location,” said Bejinariu who is in charge of this site. “The village consists of eight houses built in the upper region of a hill on two almost parallel rows. Pits were found near the houses used for supplies’ storage,” he added.
As many as 124 archeological sites were found, including houses, graves, supplies’ pits or ovens, as well as two human skeletons dating back to several historical periods starting with 1500-1300 B.C. and up to the 3rd and 4th C A.D., Bejinariu informed. In addition to the location originating in the Bronze Age, a well-preserved pottery kiln was discovered on the Sulduba valley, dating back to the 3rd and 4th C A.D. According to Ioan Bejinariu, the oven confirms the region used to be populated by sedentary people in that period.
I think findings like this one (and the ‘German Stonehenge‘) make clear that there is a need for further research of the old central and northern European settlements, maybe through a unified European funding, instead of spending the regional budgets of European states to promote culture in the own regions only.
The problem with such a decentralized (culture) funding – regarding the European Union as a whole – is that we could end having rich regions spending lots of money to find a handful of meaningless stones in their territories, instead of dedicating those resources to study hundreds of buried villages in cost-efficient archaeological sites located in poorer European regions. Maybe the best way to wake up the necessary interest is to learn once and for all that the migrations that shaped Europe came from the East, just like the migrations that shaped modern Spain came from the North after (or accompanying) the Reconquista.
Some years after the discovery of the Nebra Sky disc and observatory (dated ca. 1600 BC), near what was then called the “German Stonehenge” (see Deutsche Welle news), archaeologists from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg have unearthed another similar structure, but this time probably related to the Indo-European settlers who still spoke Europe’s (or Northwestern) Proto-Indo-European, if the timeline and space have been correctly set by linguists and archaeologists.
While the Goseck observatory (reconstructed in the picture) was dated between 5000 and 4800 BC, this wooden construction – termed again “German Stonehenge” -, found not too far from the river Elbe in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, near the village of Pömmelte-Zackmünde, is supposed was used for worship between 2300 and 2100 BC, and was later covered by another “wooden pagan structure”. Which of those structures (if any) might be linked to the community of Europe’s Indo-European speakers, is yet unknown.
From the weekly Der Spiegel news, later copied by international news agencies worldwide:
Still, the scale of the site must have been impressive. Archaeologists have already discovered six rings of wooden pillars — the biggest of which has a diameter of 115 meters. In one of the structure’s outer areas there was also a circular ditch with a diameter of 90 meters. By analysing ceramic vessels found at the site, the researchers have worked out the place of worship dates back to the 23rd century before Christ and was used until the 21st century BC.
“We don’t know of any other structure like this on the European mainland from this time,” Spatzier said. It was, in fact, an exciting time in Europe: trade networks for ores, amber and salt were rapidly developing. Mankind’s knowledge was also growing by leaps and bounds, as not only goods but ideas were travelling across the continent. Around 2,500 years earlier at the very end of the Stone Age, Neolithic people had already constructed the nearby Goseck Circle — a wooden ring 70 meters across considered the oldest solar observatory in Europe. In the Bronze Age, some 500 years after the Pömmelte site was built, the famous Nebra sky disc was made. The circular bronze object likewise depicts the heavens.
First observed from an airplane in 1991, researchers are now trying to figure out how exactly the new site — dubbed by the media as the “German Stonehenge” — was used. They believe the place must have been a site for celebrations and ritual acts, as the earthen walls could not have offered defensive protection against attackers. Animal bones and vessels found at the site also point to it being a cult site. And human skeletal remains — not unlike findings at the original Stonehenge — have also been dug up. The researchers are especially intrigued by the graves of a child, aged between five and 10, who was buried in a fetus-like position, and that of a higher ranking dignitary.
On top of that, another wooden pagan structure, which probably came into use directly after the one being dug up, has been found nearby. So far, archaeologists have undertaken only a small exploratory excavation. “We might start a bigger excavation there next year,” Spatzier said — in the hopes of completely uncovering the mysteries of the German Stonehenge.
Every time such findings are made I whonder why a period of history so meaningful for the western world hasn’t yet served as scenario of an important historical novel, like Quo Vadis, or Pharaoh, or The Clan of the Cave Bear, or Aztec, etc. Any reader interested in beginning a historical fiction (blog) novel? I can help with the original language of characters 😉