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View Full Version : Absolute chronology of the Beaker phenomenon North of the Tagus estuary



Bernard
07-17-2014, 10:00 AM
Joo Lus Cardoso: http://tp.revistas.csic.es/index.php/tp/article/viewFile/665/687
Abstract:

The complexity of the Beaker phenomenon in the Tagus estuary does not fit well with the model of three successive groups (International, Palmela and Incised Groups). The above seems to result from the nature of the settlements rather than from its chronology, as all three groups are present during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. Therefore while artefacts of the International Group predominate in the fortified sites, the Incised Group appears almost exclusively in open sites. The Palmela Group seems of minor importance, at least in the north region of the Tagus River estuary. The remarkable antiquity of Beaker pottery found in the FM hut at Leceia (which dates from the 2nd quarter of the 3rd millennium BC, re-confirmed by AMS dating) has parallels both in the North and South of Portugal, as well as in Spain. Thus we conclude that in the Lower Estremadura (one of the most important regions in Europe for the discussion of the origin and diffusion of Beaker “phenomenon”), the Beaker social formation with its own distinct cultural characteristics, coexisted with local Chalcolithic cultures, although never merged with them.

The point the most important of this study is that Portuguese Bell Beaker is the oldest in Europe but is also an intrusive culture in the local Chalcolithic.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 10:44 AM
I don't feel that the paper really proves that Bell Beaker was intrusive, but simply that Bell Beaker pottery co-existed with earlier pottery. The BB pottery style was I believe an amalgamation of influences from the steppe, Cucuteni and the Carpathian Basin, which arrived in Portugal I imagine with one or two pottery-making women who came as wives to men settled there.

Bernard
07-17-2014, 12:02 PM
I don't feel that the paper really proves that Bell Beaker was intrusive, but simply that Bell Beaker pottery co-existed with earlier pottery. The BB pottery style was I believe an amalgamation of influences from the steppe, Cucuteni and the Carpathian Basin, which arrived in Portugal I imagine with one or two pottery-making women who came as wives to men settled there.
Jean, I don't agree with your feeling. For example, in his conclusions Cardoso writes:

The comparison of chronometric and archaeological results described above suggests that the first Beaker productions in the region of Lower Estremadura (between about 2700 and 2600 BC) coexisted, with lower interaction, with Chalcolithic populations that lived in some fortified sites, as shown by the chronology of the FM hut at Leceia.

On a more global approximation to the socio-cultural reality during the 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BC in Lower Estremadura, we may consider that if Beaker society was segmented with two clearly-differentiated components, it may have corresponded nevertheless to a cultural entity as a whole with its own characteristics, at least in the region under appreciation. In fact, based on the archaeological record identified at Leceia since the end of the Early Chalcolithic it is possible to admit that that two communities with different cultural roots coexisted with a lower level of interaction (and conflict) during the course of the Chalcolithic in Lower Estremadura.

On Leceia site, in the second quarter of the 3d millenium BC, first Bell Beakers lived in the FM hut outside the fortified site, while local Chalcolithics lived inside the fortified site.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 02:22 PM
Jean, I don't agree with your feeling. For example, in his conclusions Cardoso writes:

On Leceia site, in the second quarter of the 3d millenium BC, first Bell Beakers lived in the FM hut outside the fortified site, while local Chalcolithics lived inside the fortified site.

Yes I read the paper Bernard. But what exactly does that prove? Is a hut outside the initial settlement proof of total strangers who had nothing whatsoever to do with the people in the fortified site? Scarcely. The huts are proof of an expanding population nestling close to the initial settlement. These were people who felt safe close to that walled settlement, even if they couldn't fit inside it. At several of the Copper Age fortified sites, population increases led to an enlargement of the fortified area. For all I know, they may yet find evidence of another wall at Leceia, just as at Zambujal and Los Millares.

At Zambujal there is a clear continuity from the earliest copper-workers to the beginnings of Bell Beaker. That includes using the same source of clay for both the earliest pottery of Zambujal and the Maritime Bell Beaker type. If the population was continuous, though with reinforcements arriving periodically from the same source as the original copper prospectors (Carpathian Basin), there would be no reason to expect a total, immediate cessation of the older pottery styles as soon as the first Bell Beaker appeared. The pre-existing potters would probably go on working in the style with which they were familiar. In any case pre-existing pottery could continue in use for decades until it got broken. Why throw away servicable tableware?

razyn
07-17-2014, 04:41 PM
Aren't these the same Bell Beakers who were formerly carbon-dated 2900 BC, making them older than the more or less contemporary ones in the Rhine delta area? I've always had a problem with that explanation for the supposed west-to-east dispersion of DF27, or Z196 or whoever. Now I'm hearing 2600-2700 BC, which isn't even earlier... and a couple of women potters, which isn't a migration or about Y-DNA.

The difference (between ~ 2900 and ~2650) is about the same as the difference between the French and Indian War and now. Where I live, that makes a whole lot of difference. Though I realize people and events moved somewhat more slowly in the Chalcolithic era.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 05:54 PM
Aren't these the same Bell Beakers who were formerly carbon-dated 2900 BC.

That's the upper end of the date range for BB in Portugal generally. The earliest date cited by Muller and Van Willigan 2001 was 4290 +/- 120 BP from charred acorn at Cova d'en Pau. Using the handy online calibrator http://www.calpal-online.de/ , that gives us 2917 194 cal BC.

If we ignore that as a dubious outlier, the next dates start with 4230 +/- 60 BP = 2801 92 cal BC from Porto Torrio. Next comes Leicia with 4220 +/- 50 BP = 2799 86 cal BC. Cardoso 2014 gives a different calibration for that date i.e. 2920-2630 BC (mean 2775 BC), supported by two further dates of 4140 40 BP (2745 92 cal BC on the online calculator) and 4100 40 BP (2714 112 cal BC ditto) for bones from Bell Beaker contexts at Leceia.

There are other dates in a similar range or just slightly lower for other sites in Portugal, southern France and Tuscany.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 06:10 PM
and a couple of women potters, which isn't a migration or about Y-DNA.

The pottery is not the whole story of the BB culture. Let's take a step back from it and view the bigger picture. The first people to bring copper working to Portugal about 3100 BC were related to the (later) makers of Bell Beaker. We deduce this from the fact that the fortified settlements created by the first copper-workers carried on being used by people with the same technology and culture except that they were making pottery in a bell shape. Things are even clearer at Sion and Aosta in the Alps. The necropoli there carried on in use from the Copper Age pre-BB through to Bell Beaker. The Bell Beaker makers revered the ancestors who arrived prior to Bell Beaker. In a way it doesn't matter two hoots when these people in Portugal decided that they rather liked tableware in a bell shape.

The pottery has been crucial in identifying the culture once it started to spread as a complete package e.g. copper working + BB pottery arrives in Ireland c. 2400 BC.

BB arrived in Poland at about 2400 BC too. The package that arrived in Poland was not direct from Portugal. It had been filtered through the eastern BB zone.

alan
07-17-2014, 07:31 PM
First up I am glad they said 2nd quarter of the 3rd millenium BC. Its become too common for people to think 3000BC or just after is the proven start date for beaker. Second quarter is about as early as I would think can safely be concluded so that is 2750-2500BC. Note too that this is not a timespan that is unknown in other areas. Its age in Iberia is sometimes exaggerated to 3000BC or the like. There are early dates from other areas that fall into the 2nd quarter of the 3rd millenium. I still strongly doubt the western terminus of the continent is a likely place for a pottery like beaker with strong parallels in form and/or fabric in central and eastern Europe to evolve. It just intuitively does not seem likely to me. I think more likely is an origin in the cultural melting pot areas around the Alps and southern France. I also am aware of how hard it is to date beaker remains directly in an area where collective burial in megaliths was practiced. It far easier to tie in cultural objects and bones in single graves where there is no ambiguity.

My own feeling is that multiple influences may have met in the western Alps and Liguria where ideas from the Balkans, the Alps, the corded ware world and the west may have met. I think the all over ornamented/corded beakers with their odd coastal and more eastern distribution has something to do with the origin of bell beaker in Iberia and is intrusive in some may yet to be fully understood. They dont have the same sort of distribution as the herringbone maritime types. I have already read papers that show they were rare in burials. I do need to read this paper though.


Joo Lus Cardoso: http://tp.revistas.csic.es/index.php/tp/article/viewFile/665/687
Abstract:

The point the most important of this study is that Portuguese Bell Beaker is the oldest in Europe but is also an intrusive culture in the local Chalcolithic.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 08:07 PM
It just intuitively does not seem likely to me.

Intuitively, looking at a piece of Wedgwood pottery, it seems wildly unlikely that it was made in Staffordshire. It is so obviously based on Roman designs. This influence stands out a mile. Golly! How could this beauty emerge from England's dark satanic mills? ;)

alan
07-17-2014, 09:24 PM
I must admit when it comes to distinguising a century or two of a difference I think radiocarbon dating does not deserve the confidence some have in it with reservoir effects, old wood effect and all sorts of things which can make dates seem older than they are. Also a date really needs to be looked at in terms of how safe the context ties it to the beaker and all sorts of other considerations. I think a 1 to 2 centuries difference is shaky on the basis of a few sites and only a large scale comparison of dates can pick out convincing geographical patterns in chronology.

Even then, some areas could systematically be coming in older than the real dates due to environmental considerations. Regarding the early radiocarbon dates from SW Iberia I have concerns about the Tagus area in terms of the artificial aging of radiocarbon dating firstly for good old fashioned fresh water and marine reservoir effect and more specifically the hard water effect. Southern Portugal is an unusually hard water area for Iberia which mainly is a soft water area other than southern Portugal and at the east Spanish Med. coast. Look at the map of Iberia.

http://www.electrostoreonline.com/Electronic-Water-Descaler/Hard%20water%20areas/Info.aspx

The area of early beaker dates in the Tagus estuary falls into a hard water area. I am not entirely convinced that beaker chronology is well established other than a very general pattern that the south tends to be slightly older than the north. If beaker models turn on a few early dates then I would want to read everything about the context, material and possible distorting effects of ever radiocarbon date.



That's the upper end of the date range for BB in Portugal generally. The earliest date cited by Muller and Van Willigan 2001 was 4290 +/- 120 BP from charred acorn at Cova d'en Pau. Using the handy online calibrator http://www.calpal-online.de/ , that gives us 2917 194 cal BC.

If we ignore that as a dubious outsider, the next dates start with 4230 +/- 60 BP = 2801 92 cal BC from Porto Torrio. Next comes Leicia with 4220 +/- 50 BP = 2799 86 cal BC. Cardoso 2014 gives a different calibration for that date i.e. 2920-2630 BC (mean 2775 BC), supported by two further dates of 4140 40 BP (2745 92 cal BC on the online calculator) and 4100 40 BP (2714 112 cal BC ditto) for bones from Bell Beaker contexts at Leceia.

There are other dates in a similar range or just slightly lower for other sites in Portugal, southern France and Tuscany.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 10:09 PM
If beaker models turn on a few early dates...

No they don't. The international archaeological community has not been easily swayed into shifting from the Dutch Model. In fact some Dutch archaeologists are still clinging to it. Don't you think that they have investigated and argued since the collated radiocarbon dates were presented by Johannes Mller and Samuel van Willigen (who don't sound Portuguese to me) at the Riva del Garda conference on Bell Beakers in summer 1998? It caused a sensation! If you want to fight Mller and van Willigen, you are 16 years too late. The fun and games seem to be largely over. But you can find their paper in my library. It's all there to be chewed over.

alan
07-17-2014, 10:43 PM
I am just not convinced beaker pot arose in Iberia. Its not impossible but its geographically improbable when you look at the geography of beaker-like pots of the immediate pre-beaker era. I do believe the basic pattern that beaker is younger to the north and older to the south although this is not true if we look at wider beaker-like pots. Then again that is not surprising as the idea of a beaker type pot already existed in central Europe before the beaker age and did not need introduced there.

Also the actual amount of well dated early beaker for places like Italy is so poor that I dont think any conclusions can be reached about exactly where it arose in the south. It would make a great deal more sense if beaker did originate somewhere nearer the southern Alps - an area which was in a great position to receive influences from the east and north around 2750BC that would more naturally lead to beaker.

I will never believe in someone getting on a boat in eastern Europe and landing in southern Portugal without some intermediate settlement. Even much much later in prehistory I get the impression that the general view of the opposite ends of Europe was 'here be dragons'. Greeks had totally confused and crazy ideas about areas only a little out of their sphere.

Where I would agree is that beaker pots in themselves are no big deal and are just a copy of a pre-existing idea. Its only when big changes also occur along the beaker that it get interesting. In some areas it does not appear to me that beaker pots were much more than just new pots copying a basic central European trend for beaker like pots in graves and otherwise they just 'kept calm and carried on'. Iberia is one of those places where it doesnt seem to me that the use of beaker actually heralded any amazing changes to society, religion etc. There is also the issue that SW Europeans who took up the beaker seem cranially rather like their predecessors and seem to have completely different cranial traits to the classic beaker ones of central and northern Europe Its more in other places like Europe north of the Alps, Britain etc where beaker seems to be associated with a society that seem very very different from what went on in the Neolithic although those trends were already there before beaker in part of that zone.

I suspect that the beaker was invented by people who peripherally were aware of beaker type pots in central Europe - possibly through marriage - and that the early beaker was invented in this peripheral area as a copy or by a women from central Europe who had migrated into SW Europe and quickly adapted this to local sources found in SW Europe. I think the resulting beakers were then considered attractive enough that it refluxed back into the area of the original model. Again a marriage network might have been a major factor in both the the idea of a beaker type pot heading west and the idea then being copied and spreading back.

In general I do not think the evidence is at all clear that the beaker culture was the same people from inception. I think they were probably spread by women moving within networks linking SW and west central Europe. We probably do not have the first generation result of this in any museum and only the 2nd onwards so there we should not expect identical reproduction of materials or techniques. I have also said before that what has been called the early proto package of beaker (Heyd I think) was limited, lacked many of the classic beaker traits and could be largely female driven as it is alleged to consist of pot, fabric types, buttons and other potentially female craft objects.

When it comes to male movements in a patrilocal societies such as seem to have existed even in the European Neolithic, I think we need strong reasons of push and/or pull to claim to seeing such movements within something as baffling as beaker. This is where the issue of the contrast between areas where beaker brought nothing much to the table and areas where they made a major impact is significant. One of the simplest divisions in that respect is that area where copper working, mining etc was already known. Its hard to see why new metal orientated male groups would be welcomed in the area between Italy/the Alps and Iberia where metal was already well developed and they didnt bring much new. This zone seems to have also kept using earlier megalithic burial forms. This is also borne out by craniology which suggests the people using the beakers were not newcomers. I actually agree with Jean that in SW Europe from Iberia to the Alps the beaker people were probably the same as the pre-beaker people of SW Europe. They just took up a new form of pot copying one of the models kicking about at that time. However, I am not at all convinced that these early beaker using SW Europeans were from the inception of beaker use the same people on the male line as the beaker people of temperate Europe. There just seems to be seriously major differences between them in burial traditions, beliefs, crania etc. There is not much ancient DNA evidence for SW European copper using peoples of the immediate pre-beaker period but what we do have is all non R1b at the moment.

I think the mystery remains to be convincingly nailed down and will remain uncertain until a lot more ancient DNA is available.


Intuitively, looking at a piece of Wedgwood pottery, it seems wildly unlikely that it was made in Staffordshire. It is so obviously based on Roman designs. This influence stands out a mile. Golly! How could this beauty emerge from England's dark satanic mills? ;)

alan
07-17-2014, 11:03 PM
Oh I have read it several times and I felt happy that they had enough data to establish the general pattern of beaker being older in the south than the north - I believe that is simply because beaker-like pots already existed in the north anyway in pre-beaker times. However I wasnt convinced of conclusions beyond that or the nailing down of the origin to Portugal. The sample is some areas was woeful and the system of looking for gold standard short life dates while correct did leave some areas bereft of most of their RC dates. Short life dates on bone, animal bone, shells etc while they seemed the way to go have also become the subject of ever increasing debate about the problems they bring to RC dating. This worry has grown so much that it is believed that short life dates on human bone may have systematically misdated cultures and there seems to be a recent move towards the idea that we need a mix of long and short life materials for dating because of the increasingly highlighted problems of short life materials. I do recall too the paper being criticised for not going into any depth in terms of how closed the contexts were etc. I thought the paper was a step forward and showed the macro pattern but it overstepped the mark in its claims. Time will tell.

Regardless, I am not convinced the earliest beaker using peoples of SW Europe represented anything of a major change. As per my previous post, the earliest beaker package only brought a limited amount of new things many of which look like female crafts to me and might be best explained by marriage networks between SW Europe and central Europe. Beaker pot tends to be included into traditions which echo and transform those of pre-beaker groups in a lot of Europe. So, its hard to say if SW Europeans using beaker in collective megalithic graves had the same beliefs and social structure as other beaker groups with single graves or hybrid traditions. The evidence just doesnt leap out that all beaker users were the same people and the evidence is capable of being interpreted as a number of beaker blocks with significantly different beliefs and perhaps origins. I dont think the data is there yet to give a definitive answer but one possibility is that two or three completely unrelated groups took up beaker pot after being connected through marriage networks.


No they don't. The international archaeological community has not been easily swayed into shifting from the Dutch Model. In fact some Dutch archaeologists are still clinging to it. Don't you think that they have investigated and argued since the collated radiocarbon dates were presented by Johannes Mller and Samuel van Willigen (who don't sound Portuguese to me) at the Riva del Garda conference on Bell Beakers in summer 1998? It caused a sensation! If you want to fight Mller and van Willigen, you are 16 years too late. The fun and games seem to be largely over. But you can find their paper in my library. It's all there to be chewed over.

Jean M
07-17-2014, 11:08 PM
I do believe the basic pattern that beaker is younger to the north and older to the south.

Perhaps you should write a paper, marshalling all the data that leads you to turn M and v W completely upside down. Could be free drinks in Amsterdam for you.:beerchug:

alan
07-18-2014, 12:17 AM
You know yourself the way when archaeology hits a trend set by a cabal of academics of a particular generation it can be very hard to turn around as academics often do not want to change their minds when they come out in favour of something. It sometimes takes time and the natural turnover of people in posts to allow new thinking to prosper - just look at the whole anti-migration thing which dominated for about 30-40 years.

I dont think I could face something as dry as critiquing radiocarbon samples as the lack of detail in their report would mean a lot of work and reading of site reports in various languages etc for each sample. I would love someone to do it - just not me. Good dissertation for someone though

Their paper has indeed been critiqued with strong valid points about lack of detail, the much better understanding of problems of short life materials in RC dating and the vetoing of most RC dates from some countries because the kind of dateable materials they have are not of the short life sort. I think the value in what he said was lost and slightly straw manned because he was perceived as being a traditionalist Dutch model person. The thing is his criticisms of their methodology and patchy data set are completely correct regardless of his own preferences. Noone has rebutted his criticisms because they are essentially impossible to rebutt. He could be accused of being negative but his criticisms are fair.

Short life dates were the bees knees for a long time for understandable reasons but there is more and more concern that they may have as bad problems as longer life materials such as charcoal. When they wrote their paper they were on the crest of the short life gold standard radiocarbon wave. I think that enthusiasm has been blunted since then somewhat, especially the last few years. Its one thing for example to do a one-country study of dozens of short life RC dates but its another to try and use short life dates on a continental scale where all sorts of locally varying issues relating to reservoir effects etc come into play.

I just think between problems with short life and long life samples in radiocarbon dating I wouldnt feel much confidence in differences on a European scale of a century or so and would have little faith in radiocarbon to pinpoint origin without a massive and reasonably even sample across Europe. I do believe they have spotted the general south is early, north is later pattern but that is as far as I would accept their findings.



Perhaps you should write a paper, marshalling all the data that leads you to turn M and v W completely upside down. Could be free drinks in Amsterdam for you.:beerchug:

Jean M
07-18-2014, 01:14 AM
Short life dates were the bees knees for a long time for understandable reasons but there is more and more concern that they may have as bad problems as longer life materials such as charcoal....

The answer seems to be dendro-dating, as we saw with Wlodarczak on Corded Ware.

alan
07-19-2014, 06:52 PM
Dendro is definitely the best method but its only rarely possible to use that technique i.e wetland sites with large timbers etc. I tend to think there had been too big a backlash against longer life materials like charcoal. What was a bad technique was using charcoal from bulk samples of soil and non-closed contexts. However, IMO as long as its a discrete deposit in a closed feature rather than a bulk sampling its probably only a big problem where it seems likely large timbers with heartwood etc has been used. Otherwise it shouldnt be spectacularly older - maybe decades rather than centuries. What is scary is that some of the artificial aging effect from bone can in theory run into several centuries.

There is no easy answer. I suppose for each date on bone they need to try and rule out the effects by considering the diet through isotopes, whether fresh or marine water might be an issue, whether the water is hard etc etc and if they can rule out the most major concerns then those dates become more reliable.

Probably the best thing for now in beaker burials is to try and get both short life and long life dates from the same burial and compare. If I recall the Willigen paper correctly when both short and long life derived RC dates were included, the map changed somewhat. While still showing northern Europe to be later in Beaker terms, the detail changed a bit and the old beaker zone stretched from Iberia to Italy and Hungary. Not only are there risks in using only short life dates and the artificial aging potential but the exclusion of non-short life dates stripped some areas almost entirely of their dates.

Its a little bit depressing but every time people try and use RC dating to refine dates closer than a century or so doubt creeps in. RC dating was probably the single most important advance in archaeology in the last century but its probably being pushed a little harder than it really can be in terms of refining dates.


The answer seems to be dendro-dating, as we saw with Wlodarczak on Corded Ware.