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The Beaker Culture

28 February 2010

For an in-depth look at the Beaker Culture and it’s geographical spread go to http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Beaker_culture (ffor some reason the links doesn’t take you there directly. On the absolute astronomy web page which it does link to key in Beaker culture in the search the site option at the top of the page and it will take you to the right location) … the Bell Beakers are a prominent and easily recognised kind of pottery discovered in various parts of western and north central Europe as far as Poland, and are dated from mid to late 3rd millennium BC – and some examples carry on until around 1800BC. The pottery is regarded as a widely scattered cultural phenomenon as they are accompanied by other novel introductions – such as metals. One theory is that Bell Beakers arrived by trade and were used to drink beer. However, recent research appears to indicate beer arrived with the first farmers at the very start of the Neolithic period – thousands of years before the Beaker phenomenon. Hence, some other drink, such as mead, may have been consumed as part of a Beaker ritual. However, not all Beakers were drinking vessels but were used in a variety of functions from serving food to funerary wares. In spite of this it is accepted by some archaeologists that Beakers were associated with the spread of a religious belief, or particular cult ritual (which it is impossible to fathom). It is a view often put forward in textbooks simply to put the problem to bed – as reasons are not forthcoming. The original idea, the Beakers represent a migration of some kind, went out of the window when anti-diffusion became popular. However, the idea of migration is beginning to seep back into the consciousness of historians and archaeologists. The problem is the manner of the spread, which is not straight-forward. The spread is not from A to B via C but appears to have splintered into a number of movements – and these did not happen concurrently. The Beakers appear to represent a series of migrations – but what could have set people in motion on several occasions in the 3rd millennium BC? One migration is enough of an argument against the anti-diffusionists but two or three seperate movements of people – that is difficult to swallow. In spite of that, and reading between the lines of this argument, that might be the reality.

Some people have seen the Beaker people (if there were such a people) as proto-Celts with an origin on the Russian steppes. Marija Gimbutas claimed a link with the kurgan culture of the steppes – introducing the Indo European languages into western Europe. Her ideas went out of favour for a variety of reasons as it was caught up in the Mother Goddess idealogy. Colin Renfrew claimed Indo European languages were introduced by the first farmers so that in part negated one of her arguments – but read the article to get a taste of what actually might have occurred, bearing in mind that low growth tree ring events occur at the outset of the 3rd millennium, and during the 3rd millennium, as well as at the end of the 3rd millennium BC.

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