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 thought to derive from the supine burials in the pre-Yamnaya phase of the Volgan and Pontic Steppes, although it isn't totally clear to me if the frog pose and the supine / legs-drawn-to-one-side pose is being distinguished from each other by the archaeologists.  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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Britain o' Beakers.

Here's a podcast from the Guardian UK's "The Bell-Beaker folk - Science Weekly podcast ".

Hannah Devlin interviews Durham University archaeologist Ben Roberts on the findings of the largest ancient genome project of ancient Europe, "The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe"

Frame from "Tatort Eulau - Das Rätsel der 13 Skelette" (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen - ZDF TV) 

Trying to get back in the saddle this week but currently hamstrung with other commitments.  Hopefully a few more posts before week's end.