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The Bell Beaker culture (or, in short, Beaker culture) is an archaeological culture named after the inverted-bell beaker drinking vessel used at the very beginning of the European Bronze Age. Arising from around 2800 BC, it lasted in Britain until as late as 1800 BC[3][4] but in continental Europe only until 2300 BC, when it was succeeded by the Unetice culture. The culture was widely dispersed throughout Western Europe, from various regions in Iberia and spots facing northern Africa to the Danubian plains, the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and also the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

The Bell Beaker culture follows the Corded Ware culture and for north-central Europe the Funnelbeaker culture. The name Glockenbecher was coined for its distinctive style of beakers by Paul Reinecke in 1900. The term's English translation Bell Beaker was introduced by John Abercromby in 1904.[5]

In its early phase, the Bell Beaker culture can be seen as the western contemporary of the Corded Ware culture of Central Europe. From about 2400 BC, however, the "Beaker folk" expanded eastwards, into the Corded Ware horizon. In parts of Central and Eastern Europe – as far east as Poland – a sequence occurs from Corded Ware to Bell Beaker.

This period marks a period of cultural contact in Atlantic and Western Europe following a prolonged period of relative isolation during the Neolithic.

In its mature phase, the Bell Beaker culture is understood as not only a collection of characteristic artefact types, but a complex cultural phenomenon involving metalwork in copper and gold, archery, specific types of ornamentation, and (presumably) shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas.[6] A wide range of regional diversity persists within the widespread late Beaker culture, particularly in local burial styles (including incidences of cremation rather than burial), housing styles, economic profile, and local ceramic wares (Begleitkeramik).

Origins

Early diffusion of the Bell Beaker culture[7]

While Bell Beaker (Glockenbecher) was introduced as a term for the artefact type at the beginning of the 20th century, recognition of an archaeological Bell Beaker culture has long been controversial. Its spread has been one of the central questions of the migrationism vs. diffusionism debate in 20th-century archaeology, variously described as due to migration, possibly of small groups of warriors, craftsmen or traders, or due to the diffusion of ideas and object exchange.[8] Gordon Childe interpreted the presence of its characteristic artefact as the intrusion of "missionaries" expanding from Iberia along the Atlantic coast, spreading knowledge of copper metallurgy. Stephen Shennan interpreted the artefacts as belonging to a mobile cultural elite imposing itself over the indigenous substrate populations. Similarly, Sangmeister (1972) interpreted the "Beaker folk" (Glockenbec

The Bell Beaker culture follows the Corded Ware culture and for north-central Europe the Funnelbeaker culture. The name Glockenbecher was coined for its distinctive style of beakers by Paul Reinecke in 1900. The term's English translation Bell Beaker was introduced by John Abercromby in 1904.[5]

In its early phase, the Bell Beaker culture can be seen as the western contemporary of the Corded Ware culture of Central Europe. From about 2400 BC, however, the "Beaker folk" expanded eastwards, into the Corded Ware horizon. In parts of Central and Eastern Europe – as far east as Poland – a sequence occurs from Corded Ware to Bell Beaker.

This period marks a period of cultural contact in Atlantic and Western Europe following a prolonged period of relative isolation during the Neolithic.

In its mature phase, the Bell Beaker culture is understood as not only a collection of characteristic artefact types, but a complex cultural phenomenon involving metalwork in copper and gold, archery, specific types of ornamentation, and (presumably) shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas.[6] A wide range of regional diversity persists within the widespread late Beaker culture, particularly in local burial styles (including incidences of cremation rather than burial), housing styles, economic profile, and local ceramic wares (Begleitkeramik).

While Bell Beaker (Glockenbecher) was introduced as a term for the artefact type at the beginning of the 20th century, recognition of an archaeological Bell Beaker culture has long been controversial. Its spread has been one of the central questions of the migrationism vs. diffusionism debate in 20th-century archaeology, variously described as due to migration, possibly of small groups of warriors, craftsmen or traders, or due to the diffusion of ideas and object exchange.[8] Gordon Childe interpreted the presence of its characteristic artefact as the intrusion of "missionaries" expanding from Iberia along the Atlantic coast, spreading knowledge of copper metallurgy. Stephen Shennan interpreted the artefacts as belonging to a mobile cultural elite imposing itself over the indigenous substrate populations. Similarly, Sangmeister (1972) interpreted the "Beaker folk" (Glockenbecherleute) as small groups of highly mobile traders and artisans. Christian Strahm (1995) used the term "Bell Beaker phenomenon" (Glockenbecher-Phänomen) as a compromise in order to avoid the term "culture".[9] The Bell Beaker artefacts at least in their early phase are not distributed across a contiguous area as is usual for archaeological cultures, but are found in insular concentrations scattered across Europe. Their presence is not associated with a characteristic type of architecture or of burial customs. However, the Bell Beaker culture does appear to coalesce into a coherent archaeological culture in its later phase.

More recent analyses of the "Beaker phenomenon", published since the 2000s, have persisted in describing the origin of the "Beaker phenomenon" as arising from a synthesis of elements, representing "an idea and style uniting different regions with different cultural traditions and background."[10][11] Archaeogenetics studies of the 2010s have been able to resolve the "migrationist vs. diffusionist" question to some extent. The study by Olalde et al. (2017) found only "limited genetic affinity" between individuals associated with the Beaker complex in Iberia and in Central Europe, suggesting that migration played a limited role in its early spread. However, the same study found that the further dissemination of the mature Beaker complex was very strongly linked to migration. This is true especially for Britain, where the spread of the Beaker culture introduced high levels of steppe-related ancestry, resulting in a near-complete transformation of the local gene pool within a few centuries, to the point of replacement of about 90% of the local Mesolithic-derived lineages.[12]

The origin of the "Bell Beaker" artefact itself has been traced to the early 3rd millennium, early examples of the "maritime" Bell Beaker design have been found at the Tagus estuary in Portugal, radiocarbon dated to c. the 28th century BC.[4][13] The inspiration for the Maritime Bell Beaker is argued to have been the small and earlier Copoz beakers that have impressed decoration and which are found widely around the Tagus estuary in Portugal.[14] Turek sees late Neolithic precursors in northern Africa, arguing the Maritime style emerged as a result of seaborne contacts between Iberia and Morocco in the first half of the third millennium BC.[15] AOO and AOC Beakers appear to have evolved continually from a pre-Beaker period in the lower Rhine and North Sea regions, at least for Northern and Central Europe.[16]

Heyd (1998) concluded that the Bell Beaker culture was intrusive to southern Germany which existed contemporarily with the local Corded Ware culture.[17] Conversely, the burial ritual which typified Bell Beaker sites appears to be intrusive to Western Europe, from Central Europe. Individual inhumations, often under tumuli with the inclusion of weapons contrast markedly to the preceding Neolithic traditions of often collective, weaponless burials in Atlantic/Western Europe. Such an arrangement is rather derivative of Corded Ware traditions.[15]

Expansion and culture contact

The initial moves from the Tagus estuary were maritime. A southern move led to the Mediterranean where 'enclaves' were established in south-western Spain and southern France around the Golfe du Lion and into the Po Valley in Italy, probably via ancient western Alpine trade routes used to distribute jadeite axes. A northern move incorporated the southern coast of Armorica. The enclave established in southern Brittany was linked closely to the riverine and landward route, via the Loire, and across the Gâtinais Valley to the Seine Valley, and thence to the lower Rhine. This was a long-established route reflected in early stone axe distributions, and via this network, Maritime Bell Beakers first reached the Lower Rhine in about 2600 BC.More recent analyses of the "Beaker phenomenon", published since the 2000s, have persisted in describing the origin of the "Beaker phenomenon" as arising from a synthesis of elements, representing "an idea and style uniting different regions with different cultural traditions and background."[10][11] Archaeogenetics studies of the 2010s have been able to resolve the "migrationist vs. diffusionist" question to some extent. The study by Olalde et al. (2017) found only "limited genetic affinity" between individuals associated with the Beaker complex in Iberia and in Central Europe, suggesting that migration played a limited role in its early spread. However, the same study found that the further dissemination of the mature Beaker complex was very strongly linked to migration. This is true especially for Britain, where the spread of the Beaker culture introduced high levels of steppe-related ancestry, resulting in a near-complete transformation of the local gene pool within a few centuries, to the point of replacement of about 90% of the local Mesolithic-derived lineages.[12]

The origin of the "Bell Beaker" artefact itself has been traced to the early 3rd millennium, early examples of the "maritime" Bell Beaker design have been found at the Tagus estuary in Portugal, radiocarbon dated to c. the 28th century BC.[4][13] The inspiration for the Maritime Bell Beaker is argued to have been the small and earlier Copoz beakers that have impressed decoration and which are found widely around the Tagus estuary in Portugal.[14] Turek sees late Neolithic precursors in northern Africa, arguing the Maritime style emerged as a result of seaborne contacts between Iberia and Morocco in the first half of the third millennium BC.[15] AOO and AOC Beakers appear to have evolved continually from a pre-Beaker period in the lower Rhine and North Sea regions, at least for Northern and Central Europe.[16]

Heyd (1998) concluded that the Bell Beaker culture was intrusive to southern Germany which existed contemporarily with the local Corded Ware culture.[17] Conversely, the burial ritual which typified Bell Beaker sites appears to be intrusive to Western Europe, from Central Europe. Individual inhumations, often under tumuli with the inclusion of weapons contrast markedly to the preceding Neolithic traditions of often collective, weaponless burials in Atlantic/Western Europe. Such an arrangement is rather derivative of Corded Ware traditions.[15]

The initial moves from the Tagus estuary were maritime. A southern move led to the Mediterranean where 'enclaves' were established in south-western Spain and southern France around the Golfe du Lion and into the Po Valley in Italy, probably via ancient western Alpine trade routes used to distribute jadeite axes. A northern move incorporated the southern coast of Armorica. The enclave established in southern Brittany was linked closely to the riverine and landward route, via the Loire, and across the Gâtinais Valley to the Seine Valley, and thence to the lower Rhine. This was a long-established route reflected in early stone axe distributions, and via this network, Maritime Bell Beakers first reached the Lower Rhine in about 2600 BC.[4][18]

Another pulse had brought Bell Beaker to Csepel Island in Hungary by about 2500 BC. In the Carpathian Basin, the Bell Beaker culture came in contact with communities such as the Vučedol culture, which had evolved partly from the Yamnaya cultu

Another pulse had brought Bell Beaker to Csepel Island in Hungary by about 2500 BC. In the Carpathian Basin, the Bell Beaker culture came in contact with communities such as the Vučedol culture, which had evolved partly from the Yamnaya culture, so shared the same type of metallurgy practised by Bell Beaker metalworkers. But in contrast to the early Bell Beaker preference for the dagger and bow, the favourite weapon in the Carpathian Basin during the first half of the third millennium was the shaft-hole axe.[19] Here, Bell Beaker people assimilated local pottery forms such as the polypod cup. These "common ware" types of pottery then spread in association with the classic bell beaker.[20] From the Carpathian Basin, Bell Beaker spread down the Rhine and eastwards into what is now Germany and Poland. By this, the Rhine was on the western edge of the vast Corded Ware zone. The Corded Ware culture shared a number of features with the Bell Beaker culture, derived from their common ancestor, the Yamna culture. These features include pottery decorated with cord impressions, single burial, and the shaft-hole axe.[21]

A review in 2014 revealed that single burial, communal burial, and reuse of Neolithic burial sites are found throughout the Bell Beaker zone.[22] This overturns a previous conviction that single burial was unknown in the early or southern Bell Beaker zone, and so must have been adopted from Corded Ware in the contact zone of the Lower Rhine, and transmitted westwards along the exchange networks from the Rhine to the Loire,[23][24] and northwards across the English Channel to Britain.[4][25]

The earliest copper production in Ireland, identified at Ross Island in the period 2400–2200 BC, was associated with early Beaker pottery.[4][26] Here, the local sulpharsenide ores were smelted to produce the first copper axes used in Britain and Ireland.[4] The same technologies were used in the Tagus region and in the west and south of France.[4][27] The evidence is sufficient to support the suggestion that the initial spread of Maritime Bell Beakers along the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean, using sea routes that had long been in operation, was directly associated with the quest for copper and other rare raw materials.[4]

Given the unusual form and fabric of Beaker pottery, and its abrupt appearance in the archaeological record, along with a characteristic group of other artefacts, known as the Bell Beaker "package", the explanation for the Beaker culture until the last decades of the 20th century was to interpret it as the migration of one group of people across Europe. However, British and American archaeology since the 1960s had been sceptical about prehistoric migration in general, so the idea of "Bell Beaker Folk" lost ground, although recent genetic findings lend renewed support to the migratory hypothesis. A theory of cultural contact de-emphasizing population movement was presented by Colin Burgess and Stephen Shennan in the mid-1970s.[28]

Under the "pots, not people" theory, the Beaker culture is seen as a 'package' of knowledge (including religious beliefs, as well as methods of copper, bronze, and gold working) and artefacts (including copper daggers, v-perforated buttons, a

Under the "pots, not people" theory, the Beaker culture is seen as a 'package' of knowledge (including religious beliefs, as well as methods of copper, bronze, and gold working) and artefacts (including copper daggers, v-perforated buttons, and stone wrist-guards) adopted and adapted by the indigenous peoples of Europe to varying degrees. This new knowledge may have come about by any combination of population movements and cultural contact. An example might be as part of a prestige cult related to the production and consumption of beer, or trading links such as those demonstrated by finds made along the seaways of Atlantic Europe. Palynological studies including analysis of pollen, associated with the spread of beakers, certainly suggests increased growing of barley, which may be associated with beer brewing. Noting the distribution of Beakers was highest in areas of transport routes, including fording sites, river valleys and mountain passes, Beaker 'folk' were suggested to be originally bronze traders, who subsequently settled within local Neolithic or early Chalcolithic cultures, creating local styles. Close analysis of the bronze tools associated with beaker use suggests an early Iberian source for the copper, followed subsequently by Central European and Bohemian ores.

Investigations in the Mediterranean and France recently moved the discussion to re-emphasise the importance of migration to the Bell Beaker story. Instead of being pictured as a fashion or a simple diffusion of objects and their use, the investigation of over 300 sites showed that human groups actually moved in a process that involved explorations, contacts, settlement, diffusion, and acculturation/assimilation. Some elements show the influence from the north and east, and other elements reveal the south-east of France to be an important crossroad on an important route of communication and exchange spreading north. A distinctive 'barbed wire' pottery decoration is thought to have migrated through central Italy first. The pattern of movements was diverse and complicated, along the Atlantic coast and the northern Mediterranean coast, and sometimes also far inland. The prominent central role of Portugal in the region and the quality of the pottery all across Europe are forwarded as arguments for a new interpretation that denies an ideological dimension.[29]

A strontium isotope analysis of 86 people from Bell Beaker graves in Bavaria suggests that 18–25% of all graves were occupied by people who came from a considerable distance outside the area. This was true of children and adults, indicative of some significant migration wave. Given the similarities with readings from people living on loess soils, the general direction of the local movement, according to Price et al., is from the northeast to the southwest.[30]

The two main international bell beaker styles are: the All Over Ornamented (AOO), patterned all over with impressions, of which a subset is the All Over Corded (AOC), patterned with cord-impressions, and the Maritime type, decorated with bands filled with impressions made with a comb or cord. Later, other characteristic regional styles developed.[31]

The beakers are suggested to have been designed for the consumption of alcohol, and the introduction of the substance to Europe may have fuelled the beakers' spread.[32] Beer and mead content have been identified from certain examples. However, not all Beakers were drinking cups. Some were used as reduction pots to smelt copper ores, others have some organic residues associated with food, and still others were employed as funerary urns.[33] They were used as status display amongst disparate elites.[citation needed]

Extent and impact

Sardinia has been in contact with extra-insular communities in Corsica, Tuscany, Liguria and Brescia area, like that of Ca' di Marco (Fiesse), while in central Italy, bell-shaped glasses were found in the tomb of Fosso Conicchio (Viterbo).[92]

Sardinia has been in contact with extra-insular communities in Corsica, Tuscany, Liguria and Provence since the Stone Age. From the late third millennium BC on, comb-impressed Beaker ware, as well as other Beaker material in Monte Claro contexts, has been found (mostly in burials, such as Domus de Janas), demonstrating continuing relationships with the western Mediterranean. Elsewhere, Beaker material has been found stratigraphically above Monte Claro and at the end of the Chalcolithic period in association with the related Bronze Age Bonnanaro culture (1800–1600 BC), for which C-14 dates calibrate to c. 2250 BC. There is virtually no evidence in Sardinia of external contacts in the early second millennia, apart from late Beakers and close parallels between Bonnannaro pottery and that of the North Italian Polada culture.

Like elsewhere in Europe and in the Mediterranean area, the Bell Beaker culture in Sardinia (2100–1800 BC) is characterised by the typical ceramics decorated with overlaid horizontal bands and associated finds: brassards, V-pierced buttons etc.; for the first time gold items appeared on the island (collier of the Tomb o

Like elsewhere in Europe and in the Mediterranean area, the Bell Beaker culture in Sardinia (2100–1800 BC) is characterised by the typical ceramics decorated with overlaid horizontal bands and associated finds: brassards, V-pierced buttons etc.; for the first time gold items appeared on the island (collier of the Tomb of Bingia 'e Monti, Gonnostramatza). The different styles and decorations of the ceramics which succeed through the time allow to split the Beaker culture in Sardinia into three chronological phases: A1 (2100–2000 BC), A2 (2000–1900 BC), B (1900–1800 BC).[93] In these various phases is observable the succession of two components of different geographical origin: the first "Franco-Iberian" and the second "Central European".[94]

It appears likely that Sardinia was the intermediary that brought Beaker materials to Sicily.[95]

The Beaker was introduced in Sicily from Sardinia and spread mainly in the north-west and south-west of the island. In the northwest and in the Palermo kept almost intact its cultural and social characteristics, while in the south-west there was a strong integration with local cultures.[96] The only known single bell-shaped glass in eastern Sicily was found in Syracuse.[96]

JutlandIn Denmark, large areas of forested land were cleared to be used for pasture and the growing of cereals during the Single Grave culture and in the Late Neolithic Period. Faint traces of Bell Beaker influence can be recognised already in the pottery of the Upper Grave phase of the Single Grave period, and even of the late Ground Grave phase, such as occasional use of AOO-like or zoned decoration and other typical ornamentation, while Bell Beaker associated objects such as wristguards and small copper trinkets, also found their way into this northern territories of the Corded Ware Culture. Domestic sites with Beakers only appear 200–300 years after the first appearance of Bell Beakers in Europe, at the early part of the Danish Late Neolithic Period (LN I) starting at 2350 BC. These sites are concentrated in northern Jutland around the Limfjord and on the Djursland peninsula, largely contemporary to the local Upper Grave Period. In east central Sweden and western Sweden, barbed wire decoration characterised the period 2460–1990 BC, linked to another Beaker derivation of northwestern Europe.

Stone and copper arms tradeThe introductory phase of the manufacture and use of flint daggers, around 2350 BC, must all in all be characterised as a period of social change. Apel argued that an institutionalised apprenticeship system must have existed.[102] Craftsmanship was transmitted by inheritance in certain families living in the vicinity of abundant resources of high-quality flint. Debbie Olausson's (1997) examinations indicate that flint knapping activities, particularly the manufacture of daggers, reflect a relatively low degree of craft specialisation, probably in the form of a division of labour between households.

Noteworthy was the adoption of European-style woven wool clothes kept together by pins and buttons in contrast to the earlier usage of clothing made of leather and plant fibres.[103]

Noteworthy was the adoption of European-style woven wool clothes kept together by pins and buttons in contrast to the earlier usage of clothing made of leather and plant fibres.[103][104] Two-aisled timber houses in Late Neolithic Denmark correspond to similar houses in southern Scandinavia and at least parts of central Scandinavia and lowland northern Germany. In Denmark, this mode of building houses is clearly rooted in a Middle Neolithic tradition. In general, Late Neolithic house building styles were shared over large areas of northern and central Europe.[105] Towards the transition to LN II some farm houses became extraordinarily large.

The cultural concepts originally adopted from Beaker groups at the lower Rhine blended or integrated with local Late Neolithic Culture. For a while the region was set apart from central and eastern Denmark, that evidently related more closely to the early Únětice culture across the Baltic Sea. Before the turn of the millennium the typical Beaker features had gone, their total duration being 200–300 years at the most.

A similar picture of cultural integration is featured among Bell Beakers in central Europe, thus challenging previous theories of Bell Beakers as an elitist or purely super-structural phenomenon.[106][107]A similar picture of cultural integration is featured among Bell Beakers in central Europe, thus challenging previous theories of Bell Beakers as an elitist or purely super-structural phenomenon.[106][107][108][109][110] The connection with the East Group Beakers of Únětice had intensified considerably in LN II, thus triggering a new social transformation and innovations in metallurgy that would announce the actual beginning of the Northern Bronze Age.[111]

Pontic Steppe

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