vrijdag 21 april 2017

Haddock in European Prehistory

A few weeks ago I presented a poster about haddock fishing in European Prehistory. It was a poster at the Kiel "Creation of Landscapes V" conference. I've put this poster on academia here: 


This side project emerged out of the results of our study of the Late Neolithic Mienakker excavation, a few years ago. Here our zoologists, Jörn Zeiler and Dick Brinkhuizen, identified lots of haddock bones, unique to the Netherlands, it seemed.. They were not the first to show this for this site, Bob Beerenhout already published about it, but because now we analysed the rest of the site, we could put this find into context. So following up on this, I started to collect haddock finds from all over Europe, to see whether 'our site' is really so "unique" as we said it was. And apparently it is still a pretty unique settlement!

As the fish expert of our research group, Dick Brinkhuizen, died in 2016, I decided to honour him by dedicating this poster..

In the meantime after producing the poster, I've found some more sites. These are now added to my database. That also meant I needed to make updated maps of all sites that have haddock bone remains...

First map shows the sites that have haddock per country. Notice the abundance of sites in Britain, and the absence from the "long stretch" in Norway...

Second map shows all the sites where haddock was found, but now in green are all the sites that were present on the poster. Red ones are the newly added sites, and grey dots are sites where I only know about the presence of haddock, not about the amount of remains (v or + or something similar was published). If anyone knows anything more about these 8 sites, I'm all ears! The sites are:

Scotland Fiskary Bay
Scotland Morton
Sweden Dammen
Sweden Dafter
Sweden Ånneröd
Denmark Maglemosegard
Scotland Buckquoy phase 3/5
England London 1-7 St Thomas street

The third and final map shows some general periodisation. Interesting is the oldest site, being Upper Palaeolithic and from Spain. Apparently it was pretty cold back then, during the Last Glacial Maximum. And even more interestingly, this implies that also these Solutréan communities caught seafish, possibly at depth.. While the already mentioned poster focused on the prehistoric sites, I've now also included Viking and later assemblages. The Icelandic sites come with the story of cultural preference: apparently people preferred haddock over cod in their cuisine :) who knew!

These three maps don't say anything about the abundance or importance of this specific fish species, but for that you can read the poster!

If people have more sites with haddock, or know more about the sites for which I don't have quantitative data yet, feel free to e-mail/tweet/etc. me!! :)

ps. when you note the legend, you'll see how I name my files..

pps. Haddock, Schelvis, Schellfisch, Kolja, Kuller, Hyse, Eglefin, Plamiak, Eglefino, Eglefim, or more generally known as Melanogrammus Aeglefinus!

woensdag 8 maart 2017

Women in Dutch Archaeology / Vrouwen in de Nederlandse Archeologie

Hi everyone! I've been absent for a while, but not inactive! (Nederlandse versie zie beneden)

As today it is International Womens Day (08/03/2017) I thought it would be nice to blog about this. In Britain (and international, but mainly in Britain) people started a campaign, called Trowelblazerto create awareness for the women in our profession. These women, both historical figures and more recent examples, often have great adventures to tell about their research, the lives they lived and the often not so positive conditions in a male-dominated world that is still academia. They also show us that archaeology (and geology, paleontology, ecology) is not 'just for the boys', something that is still in need of constant repetition in present day Indiana Jones-society. Female role-models are needed now more than ever! At the moment over 100 women from both the history of the discipline and today's practice are presented on their website: www.trowelblazer.com

Not only this initiative is taking place, but this group also recreated some of the historical photos of these women, with modern female archaeologists posing and representing their own role models! This is the #raisinghorizons initiative! There is still time to back this up on www.raisinghorizons.co.uk and https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/raising-horizons-200-years-of-trowelblazing-women-photography--2#/

As you can see this is primarily an Anglo-Saxon party. But as an Dutchman I was wondering, what about all the women in the Netherlands?! Surely they must have gotten some recognition..? 

First book I opened, the "Who is Who in Dutch Archaeology" by Brongers/Wynia (2000). These authors present 12 women (out of ca. 1000 men!) who were active in Dutch archaeology up to 1960. Next to that all of their stories are relatively short in comparison..

Second thing one can consider is the amount of women on Wikipedia. Seven female Dutch archaeologists have Wikipedia pages. However, when considering the category of women active before 1960, this decreases dramatically to a total of 2 (Lili Byvanck and Ina Isings). Recently a University of Amsterdam (UvA) initiative was launched at getting more of the (former) professors onto Wikipedia pages (http://www.folia.nl/actueel/108264/meer-vrouwelijke-uva-hoogleraren-ook-op-wikipedia), but the results are not yet in, I guess. Online I found several more female archaeologists (and women working in archaeology, such the former ROB secretaries), but not a large number unfortunately. 

But all these women have such impressive stories to tell! Look at for instance Betje Polak (see image), who founded the study of botany by looking at peat under the microscope in early 20th century Amsterdam. Or Anna Roes-Vollgraff who became a lecturer at Utrecht University in Medieval Archaeology/Art History in the 1930s already! Or the amateur-archaeologist Willy Brandt van Straaten who, together with her husband, collected many important archaeological finds from her home area of Heemstede and Spaarnwoude, and displayed them in their museum, a renovated old church. They were also among the first members of the Dutch amateur-archaeological society AWN in 1951..

Betje Polak (Havinga/Müller 1981, 337)

All-in-all, much more can, and should, be told about these women. So I compiled a list of women who were active before 1960, in Google docs:


If people want, they can add more female archaeologists/historians/earth scientists/ecologists/geologists/etc. to this list! It's a small start (I am by the way also writing a PhD in the meantime), but maybe we can together create something akin to the Trowelblazers abroad!


Hallo allemaal! Ik ben eventjes weggeweest, maar dat betekent niet dat ik niet actief was!

Vandaag is het Internationale Vrouwendag (08/03/2017), dus ik dacht laat ik eens een blog schrijven over dit onderwerp. In Groot Brittannië zijn een aantal jaren geleden een aantal mensen begonnen met een campagne genaamd 'Trowelblazer', om bekendheid te krijgen voor de vrouwen binnen onze beroepsgroep. Deze vrouwen, zowel historische figuren als recente voorbeelden, hebben vaan bijzondere verhalen te vertellen over hun onderzoek, de levens die ze leiden en de vaak niet zo positieve omstandigheden van het werken in een door mannen gedomineerde wereld die de academia nog steeds is. Ze laten ook zien dat archeologie (en geologie, paleontologie, ecologie, etcetera) niet alleen iets 'voor jongens' is, en het is nog steeds nodig om dat te blijven herhalen, ook tegenwoordig in onze Indiana Jones wereld! Vrouwelijke rolmodellen zijn tegenwoordig meer dan nodig in de hedendaagse samenleving. Op dit moment worden er bij Trowelblazers meer dan 100 vrouwen, van zowel tegenwoordig als uit het verleden van de disciplines, gepresenteerd op hun website: www.trowelblazer.com

Niet alleen dit initiatief vindt plaats, maar deze groep heeft nog iets nieuws. Met een foto-shoot door moderne vrouwelijke archeologen, waarbij ze poseren als hun eigen rolmodel, hebben ze oude foto's weten te recreëren! Dit initiatief is #raisinghorizons! Er is nog tijd om hier je steentje aan bij te dragen op www.raisinghorizons.co.uk en https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/raising-horizons-200-years-of-trowelblazing-women-photography--2#/

Zoals je kunt zien is dit een voornamelijke Anglo-Saksische aangelegenheid. Echter, als Hollander vroeg ik mezelf af: "hoe zit het met de vrouwen in Nederland?! Zeker die moeten toch wel enige erkenning gehad hebben..?"

Eerste boek wat ik opentrok was het "Wie is Wie in de Archeologie" van Brongers/Wynia (2000). Deze auteurs presenteren op een totaal van zo'n 1000 personen, 12 vrouwen die actief waren tot 1960! En dan ook nog eens in maar hele korte alinea's...

Een tweede bron die ik bekeken heb is Wikipedia. Hier staan 7 Nederlandse vrouwelijke archeologen vermeld. Echter, als ik kijk naar het aantal wat ook actief was voor 1960, kom ik maar tot twee helaas (Lili Byvanck en Ina Isings). Recent is er door de Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) een initiatief gelanceerd om meer (voormalige) professoren op Wikipedia te krijgen (http://www.folia.nl/actueel/108264/meer-vrouwelijke-uva-hoogleraren-ook-op-wikipedia), maar de resultaten daarvan zijn nog niet bekend.. Online heb ik nog een aantal vrouwelijke archeologen gevonden (en vrouwen die in de archeologie werkzaam waren, zoals de secretaresses van de voormalige ROB), maar helaas niet veel meer.

Echter, al deze vrouwen hebben zulke bijzondere en indrukwekkende verhalen te vertellen! Kijk bijvoorbeeld naar Betje Polak, die in Nederland een voorloper was in de studie van botanie, door naar plantenresten te kijken onder de microscoop in Amsterdam in de vroege 20ste eeuw. Of naar Anna Roes-Vollgraff die in de jaren '30 al docent was aan de Universiteit Utrecht in de middeleeuwse archeologie en kunsthistorie. Of de amateur-archeologe Willy Brandt van Straaten die, samen met haar man, de belangrijkste vondsten verzamelden in de jaren '40 en '50 in het gebied tussen Heemstede en Spaarnwoude, rond Haarlem. Deze vondsten stelden ze tentoon in hun museum, het opgeknapte kerkje van Spaarnwoude. Ze waren beiden ook betrokken bij de oprichting van de AWN, de vereniging voor vrijwilligers in de archeologie in Nederland in 1951.

Betje Polak (Havinga/Müller 1981, 337)

Zo bezien, er kan en er moet volgens mij veel meer verteld worden over deze vrouwen. En ik denk ook dat er veel meer te vinden zijn, zolang we maar goed zoeken. Dus ik ben een lijstje begonnen van vrouwen die vóór 1960 actief waren,  in Google docs:


Als mensen willen kunnen ze meer vrouwelijke archeologen/historici/aardwetenschappers/ecologen/geologen toevoegen aan de lijst! Het is een kleine start (ik schrijf immers ook nog een proefschrift), maar misschien kunnen we zo iets beginnen wat zich kan meten met de Trowelblazers in het buitenland!

zaterdag 17 september 2016

Next research travel: Berlin and Moravia

Next week I will travel again. This time to Berlin and to several cities in Moravia in the Czech Republic. This will be my last big research travel I guess. Most of the work in my final year (November 2017 deadline!) will be the final analysis and writing up of everything (don't worry, I've already written several bits and bobs).

For my last research travel I will first visit the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut in Berlin to study in their library. They have most of the literature on Bell Beaker archaeology in Portugal, and it's cheaper and quicker than a flight and hotel to Lisbon. I also hope to be able to see something of the city as well in the weekend, visit the Museuminsel and things like that..
The Portugese case study, focusing on the Estremadura region, will give me clues to changing traditions in pottery assemblages, vessel shapes and ceramic technology throughout the third millennium BC from sites such as Leceia, Vila Nova de Sao Pedro and Zambujal. I spent a week in Portugal last year (next to visiting the JIA conference, see photo) to get the first batch of literature that is unavailable in Kiel and with this I compiled a list of Bell Beaker settlement sites, most of the 14C dates and some pottery assemblage data. Next week I hope to delve deeper into this subject. Of course I use the works of Kunst and Amaro to guide me through the forest of 'copos acanalada' and 'acacia-leaf' pottery.. As Amaro writes, 90% of the pre-BB sites have no stratigraphy, and those who do all have mixed assemblages where only relative frequencies of different types of pottery can be observed. To me this is not so much a problem, but maybe more of an archaeological reality that the typological divisions we see (based primarily on burial practices) are perhaps more our constructs than reality. It will be interesting to see the results from the 'pure' Bell Beaker sites! In Galicia (N Spain) some of these sites have been excavated and published, showing a mixture of Common Ware, both undecorated and decorated types, and Bell Beaker vessels (Prieto Martinez et al 2012). Early indicators for a similar development come from Rotura (Spindler 1981) where nail impressed pottery was found in a layer together with BB pottery..

Me at Zambuhal in 2015 (photo: S. Autenrieth)

After Berlin I'll go to Moravia. Now that's a completely different story, as no representive "settlements" are known there, just a lot of pits and pit clusters! My main focus will be on several of these smaller pit clusters, analysing the pottery on technological characteristics from a chaine opératoire perspective, and maybe even getting some material from the pits for 14C dating. My basic understanding of Moravian Bell Beaker settlements comes from the work of Ondracek et al 2005, where he lists all of the sites until that moment. It also gives me a detailed overview of the interesting sites, based on number of sherds and vessels and the presence of charcoal (hope it's preserved!). Yes, charcoal will be used for dating, as it's in most cases the only datable material. Up to now only two settlements have been dated in Moravia, and it's difficult to use this for understanding the developments of Bell Beaker adoption and understand the local Common Ware tradition (Begeleitkeramik A and B types).. We'll see what comes out of it!

Unfortunately this also means that I can't attend the Metaaltijdendag, the Dutch Metal Ages day. I'm in the organising committee and I've also written a piece for the latest volume, so it's a shame to miss this moment. If people are interested, visit: www.metaaltijden.nl The different volumes can be bought at www.sidestone.com. The paper I wrote is a small piece about a side-project I did, concerning bone pendants from the Late Neolithic in Europe. These pendants occur mainly in Schönfeld, Corded Ware and Bell Beaker times, and are mainly made of bone. I started with the one below from Velsen (close to where I grew up in the Netherlands) and now I've got a list of 61, with four different types and different contexts and materials, ranging from Ukraine to Britain and Sweden to Bulgaria.. What were they used for? Interpretations have ranged from lasso-holders, to bow-string spanners, to decorative pendants, to sun-symbols and belt-hooks. And soon you'll be able to read much more about it :) More work needs to be done (experiments, use-wear analysis, contextual analysis), but that is for another time...

From Clason (1974), copyright: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

woensdag 7 september 2016

Bell Beakers at WAC8 in Kyoto

Hello everyone! I'm sorry for the silence, and probably no-one will read this any longer, since I haven't posted anything since September last year... Research has taken up most of my time here in Kiel since that moment, so much that I could not even share my adventures with you all, I'm so sorry :(

But, now I'm back! Probably in again a one-off-post, as workload keeps building up, but who knows..

I want to talk to you all about the most recent adventure, the 8th World Archaeological Congress in Kyoto, Japan. This congress took place between 28th August and 2nd September 2016. I presented two papers there, firstly about Bell Beaker innovation (after a nice invitation by the session co-organiser Catherine Frieman). My second presentation was about Bell Beaker migration/mobility, a topic at the heart of ideas and interpretations concerning Bell Beaker diffusion.

I flew from Amsterdam, as I was in the Netherlands anyway because of a small holiday (a full week of table tennis training!). At Schiphol I met with fellow GS members Artur and Asli, who already took a flight from Hamburg to get to Amsterdam.
I booked a direct 11 hour flight with KLM in a Boeing 777. This assured me of good food, enough leg-space and great movies (I even watched Game of Thrones, something I'd not trusted myself to do before with this whole PhD thing going on..), however only 2 hours of sleep as I have never been able to sleep on a flight..

At Osaka Kansai Airport (the one on the island) we took the Haruka train to Kyoto and went our ways to different hotels and AirBnBs. The subway in Kyoto is remarkable for its tidiness and organisation. Separate lanes for walking, standing queues and zones were you're not allowed to stand as leaving passengers were supposed to take this route. Special officers guiding people on the platforms. Everything was neatly organised! However I didn't see any of the famous 'pushers'.

My hotel, the Ark Hotel, situated at Omiya station, was large, nice, clean, cheap and quiet. Only minor detail was the meagre continental breakfast. Japanese people apparently like their breakfast as their lunch, and their lunch as their dinner, everything savoury..

On the first day, after 11 hours of flight and 2 hours of sleep, we registered and listened to some interesting talks about "disasters and archaeology" and "indigenous archaeology", two topics at the heart of the WAC and the Japanese archaeological practice. After that we met up with GS members Natalia, Milinda and Gustav who were already in Kyoto for a few days. At the ice-breaker party (no alcohol!) I also ran into some old friends and former colleagues.

The second day, Monday, also meant my first presentation in the "Innovation and Conservatism" session, organised by Frieman and Shoda (20-25 people attended). This session was really nice, with a lot of interesting talks by Shoda, Radivojevic, Scharl, Shirai, Fajardo, Okomura, Frieman and Paterson. Especially the talks about European and Eurasian Neolithic and Bronze Age were inspiring. Points of discussion included the visibility of innovation, invention and conservatism (people who did not adopt a certain innovation), defining different stages within the famous S-curve, and more importantly, looking beyond the S-curve itself in understanding the processes that lead to the patterns we see in the archaeological record. Also flint technologies and settlement patterns that proved to be very conservative and stable over thousands of years and vast areas of land were interesting contrasts to the fast innovations of metallurgy and pottery technologies. At this session it struck me that we all used the same concepts (adopted from Everett Rogers 1962 classic 'Diffusion of Innovations'), came up with similar topics for the future (like the relationship between innovation and population growth) and had different interesting ways and methods to tackle these problems.
Also important for this discussion was the very nice social event, organised by our great session conveners, of dining in a traditional Japanese restaurant. The way towards the restaurant proved to be memorable for Miljana and me, during the typhoon with only one umbrella and impeccable local hospitality ("Is it there?", "Yes", "No it isn't...", "And why is this Palace garden so huge? If it weren't so large we wouldn't be so wet!"). In the end, we dined at a very low table, with our legs crossed, using chopsticks and we ate lots of (raw) fish... The conversations were very nice and many plans for the future were made that night :)

The third day I was already feeling the tiredness creep up. Sleeping was difficult (jetlag), and I still had my general lack of sleep from the flight.. But I also had my second presentation this day in the session about Mobility and Migration (12 persons attended). The papers by Debowska-Ludwin, Wexler and Blank focused on European and African (Egyptian) mobility patterns, found in pottery distributions, island communities and natural scientific studies (isotopic/aDNA/14C comparison on single individuals!). Also here we had very interesting discussions. My talk, a critial approach towards popular use of aDNA and isotopes, was very well received. Especially my introduction of the concept of 'itchy feet' from the mathematical model of A.L. Barabasi about mobility, gave rise to a nice discussion. I think this is really something that should be pursued further! This evening we ate together with several GS people and French friend Ségolène on a well-known Kyoto road near the riverbank.

The fourth day, Wednesday, was a day off and I can say that I used it well, because this is the first night that I slept through and woke up at 9:30 after breakfast. I spent the day exploring parts of the city, mainly the Gijon area where the famous temples, nice gardens and beautiful buildings are. I visited the Kyomisudera temple, the Ryosokuin gardens and..., the Ghibli shop!

At the end of the day I also found a record store that had some very obscure progressive rock vinyl and cds in their collection (Yes, Jan Akkerman, Kayak...). Some deliberating with my father back home led to two Kevin Ayers cds on which apparently a very young Mike Oldfield could be heard! This day we ended up in a sushi 'turning tables' restaurant. A nice and cheap concept if you're not really that hungry or not interested in raw fish (like me) and just pick all the cooked and baked stuff.

The conference continued on the fifth and sixth day with some interesting sessions. As for me the pressure of presenting was no longer there, I could go wherever I want. With this new skill, I attended sessions about computer methods (interesting paper by again Radivojevic about metallurgical networks on the Balkans in the 5th and 4th millennium BC), Eurasian steppe Bronze Age archaeology. On the final day I went to see a presentation about Celtic Art in Eurasia (a new database at Oxford Uni), a session about obtaining high resolution knowledge about human activities in early prehistory (with great talk by Ségolène Vandevelde about soot concretions in caves and microchronology..). In the meantime I already met a lot of people whom I already followed on Twitter, so that was a nice 'person-behind-the-tweets' situation all the time :) Talking about archaeogaming ethics, Anglo-Saxon isotopes, Neolithic variscite beads, the WAC-student committee and many things more...

On the final day there was also the farewell party (on the fifth day we also had the conference dinner, but I didn't go there, too expensive!), where we celebrated and congratulated the organisation of the WAC with their very well organised and fun conference! Next time will be in Prague in 2020. All in all, Kyoto was nice, a lot less strange or quirky than I imagined Japan to be, it was hot and humid (28 degrees at night!) and certainly a place I would like to visit again in the future (with a little more time on my hand)..

I probably forgot a lot of things. My FB friends can see all the photo's I made and I just put online. I went back to the Netherlands on Saturday (woke up in Kyoto at 4 am, which is 9 pm on Friday evening, again did not sleep on my flight, and fell asleep at 9 pm on Saturday...). On Monday I drove back to Kiel, and it is there that I'm now ending this blog post to you all :)

dinsdag 8 september 2015

practical work

While in my nice and quiet Belgian B&B, I reminisced about the Rhenen N225 potbeker pottery I studied today, preparing for the Oudenaarde Donk Neo 5 beaker pottery I'll study tomorrow and on Thursday, reading about the Rhoon beaker pottery and discussing imprints on pottery with a Kiel colleague by e-mail..

vrijdag 2 januari 2015

How it all began

Today I want to show you several aspects of my recent research history which led to this PhD project. 

I want to start in 2007, when I finished by BA thesis on "Late Neolithic and Bronze Age landscapes in the Western Netherlands between Oer-IJ & Old Rhine estuaries". In September of that year I started as a Research Master (MPhil) student in Leiden, which allowed me for two years of studying and research instead of the normal one year. For instance, I helped on the production of both the Festschrift and "Scientific Farewell Party" for Prof. Dr. L.P. Louwe Kooijmans in 2008 (Analecta Praehistorica Leidensia 40; http://www.sidestone.com/bookshop/between-foraging-and-farming), with contributions on various aspects of Neolithisation in Europe. In this book is also a much discussed paper by Alison Sheridan on Bell Beaker mobility and diffusion from the Netherlands to Scotland.

Me in 2007, nearly eight years ago, at the excavation of two Iron Age barrows at Apeldoorn-Echoput (photo by Maarten Wispelwey, then municipal archaeologist of Apeldoorn)

Also, in August 2007 (together with Anneminke Bakker) and August 2008 (together with Simone Lemmers) I contributed to the excavations at Stonehenge, as part of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, led by Prof. Dr. Mike Parker Pearson (then University of Sheffield, now UCL, London).

Excavation of Amesbury 42 ditch in 2008 (me, Simone, and someone dressed up for an art-project and several other students; photo by Sandra Thomas).

As MPhil students in 2007/2008, Cristel Metsch, Hedwig Ponjee, Yvonne Achterkamp and me did a research seminar on Late Neolithic grave goods. 

As our professor Harry Fokkens had already shown in his oratory speech (Fokkens 2005), Bell Beaker graves consisted of various specific sets of objects, which, when approached from an anthropological perspective focusing on identity and personhood, related more to the creation of an 'ideal ancestor' by the living community, than to the ideas of elites and warriors representing themselves through the grave, as previous researchers had come up with. 

We set out to study similar patterns in earlier Corded Ware burials across Europe. My research paper thus focused on Eastern European (Baltic and Polish) graves, and I found that many graves contained ceramic vessels (mostly beakers), flint axes, stone hammer axe heads and pendants of amber or boar tusks. Additionally, these graves were individual inhumation burials, with a distinct choice in ritual of bodily positioning. This pattern occurred in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad and across Poland. For me it was an adventure, which took me on several train trips across the Netherlands to the depths of several university and regional libraries (who has ever heard of the late 19th century journal Sitzungsberichte der Altertumsgesellschaft Prussia? I found it in a library in Leeuwarden!). The data didn't get published unfortunately, but a report is still found on my academia page (https://uni-kiel.academia.edu/JosKleijne).

What it did do was lighten the flame for studying Late Neolithic societies and the changes taking place from pre-Bell Beaker towards Bell Beaker!

Later, I went on to do other things (Erasmus study exchange to Sheffield, MPhil thesis on Bronze Age pottery and maritime exchange, work at DANS on the persistence and availability of grey literature and archaeological documentation), but thanks to the RCE (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands) I could again work on Corded Ware societies very soon.

As a project leader for (unfortunately) only a part of the Odyssee-project "Unlocking Noord-Holland's Late Neolithic Treasure Chest", I worked on the editing of the monographs of Keinsmerbrug (as assistant editor) and Mienakker (as final editor), wrote several chapters for the Mienakker volume (Introduction with Liesbeth Theunissen; Landscape and Chronology with Henk Weerts) and I coordinated the writing of the Mienakker monograph synthesis in which all specialists and editors contributed. For the third monograph (on Zeewijk) I led the scientific debate and wrote the first draft of the synthesis, until my job at the RCE ended in September 2013. 
We (PhDs Sandra Beckerman, Gary Nobles, Virginia García-Díaz and me) also visited Kiel, Germany, for the third workshop on "Human Development in Landscapes". Here we contributed to a session on Corded Ware and Bell Beaker landscapes. The published paper we wrote is hopefully coming out later this year!! (Oh and a side-note here: some advertisement for the fourth "Human Development in Landscapes" workshop in Kiel, this March).

So there I was, in September 2013, without a job but inspired to do research on Late Neolithic societies in Europe. I contacted Prof. Fokkens and after some long conversations we worked on a research application to study exactly this: the ways in which local communities, such as on the Dutch Corded Ware settlements studied earlier, adopted and interpreted the Bell Beaker across Europe. Prof. Fokkens had by then discussed this problem in an edited book of the The Hague EAA conference, focusing on the Dutch Vlaardingen, Corded Ware and Bell Beaker relationships. I tried to get funding in the Netherlands, but after this had failed I turned to Kiel (with Prof. Fokkens' consent) and got accepted here!1
Now I'm being supervised by three distinguished scholars who have contributed much to this particular topic: Prof. Dr. J. Müller (1st supervisor), PD Dr. M. Furholt (2nd) and Prof. Dr. H. Fokkens (3rd). The project, called "Beginning of Beaker" started on November 1st 2014 and will end November 1st 2017.

1 In the mean time I founded my own private company (MAK Onderzoek & Advies) and got two assignments. Helping Drs. M. Wansleeben (Leiden University) for the Ariadne-project and writing a synthesis on Bronze Age Kennemerland for the Province of North-Holland. Both projects are finished now.

maandag 29 december 2014


Sorry for all the delays. I'm still working on getting used to Kiel and everything that goes with it. My present blog post will focus on my Bell Beaker research in general terms. 

As I don't want to write the same words twice, I just copied and pasted the summary of my primary research proposal which I sent to Kiel. After this summary, I will try to get down to more practical business of what I'm planning to do here. As a matter of fact, I'm in the process of writing a research grant proposal in which I precisely have to argue this to get research funds for the coming months. So if you have ideas and comments, please feel free to suggest/add/ask/contribute!

The second half of the 3rd millennium BC is characterised by important changes in prehistoric Europe. Before this time, a patchwork of regional cultures existed. But between 2750 and 2000 BC, an apparent uniformity emerged in all of Europe. This uniformity, described as the Bell Beaker phenomenon, is most evident in the recurring combination of specific artefacts. In graves varied combinations of a specific pottery vessel (the Beaker vessel), archery equipment, metal objects and specific ornaments, accompany a single inhumation burial. According to most scholars these are the burials of high-status individuals, who were highly mobile and whose wealth and connectivity was ultimately displayed through their graves. Even though these burials represent only a minority of the people who lived and died in this period, they are used all over Europe to ‘reconstruct’ and ‘characterise’ Late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age society in general.
This study chooses a different point of departure: I think we need to incorporate settlement data in the discussion about the Beaker phenomenon. My hypothesis is that settlement data will show how the Beaker package becomes adopted in contexts of regionally different culture groups. This will provide us with a different view on Bell Beaker societies in Europe, and will help us to better understand the variability and regionality within this Bell Beaker phenomenon.

What different perspective can we get?
By studying settlement data in different regions, and their long-term trajectories of change, I will investigate how the Bell Beaker phenomenon was introduced in these regions. Settlements are the main source of evidence for prehistoric everyday life. Here, both the continuity of local traditions and the adoption of new ideas can be studied. If the spread of Bell Beaker ideas meant a complete transformation of social values and institutions it should be foremost visible here. How come then, many settlements from this period only feature relatively small numbers of Bell Beaker pottery? Several examples of studied settlements show that, rather than sudden change, there is an important element of continuity and tradition in this period. What does this tell us about the importance of the Bell Beaker phenomenon to these communities?
In addition, whereas most studies have focused on similarities in Bell Beaker material culture across Europe, I will look at differences. Differences in the ways in which specific Bell Beaker aspects were adopted by local communities, will give a better indication as to what specific elements were shared by communities and what really constituted the Bell Beaker ‘idea’ across Europe. Thus the social, material and natural environments surrounding the Bell Beaker adoption by these local communities will be focus of this study.

By studying these two research problems, regarding the local trajectories of change and the embedding of the Bell Beaker idea in local communities and their environment, we will approach the Bell Beaker phenomenon from a completely different perspective.

How have local communities, between 2750 BC and 2000 BC, interpreted this Bell Beaker idea? Can we distinguish differences between communities’ attitudes towards Bell Beakers? What, considering its material variability, constituted the innovative and new Bell Beaker idea, shared locally across Europe?

And now down to business
What do I want to know from settlements in order to answer these research questions? Before I can start gathering settlement data from the third millennium BC in different case studies across Europe, I must answer this question. Several aspects readily come to mind:
- Chronology
- Material culture
- Environment
- Networks/quantitative analysis

In order to study changing traditions, one needs to control chronology. Furholt (2003, 13-20) has already shown that 3rd millennium BC chronological control is difficult, due to plateaus in the C14 calibration curve. All Corded Ware and Bell Beaker settlements will fall within certain phases between 2800 and 2000 cal BC. In order to create a more precise chronology, one needs either dendrochronology or the possibility of Bayesian statistics. While the former can't be achieved for many sites, the latter is only possible when enough C14 dates are taken and site stratigraphy is well documented and equally understood. While it is not my aim to try and find 'the earliest Bell Beaker', as past scholars have tried that with different degrees of success, it would be interesting to look at the pace of change, timing and temporalities of cultural changes, and the different ways in which local communities experience the Bell Beaker introduction. Was it a rapid shift or a gradual transition? Therefore I'll gather settlement data from all case studies where such a study might be feasible. Whether a settlement has stratigraphy or a robust internal chronology, and the possibility of taking more C14 samples from good contexts, will be variables in my sites database. Whether I'll use Bayesian statistics in the end will be based on the amount of sites and the possibilities of improving the resolution of my dataset...

Material culture and ecofacts
It is important not only to focus on change, but similarly to see what actually changes in the ways local communities do things during the third millennium BC; how traditions evolve and changes come about. As material culture is the sole remainder of prehistoric social action, it is necessary to bring data concerning various material categories together. 
From the material culture we can distill several acts related to the production, use, potential re-use, and deposition of these artefacts. Similarly, ecofacts (a silly term for the total of zoological and botanical evidence, but I use it nonetheless) provide information on the ways in which the acts of subsistence were organised. 
Bringing the published and unpublished sources of previous studies concerning these aspects together will provide us with the building blocks for our analyses of what actually changes when.

Specifically, scholars studying Bell Beaker material culture have highlighted the special nature of some items found in graves all over Europe, 'the Beaker package' (Burgess/Shennan 1976). This set of recurring objects (the Bell Beaker pottery vessel, metal dagger, archery equipment, gold ornaments) forms the basis of what scholars have denoted as the 'Bell Beaker phenomenon'. How these objects relate to similar artefacts from settlements across Europe is unknown at present, but rumours are singing around.. 
It has been said that on North-Italian 3rd millennium BC settlements specific Bell Beaker pottery only comprises a vast minority of the total amount of pottery and still we call them "Bell Beaker settlements"!

As communities do not live in isolation from their environment, and past changes in their actions might be related to changes taking place in their environment, it is necessary to simultaneously study changes taking place within this environment. While GS-colleague Oflaz focuses on finding the 4.2 ka event in archaeology, I will take local environmental changes (paleogeography, vegetation, soils, etc.) into further consideration.

I always liked D.L. Clarke's scheme of a 'Sociocultural System'. Perhaps it can come of use in the future (or I'll make my own)..

Networks and quantitative analyses
What then to do with all this data on changes in material culture, ecofacts and environment? How do we gather meaningful patterns and answer the questions asked at the start of this project? At the moment I'm thinking about using network analysis (cf. Brughmans 2013) to visualise and interpret the various strands of data (although I have yet to delve deep into this matter). 
I need to visualise changes through time in material culture traditions, subsistence and environment on settlements within a single region and between regions, in order to answer the main question: How have local communities adopted and interpreted the Bell Beaker idea?

Please feel free to comment! :)