Wednesday, 24 February 2021

One for the road

This is really cool. The people of the Bronze Age Encrusted Pottery Culture from the Carpathian basin, buried children with miniature versions of the pottery with which the adults were buried. Pic: pottery from children graves (L) vs pottery from adult graves (R)


This was also observed when remains of adults were found in the same grave. For instance, the remains of a child and of an adult male were found in the same grave, and their vessels could be clearly separated on the basis of their size and differing decoration....

Furthermore, vessels accompanying children showed differences according to age at death, since small, horn-shaped vessels (baby horns) typically occurred in graves of infants. 

I talked about these baby rhyta here in my post "Baby (milk) horns"...

Now the reason why this is soooooo cool, is because it explains why these vessels were buried with the dead...To provide them with the food (or drink) for their trip to the other world... I proposed that these vessels originally contained drink in my post "Thirst"...More about insatiable thirst and hunger of the dead in my post "Blood red wine"...

Oh and remember goat Amaltheia ("Nourishing Goddess"), who fed baby Zeus with her milk? And then he "accidentally broke off one of her horns", which then became "cornucopia", the horn which had "the divine power to provide unending nourishment"...I talked about this in my post "Cornucopia"...

Well this whole link between goats, thunder gods and abundance originates from the fact that Ibex goat mating season in Crete coincides with the beginning of the rain season. And it is rain that bring fertility and abundance...

I talked about this in my post "Goat riding thundergods"

If horn vessels were buried with infants, this means that what was contained inside of the funeral vessels was drink. Because it is impossible to feed infants using horns. Unless you fed them milk...

How would you use these baby horns? Just like you would use gunpowder horns like this one. 

You cut the tip off. You close the hole with your finger. You fill the horn with water, milk, soup...You stick the horn tip into the baby's mouth and voila...Suck suck suck...

This basically proves my hypothesis, which I based on ethnographic data, that the funerary vessels found in Neolithic, Bronze age and Iron age burials were buried full of drink...Most likely just water...Cause the otherworld is a thirsty place...

But that would mean that the same beliefs and the same rituals related to the departure of the dead have survived in Europe since Neolithic...How interesting...But not surprising...At least not to me...

Baby (milk) horns

Among the ceramic finds from the cemetery of the Bronze Age Encrusted Pottery culture at Bonyhád in Hungary, archaeologists have found many ceramic "drinking horn" vessels, like this one, in the graves of infants...

This may suggest that the drinking horns functioned as special items used for the nutrition of children, i.e. like contemporary baby-bottles, or possibly they were related to customs related to birth and new life...

The location of Bonyhád inside of the Encrusted Pottery Culture territory in the Carpathian Basin. 


From "The chronology and meaning of the Transdanubian encrusted pottery decoration"

What did the kids doing from these horns? Milk? Quite possibly, considering that Central Europe was where milk tolerance seem to have developed, and where we find Copper age and Bronze Age ceramic butter churns and Neolithic, Copper Age and Bronze Age cheese strainers...I talked about this in my post "Milk Butter Cheese"... 

Living stone

Shepherds chapel, Velebit, Croatia dedicated to Holy Mary. The altar is actually bedrock, around which the church was built, indicating that this a Christianised pagan holy place. I talked about this in my post "Shepherds chapels from Velebit"... 

Bedrock is in the Balkans known as "kamen živac, živi kamen, živa stena" (living stone, living rock), called so, because it is believed to be still part of the living body of the Mother Earth.  And is venerated as sacred...


Transhumance shepherds used to bring offerings to these lumps of exposed bedrock before they took their flocks to the highlands, to ensure good weather. People believed that "Mother Earth, known as Baba, controls the bad, cold, rainy, snowy weather". I talked about this in my post "Weather stones"...

In my post "The City", I talked about an ancient enclosure in Co Kerry, Ireland which was linked with the veneration of the (D)Anu, the Irish version of Baba, The Mother Goddess. 

The enclosure was built around an exposed piece of bedrock, which served as an altar.

The City was the place where annual rituals were perform on Bealtaine, 1t of May, the middle of Taurus, at the beginning of the cattle drive into the highland pastures, "for the protection of the cattle"...

From the bedrock standing in the centre of the enclosure, both people and cattle looked towards the two round breast like hills, made even more breast like by giant stone cairns built on their tops. The hills are known as the Paps of Anu (Boobs of the Mother Earth)...

So here in Ireland, just like in the Balkans, we have association between bedrock, Mother Earth and shepherds...Mountain tops, and bedrock crags called Baba (Grandmother, Mother, Mother Earth) from the Balkans Pic: Velika Baba (Great Grandmother) peak, Slovenia. From the post "Baba, mountains and crags



Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Helmet?


This amazing object is officially described like this: "Gold parade helmet with the image of warriors. Scythian culture. Found in the mound of Peredereyev Grave (Передереева Могила), Zrubnoe. Donetsk region, Eastern Ukraine. 4st century BC"...But...

Is it possible that this is not a "ceremonial helmet" but instead a "ceremonial cup" used in human sacrifices? Well the scene depicted on the vessel surely shows a man about to be slaughtered...

Herodotus says that: "Of all their enemies that they take alive, they sacrifice one man in every hundred...to their god Aries...which they represent by a scimitar placed on a pile of sticks..."

"They pour wine on the men's heads and cut their throats over a vessel; then they carry the blood up on to the pile of sticks and pour it on the scimitar"...Is this the vessel used for collection of the sacrificial blood??

Oh, and Herodotus also says that "Scythians drank the blood of the first person they have overthrown"...You need cups for that too...Like this one? More from Herodotus on Scythians can be found here

PS: I was just shown this pic of the top of this object, from "Images of scythians on the “helmet” from perederieva mohyla kurgan"


Cups usually don't have holes at their bottoms...So... 🙂


Sunday, 21 February 2021

Milk Butter Cheese

This very interesting vessel was discovered in Baden culture (3600–2800 BC) settlement Balatonőszöd in Hungary...


It is one of many such objects discovered in Baden culture settlements. Here is another one...




The same type of objects crop up all along the East Mediterranean coast, Anatolia, Balkans and Central Europe during the 4th millennium BC...

Like these ones: 



1. Troy 2 (2500-2200BC)

2. Troy 1 (3000-2500BC)

3. Termi, Lesbos (3000-2500BC)

Here is another one from Lemnos from the same period


In Central Europe, these objects continue to crop up in the same area during the whole of Bronze Age. Like this one found in Érd settlement of the middle Brzonse Age Vatya culture (2000-1500BC) in Hungary




And this one found in the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture (1300 – 750 BC) settlement Thunau am Kamp, Austria



These objects were interpreted as a butter churns...Because of this: A figurine of a seated woman (goddess???) holding a small mortar (altar???) under her left arm and holding a milk churn on her head with her right hand. Chalcolithic period (4500-3500 BC), Gilat, Israel



These churns, used for making butter from milk, first appeared during this period. To speed up the churning process, a rope was tied to the handles, and the churn was rocked back and forth...


This is how the actual ceramic churns are still used today...


These ceramic butter churns were clay versions of much older sheep (or goat) skin churns, like this one still used by Beduins in 20th century...


The working principle was the same: the vessel was filled with milk and then rocked and shaken to separate butter and buttermilk. Huge number of these vessels was found in Levant in the area settled by Ghassulian people...

And here is figurine from En Gedi, showing a cow carrying two of these milk churns on her back


What is very interesting is that apart from "the real deal" big functional vessels, a large number of small "models" of these vessels were also found...Red dots: real big vessels discovered in Baden culture settlements. Blue dots small "model" (???) vessels discovered in Baden culture settlements:


The reason for making these small vessels is debated...Were they toys? Or religious symbols?

But there is one big question that these vessels open is "When did Europeans start consuming milk and milk products"??? In order for adults to be able to consume milk, they have to have to be lactose tolerant. 

So when did "Science" tell us that Europeans developed lactose tolerance? Apparently "New findings suggest lactose tolerance spread throughout Central Europe in just last few thousand years".  The researchers came to this conclusion by testing the genetic material from the bones of people who died during a Bronze Age battle around 1200 BCE on the banks of Tollense river. 

Five years ago, I wrote an article about this battle. Based on the data available then, I proposed that "Tollense battle" was not, like everyone thought, "the largest Bronze age battle between two armies" but an attack on a caravan...Apparently "new data" proves me right 🙂 


What the researches found is that only 20% of the Bronze Age warriors had a genetic variant that enabled them to break down lactose...

Compare that to 60% of medieval males who had the ability to drink milk as adults, and 70% to 90% of modern Central Europeans who can digest milk as adults...

That’s an extremely fast transformation compared to most evolutionary changes in humans...But does this mean that all Neolithic, Copper Age and Early Bronze Age Central Europeans were lactose intolerant and that this gene suddenly mutated during Late Bronze Age?

I don't think so...Otherwise we wouldn't be finding these milk churns in Chalcolithic Central European Baden Culture...

The ancient European population was not homogenous...It was a patchwork or cultures which coexisted together...Some most likely had the milk tolerance gene and some didn't. And possibly Baden culture people were some of those who were milk tolerant...

Now butter actually contains very low amount of lactose. So little in fact that it can be safely consumed by lactose intolerant people. So the presence of butter churns is not an indicator that the people who used it were lactose tolerant. But how do you arrive to the idea of making butter? You need to be using milk for a long time to eventually realize that shaking milk will produce butter...I think that only lactose tolerant people who drank and stored raw milk for later consumption, for a very long time, would have been able to invent (discover) butter...So I think that the presence of butter churns is in effect an indication that the people who used these churns were very likely lactose tolerant...I wonder if any genetic testing was done on remains found in the Baden culture cemeteries where these butter churns were found...

Anyway, once the lactose tolerance mutation happened in one population, it then spread through inter marrying to other neighboring populations...

Now interestingly, Baden culture people were predominantly I2a (Old European Hunter Gatherer turned Neolithic Megalithic builders) and G2a (Neolithic farmers) genes...

I know that milk tolerance genes are not directly linked with Y haplogroup, but is it possible that that the milk tolerance mutation, once it appeared, had for a long time spread within a certain family (clan, tribe) genetically linked population?

I wonder if we have data which can tells us which Y haplogroup did the lactose tolerant Tollense warriors belong to? That would be an interesting thing to check...

There is another type of vessel associated with milk processing: cheese strainers used for separating milk curds from whey during cheese production. 

Here is a ceramic cheese strainer from Israel, from the same culture that produced the ceramic barrel shaped milk churns. 



These Baden Culture hat shaped perforated ceramic vessels were interpreted as cheese strainers 


So both Gashulians and Baden people made both butter and cheese. Now cheese is not as low on lactose as butter. Particularly fresh young cheese, which contains one fourth of the the amount of lactose found in fresh milk. As cheese ages, this lactose breaks down, so aged cheese is basically lactose free. But again, people who made cheese had to be the same people who used milk for long enough time to be able to arrive to cheese...I also somehow doubt that our Neolithic ancestors were aging their cheeses...So whoever was making and consuming cheese was definitely lactose tolerant... 

By the way, Baden culture was not the only or the earliest European culture which made cheese...

Analyses carried out on sieve vessels or strainers from Linear pottery settlements on the River Vistula in Poland (5,400/5,300BC) yielded food residues from the processing of dairy products. 

Evidence pointing to highly probable cheese-making on sieve vessels from the Linear Pottery and to the extensive use and processing of milk on beakers from the Funnel Beaker period was found at Kopydłowo (Poland)...Strainers from the region of Kuyawa, Poland. 






Both Linear Pottery and  Funnel Beaker cultures are from Central Europe. Men from both cultures carried G2a and I2a genes...

Interestingly, Baden culture developed from Lengyel culture, which developed from Linear Pottery culture...All these cultures lived on the same territory in Central Europe, and males from all these cultures had G2a and I2a genes......Hmmm...One happy lactose tolerant family??? Not convinced?

Here are two cheese strainers from Central European Sopot culture. Again these guys were G2a and I2a




Some people might say: how do we know that these are cheese strainers? Well because people continued using the same type of cheese strainers until today. If it works...

Kizil-Koba culture pottery, 9th - 6th century BC, Crimea. Probable cheese curd strainer bottom right

Roman cheese strainer with a single handle

Medieval cheese making, using ceramic cheese strainer

These are ceramic ones still used today in France. Like this one


Here is lactose tolerance distribution map. See how the maximum is in North Western Europe...

I originally thought that this is somehow linked with R1b people because this is the distribution of the R1b genes across the the world...


But maybe they were just the ones who finally spread it, once they acquired it through mixing with Central European I2a??? G2a??? Neolithic population...Here is a distribution of I2 genes in the world...




I would actually bet on hunter gatherers as being the source of lactose tolerance mutation. It is possible that it developed from the consumption of the "original cheese", the stomach and intestine content of the suckling wild baby sheep and goats.  

I wrote about this in my article "Best bits"...

Now interestingly, one very interesting Mesolithic hunter gatherer culture, Lepenski Vir culture, which existed in Central Europe (Serbia, Romania) between 9000 and 6000 BC, was a mix between R1b and I2a people... 

Did lactose tolerance gene develop here? 

We know that R1b people from the Lepenski Vir culture somehow ended up in Green Sahara, before it turned into desert...I talked about this in my article "The sun over pyramid"...Possibly via Levant?

When R1b guys left Balkans for North Africa, their I2a mates mixed with incoming Neolithic G2a farmers. The G2a Neolithic farmers brought into the mix domesticated cattle, sheep, goats...Did the I2a Hunter Gatherers bring into the mix lactose tolerance gene? 

Whatever happened, the resit is prehistory of butter and cheese production in Europe... 

But what about the Gashulian Levantine butter and cheese makers? What is the oldest evidence for the butter churns and cheese strainers in Levant? Was any genetic testing done to determine if they were lactose tolerant? 

Remember that it was Iranian immigrants into Levant (and most likely Egypt) during 5th and 4th millennium BC who created Gashulian culture. I wrote about it in my article "Nahal Mishmar hoard"...

What is the oldest evidence for milk processing in Iran? Is it older than Gashulian culture? Did these Iranian immigrants bring the lactose tolerance gene with them? Or did they mix with the Levantine locals who were already lactose tolerant? And if so who were these locals and how did they acquire lactose tolerance? Through European immigrants? The R1b guys traveling to the Green Sahara maybe???

Sources:

1. "Spool-shaped clay artefact": an unknown object-type of the boleráz/baden cultures

2. Lochner M., Thunau am Kamp – eine befestigte Höhensiedlung der Urnenfelderkultur und der außergewöhnliche Fund eines Tonfässchens






Saturday, 6 February 2021

Poppy priestess

A woman buried around 700BC in the grave 15 from Marvinci-Lisičin Dol cemetery near Valandovo, Macedonia, was not an ordinary woman...


This is a beautiful artist depiction of what the woman, believed to have been a priestess, looked like...




She was buried with so-called Paeonian ritual bronzes. She was also wearing a long belt chain, at which end hang a miniature pyxis (jar) shaped like opium poppy bulb, with bird protome (handles). The jar which, based on the organic matter found inside of it, contained raw opium


What is very interesting is that the chain on which the opium jar hang, was attached to two sickle knifes...





Official interpretation of all these sickles is that "These might be sacrificial instruments but also symbolic tools for harvesting, i.e. ultimately symbols of fertility..."

I don't think so...

This amazing looking thing is an old traditional opium poppy bulb scaring sickle knife with a goat horn handle from Central Asia...


This thing is an old traditional opium harvesting sickle knife from Central Asia...


So harvest indeed, but maybe not of wheat. Of poppies...I mean the poppy priests carried a jar with raw opium on her chain which which ended up with these sickles...

Opium harvest, Makedonija, 1950s. 



I wonder what the grandad is smoking in his pipe 🙂

When I was a kid, in 1970s, my grandparents, who lived in a village in South of Serbia, still grew poppies in their garden, "for medicinal tea" 🙂 in case someone needs a pain killer...

In my article about the link between ancient gods and opium poppies, I explained that there is a link between bulls, gods and poppies. 


Because the poppy harvest in most parts of Eurasia starts in Taurus...The time when wild Eurasian cattle, aurochs, start their calving...This is the golden calf...

You know when yesterday I wrote a post about crazy smiling people and bulls on the brooch from Sicily, which dates from around the same time as this burial...Maybe everyone was so happy not because the grain harvest was starting, but because they were all stoned on freshly harvested opium...Harvested in Taurus...

Now to me this is actually the most interesting bit...The priestess was buried around 700 BC wearing massive disc belt

This is traditional female dress from Macedonia, early 20th c AD...With the same massive disc belt...

Sources of info about the burial:

"Connecting Elites and Regions. Perspectives on contacts, relations and differentiation during the Early Iron Age Hallstatt C period in Northwest and Central Europe"

"Macedonian Bronzes - 30 Years Later"

"Makedonische Bronzen"