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In memory of
Ian Alexander George Shepherd

This Volume is dedicated to the memory of Ian Alexander George Shepherd (19512009),
who contributed so much to the study of Scotlands Chalcolithic and Bronze Age
and who supported this book and the conference that gave rise to it.

Frontispiece: Ian, with wife Alexandra (Lekky, author of Chapter 17, far left) and colleague Moira Greig (centre) during the
experimental cremation of a pig at Archaeolink, September 2004. Photo: Alison Sheridan

An offprint from

Is there a British Chalcolithic?

People, place and polity in the later 3rd millennium

edited by
Michael J. Allen, Julie Gardiner and Alison Sheridan

Prehistoric Society Research Paper No. 4

ISBN 978-1-84217-496-8


Series Editors: Michael J. Allen and David McOmish
Managing Editor: Julie Gardiner


The Prehistoric Society Research Papers publish collections of edited papers covering aspects of Prehistory. These may be
derived from conferences, or research projects; they specifically exclude the publication of single excavation reports. The
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by allowing broader treatment of key research areas.
The Research Papers is a peer reviewed series whose production is managed by the Society.
Further information can be found on the Societys website (www.prehistoricsociety.org)

Series Editors: Michael J. Allen and David McOmish

Editorial Advisory Committee:
M. Aldhouse-Green N. Ashton G. Barker T. Champion
G. Cooney J. Chapman A.E.U. David C. French
C. Gosden F. Healy A. Saville A. Sheridan
G.J. Wainwright


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Other volumes in this series, available from Oxbow Books

No. 1. From Bann Flakes to Bushmills papers in honour of Professor Peter Woodman
eds N. Finlay, S. McCartan, N. Milner & C. Wickham-Jones (2009)
No. 2. Land and People papers in memory of John G. Evans
eds M.J. Allen, N. Sharples & T. OConnor (2009)
No. 3. Materialitas; working stone, carving identity
eds B. OConnor, G. Cooney & J. Chapman (2009)
No. 4. Is there a British Chalcolithic? People, place and polity in the later 3rd millennium
eds M.J. Allen, J. Gardiner & A. Sheridan (2012)
No. 5. Image, Memory and Monumentality: archaeological engagements with the material world
eds A.M. Jones, J. Pollard, M.J. Allen & J. Gardiner (2012)

Volumes in production

No. 6. Neolithic Settlement in Ireland

by Jessica Smyth (due 2013)
in prep. Neolithic of Lowland Scotland
eds K. Brophy, G. Macgregor, I. Ralston & D. McOmish

List of Figures and Tables x

Contributors xiii
Abstract xv
French Language Abstract xix
German Language Abstract xxi
Acknowledgements xxiii
Editors Preface. By Michael J. Allen, Julie Gardiner and Alison Sheridan xxiv
Foreword. By Mike Parker Pearson xxvii


1. Case and Place for the British Chalcolithic 1
By Stuart Needham

2. Drawing Boundaries and Building Models: investigating the concept of the Chalcolithic frontier
in north-west Europe 27
By Benjamin W. Roberts and Catherine J. Frieman

3. A Rumsfeld Reality Check: what we know, what we dont know and what we dont know we dont know
about the Chalcolithic in Britain and Ireland 40
By Alison Sheridan

4. Before 29Cu became Copper: tracing the recognition and invention of metalleity in Britain and Ireland
during the 3rd millennium BC 56
By Peter Bray

5. The Importance of Being Insular: Britain and Ireland in their north-western European context during
the 3rd millennium BC 71
By Marc Vander Linden

6. Sense and Non-sense of the term Chalcolithic 85

By Martin Bartelheim and Raiko Krauss

7. Growth and Expansion: social, economic and ideological structures in the European Chalcolithic 98
By Volker Heyd

8. Dutchmen on the Move? A discussion of the adoption of the Beaker package 115
By Harry Fokkens
9. Working Copper in the Chalcolithic: a long term perspective on the development of metallurgical
knowledge in central Europe and the Carpathian Basin 126
By Tobias Kienlin


10. Chronology, Corpses, Ceramics, Copper and Lithics 144
By Frances Healy

11. Is there a Scottish Chalcolithic? 164

By Ian Shepherd (completed by Alison Sheridan and Alexandra Shepherd)

12. A date with the Chalcolithic in Wales; a review of radiocarbon measurements for 24502100 cal BC 172
By Steve Burrow

13. Searching for the Chalcolithic: continuity and change in the Irish Final Neolithic/Early Bronze Age 193
By Neil Carlin and Joanna Brck

14. The Chalcolithic in Ireland: a chronological and cultural framework 211

By William OBrien

15. The Beaker People Project: an interim report on the progress of the isotopic analysis of the organic
skeletal material 226
By Mandy Jay, Mike Parker Pearson, Mike Richards, Olaf Nehlich,
Janet Montgomery, Andrew Chamberlain and Alison Sheridan

16. The Regionality of Beakers and Bodies in the Chalcolithic of North-east Scotland 237
By Neil Curtis and Neil Wilkin

17. Stepping Out Together: men, women and their beakers in time and space 257
By Alexandra Shepherd


18. Chalcolithic Land-use, Animals and Economy a Chronological Changing Point? 281
By Michael J. Allen and Mark Maltby

19. The Present Dead: the making of past and future landscapes in the British Chalcolithic 298
By Paul Garwood

20. The Revenge of the Native: monuments, material culture, burial and other practices in the third quarter
of the 3rd millennium BC in Wessex 317
By Rosamund Cleal and Joshua Pollard

Index 333
1. Case and Place for the British Chalcolithic
By Stuart Needham CD1
Appendix 1.1: Key Chalcolithic grave groups CD2
Appendix 1.2: Selected radiocarbon dated ceremonial sites mentioned in the text CD10
Bibliography for Appendix 1.2 CD16

10. Chronology, Corpses, Ceramics, Copper and Lithics

By Frances Healy CD20
Table 10.4 Radiocarbon measurements used in models and/or cited in the text, in laboratory
number order CD21
Figs 10.3a, 10.3b, 10.3c, 10.3d, 10.3e, 10.5b, 10.5c, 10.5d, 10.5e, 10.5f, 10.5g, 10.5h and 10.5i CD64
Bibliography CD75

15. The Beaker People Project: an interim report on the progress of the isotopic analysis of the organic
skeletal material
By Mandy Jay, Mike Parker Pearson, Mike Richards, Olaf Nehlich,
Janet Montgomery, Andrew Chamberlain and Alison Sheridan CD81
Table 15.1: List of individuals included in the Beaker People Project for isotope analysis CD82

16. The Regionality of Beakers and Bodies in the Chalcolithic of North-east Scotland
By Neil Curtis and Neil Wilkin CD02
Appendix 16.2 (tables 16: Figures 16.9, 16.10, 16.11 and 16.12) CD93
Bibliography CD96

17. Stepping Out Together: men, women and their beakers in time and space
By Alexandra Shepherd CD97
Case studies CD98
1. Borrowstone Cists 1 & 2 (Figs 17.11 & 17.12) CD98
2. Borrowstone Cists 4, 5 & 6 (Fig. 17.13) CD100
3. Broomhend of Crichie cist 2 (Fig. 17.14) CD101
4. Broomhend of Crichie cist (Fig. 17.15) CD102
Fig 17.16 CD103
5. Garton Slack 163 (Fig. 17.17) CD104
6. Painsthorpe Wold 4 (Fig. 17.18) CD105
7. Huggate and Warter Wold 254 (Fig. 17.19) CD107
Bibliography CD107

List of Figures Figure 7.1: Distribution of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon

indicates that the item is on the CD in Europe
Figure 1.1: Variation in tang form and hilt fixings for British Figure 7.2: Andrew Sherratts graph of the Interaction of
tanged daggers and knives the components of the secondary products complex
Figure 1.2: Variation in bracer form in relation to the through time
Association Figure 7.3: Distribution of the gold, silver and copper
Figure 1.3: A model for the cultural interaction during the ring-pendants and the golden lozenges of the Early
Chalcolithic period. Chalcolithic horizon (c. 460037/3600 BC)
Figure 2.1: The Chalcolithic Frontier model (after Brodie Figure 7.4: Traditional terminology in the European
1997, fig. 1) countries with regard to a Neolithic and/or Chalcolithic
Figure 3.1: Late Neolithic material: 1. Stone maceheads, nomenclature
Egilsay (left) and Bloody Quoy (right), both Orkney; Figure 8.1. The pottery of Upper Largie (13) and Biggar
2. Carved stone ball, Towie, Aberdeenshire; 3. Figurine Common (4)
from the Links of Noltland, Orkney; 4. Carvings of Figure 8.2. Beaker pottery from the Netherlands
eyebrow motif, Holm of Papa Westray South, Orkney; Figure 8.3. The concept of critical mass, showing how the
5. Chalk drums from Folkton, Yorkshire; 6. Long- rate of adoption of an innovation changes after the
tailed oblique flint arrowhead, Marden, Wiltshire. critical mass has been reached
Figure 3.2: Items from the grave assemblages of the Figure 8.4. The period of change occurs when the critical
Amesbury Archer and Boscombe Bowmen mass is reached and innovation is accepted in fast rate
Figure 3.3: Wristguard and rest of grave assemblage from Figure 8.5. Distribution of the Corded Ware (1) and Bell
Culduthel, Highland Beaker (3) cultural phenomena. (2) indicates areas where
Figure 3.4: Selection of Chalcolithic copper objects: flat Corded Ware and Bell Beaker overlap
axeheads, dagger or knife and awls from the hoard Figure 8.6. Typical Bell Beaker burial from the Czech
from Knocknague, Co. Galway, Ireland. Republic: Lochenice I, burial 13
Figure 3.5: 1. Pot Beaker from Cluntyganny, Co. Tyrone Figure 9.1: Typology and supposed development of
and 2. Wooden polypod bowl from Tikernagham, Eneolithic/Copper Age shaft-hole axes in Romania (after
Co. Tyrone Vulpe 1975, 15 fig. 1)
Figure 3.6: 1. Short-necked Beaker from Inveramsay, Figure 9.2: Installations for the roasting of ores prior to
Aberdeenshire, 2. Copper neck ring from Yarnton, smelting
Oxfordshire Figure. 9.3: Chane opratoire for the production of Late
Figure 3.7: A northern mystery: an enigmatic ?Beaker bone Neolithic/Eneolithic Altheim type flat axes and Early
object from Jarlshof, Shetland Bronze Age Saxon type flanged axes
Figure 4.1: Relationship between composition and Figure 9.4: Chane opratoire for the production of Copper
smithing for MA 1 and MA 2 Irish axes Age/Eneolithic Jszladny type axe-adzes and
Figure 4.2: A Metal: percentage difference from overall contemporaneous flat axes
average for key elements corrected for the addition Figure 9.5: Comparison between the strength of final cold-
of tin over time work of Early Bronze Age Saxon type axes made of
Figure 4.3: A Metal MA 3 axes: offset of regional averages fahlore copper and tin-bronze
from overall average for key elements Figure 10.1: A radiocarbon measurement with a range of
Figure 4.4: MA 1/2 A metal axes: offset of regional 120 radiocarbon years at 95% confidence stretches to
averages from overall average for key elements a fragmented overall range of more than 250 calendar
Figure 4:5: Percentage of each metal assemblage formed years when calibrated
by recycled metal Figure 10.2: The composition of the radiocarbon dates used
Figure 4.6: Average level of tin in axes made of primary in the two main models by broad geographical area
and recycled metal Figure 10.3a: Overall structure of a model in which 135
Figure 4.7: Average weight of axes by period and metal dates for articulated inhumations from England in the
type 4th2nd millennium cal
Figure 5.1: Cultural geography of north-western Europe Figure 10.3b: The first and second sections of the model
during the first half of the 3rd millennium cal BC showing dates directly measured on Neolithic articulated
Figure 5.2: Cultural geography of north-western Europe inhumations
during the second half of the 3rd millennium cal BC Figure 10.3c: The third section of the model showing
dates directly measured on Beaker and related articulated Figure 13.6: The wedge tomb at Toormore, Co. Cork
inhumations Figure 14.1: Distribution of wedge tombs, Beaker pottery,
Figure 10.3d: The fourth section of the model showing Bowl in single graves and copper axeheads in Ireland
dates directly measured on late 3rd and 2nd millennium Figure 14.2: A chronological outline of the Irish
articulated inhumations from England Chalcolithic
Figure 10.3e: Summary of the results of the model Figure 14.3: The Chalcolithic in Munster: distributions
Figure 10.4: Summary of selected attributes of the groups of Beaker pottery, wedge tombs, food vessel graves,
of English articulated inhumations copper axeheads, earliest bronze axeheads, gold discs
Figure 10.5a: Overall structure of the model for British and lunulae
Beaker pottery Figure 15.1. Map showing the distribution of sites at which
Figure 10.5b: Dates associated with Beaker pottery in isotopic analysis has been undertaken on skeletal remains
Wales for the Beaker People Project
Figure 10.5c: Modelled dates for low- and mid-carinated Figure 15.2. Comparison of the averages for Middle Iron Age
Beaker pottery from Scotland and Beaker period humans from across Britain
Figure 10.5d: Modelled dates for short-necked Beaker Figure 15.3. Absolute differences in 34S values between
pottery from Scotland bone and dentine collagen pairs compared between the
Figure 10.5e: Modelled dates for long-necked, S-profile Scottish and the East Yorkshire groups
and unclassified Beaker pottery from Scotland Figure 16.1: Sums of modelled dates for Low-Carinated
Figure 10.5f: Modelled dates for low carinated and mid- (continental-style) Beakers and the earliest Short-
carinated Beaker pottery from England Necked Beakers in eastern Scotland
Figure 10.5g: Modelled dates for short- and long-necked Figure 16.2: Sum of modelled dates for burials associated
Beaker pottery from England with Beakers from eastern Scotland sharing motifs with
Figure 10.5h: Modelled dates for S-profile and unclassified gold lunulae
Beaker pottery from England Figure 16.3: Sum of modelled dates for Archery burials
Figure 10.5i: Dates for samples associated with Beaker Figure 16.4: Sum of modelled dates for burials associated
pottery in non-funerary contexts with bronze daggers in eastern Scotland
Figure 10.5j: Summary of the results of the models shown Figure 16.5. Comparison of models for the dating of
in Figures 5a5h and Figure 10.5i, and Figure Tomnaverie recumbent stone circle
10.5i Figure 16.6. Map of Beakers and Bodies Project study
Figure 10.5k: Estimated durations derived from the areas
models Figure 16.7. Map of Beaker burials and cemeteries in eastern
Figure 10.6: The dating of mining implements from Grimes Scotland
Graves in relation to two modelled currencies for Beaker Figure 16.8. Map of dagger and knife-dagger burials in
pottery in England east-central Scotland
Figure11.1: Tanged copper blades Figure 16.9: Modelled dates for Low-Carinated
Figure 11.2: Hoard of copper halberds, Mains of Achingoul, (continental-style) Beakers and the earliest Short-
Aberdeenshire Necked Beakers in eastern Scotland
Figure 11.3: Pair of copper neck rings from Lumphanan, Figure 16.10: Modelled dates for burials associated with
Aberdeenshire Beakers from eastern Scotland sharing motifs with
Figure 11.4: Gold lunula and one of a pair of large basket- lunulae
shaped ornaments from a possible grave at Orbliston, Figure 16.11: Modelled dates for Archery burials
Moray Figure 16.12: Modelled dates for burials associated with
Figure 11.5: Dutch-style grave and grave goods from bronze daggers in eastern Scotland
Newmill, Perth & Kinross Figure 17.1: Map indicating areas covered by the two core
Figure 11.6: Distribution of definite and possible early Beaker-using areas: north-east Scotland and the East
Beaker graves, excluding those featuring stone cists Yorkshire Wolds
Figure 12.1: Location of sites Figure 17.2: Orientation and positioning data for crouched
Figure 12.2: Mining sites calibrated dates inhumations from east Yorkshire with Beakers and
Figure 12.3: Context associated with Beakers calibrated Food Vessels
dates Figure 17.3: Orientation and positioning data for burials with
Figure 12.4: Contexts associated with Grooved Ware Beakers from north-east Scotland
calibrated dates Figure 17.4: North-east Scotland: Beakers with males/male-
Figure 12.5: Hengiform and other Neolithic monuments pattern burials
calibrated dates Figure 17.5: North-east Scotland: Beakers with females/
Figure 12.6: Pit and timber circles calibrated dates female-pattern burials
Figure 12.7: Burials (other than those associated with Figure 17.6: North-east Scotland: comparison of Beakers with
Beakers) calibrated dates males/male-pattern and females/female-pattern burials
Figure 12.8: Occupation sites calibrated dates Figure 17.7: East Yorkshire: Beakers with males/male-
Figure 12.9: Burnt mounds calibrated dates pattern burials
Figure 13.1: The Beaker associated oval structure at Figure 17.8: East Yorkshire: Beakers with females/female-
Graigueshoneen, Co. Waterford, pattern burials
Figure 13.2: The Beaker associated cairn and chamber at Figure 17.9: East Yorkshire: comparison of Beakers with
Gortcobies, Co. Derry males/male-pattern and females/female-pattern burials
Figure 13.3: The cremation burial and associated Beaker Figure 17.10: Beakers with male and female paired and
from Tomb 15 at Knowth, Co. Meath associated burials
Figure 13.4: Grave 6 at Keenoge, Co. Meath Figure 17.11: His and hers: Beakers from Borrowstone
Figure 13.5: The Grooved Ware associated timber circle at 1 (RWSF) and 2 (LESM)
Kilbride, Co. Mayo Figure 17.12: detail of Beakers with male and female
burials from cists 1 and 2 Borrowstone, Newhills, Table 1.3: Revised list of dates for Low-Carinated Beakers
Aberdeenshire, with arrangement of burials (RWS, LES) Table 1.4: Copper Age tanged daggers and knives in Britain
within cists indicated (north to top of page) a revised list
Figure 17.13: detail of Beakers with male and female- Table 1.5: Associations between Beaker and bracer types
pattern burials from cists 4 and 6 Borrowstone, Newhills, Table 1.6: Distribution of selected types according to
Aberdeenshire, with arrangement of burials (RWS stain, Association Group, listed in Appendix 1.1
LES) within cists indicated (north to top of page) Table 1.7: Orientations of burials in southern Britain (south
Figure 17.14: detail of Beakers with male (LES) and of Humber-Mersey)
?female infant burial from cist 2 Broomend of Crichie, Table 1.8: Comparison of some key aspects between late
Aberdeenshire with arrangement of burials within cist Grooved Ware and early Beaker culture groups
indicated (north to top of page) Table 2.1: Chalcolithic Interpretations
Figure 17.15: detail of Beakers with double male burial Table 6.1: Chronological chart of the cultural development
from cist 1 Broomend of Crichie, Aberdeenshire, with 6th3rd millennia BC in Anatolia, south-eastern Europe,
implied arrangement of burials within cist ([R]WS, the Carpathian Basin, southern Germany, and the Iberian
[L]ES) indicated (north to top of page) peninsula
Figure 17.16: detail of paired Beakers from single burials Table 7.1: Compilation and English translation of the bullet
at Whitehouse, Skene (LESM), and Uppermill, Cruden, points under the headings society, economy and religion
Ardiffery (?L M), Aberdeenshire from Lichardus 1991b
Figure 17.17: detail of Beakers with male and female Table 8.1: A survey of Corded Ware and Bell Beaker burial
burials (LES, RWS) from a grave beneath Garton Slack gifts divided into four categories
163 barrow, East Yorkshire, with arrangement of burials Table 9.1 Chronology of the Neolithic and Early Middle
within grave indicated (north to top of page) Eneolithic/Copper Age of the Carpathian Basin and
Figure 17.18: detail of Beakers with a paired burial (RWS, south-eastern Europe
LWN) from a central grave beneath Painsthorpe Wold Table 10.1: Results of English articulated inhumation
4 barrow, East Yorkshire, with arrangement of burials model
within grave indicated (north to top of page) Table 10.2: Outline results from Beaker pottery models,
Figure 17.19: detail of Beakers with a double female- compared with other estimates
pattern burial from a central grave beneath a remnant Table 10.3: summary of results for the more frequently
barrow, Huggate and Warter Wold 254, East Yorkshire, dated lineages
with arrangement of burials within grave indicated Table10. 4: Radiocarbon measurements used in models
(north to top of page) and/or cited in the text
Figure 18.1: Location of Beaker find spots within colluvium Table 12.1: Mining sites, radiocarbon results
and possible Beaker settlement sites on the Downlands Table 12.2: Contexts associated with Beakers, radiocarbon
of southern England results
Figure 18.2: Ard marks on the Beaker buried soils buried Table 12.3: Contexts associated with Grooved Ware,
by colluvium at Ashcombe Bottom, and Kiln Combe, radiocarbon results
East Sussex Table 12.4: Hengiform and other Neolithic monuments,
Figure 18.3: photograph of ard marks on the Beaker soil at radiocarbon results
Ashcombe Bottom Table 12.5: Pit and timber circles, radiocarbon results
Figure 19.1: Distribution of early Beaker graves in southern Table 12.6: Burials (other than those associated with Beakers),
Britain, c. 25002150 cal BC radiocarbon results
Figure 19.2: Early Beaker graves in the Upper Thames Table 12.7: Occupation sites, radiocarbon results
valley Table 12.8: Burnt mounds, radiocarbon results
Figure 19.3: Linear arrangements of Beaker graves in the Table 15.1. List of individuals included in the Beaker People
Upper Thames valley Project for isotope analysis
Figure 19.4: Beaker graves located at Late Neolithic Table 16.1: Regional distribution of funerary traditions in
monument sites in the Upper Thames valley eastern Scotland in the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze
Figure 19.5: Distribution of Beaker graves in the Stonehenge Age
landscape Table 16.2 Copper artefacts. Dagger typology and Beaker
Figure 19.6: Linear arrangement of Beaker graves to the typology
north-west of Stonehenge Table 16.3 Bronze daggers and knife-daggers from funerary
Figure 19.7: Alignment of Late Neolithic monuments and contexts
Beaker burials across the Stonehenge landscape Table 16.4: Bronze Artefacts (other contexts)
Figure 19.8: The Epe-Vaassen barrow road, north-east Table 16.5: Dated Beaker burials for Beakers which share
Veluwe, central Netherlands motifs with gold lunulae
Figure 20.1: The Amesbury Archer Beakers Table 17.1: Data from burials with Beakers from East
Figure 20.2: Major late Neolithic sites in the Avebury Yorkshire
region Table 17.2: Data from burials with Beakers from North-east
Figure 20.3: Major late Neolithic sites and early Beaker Scotland
burials in the Stonehenge region Table 18.1: List of the main documented colluvial deposits
with Beaker finds on the chalk of southern England
Table 20.1: Decoration motifs of potentially early Avebury
List of Tables Beakers
Table 20.2: Decoration motifs of potentially early Stonehenge
Table 1.1: Radiocarbon-dated graves with Period 2 (earliest Beakers
bronze) daggers in Britain and Ireland. For dated graves Table 20.3: Features identifiable on dated early Beakers in
of Period 1 (Chalcolithic) Wessex
Table 1.2: An outline chronology for the British

Dr Michael J. Allen Neil G.W. Curtis

Allen Environmental Archaeology, Redroof, University Museums, University of Aberdeen,
Green Rd, Codford, Wiltshire, BA12 0NW Marischal College, Aberdeen AB10 1YS
and Email: neil.curtis@abdn.ac.uk
School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth
University, Fern Barrow, Poole, BH12 5BB Dr Catherine Frieman
Email: aea.escargots@gmail.com School of Archaeology and Anthropology,
The Australian National University, AD Hope
Prof. Dr Martin Bartelheim Building #13, Canberra, Act 0200, Australia
Eberhard Karls Universitt Tbingen, Schlo Email: cfrieman@gmail.com
Hohentbingen, Burgsteige 11, D-72070
Tbingen, Germany Prof. Dr Harry Fokkens
Email: martin.bartelheim@uni-tuebingen.de Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit Archeologie,
Reuvensplaats 34, 2311 BE Leiden, Netherlands
Dr Peter Bray Email: h.fokkens@arch.leidenuniv.nl
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the
History of Art (RLAHA) Dr Julie Gardiner
University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, Allen Environmental Archaeology, Redroof,
South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY Green Rd, Codford, Wiltshire, BA12 0NW
Email: peter.bray@rlaha.ox.ac.uk Email: jpg.escargots@googlemail.com

Dr Joanna Brck Paul Garwood

UCD School of Archaeology, Newman Building, Institute of Archaeology & Antiquity, Arts
University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston,
Ireland. Birmingham, B15 2TT
Email: joanna.bruck@ucd.ie Email: P.J.Garwood@bham.ac.uk

Dr Steve Burrow Dr Frances Healy

St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, 20 The Green, Charlbury, Oxon, OX7 3QA
CF5 6XB Email: franceshealy@vodafoneemail.co.uk
Email: steve.burrow@museumwales.ac.uk
Dr Volker Heyd
Neil Carlin Department of Archaeology and Anthropology,
UCD School of Archaeology, Newman Building, University of Bristol, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol
University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, BS8 1UU
Ireland. Email: volker.heyd@bris.ac.uk
Email: neil.carlin@gmail.com

Dr Ros Cleal
The National Trust, Alexander Keiller Museum,
High Street, Avebury, Wiltshire, SN8 1RF.
Email: Rosamund.Cleal@nationaltrust.org.uk
Dr Mandy Jay Dr Alison Sheridan
Durham University, Dept. of Archaeology, South Department of Archaeology, National Museums
Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
and Email: a.sheridan@nms.ac.uk
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology, Dept. of Human Evolution, Ian Shepherd
Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig Formerly of Aberdeenshire Archaeology Services,
Email: Mandy.Jay@Sheffield.ac.uk Aberdeenshire Council, Planning & Economic
Development Woodhill House, Westburn Road,
Jun.-Prof. Dr Tobias Kienlin Aberdeen, AB16 5GB
Institut fr Archologische Wissenschaftenm,
Ur- und Frhgeschichte, Ruhr-Universitt Alexandra (Lekky) Shepherd
Bochum, Am Bergbaumuseum 31, 44791 509 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 3BT
Bochum, Germany Email: Lekkwork2@aol.com
Email: tobias.kienlin@rub.de
Dr Marc Vander Linden
Dr Raiko Krau School of Archaeology and Ancient History,
Eberhard Karls Universitt Tbingen, Schlo University of Leicester, University Road,
Hohentbingen, Burgsteige 11, D-72070 Leicester, LE1 7RH
Tbingen, Germany Email: mmagvl1@le.ac.uk
Email: raiko.krauss@uni-tuebingen.de
Neil Wilkin
Mark Maltby Institute of Archaeology & Antiquity, University
School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15
University, Fern Barrow, Poole, BH12 5BB 2TT
Email: mmaltby@bournemouth.ac.uk Email: wilkin.neil@googlemail.com

Dr Stuart Needham
Langton Fold, North Lane, South Harting, West Non-corresponding Contributors
Sussex, GU31 5NW Prof. Andrew Chamberlain
Email: sbowman1@waitrose.com University of Sheffield, Dept. of Archaeology,
University of Sheffield, Northgate House, West
Prof. William OBrien Street, Sheffield, S1 4ET
Department of Archaeology, Connolly Building, Email: A.Chamberlain@sheffield.ac.uk
University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
Email: w.obrien@ucc.ie Dr Janet Montgomery
Durham University, Department of Archaeology,
Prof. Mike Parker Pearson South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE
University of Sheffield, Dept. of Archaeology, Email: janet.montgomery@durham.ac.uk
University of Sheffield, Northgate House, West
Street, Sheffield, S1 4ET, UK Dr Olaf Nehlich
Email: M.Parker-Pearson@Sheffield.ac.uk Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig,
Dr Joshua Pollard Germany
Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, University Email: nehlich eva.mpg.de
of Southampton, Avenue Campus
Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BF Prof. Mike Richards
Email: C.J.Pollard@soton.ac.uk University of British Columbia, Department of
Anthropology, 6303 NW Marine Drive
Dr Benjamin W. Roberts Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z1, Canada
Department of Prehistory and Europe, British and
Museum, London, WC1B 3DG Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Email: broberts@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig,
Email: Richards@eva.mpg.de

The Importance of Being Insular: Britain

and Ireland in their north-western European
context during the 3rd millennium BC
Marc Vander Linden

This paper discusses the impact, if any, of copper on the cultural and social history of the British Isles
in the second half of the 3rd millennium cal BC. After a brief review of the available evidence of
both sides of the Channel (ie, western France, Belgium, and Netherlands on one hand, Britain and
Ireland on the other) for the first and second half of the 3rd millennium cal BC, it appears that copper
played only a very limited role in the re-establishment of cross-Channel contacts during the Bell Beaker
Phenomenon. In this sense, although there was definitely a period of exclusive use of copper during the
later prehistory of the British Isles, there never was a British Chalcolithic in the sense that copper did
not have any significant influence on the cultural and social changes that characterise this period.

Is there a British Chalcolithic? 1991; Strahm 1994). It is the pertinence of this

As all too often with words, the answer lies in second, controversial, meaning for Britain that
semantics. If we consider a minimal definition I would like to investigate here.
of Chalcolithic as a period when copper Rather than casting our eyes on the
artefacts are either produced or in use, at Chalcolithic only, it is imperative to re-
the exclusion of other metal such as bronze assess both terms of the equation, British
or iron, the answer is obviously positive and and Chalcolithic, in order to distinguish
hardly controversial (see below). Yet, beyond the local from the regional, the contingent
the mere introduction of a new technique, from the evolutionary. Whatever the kind of
Chalcolithic has another, much wider and Chalcolithic considered, the question of its
ambitious, meaning as a proper historical epoch potential British identity remains crucial: are
primarily characterised by the development of the changes, if any, associated with the British
new specific social structures causally related Chalcolithic a local development, or the mere
to copper metallurgy (eg, Lichardus & Echt geographical extension of continental traits?
72 Marc Vander Linden

In the possibility of a true Chalcolithic epoch, and associated metallurgical production is

was Britain ineluctably dragged by historical well-documented (Hrault: Ambert et al. 2002).
forces beyond human agency, or was there a Considering the required logistics, this copper-
definitive Britishness to this evolution? From related activity must have been rather significant
this point of view, it must be remembered for the corresponding communities. Yet,
that continental Europe, Britain, and Ireland compositional analysis shows that the diffusion
are separated from each other by stretches of of the resulting products (eg, ornaments)
seas of varying sizes and navigational quality. mostly operated at the local scale, with a few
Besides the technicalities associated with sea geographical outliers (eg, near absence of metal
travel (eg, Case 1969; Van de Noort 2006), in Provence). This pattern hardly changes
the British and Irish insularity, so crucial to during the following centuries, marked by a
their inhabitants, implies that communication relative multiplication of the units of regional
and interaction with external regions always production (Carozza & Mille 2007). All in all,
depends of highly particular channels, the the societal impact of this new technique on
sea acting either as a connecting fluid or as a the local communities thus appears minimal.
liquid frontier. There is no direct relationship between the
What is eventually at stake is not so much scale and organisation of copper mining
whether or not one should bother in referring and metallurgy on the production sites and
to a British Chalcolithic, but the possibilities the supposedly associated social structures
and gains of putting back prehistoric Britain predicted by various interpretive models (ibid.).
in a wider geographic context (Vander Linden Although the southern French Late Neolithic
& Webley forthcoming). The tactics adopted evidently presents a distinctive history marked
here are therefore explicitly comparative, by social fragmentation and competition
with the description and confrontation of (Vander Linden 2006a), copper is integrated,
the archaeological sequences on both sides rather than initiates, this dynamics.
of the Channel and North Sea all during Further north, all regions are importing
the 3rd millennium cal BC, it is before and copper; for instance, in the French Centre-
during the few centuries of use of copper in Ouest, copper artefacts in the Artenac culture
the area and before its eventual replacement are imports from the southerly copper-rich
by bronze (the Danish Bell Beaker group is zones of the Grands Causses (Costantini
not addressed here: Vandkilde 2001; Sarauw 1984). This is not the place to detail here this
2007). Such exercise, by definition, implies particular archaeological culture (eg Burnez
the use of potentially too broad a brush, 1976; Roussot-Laroque 1998), and I will thus
hence the focus on copper and wider patterns only briefly discuss its integration within the
of cultural variation in the archaeological wider processes at play on this side of the
record. Such sketchy exercise probably sounds Atlantic faade during the first centuries of
old-fashioned, but it constitutes a necessary the millennium.
step in order to recognise long-term trends First, this culture is partially associated with
and historical processes otherwise too easily one of the most famous exchange networks
obscured by the minutia of detailed small- of the western European Neolithic. Located
scale studies. in Touraine, the area of the Grand-Pressigny
is renowned for the production and massive
export of impressive flint daggers up to 200
Fragmented units and connections mm in length. This production begins during
In order to identify copper production in the 4th millennium and reaches its peak
the first half of the 3rd millennium, the during the first half of the 3rd millennium.
geographical boundaries of the inquiry must Contrary to the large flint mines opened during
be stretched in order to encompass the French the 5th and 4th millenna all across Europe,
Midi. Copper mining and metallurgy are indeed extraction is undertaken here in rather small
attested in the Languedoc area during the late workshops (eg, Millet-Richard 2000). Although
4th and the entire 3rd millennium (eg, Ambert six different chanes opratoires can be recognised
& Carozza 1998; Carozza & Mille 2007). The (Ihuel 2004), the complexity required for the
oldest evidence comes from the district of realisation of the emblematic long, narrow
Cabrires-Pret, where extensive ore mining blades (so-called nucli en livres de beurre) implies
5 The Importance of Being Insular 73

that this production was in the hands of highly questions the material unity of the Seine-Oise-
skilled, specialised flint knappers (Plegrin Marne culture (Brunet et al. 2004). Copper
2002). Comparatively, the literature on the finds in the area are extremely scarce for the
distribution of the Grand-Pressigny daggers end of the 4th millennium and the first half
is much more extensive. The general absence of the 3rd millennium. Mille and Bouquets
of raw, non-retouched blades in their various recent inventory only lists about 20 copper
distribution areas, notwithstanding subsequent finds for the last period, despite hundreds of
resharpening and reuse, indicates that these sites known (Mille & Bouquet 2004). These
daggers circulated as finished products. are mostly beads imported from southern
The geographical range of these exports is France.
impressive, with finds in western, central, and Paradoxically, the Paris Basin has yielded the
eastern France (Mallet 1992; Ihuel 2004; Mallet earliest occurrence of copper known so far. It
et al. 2004), as well as further north in Belgium, consists of a necklace made of ten beads found
the Netherlands, and western Germany (eg, in the small collective burial of Vignely, dated
Hurt 1988; Drenth 1989; van der Waals 1991; to 33003200 cal BC. The shape and technique
Delcourt-Vlaeminck 2004; see below). In of these beads proves that they were imported
the Paris Basin and in eastern France, their from central Europe, where this type is
frequency decreases regularly with distance, common (Mille & Bouquet 2004). The second
with intermediary concentrations probably half of the 3rd millennium corresponds to the
corresponding to redistribution areas (Mallet development of the Gord and Dele-Escaut
et al. 2004). The distribution pattern differs in groups, which cover the Paris Basin and parts
Brittany, where finds in coastal areas account of southern and western Belgium (Blanchet
for up to 90% of the known assemblage, 1984; Brunet et al. 2004; Martial et al. 2004).
suggesting a preferential maritime diffusion These groups are closely related and present
(Ihuel 2004). some influences from the Artenac, exemplified
Secondly, recent research has brought by ceramics, but also by the presence of
to light the existence of a series of rather roughly comparable long rectangular houses
monumental long-houses of which length of varying dimensions (Bostyn & Praud 2000;
varies between 21 m and more than 100 m, Praud & Martial 2000; Martial et al. 2004;
their width being more constant at 1018 m Elleboode et al. 2008; Joseph 2008; Julien &
(Louboutin et al. 1997). The purpose of the Leroy 2008; Waardamme, in the sandy part of
houses is unknown: the segmentation of the Belgium: Demeyere et al. 2004). Several sites
internal space of Plchtel (Ille-et-Villaine) also present large enclosing palisades (Arleux:
has been interpreted as an indication of a real Julien & Leroy 2008; Houplin-Ancoisne Marais
domestic use (ibid.; Cottiaux et al. 2005, 149), de Santes and Rue Marx Dormoy: Martial et al.
while Bradley identifies them, without much 2004). Let us note that the suspected Late
supporting evidence, as collective drinking Neolithic enclosure observed in Ghislenghien
halls (Bradley 2005). Whatever their exact (Belgium: Deramaix 1997) has been recently
most probably changing function, it is radiocarbon dated to the Late Bronze Age
noteworthy that this architectural tradition of (Deramaix 2009).
long-houses can also be identified to some Funerary practices are dominated by small
extent further north on the French side of the collective burials, set in reused monuments
Channel (see below). (Chambon & Salanova 1996). There is a relative
Brittany presents a scatter of small-scaled individualisation of the dead, as grave goods are
archaeological cultures which all share the explicitly associated with specific individuals,
practice of collective burials in megaliths, and no longer placed in a separate chamber
often reused buildings from previous periods (Polloni et al. 2004). The archaeological record
(LHelgouach 1998). The production of battle- for south-eastern Belgium mostly consists
axes in local material indicates contacts of of a few megaliths and numerous collective
unknown nature with more northerly regions burials in caves (Jadin et al. 1998; Cauwe 2004),
of the Corded Ware/Single Grave cultural while the period remains poorly known in the
sphere. The same cultural fragmentation Belgian Flanders (Vanmontfort 2004). Anyway,
applies for the Paris Basin as, for instance, copper remains conspicuously absent for the
recent re-evaluation of the ceramic typology early 3rd millennium for the entire present-day
74 Marc Vander Linden

Belgium (Cauwe et al. 2001; Vanmontfort 2004; Orkneys during the last centuries of the
Warmenbol 2004). 4th millennium cal BC (Ashmore 1998)
and then gradually diffuses to the south
during the 3rd millennium (Garwood 1999).
Single graves, single ideas The extent of its geographical distribution
The cultural sequence significantly differs parallels its relative stylistic homogeneity.
in the Netherlands, with the Single Grave For instance, Ann MacSween has suggested
Culture (SGC), centered upon the northern that the Scottish Grooved Ware decoration
half of this country (provinces of Drenthe, presents a limited number of compositional
Groningen, and Friesland) and dated 2900 rules, which determines the geographical
2500 cal BC (Drenth & Hogestijn 2001; Drenth variation (MacSween 1995). For England,
2005). Despite a slowly but steadily growing only three dominant variations are recognised,
number of known settlements (Fokkens 2005, with the Durrington Walls, Clacton, and
4079; Hogestijn 2005), the main source of Woodland styles, the last two being sometimes
information for this culture remains burial indistinguishable (Barclay 1999; Cleal 1999).
mounds covering individual graves. These The new preference for building open, circular
graves are noteworthy for their stereotypy, monuments (timber and stone circles, henges)
especially the placing of the dead in the graves presents a roughly comparable sequence, with
by reference to cosmological points (Drenth early dates around 3000 cal BC in Scotland for
& Lohof 2005), and the recurrent deposition both timber and stone circles (Gibson 1994;
of a limited range of grave goods such as Ashmore 1998; Bradley 2007, 1189). Both
zone-decorated beakers (van der Waals & elements suggest that, all things being equal, the
Glasbergen 1955), and weapons such as stone corresponding human communities share some
battle-axes and flint daggers. Grand-Pressigny common traits, or at least resort a common
daggers have been found in several graves repertoire of material culture and practices.
(Drenth 1989; van der Waals 1991), as well Regionalisation remains, however, salient in
as imitations made of tertiary flint, probably other dimensions of the archaeological record,
produced somewhere in northern France and especially funerary practices. Megalithic tombs
of which distribution seems to be modelled are still erected to shelter collective burial places
on the Grand-Pressigny daggers (Delcourt- around 3000 cal BC in both Scotland and
Vlaeminck 2004). Both Grand-Pressigny and Orkney. Further south, these practices seem to
tertiary flint daggers tend to be discovered in disappear altogether, as well as individual burials
mounds of larger dimensions, suggesting the (Healy this volume) and the dead mostly feature
existence of different status amongst the dead in a few cremation cemeteries, sometimes
(Drenth 1989). The SGC is also associated placed in a monumental setting (eg, Stonehenge
with the introduction of plough agriculture Phase 1: Parker Pearson et al. 2009).
and the concomitant use of new lands, which Contacts across the Irish Sea are evident, with
is sometimes identified as the trigger for the geographical clusters of both Grooved Ware
corresponding cultural changes (Fokkens and comparable monuments on the eastern
1998). Copper is remarkably absent, proving coast (Brindley 1999; Grogan & Roche 2002).
that the cultural dynamics of the period are Further similarities between Ireland, northern
disconnected from the metallurgical novelty. Scotland and the Orkneys are noticeable in
megalithic architecture and associated art (eg,
Bradley 2007, 99106, 1178).
Pots and monuments across the
Divided we stand
On the other side of the Channel, Britain also
exhibits large-scale interaction processes, as We can now try to put together these various
exemplified by both Grooved Ware traditions elements into a synthetic cultural geography
and the new favour for populating the (Fig. 5.1). On the continental side, Atlantic
landscape with various monuments. Without Europe appears fragmented, with several small-
entering much into details, let us remind scale archaeological cultures linked together
ourselves that the Grooved Ware tradition in many ways. The practice of building long,
originates in northern Scotland and the rectangular houses, whatever their function,
5 The Importance of Being Insular 75
Figure 5.1: Cultural
geography of north-
western Europe during
the first half of the 3rd
millennium cal BC.
Single lines indicate
movements of goods, and
double arrows correspond
to cultural interaction

is shared over much of western and northern belongs to a clearly distinct cultural universe.
contemporary France, while the diffusion of Likewise, the production of battle-axes in local
Grand-Pressigny flint daggers reaches even material in Brittany provides another example
further, with finds in the SGC which otherwise of these reciprocal northsouth contacts. It
76 Marc Vander Linden

is noteworthy that, in any of these regions, change from the previous period, excepted for a
produced or imported copper appears to marked geographical expansion to most of the
have a significant social role. On the insular territory of present-day Netherlands (Drenth
side, interaction occurs across Britain and the 2005). As already mentioned, continuity is
Irish Sea, as evidenced by Grooved Ware and evident in the ceramic typology, from both
monuments. Beyond this general similitude, morphological and decorative points of view
regions with a more marked cultural specificity (van der Waals & Glasbergen 1955; Lanting
are also noticeable, but perhaps on a less & van der Waals 1976; Drenth & Hogestijn
pronounced tone than on the continent (such 2001). The only distinction between SGC and
as the general northsouth divide put forward BB pottery lies in the extent of the decoration,
by Bradley (2007, 88141)). limited to the upper part of the pots during
Yet, despite extensive evidence for the SGC, whilst covering their entire surface
interaction, the Channel and the North Sea in both the eponymous AOO and BB pottery
seem to act as liquid frontiers, as none of (a trait which lies at the core of van der
the aforementioned traits bridges them. This Waals and Glasbergens (1955) classification).
archaeological invisibility of potential contacts Otherwise, throughout the centuries covered
does not, of course, prove their complete by the SGCAOOBB sequence, generations
absence during the first centuries of the 3rd of potters resorted to the same restricted set
millennium cal BC. This point still needs to of geometric rules, especially translation and
be taken into consideration, especially as it simple symmetries, to elaborate the repeated
contrasts with the following period. horizontal bands of motifs which constitute the
decoration of their pots (Vander Linden 1998).
Lastly, BB funerary practices are in the direct
From the SGC, to the AOO and continuity of the older SGC ones (Drenth
the BB? & Lohof 2005). Individual graves are placed
The Dutch Late Neolithic sequence is under mounds, sometimes with a surrounding
renowned for showing a gradual, continuous palisade of evenly spaced posts (the so-called
development from the Single Grave Culture to Gerritsens law: van der Veen et al. 1989).
the Bell Beaker (hereafter BB) Phenomenon, Bodies are oriented in the graves according
with an intermediary chronological horizon to cosmological points, although there seems
characterised by the co-occurrence of SGC to be a changing preference for these from
and All-Over-Ornamented (hereafter AOO) one period to the other (Beuker et al. 2001).
ceramics. Recognised on typological grounds Likewise, the range of grave goods remains
more than half a century ago (van der Waals as restricted as before, with the eponymous
& Glasbergen 1955), the local validity of this beakers, while daggers, stone wristguards and
sequence has since became a pillar of Dutch arrowheads overtake battle-axes as material
Neolithic studies, as further research has expressions of the ideal hunter/warrior identity
proved its validity and extended it to every of the male (Fokkens et al. 2008). Despite the
facet of the archaeological record (Lanting & identification of a couple of burials of smiths
van der Waals 1976; van der Beek & Fokkens on basis of the deposition of metalworking
2001; Drenth & Hogestijn 2001; Vander tools, the presence of copper in the Dutch
Linden 1998; 2004; 2006, 3142). There is, BB group remains incidental (Butler & van der
however, a long-lasting debate regarding the Waals 1966; Butler & Fokkens 2005).
use of this sequence in other BB regions, and The local validity of the Dutch sequence
its role in the making of this archaeological cannot thus be questioned. And, with the
culture (see recently the opposing opinions exception of its ruthless application to the
expressed in Guilaine 2004; Guilaine et al. British data by Lanting and van der Waals in
2004; Salanova 2004a; Vander Linden 2004). their review of Clarkes doctoral dissertation
Before entering into these muddy waters, let (Lanting & van der Waals 1972), it is noteworthy
us first recall the supporting data. that only non-Dutch scholars used the Dutch
Although settlement evidence remains as model (after Harrison 1980) to put some order
limited as for the SGC (Fokkens 2005), it in their own confusing data (eg, Guilaine 1967;
is generally considered that the Dutch BB Harrison 1980). Since then, renewed typologies
settlement pattern does not introduce any and extensive radiocarbon programmes have
5 The Importance of Being Insular 77

demonstrated the complexity of each local of Late Neolithic sites (Salanova 2004b)
sequence, generally leading to the abandon of and the rich BB group in the neighbouring
the Dutch model (eg, Kinnes et al. 1991). This Moselle (eg, Lefebvre et al. 2008). Individual
local demise has also provided the justification burials are known (such as Wallers: Flix &
for several scholars to reject claims of a Hantute 1969), in particular the site of Jablines,
Dutch BB homeland (eg, Needham 2005), which has yielded an AOO beaker which
a position sometimes adopted by Dutch points to potential early connections with
scholars themselves (van der Beek & Fokkens the Netherlands (Laporte et al. 1992). Copper
2001). For instance, both Jean Guilaine and finds are limited, with eight daggers and some
Laure Salanova have recently argued that the ornaments (Mille & Bouquet 2004). Small-scale
absence of a clear-cut, autonomous Maritime copper metallurgy is attested on the settlement
horizon in the Dutch sequence constitutes the of Les Florentins, along the Seine river (end of
last nail in the coffin of the Dutch origins of the 3rd millennium: Billard 1991).
the BB Phenomenon (Guilaine 2004; Salanova Brittany has yielded numerous beakers in
2004a). This position presents two major megalithic tombs, for which precise contexts
flaws: first, such a pure Maritime BB horizon of discovery are rarely available (LHelgouach
does not exist anywhere in any BB regions 2001). Several settlements have been recorded
(see the radiocarbon annex in Strahm 1995); along the Atlantic coast, and are often badly
secondly it can alternatively be argued that the damaged by sea erosion (Joussaume 1981).
seamless integration of the maritime beakers There are also a few beakers in megaliths,
in the Dutch sequence demonstrates their and even less rare individual burials, such as
local roots. Lastly, it must be reminded that the recently discovered site of La Folie, near
the SGC beakers constitute the only plausible Poitiers, which presented a enclosing palisade
typological prototype for the Bell Beaker as, for and an AOC (All-Over-Corded) Beaker with
instance, the sometimes invoked Portuguese strong Dutch reminiscences (Tcheremissinoff
copos are, in the opinion of advocates of a et al. 2000). Copper assemblage is dominated
Portuguese origin themselves, unsatisfactory by daggers, flat axes, and Palmela points, the
on typological grounds (Salanova 2004a). latter indicating links with Iberian Peninsula
(Briard & Roussot-Laroque 2002).
The Atlantic faade
As for the preceding centuries, the situation in The return of the dead
Belgium remains poorly known. The Flanders It is hardly original to say that cross-Channel
have witnessed a recent increase in the number contacts are re-instated with the introduction
of individual burials (Sergant 1997; Hoorne et of the Bell Beaker Phenomenon in Britain
al. 2008), which fit well with the sequence on and Ireland. But there is most probably more
the other side of the Dutch border, although to say and to discuss about the extent and
on a different order of magnitude in terms of impact of this external influence on British
both quantity and density of findspots. To the communities during the second half of the
south, the BB presence in Wallonnia remains 3rd millennium cal BC.
limited to a few AOO Beaker potsherds in the The return of individual burial and of their
megalithic tomb of Wris (Huysecom 1981), a covering mounds is without doubt the most
beaker pot found in secondary position in the significant event of the period, be it only in
cave of Trou de la Heide (Comblain-au-Pont: terms of re-organisation of the landscape
Toussaint & Becker 1992), and some sparse with the new, constant, visual reference to
lithic surface finds (Cauwe 1988). the dead (eg, Woodward & Woodward 1996).
Likewise, the number of BB finds is Comparisons of funerary practices point to
relatively low in the Paris basin (Billard et al. Dutch origins, rather than the geographically
1998). This situation cannot be explained by closer Normandy or Brittany, for the British
the sole history of research, as the Paris basin BB group. Funerary mounds for instance are
is, for instance, one of the most intensively rare in the BB Phenomenon outside of these
excavated regions in France by developer-led two areas (Vander Linden 2006b, 1602). The
archaeology. Furthermore, this paucity of preference for stereotypical grave goods also
BB sites contrasts with the local abundance recalls the Dutch situation, with the deposition
78 Marc Vander Linden

alongside the remains of the dead of beakers, No beakers please, were

ornaments, and weapons such as daggers metallurgists
(Gerloff 1975), arrowheads (Edmonds 1995),
and stone wristguards (Woodward et al. 2006). Although we are still debating the British
Among the latter, imported copper daggers Chalcolithic, there is without doubt an Irish
and gold ornaments are key findings, as they Chalcolithic. Copper mining and associated
assure the existence of a British Chalcolithic, metallurgical production were carried out on
in the minimal sense of the word noted in the site of Ross Island during the second half
the introduction. The metallic fabric of these of the 3rd and early 2nd millennia cal BC
daggers however seems only to have been (OBrien 2001). The extent of this activity is
an additional, albeit most valuable, feature rather subsequent, as it supplied not only the
of these artefacts, as the primary emphasis vast majority of copper artefacts for Ireland,
appears to have been on the association of but for Britain as well.
some dead with weapons, true or imaginary. However, if classic BB artefacts (such as
Lastly, the cosmological placing of the dead also beakers and wristguards) are routinely found in
finds its clearest parallels in the Netherlands, Ireland, their contexts of discovery drastically
although Britain exhibits a greater regional differ from mainland Britain. For instance,
variability (Tuckwell 1975; Vander Linden iconic individual graves with beakers and
2006b, 1602). weapons are virtually non-existent in Ireland,
Other elements indicate a definitive British despite the explosion of known sites under the
flavour to this regional BB group. If single realms of developer-led archaeology (Carlin
grave is the apparent dominant rite, an & Brck this volume). Likewise, beakers are
extensive but overlooked amount of data often found within wedge tombs, but rarely in
suggests that other treatments of the dead association with other elements of the classical
body were existing in parallel (Petersen Beaker package (such as weapons: Harbison
1972; Brassil & Gibson 1999). Likewise, 1988, 8992; Case 1998).
the expanding construction and use of
monuments, theatres to complex practices of United we stand?
deposition often involving beakers, is deeply
rooted in the local Late Neolithic and does If we undertake a similar exercise of cultural
not present any continental parallel, within or geography as we did previously, we observe
without the BB distribution area. interesting patterns and obvious differences
The advent of isotope studies has put with the beginning of the 3rd millennium (Fig.
human mobility back on the British (post- 5.2). Contacts across the continent and across
processual) radar again, so that, whether the Irish Sea still occur, while the Channel now
in terms of migration or individual human acts as a connecting fluid between Britain and,
mobility, it is simply impossible today to think in particular, the Netherlands. Yet, a closer
of the re-establishment of cross-Channel inspection reveals more profound changes in
contacts, or the Bell Beaker Phenomenon this cultural geography than one could think
in its entirety, without people moving across at first glance.
Europe in a structured manner (Fitzpatrick On the continent, interaction still occurs
2002; Price et al. 2004; Evans et al. 2006; Vander along the Atlantic faade, with Palmela points
Linden 2007). In the case of Britain, the pointing to southern connections, and, most
hypothetical identification of early migrants noticeably, the influx of Bell Beakers, wherever
has been put forward for the Amesbury archer their origins lie. Yet, the BB Phenomenon is not
(Fitzpatrick 2002) and for the Scottish grave of the cultural roller-coaster sometimes invoked,
Sorisdale (Sheridan 2008, with other potential as clearly evidenced by the Paris basin and
early foreigners). Such cases are generally probably, though the deficient documentation
interpreted as pioneer individuals, seeking does not allow us to be conclusive, in southern
power outside their existing communities, Belgium. There, despite some individual burials
and/or embedded in wide ranging post-marital and very late settlements, the BB Phenomenon
residential networks (Brodie 2001; Needham remains a secondary event of the local history.
2005; Vander Linden 2007). Be it in Brittany or in western France, the
multiplicity of contexts for BB finds (coastal
5 The Importance of Being Insular 79
Figure 5.2: Cultural
geography of north-
western Europe during
the second half of the
3rd millennium cal BC.
Single lines indicate
movements of goods, and
double arrows correspond
to cultural interaction

settlements, rare individual burials, finds in Beaker package, with the recurrent association
megaliths) illustrates well the plasticity of the of beakers, weapons, and other funerary
BB Phenomenon. By contrast, the Dutch long- practices (individual burial under mound,
lasting sequence shows the closest thing to a systematic rules of deposition of the dead). Let
80 Marc Vander Linden

us also mention that in none of these regions other hand, these dense economic relationships
does copper plays a leading role in the making are not witnessed in the contemporary culture-
of these cultural and social processes. history of Ireland, which has its own take on the
Surely the big novelty concerns the re- BB Phenomenon, rather than a mere replication
establishment of cross-Channel contacts. of the British situation. The Irish Sea thus
Comparison between the British and con- acts, at the same time, as connecting fluid for
tinental sequences points to a more-than-likely goods as well as a liquid frontier for ideas.
Dutch origin for the British BB group. More Such major disjunction between economic/
importantly, parallel to this privileged link, technological and cultural/ideological networks
connections between Britain and the rest of can actually be observed in several areas of
the BB network are reinstated, as evidenced by the Bell Beaker Phenomenon (Vander Linden
the suggested central European origin of the 2007). In this sense, it seems more and more
Amesbury Archer. Two remarks must be made that any definition of the BB Phenomenon
regarding the significance of this extraordinary rests in the understanding of its variability
discovery. Firstly, the Amesbury Archer is part rather than its few stable components (Vander
of a wider set of both insular (eg, Sorisdale) Linden 2006b).
and continental (Jablines, La Folie) individual
burials exhibiting potentially very early contacts
between the Netherlands and other BB areas, The importance of being insular
of which implications for the BB Phenomenon Reaching the end of this too brief expos, it
are hardly explored (for instance, the potential appears that it would be misleading to answer
argument in favour of a Dutch ?homeland). the question of a British Chalcolithic through
Secondly, the mere fact that these individuals the sole investigation of copper, as it is just one
were buried following norms that allow us to out of many potential traits to be analysed and
label them as Bell Beaker imply that they were which all contribute, in their own way, to the
not isolated in alien cultural milieus but part shaping of many changing networks. Obviously,
of a larger group responsible for conducting such polythetic game could be extended and the
the proper funerals. In this sense, rather than networks refined, but the preliminary analysis
focusing on extraordinary individuals, there undertaken here shows that, far from having
is more to gain by considering, from the any leading role, copper is embedded into wider
very beginning onwards, entire communities processes which redraw the cultural geography
involved in the making of the BB network. of (north-western) Europe at the end of the
As on the continent, the cultural weight 3rd millennium cal BC. To adapt Zvelebil and
of copper in Britain appears to be minimal in Rowley-Conwys (1984) three-phase model of
these processes. Copper daggers were indeed the neolithisation in north-western Europe to
placed in several burials, but it seems that their the case of metal, one could say that, to a long
copper fabric mattered less that the fact that phase of availability where metal is produced
they were daggers, weapons instrumental in and consumed in many parts of the European
the making of the identity of some of the continent but not in Britain (see Roberts 2008
dead. In this sense, the coincidence between for a recent summary), succeeds a short phase
the introduction of the BB Phenomenon and of substitution, corresponding here to the BB
the existence of a British Chalcolithic is, at Phenomenon, during which metal, in this case
best, serendipitous. copper, is introduced alongside other elements.
This validity of this last point is reinforced The third and last consolidation phase would
by the nature of the interactions across the be the Bronze Age, when metal will eventually
Irish Sea. On one hand, copper production be given more and more prominence.
was undoubtedly a significant activity on
a site such as Ross Island, and exports of Acknowledgements
copper to Britain constitute one of the key This paper was written as a Research Fellow in
features of the interactions we observe at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History,
that time across the Irish Sea. In this sense, University of Leicester, as part of a research
copper doubtlessly contributes to the feeling project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and co-
of extensive connectivity observed during the directed by Profs Richard Bradley (University
second half of the 3rd millennium. But, on the of Reading) and Colin Haselgrove (University
5 The Importance of Being Insular 81

of Leicester). I would also like to thank the Brindley, A. 1999. Irish Grooved Ware. In Cleal &
organisers for inviting me to this conference. MacSween (eds) 1999, 2335
Brodie, N. 2001. Technological frontiers and the
Special thanks to Alison Sheridan and Ben emergence of the Beaker culture. In Nicolis (ed.)
Roberts for their patience in teaching me a little 2001, 48796
bit of their knowledge of British prehistory. Brunet, P., Cottiaux, R., Hamon, T., Langry-Franois,
I remain, of course, sole responsible for any F., Magne, P. & Salanova, L. 2004. La cramique de
mistakes and interpretations made here. la fin du 4e et du 3e millnaire dans le Centre-Nord
de la France. Bilan documentaire. Anthropologica et
Praehistorica 115, 15578
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