Kvevris during an excavation at Atskuri church, Georgia , 2006. © Söderlind, UlricaAccording to a Georgian legend, God took a supper break while he was creating the world.
He became so involved in his meal that he by accident tripped over the high peaks of the Caucasus and as a result he spilled his own food onto the land below. The land below blessed with the scarps of Heavens table was Georgia.
Georgia (Sakartvelo) is a transcontinental country in the Caucasus region, situated at the dividing line between Europe and Asia. The country´s geographical location with borders to the Black Sea, the modern Russian federation, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, has meant that through pre-history and history it has been a crossroad between the East and the West.
Due to its location, the country has been invaded several times over the course of history by for example the Greeks, Persians and the Ottomans, to name just a few. The invasions mean that much of the antique and Islamic worldview still exists at the country’s borders- which are a unique cultural situation. The invasions have also left its footprints on Georgia’s food- and drinking habits and traditions. This has resulted in the existence of many different gastronomical and culinary branches in the foodway’s of today’s Georgia.Wine
The beginning of human civilizations is closely connected to the development of agriculture and the history of cultivated plants, and Georgia played a crucial role in this process. One of the reasons for that is that wine culture in Georgia can be traced to early prehistoric times. The research of linguists indicates that the root of the Indo-European term for ‘wine’ – u(e/o) iano which means wine – might derive from the Georgian word Rvino [Rvino].
These linguists are of the opinion that the word would have been transferred into the Proto-Indo- Europian language before this language started to separate into its various branches in the fourth millenium B.C. The separation transformed the word in different ways, leading to the English ‘wine’, Italian ‘wino’, and Russian ‘vino’, to give but a few examples.
The archaeological discovery of cultivated vines in Georgia supports the linguistic theory of the origin of the word ‘wine’. Cultivated grape pips have been found on the archaeological site ‘Shulaveris Gora’ (situated in the trans-caucasus region of modern Georgia). The site is dated to sixth – fourth millienium B.C. and belongs to the Shulaveri-Shomu Tepe chalcolithic culture.
Even if there is a large time span for the culture itself C14 (Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses (14C) to determine the age of carbonaceous materials up to about 60,000 years old) analyses of the cultural layer where the pips were found gives a dating of 6625±210 years millenium B.C. At other sites belonging to the Shulaveri-Shomu Tepe culture a ceramic vessel which had ornamentation in relief was found. The ornamentation appears to show grapes and could very well be the earliest ‘label’ for grapes and wine that it is known of today. In the vessel also sediment was found that after analysis showed too consisted of wine residue.
After the initial evidence of cultivated grapes and of wine-making. cultivated grape pips were found in many other archaeological sites dating to the Bronze Age, Antiquity, and the Middle Ages. This indicates a situation of continuity in the cultivating grapes of Georgia. It is not until the Bronze Age that table grapes for eating are found which indicates that humans in the earlier chalcolitic societies cultivated vines and grapes for wine-making and not for eating.Wine was, therefore, the primary reason why the vine was cultivated.
It is not only grape pips that appear in the archaeological sites that can be linked to wine. At a site belonging to the Trialeti Culture (third – second millenium B.C.) a superb example of toreutic art, a silver wine cup richly decorated, was found. This cup has become known as the “Silver Cup Of Trialeti”. There is ongoing debate about what the scene depicted on the cup means.
Some researchers state that it is a depiction of the God Mithra surrounded by worshipers, and of the tree of life. Others, however, are of the opinion that the depiction is that of the God Mithra surrounded by hops and worshippers drinking haoma . Mithra means ‘contact’ or ‘pact’ and these terms are closely associated with a God known among the Persians around 1200 B.C. Mithra was understood as a personification of the sun and a God of justice. The God Mithra is often described as a forerunner of the God Mithras who became known as a very important God in Greece and Rome during Antiquity. The people of Georgia worked not only in silver during their middle Bronze Age period; they also mastered the art of working in gold as is evident from the discovery of a wine cup made of a gold sheet dating from that period. The cup, which has a double wall and hollow legs, is richly decorated with sardonic, lapis lazuli, red jasper, agate, and amber stones. The cup is a stunning example of glass- pasted filigree work.
During an archaeological excavation in 2006 (Mtskheta, the old capital of Georgia) a small bronze figurine depicting a ‘Tamada’, holding a drinking horn in his right hand, was found. The figurine is dated to the beginning of first millennium B.C . To this day; the Tamada is the toastmaster at banquets or special dinners in Georgia. The occasions on which the Tamada is present are called ‘supra’ (table).The Tamada’s main task at the supra is to salute the toasts. The Tamada is elected at the beginning of the supra and it is considered a great honour to be so selected for this function. A supra goes on for hours and the Tamada gives the toasts in a special order.
The first toast is for the host and his family; thereafter follows a toast for the mother country of Georgia, then toast to the memory of the deceased heroes of the country and families of Georgia, followed by a toast to parents (especially mothers), friends, relatives, and the future of Georgia, to name a few of the toasts performed at a supra. Usually the guests empty their wine glasses on each toast and the glasses are filled again for the following toasts. No wine is drunk between the toasts. When the Tamada has given the last toast and rises up from the table the banquet or dinner, this is a signal that the event is over.
A special kind of artifact known as a ‘kvevris’ has been found in the course of many excavations. A kvevri is a wine vessel which became known as an amphora during Antiquity in Greece and the Roman Empire; In Georgia, however, this kind of vessels has always been termed ‘kvevris’and still is. It is known from sites that can be dated as far back as Antiquity, that the kvevris was placed up to its neck in the ground and then filled with grape juice.
The kvevris was sealed with a lid and the juice was left to ferment. The wine-farmer looked after the fermentation process until the wine was ready. The wine was then transferred to bags made of animal skins. In Georgia, there is no tradition of carrying wine in kvevris; skin bags have been used for this purpose since antiquity – perhaps even at an earlier period also.
There are many reasons for this, including the fact that it was easier to carry a skin bag full of wine on one’s back than to transport a hard kvevris. Furthermore, the skin bags did not break as easily as the kvevri did during transportation on ships or in chariots. The kvevris was mainly used for during the fermentation process of the wine. However, it is evident from several archaeological sites that, during Antiquity the kvevris were also used for non-cremation burials.
Georgia was one of the world’s first Christian countries, and dates such as 337 A.D. and 319 A.D. have been put forward for the country’s adoption of Christianity . Georgia’s conversion to Christianity is closely linked to St. Nino. According to one tradition, St. Nino was from Kolastra, Cappadocia (in today’s Turkey) and she was a relative of St. George (the patron saint of Georgia). She was said to have come to Georgia from Constantinople. Other sources claim that she came from Rome, Jerusalem or Gaul. According to legend, St. Nino saw the
Virgin Mary in a dream and she told Nino that she should enter Georgia with a cross made of the wood of vine stocks. When Nino woke up from her dream she found herself holding two pieces of wood from vine stocks and she tied them together with her own hair. With this cross made of wine she fled Roman persecution in Cappadocia and made her way into Georgia and started to teach Christianity.
The legend also tells that she performed miraculous healing and converted the Georgian queen, Nana, and eventually the pagan king, Mirian III, of Iberia. Mirian III declared Christianity an official religion in c. 327 A.D. and Nino continued her missionary activities among Georgians until her death in 338 or 340 A.D.
St. Nino’s tomb is still shown at the Bodbe Monastery in Kakheti – which is also the main wine region– in eastern Georgia. She has become one of the most venerated saints of the Georgian Orthodox Church and her attribute, a Grapevine cross, is a unique cross in the Christian world. Since, according to the legend, it was the Virgin Mary, who told St. Nino to go to Georgia and teach Christianity, the Grapevine cross became a symbol for and of Georgian Christianity.
Wine also plays a very important role in the daily lives of the Georgians (not only in a religious worship) that can be classified as sacred. One example of this is when for example a family is moving from a homestead and there is land connected to it. The family or a member of the family makes sure that a jar of wine is left in the soil and family members comes back to attend it.
As mentioned earlier in the text, Georgia as a nation has been invaded several times and other times been under occupation; for example under the Soviet era. The politics of the statesmen of the Soviet Union tried to forbid wine in Georgia during a period. This did not turn out very well since the Georgians always found a way to drink wine, both on a day to day basis and at festivas.
One way was for example to serve the wine from teapots etc. Even today the Russian government are using wine export as a mean of control since there is an embargo against Georgia to export wines to Russia and the Kremlin, even if there has been some discussion lately about letting Georgia export wine once again to Russia.Written by Ulrica Söderlind HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Malapa Fox : Wits UniversityThe palaeoanthropological community got excited with the discovery of new hominin fossils at the site of Malapa, in South Africa, over two years ago.
The excited was linked to the possibilities of what the two individuals could reveal about the origins of humanity. The refreshing aspect here is the scientific team’s endeavour to publish papers on the other fossil remains that found their way into the Malapa cave system 1.977 million years ago.
The latest paper to be published about the remains of Malapa draws our attention to a little known remains of fox fossils. The three specimens were compared to both fossil and extant remains of fox. The Malapa fox is sufficiently different from the comparative sample to warrant a new species for the Malapa fox – Vulpes skinneri.
Though debatable, the earliest fox is thought to be Metalopex macconnelli a Californian fox dating to about 10.5 Ma. How the fox dispersed into Africa from there, is a major focus of palaeontological debate. Vulpes riffautae is the earliest representative of foxes in Africa about 8 Ma.
One would imagine Europe being the missing link in the chain from the Americas and Africa. From then on fossil fox remains have been uncovered in the eastern and southern regions of the African continent. By the Pleistocene Nyctereutes terblanche was roaming the now famous “Cradle of Humankind” in South Africa. The Scottish palaeontologist Robert Broom referred to this species as a jackal, but it is now generally considered a Racoon Dog.The fox found in the Malapa sediments is represented by three pieces of bone or specimens coded as follows:
U.W. 88-812: Jaw Fragment
U.W. 88-814: Second Wisdom Tooth
U.W. 88-183: Rib
These remains were attributed to Vulpes cf. V. chama when they were first described in another paper in 2010. Time passes and research continues to a point where the palaeontological team now believe there is considerable shape differences in the bones and teeth to suggest a new species. The Malapa fox remains were compared to a wide variety of museum collections throughout the world, including the natural history museums of New York, South Africa and Stockholm.
The species compared included V. pattisoni and V. chama, with the Malapa fox showing more similarities with the extant (living) foxes of South Africa. Most species of organism on the planet has a holotype, which is a specimen that other skeletal remains can be compared to. It basically acts as a standard for a species. The team of scientists realised that the holotype of V. pattisoni is likely to be a juvenile as evidence from the crowded cheek teeth.
The Malapa fox exhibited differences in dental morphology to those of the above mentioned two fossil species and so the team of palaeontologists considered it appropriate to propose a new species – V. skinneri.
Professor John D. Skinner was director of the University of Pretoria Mammal Research Institute and so his name was appropriate from the Malapa Fox.To learn more about this paper please check out the link below: HeritageDaily : Paleontology News : Palaeontology Press Releases
Image Source : Wiki CommonsAn international team of researchers has shown that old wives’ tales that snails can tell us about the weather should not be dismissed too hastily.
While the story goes that if a snail climbs a plant or post, rain is coming, research led by the University of York goes one better: it shows snails can provide a wealth of information about the prevailing weather conditions thousands of years ago.
The researchers, including scientists from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), analysed the chemistry of snail shells dating back 9,000 to 2,500 years recovered from Mediterranean caves, looking at humidity at different times in the past.
Their findings, which are reported in the journal Quaternary International, reveal that when the first farmers arrived in Italy and Spain, the western Mediterranean was not the hot dry place it is now, but warmer, wetter and stickier.
The research was led by Dr André Carlo Colonese from York’s Department of Archaeology.
Dr Colonese and his co-authors believe that land snails have great potential as a source of information about human behaviour and palaeoclimatic conditions and therefore should be given much more attention.
Dr Colonese, an EU Marie Curie Fellow in York’s Centre for Human Palaeoecology & Evolutionary Origins, said: “By putting together research on snails from multiple sites across Spain and Italy, we were able to produce a large scale regional picture for weather conditions over the western Mediterranean area.
“This allowed us to observe differences in climate across the region. Interestingly, when compared with previous studies, we found that while conditions on the Atlantic coast of northern Spain were probably much like those of today, on the Mediterranean side in locations such as southern Spain and Sicily, conditions were much more humid.”
Archaeological sites around the Mediterranean basin contain an abundance of land snail shell remains. The researchers selected well-preserved shells for isotopic analysis from the early to late Holocene layers, covering the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods. They looked at the oxygen and carbon isotopic compositions of the shells of Pomatias elegans (or the round-mouthed snail as it is more commonly known), comparing those found in the Iberian Peninsula sites with modern shells of the same species.
Co-author Dr Giovanni Zanchetta, from the Earth Science Department at the University of Pisa, Italy, said: “Stable isotopes on land snail shells have represented a challenge for researchers for years, but using archeological well-dated sites, new fundamental insight on past climate are coming along. And we are just at the beginning because there are a lot of excavations which can yield rich material.”
The shell stable isotope measurements were carried out at SUERC, East Kilbride, Scotland, using a mass spectrometer. Further analysis was performed at the Cornell Stable Isotope Laboratory in the United States.
Co-author Professor Tony Fallick of SUERC and Professor of Isotope Geosciences at the University of Glasgow said: “This is a classic example of multidisciplinary research where colleagues from a variety of backgrounds including archaeology, climate and environmental science, and geochemistry collaborate to deliver insights into our recent past that have societal impact.”Contributing Source : University of York HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Mound at Poverty Point : Wiki CommonsNominated early this year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, La., have been described as one of the world’s greatest feats of construction by an archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers.
Now, new research in the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30 days — an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands of foragers.
“What’s extraordinary about these findings is that it provides some of the first evidence that early American hunter-gatherers were not as simplistic as we’ve tended to imagine,” says study co-author T.R. Kidder, PhD, professor and chair of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Our findings go against what has long been considered the academic consensus on hunter-gather societies — that they lack the political organization necessary to bring together so many people to complete a labor-intensive project in such a short period.”
Co-authored by Anthony Ortmann, PhD, assistant professor of geosciences at Murray State University in Kentucky, the study offers a detailed analysis of how the massive mound was constructed some 3,200 years ago along a Mississippi River bayou in northeastern Louisiana.
Based on more than a decade of excavations, core samplings and sophisticated sedimentary analysis, the study’s key assertion is that Mound A at Poverty Point had to have been built in a very short period because an exhaustive examination reveals no signs of rainfall or erosion during its construction.
“We’re talking about an area of northern Louisiana that now tends to receive a great deal of rainfall,” Kidder says. “Even in a very dry year, it would seem very unlikely that this location could go more than 90 days without experiencing some significant level of rainfall. Yet, the soil in these mounds shows no sign of erosion taking place during the construction period. There is no evidence from the region of an epic drought at this time, either.”
Part of a much larger complex of earthen works at Poverty Point, Mound A is believed to be the final and crowning addition to the sprawling 700-acre site, which includes five smaller mounds and a series of six concentric C-shaped embankments that rise in parallel formation surrounding a small flat plaza along the river. At the time of construction, Poverty Point was the largest earthworks in North America.
Built on the western edge of the complex, Mound A covers about 538,000 square feet [roughly 50,000 square meters] at its base and rises 72 feet above the river. Its construction required an estimated 238,500 cubic meters — about eight million bushel baskets — of soil to be brought in from various locations near the site. Kidder figures it would take a modern, 10-wheel dump truck about 31,217 loads to move that much dirt today.
“The Poverty Point mounds were built by people who had no access to domesticated draft animals, no wheelbarrows, no sophisticated tools for moving earth,” Kidder explains. “It’s likely that these mounds were built using a simple ‘bucket brigade’ system, with thousands of people passing soil along from one to another using some form of crude container, such as a woven basket, a hide sack or a wooden platter.”
To complete such a task within 90 days, the study estimates it would require the full attention of some 3,000 laborers. Assuming that each worker may have been accompanied by at least two other family members, say a wife and a child, the community gathered for the build must have included as many as 9,000 people, the study suggests.
“Given that a band of 25-30 people is considered quite large for most hunter-gatherer communities, it’s truly amazing that this ancient society could bring together a group of nearly 10,000 people, find some way to feed them and get this mound built in a matter of months,” Kidder says.
Soil testing indicates that the mound is located on top of land that was once low-lying swamp or marsh land — evidence of ancient tree roots and swamp life still exists in undisturbed soils at the base of the mound. Tests confirm that the site was first cleared for construction by burning and quickly covered with a layer of fine silt soil. A mix of other heavier soils then were brought in and dumped in small adjacent piles, gradually building the mound layer upon layer.
As Kidder notes, previous theories about the construction of most of the world’s ancient earthen mounds have suggested that they were laid down slowly over a period of hundreds of years involving small contributions of material from many different people spanning generations of a society. While this may be the case for other earthen structures at Poverty Point, the evidence from Mound A offers a sharp departure from this accretional theory.
Kidder’s home base in St. Louis is just across the Mississippi River from one of America’s best known ancient earthen structures, the Monk Mound at Cahokia, Ill. He notes that the Monk Mound was built many centuries later than the mounds at Poverty Point by a civilization that was much more reliant on agriculture, a far cry from the hunter-gatherer group that built Poverty Point. Even so, Mound A at Poverty Point is much larger than almost any other mound found in North America; only Monk’s Mound at Cahokia is larger.
“We’ve come to realize that the social fabric of these socieites must have been much stronger and more complex that we might previously have given them credit. These results contradict the popular notion that pre-agricultural people were socially, politically, and economically simple and unable to organize themselves into large groups that could build elaborate architecture or engage in so-called complex social behavior,” Kidder says. “The prevailing model of hunter-gatherers living a life ‘nasty, brutish and short’ is contradicted and our work indicates these people were practicing a sophisticated ritual/religious life that involved building these monumental mounds.”Contributing Source : Washington University in St. Louis HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Image Source : Royal Holloway, University of LondonComet explosions did not end the prehistoric human culture, known as Clovis, in North America 13,000 years ago, according to research published in the journal Geophysical Monograph Series.
Researchers from Royal Holloway university, together with Sandia National Laboratories and 13 other universities across the United States and Europe, have found evidence which rebuts the belief that a large impact or airburst caused a significant and abrupt change to the Earth’s climate and terminated the Clovis culture. They argue that other explanations must be found for the apparent disappearance.
Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the earliest well-established human culture in the North American continent. It is named after the town in New Mexico, where distinct stone tools were found in the 1920s and 1930s.
Researchers argue that no appropriately sized impact craters from that time period have been discovered, and no shocked material or any other features of impact have been found in sediments. They also found that samples presented in support of the impact hypothesis were contaminated with modern material and that no physics model can support the theory.
“The theory has reached zombie status,” said Professor Andrew Scott from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway. “Whenever we are able to show flaws and think it is dead, it reappears with new, equally unsatisfactory, arguments.
“Hopefully new versions of the theory will be more carefully examined before they are published”.Contributing Source : Royal Holloway, University of London HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
The Battle of Agincourt, 15th-century miniature : Wiki CommonsNot just a King’s ransom: war was a money-spinner for the rank-and-file soldier in the Late Middle Ages
Research by a University of Southampton historian has found that the practice of ransom was widespread among all soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) and not, as generally thought, just the preserve of kings, knights and higher orders.
Dr Rémy Ambühl has found that ransom in war provided a valuable source of income for all classes in the Late Middle Ages, including those in the lower orders. He says: “There is widespread evidence to suggest that during the 15th century the practice of ransom is increasingly extended to commoners, not just Kings or chivalrous Knights.”
Dr Ambühl’s research has led him to examine a large number of historical sources which support this, including; court records, financial documents, receipts, ordinances of war, petitions, biographical texts and even poetry. He has concluded that contracts which drew-up the terms and conditions of ransom were commonplace between individual soldiers or small groups on opposing sides. This involved captors and captives of all ranks and the practice was an accepted way of making profit out of war. This is supported by an apparent increase in the size of the rank-and-file sections of the French and English armies during this period.
Dr Ambühl explains: “Patriotism was not the driving force to encourage enrolment and ordinary men would have been reluctant to join armies willingly if they faced death upon capture. However, under the terms of ransom, prisoners were less likely to be harmed and additionally the practice provided them with an opportunity to make money – another incentive to enlist.
“Over the course of the Hundred Years War, more and more rank-and-file soldiers captured more and more rank-and-file prisoners giving rise to a form of social recognition between equals – the principle of reciprocity meant good treatment on one side would induce good treatment on the other. It can also be argued that materialism had started to penetrate the whole of society and even a small profit gained from the ransom of commoner prisoners was thought to be worthwhile.”
From the moment of capture, prisoners became the individual responsibility of their masters who were expected to secure an appropriate place and conditions for them to be held in. The Master had to work out the appropriate value of their prisoners and enter negotiations with them, their family and friends. In turn, prisoners, or their connections, would work to raise funds or arrange an exchange for their release.
Dr Ambühl comments, “Negotiations were crucial in this process and a dialogue was kept open between masters and prisoners at all stages. The ransom culture was essentially contractual and so firmly rooted that it could even supersede or invalidate arguments from the ‘law of arms’.”
Records show that the earliest evidence of a set scale of ransom payments for the bottom of the social hierarchy dates from the battle of Agincourt (Friday, 25 October 1415). Dr Ambühl concludes this may reflect an evolution of the ransom system in the first decades of the 15th century.
By the 16th century, scales of ransom payments were based on the wages of soldiers and throughout this period and into the 17th century there was increasing control from the state. Eventually a practice which had been shaped by combatants over the centuries ended up being tightly controlled by authorities.
Dr Rémy Ambühl’s full research on this subject can be found in his recently published book, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Late Middle Ages.Contributing Source : University of Southampton HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
The subject remains an important field of anthropological research today. There is a vast amount of literature available; some are mentioned here, for further reading and discussion relating to how the study of gender can give a more objective and balanced understanding of material culture.
The study of the sexual division of labour at ‘mass-kill’ events in Paleolithic Europe seems underrepresented. There are several faunal assemblages, which, due to their monospecific concentration, suggest that the ‘mass-kill’ event was a feature of Paleolithic hunting strategy. There is archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence for this type of event in American history (e.g. bison-jumps), though speculation has been raised regarding the presence of such ‘catastrophic events’ (caused by humans) in Europe, in which the remains of large numbers of the same species of prey are encountered on sites.
There are, however, certain traits to support the mass-kill theory, such as vast numbers of single species faunal assemblages related to a single event (stratigraphically) with little or no trace of carnivore scavenging, and evidence of human selection of certain body parts. Due to the co-operative nature of this type of hunting, the whole community may have been involved, with different roles assigned to individuals. These roles allocated may have been dependent upon an individual’s strength or speed, or by gender, age or status.
My aim is to develop an understanding of the relationship between the archaeological evidence of Paleolithic Europe and the mass-kill event, with the purpose of assessing the sexual division of labour, or gender hierarchies in this activity. Similarities between some of the European Paleolithic sites and the ‘bison jump’ sites of the Plains societies of America have been noted. Was there a sexual division of labour at these events, and if so, what was the role of women?
The ethnohistorical accounts relating to the Plains and Great Basin indigenous American people provide an interesting insight into communal hunting. Accounts describe the communal hunt in terms of whole group participation, although, there are conflicting accounts. They were written, generally, by men who may be describing the behaviour of Plains Americans, especially Clovis foragers, through their own engendered prejudice: although, first-hand accounts are useful when discussing human relationships (Waguespack 2005, 667).
The ethnographic and historical literature accounts the exploitation of a single ungulate species (O’Connor 2000, 133). It is thought that communal hunting of bison in Plains America took place from the early Holocene through to European settlement (O’Connor 2000). Sites containing accumulations of bison (Bison spp.) bones occur across North America, for example the Olsen-Chubbuck site in Eastern Colorado dated to 10 kya. This example, along with many others, lies on a bison migration route and was chosen for its topographical properties. Most of the sites where large single-species assemblages occur are at the bottom of a cliff or headland, in narrow valleys or in river and marsh locations (e.g. Hoffdecker et al 2010; Bratlund 1996, 1; Scott 1980).
Communal hunting can take a variety of forms depending on the size of the hunting party; the abundance/behavioural characteristics of the prey; and the associated environment/topographical advantages. Hunters possess an intimate knowledge of their surroundings and the behaviour of gregarious herd animals i.e. migration, breeding patterns and the predictability of their instincts (e.g. Bratlund 1996). Herds were often driven towards a river, causing the lead animals to trip and fall, resulting in confusion and panic in the rest of the herd. Hunters took advantage of the confusion and set upon the animals with clubs and spears.
Most of the animals were then systematically butchered in situ and the remainder left to rot. Some sites are considered to be opportunistic kill-sites, whereas other sites are more stratified, implying that hunters used them repeatedly (O’Connor 2000, 134-6). A combination of factors imply a ‘mass-kill event’: single mortality events in single episodes combined with a concentration of lithics, butchered bone, and situated in topographically restricted sites on migration routes (Hockett & Murphy 2009, 709; Bratlund 1996).
Archaeozoologists study the mandibles, dental eruption profiles and bone fusion data from faunal assemblages to reveal age at death (mortality profiles). These studies reveal that the hunting strategy at mass-kill events was non-discriminatory – they took out a whole herd population without any selection (O’Connor 2000; Bratlund 1996). The implication here is that such large events such as bison-jumps were not frequent, as over-exploitation would have lead to extinction (this happened later in American history). There are not enough sites of this nature in Europe to determine whether this type of hunting lead to any over-exploitation.
Pronghorn were hunted in the Great Basin during the Clover period. Nineteenth century ethnohistoric accounts reveal that groups communally hunted large game with the adoption of bow and arrow technology, although it is generally agreed that communal hunting had taken place for the last 10,000 years in this area using clubs as weapons. Some of the ethnohistorical accounts indicate that horses were used for scouting and corralling purpose, consequently large drives may have occurred more frequently during and after post-contact with Europeans (Hockett & Murphy 2009, 711).
When large numbers of Pronghorn were taken, the whole community was involved. Members carried out a variety of roles depending on age, status and gender. Sometimes only adult males or adult females were involved or only adult males and females together. (Hockett & Murphy 2009, 710).
The events were treated as large social gatherings and were presided over by a shaman, who was always male according to the written sources. Some of the accounts indicate that both men and women constructed the corrals, as well as keeping the animals inside it, whereas only men were sent as scouts and drove the herd towards the structure. A conflicting account, however, indicates that in Navajo society, only the men took part in all hunting related activities (Hockett & Murphy 2009, 711).
Communal hunting of large ungulates such as red deer, reindeer, aurochs and bison (Bison priscus) and horses occurred in Paleolithic Europe and also during the early Holocene (O’Connor 2000; Hoffdecker et al 2010; Bratlund 1996). Similarly to Plains American strategy, kill sites were chosen for their topographical advantages. In the Central Russian Plain during the Upper Paleolithic, sites such as Pushkari, illustrate a preference for hunting mammoth in ravine locations (Soffer 1985, 25).
This area during the period provided adequate biomass to sustain large ungulate herds, especially mammoth, possibly a greater biomass than that of late Pleistocene North America (Martin 1973, cited in Soffer 1985, 203). Artefacts such as projectile points, stone scrapers, bi-faces and large stone chopping/cutting tools found at Kotenski in Russia, a mass horse kill site, are similar to those found on large kill/butchery sites of North America, (Hoffdecker et al 2010, 1087). Concentrations of projectile points are an indicator of a mass-kill event (Hockett & Murphy 2009, 708). The existence of scrapers and large chopping and cutting tools infer that a number of community members were assigned the task of butchering the carcasses. The ethnohistoric accounts often state that the women used such tools to carry out the work.
There are several earlier sites in Europe which may be indicative of mass-kill events, such as the Middle Paleolithic site of La Cotte de Saint-Brelade in Jersey, where there is evidence of mammoths being driven off a headland and butchered in-situ (Scott 1980, 146). Evidence of other faunal spectra is found at Les Pradelles and Mauran.
The reindeer bone assemblage at Les Pradelles appears to show a catastrophic profile following a mass-kill event inferred by the systematic rejection of certain body parts on the part of humans (Costamanga et al 2006). The implication here is that it was once thought that Neandertals lacked the adequate cognitive skills needed to predict prey behaviour (Costamanga et al 2006). Rendu et al state: “The skeletal profile at Mauran, characterised by an under-representation of some fleshy elements, is not very different from that seen in North American Holocene kill sites” (Rendu et al 2012, 55).
The proposed theory that late Pleistocene mammoth in Europe were hunted in the same way as bison in North America, i.e. driven by humans into a river/marsh or off a headland, followed by the mass slaughter of the whole herd has come under some criticism. The mammoth teeth (used to discover age at death) from three sites on the Central Russian Plain were aged using modern elephant dental analogues, thus the age profile of the assemblage may not fully support the theory that the animals represented a whole population. Soffer (1985) implies that some of these catastrophic events may be attributable to naturally occurring events (Soffer 1985, 307).
Ethnographic evidence demonstrates that the communal hunt often involved every adult in the group(s) cooperating as a team, including those members who would not normally participate in hunting. This technique may be used to maximise foraging efficiency (O’Connor 2000, 133). The ethnographic literature regarding subsistence practices in big-game hunting societies have been mainly concerned with male provision, therefore an association between the male contribution to the diet and the existence of projectile points have been made, further inferring a sexual division of labour in foraging societies *. This is particularly true of studies of the Folsom period of North America (Gurven & Hill 2009, 51; MacDonald 1998, 217).
Studies have also revealed that men hunted for reasons other than calorific gain such as the ‘showing off’ hypothesis, whereby men attain prestige and increase their sexual productivity through hunting prowess (Jennes 2007; Gurven & Hill 2009, 51; MacDonald 1998, 218; Vilotte et al 2010, 56-7). Cooperative hunting does not fit well with this hypothesis as there is, invariably, little difference between the activities carried out by men and women, especially at a large event (Jennes 2007).
The drive technique of communal hunting may have required the participation of the whole community lending it a more social aspect, whereas the surround technique (using constructed corralls) may indicate a provisioning strategy due to the need for fewer members to be present, and a lower expectation of sharing the meat (Jennes 2007).
The possibility that large communal drives were important for securing mating opportunities (mating strategy) over calorific gain (provisioning strategy) may explain the participation of women at the large events. Possible low population density in Paleolithic Europe implies that groups needed to meet socially for mating opportunities outside their own band (Jensen 2007, 1-2). Women may not have been present at mass-kill events simply to facilitate the males, there may also have been a mating strategy employed and the opportunity to socialise and reciprocate. The volume of product obtained from such a mass-kill event would have lead to full member participation, sharing between groups and food storage – perhaps in the form of Pemmican (preserved meat) (O’Connor 2000, 134).
* For a detailed analysis of net gains from individual versus communal foraging see Kelly 2007, chapter 6.
The ethnographical data reveals that women rarely hunt medium to large game, however, women actively help men to hunt successfully (Gurven & Hill 2009, 56). Women provide stable, high return food resources, carry out many non-subsistence tasks * (Waguespack 2005, 666) and played important roles in large communal drives by surrounding and driving game towards the male hunters (Waguespack 2005, 671). Reliance on hunting large game usually involves high residential mobility, therefore non-subsistence tasks, which women carry out, such as house-building, are performed more frequently, further inferring a facilitator role of women in a hunting subsistence economy (Waguespack 2005, 671; MacDonald 1998, 217).
*For detailed discussions relating to the female contribution to the diet, see Owen, L.R ‘Distorting the Past’ 2005
There are accounts of what appears to be a ‘third gender’, the ‘Berdache’ – men who ‘assumed female occupations and restrictions’ in the Illinois group. Like the women, they were excluded from ‘male activities’, therefore denied access to the same status and power enjoyed by men (Hauser 1990, 45-7; Kelly 2007, 288). They participated in large communal bison hunts alongside women and men, however, like women, they were not permitted to use a bow and arrow, instead, like the women, they used clubs to kill prey (Hauser 1990, 48). They prepared and transported the meat from the butchery site with the women (Hauser 1990, 49). Women achieved status in Illinois society, but were denied the access to power and prestige achieved through hunting, whereas the ‘Berdache’ held an almost spiritual status (Hauser 1990, 55).
There is a suggestion that during the Early Upper Paleolithic in Europe there was no marked sexual division of labour, although, a study concentrating on lesions on the upper-limbs of thirty-seven fossils show that none of the female skeletons exhibit signs of injuries associated with throwing projectile weapons, which form part of the hunting package in the Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic transition.The presence of such injuries on four of the male fossils have been used to demonstrate a sexual division of labour related to hunting large game (Vilotte et al 2010, 35-41).
Perhaps in illustration of variability in hunter-gatherer behaviour, a 24,000 year old female burial, aged 7-9, from the Sungir site in the Russian Plains was buried with bone spears, indicating that women may have practised with and used projectile weapons from a young age. The grave goods of two more possible female burials at the same site also included shaft straighteners (Soffen 1985, 455). Villotte (2012), however, remains sceptical that the skeletons were even female, as it is difficult to sex juveniles (pers. Comm. November 2012). Perhaps the lack of pathology indicates that females used different weapons to kill prey, such as the clubs used by the Plains women and ‘Berdache’. Of course, wood rarely survives the taphonomic environment; therefore invisible in the archaeological record. Miller (1993) suggests that so-called ‘hard’ artefacts such as stone tools and weapons, still associated with male behaviour (rightly or wrongly), survive in the archaeological record, thereby increasing the visibility of the male contribution to the diet and rendering the female contribution (the ‘soft’) even more invisible (Miller 1993, 14) *.
* For more information relating to gender based technology, see Dobres (1995)
There are several hypotheses put forward to explain the sexual division of labour in individual and small-group hunting. It has been suggested that it takes between 15-twenty years experience for a hunter to gain maximum return rates, which would occur during the time a woman is at her most fertile, at which time her priority is to reproduce. Child-free post-reproductive women do not hunt large game because they have not gained the crucial experience necessary to become efficient hunters (Villotte et al 2010, 56-7; Kelly 2007, 269).
Hunting with small children at heel is less ideal than gathering with small children, because the hunt cannot be stopped to meet the needs of children, whereas whilst gathering, a mother can remain attentive to her offspring (Kelly 2007, 269). Nonetheless, clubbing captive animals or driving a herd off a headland does not require years of experience (just courage!), hence it is reasonable to expect the participation of women at these events. Women at such large gatherings may have organised childcare facilities as a group, possibly with the assistance from older members of the community who may be too frail to participate in the hunt.
The intention of this research was to provide a cross-cultural analysis of big-game hunting societies in North America to infer the existence of multi-sex (including ‘third gender’) participation in similar mass-kill events in Europe. The foregoing discussion reveals that large communal game hunting (including mass-kill events) in historic North America was all-inclusive event in which everyone had a role regardless of age, sex or status.
The specific duties may have been defined on the basis of gender, age and status, such as the male exclusive use of bow and arrow and possibly projectile weapons. Up until the adoption of bow and arrow technology, Plains Americans, male and female, used clubs as weapons, suggesting that it was new technology that was under the control of men rather than the division of labour. According to the ethnohistoric accounts women were on the frontline clubbing the frightened animals to death, which must have been a dangerous activity.
It is reasonable to suggest that females in Paleolithic Europe carried out similar roles at mass-kill events as males. Unquestionably, ethnographic/ethnohistoric data cannot be relied upon wholly to elucidate past human behaviour; similarly, we should not allow our socially constructed engendered values to distort our interpretation of prehistoric behaviours.
This paper is not concerned with trapping as this hunting technique rarely involves the whole community. It has been suggested that only the Blackfoot practiced this technique for smaller mammals and was seen as ‘boyish’ (Holliday 1998, 717). For details of ethnographical groups using trapping techniques, which include the participation of women, see (Kelly 2007, 217). There are many articles and texts relating to the ‘female hunter’ and the ethnographical evidence supporting this, however, this article relates to gender roles during the ‘mass kill events’ only.Written by Lisa Bond
HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases References:
Bratlund, B 1996. Hunting Strategies in the Late Glacial of Northern Europe: A Survey of the Faunal Evidence. Journal of World Prehistory, vol 10, no 1
Costamagno, S., Liliane, M, Cédric, B, Bernard, V., Bruno, M. 2006. Les Pradelles (Marillac-le-Franc, France): A mousterian reindeer hunting camp? Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 25 (2006) 466–484
Dobres, M. 1995. Gender and Prehistoric Technology: On the Social Agency of Technical Strategies. World Archaeology, vol 17, no 1 pp25-49
Gurven, M & Hill, K. 2009. Why Do Men Hunt? A Re-evaluation of “Man the Hunter” and the Sexual Division of Labor. Current Anthropology, Vol. 50, No. 1 (February 2009), pp. 51-74
Hauser, R.E 1990. The Berdache and the Illinois Indian Tribe during the Last Half of the Seventeenth Century. Ethnohistory, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter, 1990), pp. 45-65
Hockett, B & Murphy, T.W 2009. Antiquity of Communal Pronghorn Hunting in the North-Central Great Basin. American Antiquity 74(4). 2009, pp. 708—734
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Holliday, T.W. 1998. The Ecological Context of Trapping Among Recent Hunter‐Gatherers: Implications for Subsistence in Terminal Pleistocene Europe. Current Anthropology, Vol. 39, No. 5 (December 1998), pp. 711-719
Jenner 2007, Reproductive Fitness and Motivations for Communal Hunting: The implications of the Archaeological Evidence for Group-effort Prehistoric Pronghorn Hunts in the Great Basin. Presentation for the Sixth World Archaeological Congress Conference, June-July 2008. Available from: www.nevada-arechaeology.com. Last accessed 28/04/12.
Kelly, R.L 2007. The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways. New York: Percherson Press
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Villotte, S, Churchill, S.E, Dutour, O.J, Henry-Gambier, D 2010. Subsistence activities and the sexual division of labor in the European Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic: Evidence from upper limb enthesopathies. Journal of Human Evolution 59 (2010) 35–43
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Scratchbury Hill : WikiPediaEnglish Heritage and Wiltshire Police are concerned about a spate of illegal metal detecting at a nationally important archaeological site in the Warminster area.
The archaeology of the Warminster and Westbury area is exceptional and includes many important sites such as Battlesbury Hill, Cley Hill, Bratton Camp and Scratchbury Hill, all Iron Age hillforts over 2000 years old.
English Heritage staff recently visited the Scheduled Monument and have seen evidence of ground disturbance characteristic of the type made by metal detectorists and believe this heritage crime is not an isolated incident, with further holes likely to have been dug over the Christmas period.
Illicit metal detecting, also known as ‘nighthawking’is a form of theft, and those involved must not be confused with responsible metal detectorists who follow good practice guidelines, record and report their finds, and are valued contributors to the understanding of our shared heritage.
Inspector Lindsey Winter – Area Inspector for Warminster, Westbury, Tisbury and Mere said, “Many protected archaeological sites in Wiltshire are very popular places, but to hear that people are visiting these sites with the intention of stealing from the land is extremely disappointing.
The general public need to understand that illegal metal detecting is an offence, and that those people visiting sites for this purpose are not welcome. Wiltshire Police are working with English Heritage in relation to such matters and we will be dealing robustly with anyone we find committing offences.”
National Trust archaeologist Martin Papworth said: “This recent activity is of great concern. We have no idea what has been taken and the archaeological understanding and context of each item has now been lost.”
Mark Harrison, Policing and Crime Advisor for English Heritage said: “The practice of illegal metal detecting and stealing artefacts from the ground is an issue that English Heritage takes very seriously.
These are not people enjoying a hobby, nor professionals carrying out a careful study. Any objects removed belong to the landowner, and the history that is being stolen belongs to all of us. The theft of ancient artefacts robs us of important information about our heritage, and the artefacts themselves are lost to the public.
English Heritage will continue to work closely with our partners in preventing heritage crime and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice.”Contributing Source : Wiltshire Police HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
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