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Bell Beaker culture
David Anthony traced the movement of Pre-Proto-Italo-Celtic people up the Danube as far as the Hungarian Plain (Carpathian Basin) by their kurgans. Then we start to see the Bell Beaker Culture spreading over a swathe of Europe. This culture is recognised by its characteristic pottery, shaped like an inverted bell. Bell Beaker ware is found as far east as Poland, as far south as Northern Morocco, as far north as Scotland, northern Denmark, and even the southern tip of Norway. Archaeologists have found the distinctive beaker so useful in identifying the culture that rather too much emphasis has been placed upon it.There are far more important aspects to this culture than its pottery. It forms part of a wave across Europe which brought the plough, wheeled vehicles, woolly sheep - the whole Secondary Products Revolution, together with metallurgy and horse power . Some aspects of this revolution had already spread in the late Neolithic, but it was in the 3rd millennium BC that the full impact of the transformation was felt.The most widespread early type of Bell Beaker pottery, known as All Over Corded (AOC), is decorated with impressions made with cord. That similarity to Corded Ware, together with the similarity of burial custom, and the fact that the two cultures overlap geographically, led to the assumption that Bell Beaker developed from Corded Ware. It is now recognised that the two are contemporary. Carbon-14 has dated the earliest Bell Beaker sites to c.2,900 BC.7 On archaeological evidence alone the Beaker culture arrived in much of Europe with immigrants. Isotope, craniometric and inherited dental trait studies also show the Beaker folk as incomers in most places.
By the time that Classical authors began to note the Celts, over 2,000 years later, they were spread over much of Europe west of the Rhine and in pockets east of it. Some lived in the Alps and northern Italy, while Italic-speakers were in Central Italy. This coincides fairly well with the spread of the Bell Beaker Culture. In between the periods when archaeologists can see the new, intrusive Beaker culture arrive and historians begin to see the Celts and Italics, there is a long continuity from Bronze to Iron Age cultures apparent in the archaeology in many places. So the finger points at the Beaker people as the carriers of this branch of the Indo-European languages. Their evident mobility and the comparative uniformity of their culture over the whole Celtic area makes them the most likely bearers of the new language. The idea that the Celts first arrived in the British Isles and Iberia in the Iron Age used to be popular, but has been abandoned, because archaeological evidence of Celtic Iron Age arrivals covers too limited an area to explain the full spread of Celtic languages.Copper-workers may have arrived in Iberia with a small company of migrants, to be gradually reinforced by others seeking pastures new. Carved stone anthropomorphic stelae mark the trail of these copper-workers, so let us call them the Stelae People. An early splinter group from the Proto-Italo-Celtic parent would help to explain why the Celtic of Iberia had such an archaic structure, retaining Italic elements. A similarly mixed language was spoken by the Ligures in what is now Northern-Western Italy and South-Eastern France. There is tantalisingly little evidence for Ligurian, but it appears primarily Celtic and Italic.
Distribution of Stelae
Further reading...The earliest anthropomorphic stelae have been found in Yamnaya burial mounds in Ukraine. They are particularly associated with one sub-culture, known as the Kemi Oba Culture, centred on Crimea, which was influenced by the neighbouring Maikop Culture. Similar stelae are found at Bell Beaker sites in the Swiss and Italian Alps, and in the Italian regions of Lunigiana and Trento-Alto-Adige, southern France and Iberia. Other examples are scattered as far afield as Malta and the Channel Isles. These figures are curiously stylised and slab-like, quite different from earlier and later depictions of the human form. Males are generally given tools or weapons. Females often have necklaces. The stelae probably recorded honoured ancestors.