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Author Topic: Anthropology, Archaeology, and Ancestral Hominids ...  (Read 1442 times)

Offline GamesPoet

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #50 on: February 11, 2018, 11:29:59 PM »
The only voice in my head is my conscience.  Zak is just one of those internet ... doozies. :icon_wink: :icon_mrgreen:
"Not all who wander are lost ... " Tolkien

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Offline Fidelis von Sigmaringen

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #51 on: February 11, 2018, 11:44:36 PM »
Well, the Birka warrior woman is something else altogether. I can tell you that. There is much unfounded criticism towards that one. I personally know one of the involved osteologists and trust her deeply.
SHE was sceptical in the beginning but the bones tell their tale and if the science point to a woman, well, it is a woman. Or should we dismiss the hard science part of archaeology because some gets their underwear in a twist?

If it was a man you would have called him a warrior even if there were no signs of injuries  because "men are warriors! WAAAGH!"

She may have been a leader, like Bouddica, who commanded but seldom took active part in the actual combat. But she could have been a successful fighter too... We will never know for certain.

Uhm, no. There is no "unfounded"criticism of the findings. Nobody disputes that the bones examined belongs to a woman. The fact of the matter is that this is the only thing that has been proven. For the rest, the article makes claims it has no real evidence to support, claims which were then even exaggerated by the media and subsequent "gender science" articles (e.g. citing this as proof of "gender fluidity" in Viking society!!!!). However, it is completely unclear whether these bones were actually the ones (or the only ones) found in grave Bj 581 with the "warrior" grave goods (something the authors hid well away within their text). But even that is immaterial.  It is not because 19th century archeologists made the connection weapon=warrior, even in the case where there were no battle injuries, or other physical indications of a warrior life, one is allowed to make the same mistake now. The idea that weapons within a grave as such indicate a "warrior grave" has been questioned by archeologists for some time (at least since the early 2000, in tempore non suspecto), given that even infants were buried with weapons too. Current thinking is that burial goods (including weapons) are more linked to wealth and social class.  But that would not get the required media attention.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 11:51:03 PM by Fidelis von Sigmaringen »
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Offline Mathi Alfblut

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #52 on: February 12, 2018, 04:03:03 PM »
I am a scandinavian archaeologist. My speciality is iron age.
But you made your mind up, I hear.

Thing is, the team working with this grave dug deep. They have had access to old notes usually not studied
 Also, they found that each bone is marked so they can attribute it to the specific grave. And it is the only skeleton attributable to the grave.

And the truth is, while it is rare, there are other iron age graves with women buried with the full panoply of war.

It is RARE. But it exists.
 

Oh, and remember GW made it personal, not you!

Offline Fidelis von Sigmaringen

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #53 on: February 12, 2018, 06:01:38 PM »
I do not know where you are getting this from. The inventarisation and storage of the Brika finds are something of a mess. As an earlier paper published by Anne Kjelström (one of the authors) remarks: 

"The problem at Birka arises from the management of the material; the contexts of some of the finds have become mixed up. Around eleven hundred graves have been excavated at Birka (or the island of Björkö); approximately half of these were inhumations, including both rich chamber graves as well as modest coffin burials (Gräslund 1980, 4-5). Most of the graves were excavated in the 19th century by Hjalmar Stolpe (Arbman 1943). During the present analysis, it became clear that the osseous material and the contextual information given on the box or bag did not always match the data published by Arbman (Kjellström 2012); there are bags of bones tagged with grave numbers that do not exist elsewhere. In other cases, there are unburnt bones in bags from graves documented and registered according to Arbman as “cremations” and bags which include the bones of several individuals while being documented as the grave of one person."

In fact, she also refers to Bj 581:

"Another interesting (and possibly controversial) find was a grave where the preserved bones do fit the original nineteenth century drawings and descriptions. This is a chamber grave furnished with fine armour and sacrificed horses. Nevertheless, three different osteological examinations all found that the individual was a woman. Whether these are not the correct bones for this grave or whether it opens up reinterpretations of weapon graves in Birka, it is too early to say." [Italics mine]

Note that the attribution is not because of marked bones attributed to a specific grave (as you claim), but because "the preserved bones do fit the original nineteenth century drawings and descriptions." She herself remains in doubt whether this attribution is correct, and concludes:

"Although not all Birka graves suffer from this uncertainty, it was decided not to associate the skeletons to specific graves. Instead, the skeletal collection is dealt with simply as “the people buried at Birka.”

Kjellström A. ’People in transition: Life in the Malaren Vallye from an Osteological Perspectve’. In V. Turner (Ed.), Shetland and the Viking World. Papers from the Proceedings of the 17th Viking Congress 2013 (pp. 197-202). Lerwick: Shetland Amenity Trust, 2016.

None of this uncertainty appears in the article  "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics." But as the authors have to admit, the bag with the skeleton contained an extra femur!!. Ignoring completely the problem how it got there, they just excluded it from their examination. [Edit: Apparently, therefore, one of "the bags which include the bones of several individuals while being documented as the grave of one person."]

By the way: Stolpe's old notes have been accessible on the internet for some time.

Even assuming the identification would be correct, archaeologists and historians, as I have pointed out before, have moved away from the idea weapon=warrior. And you yourself admit, women burials with weapons are in any case extremely rare. To draw from these rare phenomenons wide-ranging conclusions about Viking society is building on sand.  One would not draw such conclusions from Boadicea or Joan of Arc either.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 10:34:14 PM by Fidelis von Sigmaringen »
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Offline Mathi Alfblut

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #54 on: February 12, 2018, 10:00:20 PM »
Have I ever drawn that conclusion? But you claim it never happened and cannot have happened.
Therefore it must all be fake.

Basically, you say since it is rare it statistically never happened.
Oh, and remember GW made it personal, not you!

Offline Fidelis von Sigmaringen

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #55 on: February 12, 2018, 10:12:42 PM »
Please point out to me where I claimed it never happened and cannot ever have happened.
It is not enough to have no ideas of your own; you must also be incapable of expressing them.
Sex, lies and manuscripts: The History of the Empire as Depicted in the Art of the Time (10/07/16)

Offline Fidelis von Sigmaringen

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #56 on: February 13, 2018, 09:52:05 AM »
If you are interested, here is one of the earlier case studies on the subject: Heinrich Härke, The Anglo-Saxon weapon burial rite: an interdisciplinary analysis, Opus (Moscow) 3, 2004. p. 197-207.

From the introduction:

Quote
The weapon burial rite has been studied widely and for a long time because it has always suggested a seemingly obvious interpretation: that these are the graves of warriors buried with the weapons which they had owned and used in life. This interpretation has then been used as the basis for numerous further inferences concerning, in particular, the social status of individuals buried with weapons as well as the military practices of the societies in question (for overviews of approaches, see Steuer 1982; Härke 2000; Härke and Savenko 2000).

However, this 'warrior' interpretation was not arrived at by a systematic analysis of all available data - it was simply an intuitive interpretation of the archaeological evidence. Instead of using this interpretation as a starting assumption for further, social inferences, the present study goes back to basics by asking the fundamental question: who was buried with weapons, and why? Early Anglo-Saxon England is used as a case study.

From the conclusions:

Quote
Some of the results of the analysis above are surprising because of the absence of many expected correlations. There is no difference between men with and without weapons in their age ranges: mature individuals too old to be effective fighters were accompanied by weapons, as were children too young to be warriors. Almost 10% of individuals in weapon burials were below the age of puberty (about 12-14 years), the youngest of them being only 12 months old. By way of contrast, a considerable number of male adults in their prime have been found without weapons. Men in weapon burials were exactly as healthy or unhealthy, and as fit or unfit to fight, as men without weapons. Severe osteoarthritis, malunited fractures and congenital disabilities were no obstacle to burial with weapons. Finally, there is absolutely no correlation between weapon burial and the incidence of wounds. These observations suggest that neither the ability to fight, nor the actual experience of fighting were relevant for the decision as to who was buried with, or without, weapons.

Although the sub-samples for stature and epigenetic traits may appear rather small, their results are in full agreement with all the other skeletal data. Together with the analysis of other data, such as weapon combinations, technical observations and historically recorded military activity, they leave only one conclusion: an Anglo-Saxon inhumation was furnished with weapons not because it was the burial of an individual warrior - it was furnished with weapons in order to display the status of a family which was of Germanic descent and had above-average disposable wealth. Thus, the Anglo-Saxon weapon burial rite of the Vth to early VIIth centuries was a symbol of ethnic and social affiliation in a complex and ethnically mixed society.

However, appearance and meaning of the weapon burial rite changed in the VIIth century. There was a change in weapon types and combinations in graves, but more importantly, the absolute and relative numbers of weapon graves declined steadily. The proportion of male adults buried with weapons decreased slowly from its peak of about 60% in the middle of the VIth century, to less than 10% at the end of the VIIth century. The deposition of weapons and other artefacts in Anglo-Saxon graves ceased in the early VIIIth century. The conversion of England to Christianity may have been one reason for this, but the changing correlations of the weapon burial rite also point to social and ethnic factors.

First of all, weapon burial was gradually limited to adults. Children below the age of puberty dropped out of the weapon burial rite in the early VIIth century, adolescents followed in the second half of the VIIth century. Among male adults, weapons were still deposited in the richer graves, while poor graves no longer had any weapons, and the proportion of male graves without any grave-goods rose sharply. In other words: in the VIIth century, the male burial wealth was gradually concentrated in a decreasing number of adult weapon burials. Large knives, with a blade length of 130 to 170 mm, became an alternative means of displaying male adult status in poorer burials: such knives were most popular in the VIIth and early VIIIth centuries, and they were limited entirely to the graves of male adults (see above).

Most importantly, the stature differential between men with and without weapons disappeared in the VIIth century (Table 5), as did the general correlation of burial wealth with stature (except for men buried with a seax; see above). At the same time, there was a general decrease in average stature, from 175 cm in the Vth/VIth centuries to 173 cm in the VIIth/early VIIIth centuries (total sample: stature data for 342 male adults). Both changes are best explained as the consequence of an increasing assimilation of the native population at this time. The alternative explanations would be a breakdown of social differences in Anglo-Saxon society and/or a marked change in food production from animal to plant protein; neither explanation can be accepted for the period in question.

This means that the symbolism of burial with weapons changed, from a frequent symbol of ethnic affiliation and social status, to a much rarer symbol of social status only. Before and after this change, the men of the social elite are probably to be found among the men buried with sword, axe or seax: they are accompanied by the highest average number of grave-goods; they have the highest proportion of drinking vessels (probably representing hospitality and the feast); their graves show above-average labour investment in grave construction; their group includes an unusually high proportion of men with strong physique (indicative of regular exercise, perhaps weapon training); and their stature (unlike that of men with other weapons) remains above average throughout the Early Anglo-Saxon period (for the social context, see Härke 1997b). It is likely that these were the true 'warriors' of this period (see Härke 1997c).

It is worth emphasizing that the symbolic meaning of the early Anglo-Saxon weapon burial rite could only be identified by the systematic comparison of intentional (archaeological) and functional (physical-anthropological) data. The analysis of archaeological data alone would not have produced this result, because of the intentional nature of the burial ritual. This case study highlights again the key role of physical-anthropological data in burial archaeology.

As it happens, I found a more recent Norwegian Master Thesis dealing with shields in the Kaupang and Birka burials: Maja Charlotte Aasen Oppegaard, Skjoldet og vikingen: Krigerens følgesvenn eller allemannseie? Skjoldet som gravgods ved Kaupang og Birka, Masteravhandling i arkeologi, Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie Universitetet i Oslo Høst 2015. Here are her conclusions:

Quote
Det har vært denne avhandlingens mål å undersøke skjoldgraver med og uten våpen ved Kaupang og Birka, og hva som kjennetegner disse. Videre har avhandlingen diskutert hvilke måter skjoldet kan tolkes på i relasjon til sosiale grupper i vikingtidens samfunn ved de to lokalitetene, samt hvorvidt skjoldets plassering i graven har påvirkning for tolkningene. Det har i denne sammenheng blitt henvist til skriftlige kilder som omtaler skjoldet i sosiale og kulturelle sammenhenger. En slik innfallsvinkel har bragt en ekstra dimensjon til tolkningene i diskusjonen gjennom en tilførsel av informasjon som ikke ville kommet fram hvis statistikken og den kvantitative analysen alene hadde ligget til grunn. Gravskikken ved Kaupang og Birka har stått i sentrum for analysen og diskusjonen. Gravenes lokalisering, innhold og konstruksjon er benyttet i tolkningen av skjoldets rolle i gravene og hvilke sosiale grupper som er gravlagt med det. Det er i denne sammenheng blitt framhevet at gravritualet og innholdet i graven ikke nødvendigvis reflekterer alle aspekter ved de dødes identitet, men kan være en indirekte indikasjon på identitet og sosial tilhørighet. Det er de etterlevende som konstruerer gravens form og innhold og de ritualene som finner sted ved gravleggelsen. Om disse aspektene ikke er direkte refleksjoner av den avdødes liv, kan de være del av regionale skikker, men de kan også være resultat av de etterlevendes ønske om å heve seg over andre i samfunnet, om å utdype sin velstand og posisjon.

(...)

Ved både Kaupang og Birka har skjoldet vært forbeholdt mennesker innenfor én samfunnsgruppe, uttrykt gjennom en felles gravtradisjon. Sammensetningen av gravgodset tyder likevel på at ulike sosiale grupper innenfor de spesifikke samfunnsgruppene har fått skjold, og at skjoldet derfor ikke har vært forbeholdt én gruppe mennesker, som krigerne. Også i graver som indikerer handelsmenn, smeder, elite og aristokrati, så vel som i graver uten noen tydelig sosial gruppeinndeling, finnes det skjold.

Tittelen på avhandlingen legger opp til at skjoldet tilhørte én gruppe mennesker i vikingtiden. Analysen og diskusjonene har vist at dette ikke er tilfellet. Det var ikke utelukkende krigere som fikk skjold i graven, en observasjon som viser at skjoldet ikke utelukkende var et redskap i krig og kamp. Skjoldet kan imidlertid heller ikke beskrives som allemannseiene, for det var mange som ikke fikk skjold i graven. Antallet graver som ble benyttet i analysen viser dette, men også sammensetningen av gravgodset. Det er lite sannsynlig at en trell eller en person av særlig lav status ved Kaupang og Birka har fått skjold i graven. På Kaupang har alle utenom én skjoldgrav våpen, sannsynligvis et tegn på en fri mann eller en fri jordeier. På Birka var det fjorten graver som ikke hadde våpen, men disse gravene var til gjengjeld enten kammergraver med ulikt gravgods eller brente graver med ulikt gravgods. Det kan derfor konkluderes med at det må finnes en tredje gruppe i mellom krigeren og allmennheten, en gruppe som kanskje er så generell at den ikke kan navngis eller i det hele tatt grupperes. Det er i alle fall tydelig at flere sosiale grupper kan kobles til skjoldet.

Translation added (improved google)

Quote
It has been the aim of this dissertation to investigate shield-graves with and without weapons at Kaupang and Birka, and what characterizes them. Furthermore, the dissertation discussed the ways in which the shield can be interpreted in relation to social groups in the Viking community at the two sites, as well as whether the location of the shield in the grave affects the interpretation. In this connection, reference has been made to written sources that refer to the shield in social and cultural contexts. Such an approach has brought an extra dimension to the interpretation in the discussion through a supply of information that would not be available if the statistics and quantitative analysis had been used alone. The excavations of Kaupang and Birka have been at the heart of the analysis and discussion. The location, content and construction of the burials are used in the interpretation of the shield's role in the tombs, and of the social groups buried with it. It has been emphasized in this connection that the grave and the contents of the grave do not necessarily reflect all aspects of the identity of the dead, but may be an indirect indication of identity and social affiliation. It is the survivors who construct the form and content of the grave and the rituals that take place during the burial. If these aspects are not direct reflections on the deceased's life, they may be part of regional customs, but they may also be the result of the survivors' desire to raise themselves over others in society, to expand their prosperity and position.

(...}

In both Kaupang and Birka, the shield has been reserved for people within one community group, expressed through a common grave tradition. The composition of the grave goods, however, suggests that different social groups within the specific communities have been given shields, and that the shield has therefore not been reserved for one group of people, such as the warriors. Shields have been found too in graves that indicate traders, smiths, elites and aristocracy, as well as in graves without any clear social grouping.

The title of the dissertation [Shield and Vikings: Warrior Companion or for All and Everybody?] implied that the shield belonged to one group of people in the Viking age. The analysis and discussions have shown that this is not the case. It was not exclusively warriors who got shields in the grave, an observation that shows that the shield was not solely a tool in war and struggle. However, the shield can not be described as property of the common man, because there were many who did not get shield in the grave. The number of excavations used in the analysis shows this, but also the composition of the grave. It is unlikely that a slave or person of particularly low status at Kaupang and Birka has got a shield in the grave. In Kaupang, all shield-graves except one had weapons, which were probably the sign of a free man or a free landowner. At Birka there were fourteen graves that did not have weapons, but these tombs were either chamber graves with different grave goods or burned graves with different grave goods. It can therefore be concluded that there must be a third group between the warrior and the general public, a group that may be so general that it cannot be named or grouped at all. In any case, it is clear that more social groups can be linked to the shield.

And you can  find Stolpe's notesbooks here: http://historiska.se/birka/digitala-resurser/arkivmaterial/hjalmar-stolpes-gravdagbocker/
« Last Edit: February 13, 2018, 05:41:04 PM by Fidelis von Sigmaringen »
It is not enough to have no ideas of your own; you must also be incapable of expressing them.
Sex, lies and manuscripts: The History of the Empire as Depicted in the Art of the Time (10/07/16)

Offline Mathi Alfblut

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #57 on: February 13, 2018, 12:32:21 PM »
I know Kjellström personally.
As far as I understood her, the mining up of bones seem to have happened later. The bones themselves were marked with grave numbers. So the extra femur got mixed up later.

Oh, and remember GW made it personal, not you!

Offline Fidelis von Sigmaringen

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #58 on: February 13, 2018, 12:48:32 PM »
There is nothing to suggest that the bones themselves were marked by grave numbers. On the contrary, since otherwise Kjellström would not have written (as I have pointed out above):
"Another interesting (and possibly controversial) find was a grave where the preserved bones do fit the original nineteenth century drawings and descriptions. This is a chamber grave furnished with fine armour and sacrificed horses. Nevertheless, three different osteological examinations all found that the individual was a woman. Whether these are not the correct bones for this grave or whether it opens up reinterpretations of weapon graves in Birka, it is too early to say." [Italics mine] Indeed, if it had been the custom to mark the bones, Kjellström's decision "not to associate the skeletons to specific graves" (also quoted above) would make no sense whatsoever.

The bags containing the bones were marked, and as Kjellström herself admits, what is in the bag does not always match what is on the bag - like in the very instance of the skeleton said to be of Bj 581.

But as I have said from the start: that is really immaterial, as the notion weapon=warrior has been abandoned. I have even provided you with a study that provides detailed evidence to dismiis that notion for the very Birka burial site.

To add: as far as I can tell from what I can find on the internet, the osteological findings were never questioned by anyone. So, the main pooha regarding the DNA results on this issue was rather superfluous. The results did provide, however, more and new details on the woman's background. But again: that would not have drawn media attention.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2018, 02:52:48 PM by Fidelis von Sigmaringen »
It is not enough to have no ideas of your own; you must also be incapable of expressing them.
Sex, lies and manuscripts: The History of the Empire as Depicted in the Art of the Time (10/07/16)

Offline Mathi Alfblut

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Re: Humans Out of Africa Sooner Than Thought Before ...
« Reply #59 on: February 13, 2018, 09:43:18 PM »
Studies that have dismissed the connection between weapon and warrior. Sorry, but that is not the case. In an anglo-saxon context, maybe. Within archaeology, a master thesis do not carry particular weight. It is viewed more like a training work that can be useful for a senior archaeologist who delegate a task to a student. If you are lucky you get quoted in their work.

Also, I want to know how you define warrior. Because the idea of a warrior used in the anglo-saxon example seem to be that of professionals or semi-professionals. But anglo-saxon society was one were the right to carry arms also came with obligation. Namely to serve in time of need. Hence to act as a warrior.

Also, note that the study of the shields are concerned with graves were you find only shields. And it is usually so that you make a distinction between graves containing one or maybe two pieces of a panoply, say a shield or just a spear.
Here you can argue that the military item is a symbol for something, maybe the social status as freeborn person, the head of a household who carried an obligation to take up arms in times of war.
There are quite a few female graves with a singular item like this. A spear here, a pair of arrows there, and axes. If I remember correctly there axes are among the more common weaponlike items. These are not seldom found in a context that indicate that the woman may have been a person connected to a religious cult. I will not bother going deeper there.

BUT while even children can be buried with a seax of similar, you will, to the best of my knowledge, never find them buried with a full panoply or war. With a full panoply I mean at least shield, spear, javelin and/Or sidearm. The items you need to stand in the line of battle.

When it comes to being buried with a full panoply, there are even more rare to find it with a female skeleton. I know of two examples from Scandinavia. The Birka one and a 7th century burial from Gotland. The last one is also interesting because it did not contain any items that has a strong link with the female sphere. Iron age burials from Scandinavia shows a very dualistic division when it comes to gravegoods that closely matches the biological sex. That makes the exceptions all the more interesting.
Oh, and remember GW made it personal, not you!

Offline GamesPoet

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Re: Anthropology, Archaeology, and Ancestral Hominids ...
« Reply #60 on: February 14, 2018, 03:26:11 AM »
Topic title changed. :icon_cool:

To protect the innocent of course. :icon_wink:
"Not all who wander are lost ... " Tolkien

"The beauty of curiosity and creativity is so much more useful than the passion of fear." me

"... my old suggestion is forget it, take two aspirins and go paint" steveb