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Beyond the burial vase, the personae? Network analysis of Bell Beaker decoration diversity in Camino de las Yeseras (Madrid, Spain)

  • Caraglio, Agnès
  • Ríos, Patricia
  • Liesau, Corina
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
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In the archaeological literature, the Bell Beaker tradition is usually suggested as a male and warrior "ideology", especially through grave goods. However, it does not reflect a monolithic cultural ‘identity’ but rather a real blended cultural practice reconciled at regional levels through ongoing interactions between collective and individual symbolic concepts. In Central Iberia, recent studies of the Bell Beaker funerary contexts have revealed recurrent practices, such the use of artificial caves and hypogea and the extraction and movement of human bones, as in the well-known Camino de las Yeseras site (San Fernando de Henares, Madrid). Our aim is to shed new light on the distribution of Bell Beaker ceramics in funerary structures through "Social Network Analysis". For example, are we able to establish relationships between the decoration of Bell Beaker vases and the individuals buried in single or collective graves, using similarity indexes between ceramics and network representations? Is the presence of some decorations linked to age or gender? Do stylistic identities have any relation to DNA heritage? The degree of similarity between the decorations executed on the vases from single graves and those deposited in collective graves could help to highlight specific burial categories or personae involved in the spread of particular collective decorative patterns. Network analysis tools can lead us to visualise these intra-site interactions, and gain greater understanding of the social context and the diversity of burial dynamics. The vessels analysed belong to eight Bell beaker tombs documented in Camino de las Yeseras during the second half of the third millennium BCE. In relation to the topic of this paper, we want to highlight the presumed impact of intra-site relations that Bell Beaker customs and funerary rituals could have on the consolidation of social inequalities among the first metallurgical societies of the Central Iberian Peninsula.

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