Congratulations to Jessica Ryan for her Swiss NSF grant

Jessica Ryan, a PhD candidate in prehistoric archaeology, received a subsidy from the SNF for her thesis entitled, “Entheseal Changes for Interpreting Bell Beaker Archery: The Search for Specialized Warriors”. This thesis aims at the anthropological and archaeological identification of specialized archers from the Bell Beaker period, a time of transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age in Europe, in order to determine the existence of a warrior class of archers. This study will also contribute to the understanding of social and political function during the third millennium BC in Europe.

The Bell Beaker period, taking place between approximately 3000 and 2000 BC, saw an increase in the importance of war, specifically exhibited by the appearance of grave goods linked to archery, most notably the polished stone wrist guards but also arrow heads, bow-shaped pendants, polishing stones, artistic engravings, etc. These objects raise questions as to whether individuals associated with such items were archers themselves, or if such items act as a symbolic reflection of what the culture deemed important. In order to answer this question, Jessica Ryan will develop a novel anthropological methodology aimed at identifying specialized archers based on skeletal remains, which will then be applied to Bell Beaker collections in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary. The individual inhumations from these regions are ideal as they provide a direct link between the grave goods and the individual interred. This study therefore will involve numerous analyses of human skeletons, most notably for the means of observing entheseal changes, in order to determine muscular development and repetitive movements associated with specialized archery. By identifying whether or not an individual was a specialized archer, it is possible to further interpret the practical or symbolic function of stone wrist guards, the role of archers, and the importance of warfare in social life during the third millennium BC in Europe.

August 8, 2017