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Shape matters: assessing regional variation of Bell Beaker projectile points in Central Europe using geometric morphometrics

Abstract

Despite the large-scale expansion of Bell Beaker phenomenon, there is a tension between the normative Bell Beaker material culture categories and their local objectification in the form of real artefacts. Stone projectile points provide an opportunity to evaluate how much was the general category of such a point influenced by regional and local factors. The aim of this paper is to explore shape and size variation of Central European Bell Beaker projectile points from Moravia (Czech Republic) to elucidate factors responsible for this variation. The sample consists of 194 projectile points from 54 Central European Bell Beaker sites (2500–2300/2200 BC) distributed in Morava River catchment. The size and shape of projectile points were studied by landmark-based geometric morphometrics and expressed as shape groups, which have been assessed in terms of their spatial distribution, raw material, and reutilization. Although several shape categories of points were identified, there is a strong degree of uniformity in the research sample. The dominant shape category (75.4 % of points) was pervasive across geographic space and was not significantly affected either by raw material or reutilization. A lower degree of reutilization of points is interpreted as a consequence of a non-utilitarian role of projectile points, which represented a critical component of Bell Beaker mortuary practices.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Martin Kuča for materials and Jan. Olivík for initial discussion. This work was supported by a grant from Masaryk University (MUNI/M/1790/2014) and by the Slovak Research and Development Agency under the contract No. APVV-14-0550. Language revisions were kindly covered by the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University. Patrik Galeta was supported by the University of West Bohemia project SGS-2016-028.

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Highlights

• Size and shape variation of 194 Bell Beaker projectile points from Central Europe were explored

• Geometric morphometrics was applied to identify shape categories

• Dominant shape category does not depend on space, raw material, or reutilization

• Weak reutilization reflects non-utilitarian role of projectile points

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Petřík, J., Sosna, D., Prokeš, L. et al. Shape matters: assessing regional variation of Bell Beaker projectile points in Central Europe using geometric morphometrics. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 10, 893–904 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-016-0423-z

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Keywords

  • Bell Beaker
  • Projectile points
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Shape categories
  • Lithic raw material
  • Reutilization