Prehistoric people thought to have been of Iberian origin, who spread out over Europe from the 3rd millennium BC. They were skilled in metalworking, and are associated with distinctive earthenware drinking vessels with various designs, in particular, a type of beaker with a bell-shaped profile, widely distributed throughout Europe.
The Beaker people favoured individual inhumation (burial of the intact body), often in round barrows, or secondary burials in some form of chamber tomb. A beaker typically accompanied male burials, possibly to hold a drink for the deceased on their final journey.
In Britain, the Beaker people built circular earthwork enclosures with ditches and entrances on opposite sides known as henges, sometimes containing stone circles. They have been associated with later stages of the construction of Stonehenge and with Avebury in Wiltshire.
Barrow burials would include a set of small stone and metal artefacts. The inclusion of flint, later metal, daggers in grave goods may signify that the deceased was a warrior, and suggests that the incursion of Bell Beaker culture may have come as an intrusion into traditional pre-existing cultures.
The Beaker culture was widely distributed over central and Western Europe in the early Bronze Age, and over this whole large area its characteristic pottery and other artefacts display great similarity. This has enabled archaeologists to interpret the spread of an ‘international’ culture across Europe.
There are chronological differences between the main varieties of beaker, which assist in the definition of separate phases in the settlement of the Beaker people, such as the corded ware from 3000 BC. The earliest of these beakers were tall and slender with uniform bands of cord impressions from rim to base, but these developed into more regional wares showing differences of ornament on shorter, squatter pots.
Credit: Ceramic cinerary urn, from Siwek / De Agostini Picture Library / A. de Gregorio / The Bridgeman Art Library Description: Prehistory, Poland,