Sunday, May 4, 2014

0249 – Hemp in Bela Vista 5 enclosure

At the pit grave inside the inner enclosure of Bela Vista 5 there was a Palmela arrow head that was part of the funerary assemblage. That arrow was deposited over a hank of strings. Part of the strings were preserved attached to the arrow’s surface due to its oxidation.

Palmela point with strings attached to it (photo by António Valera)

Analysis show that the strings were made of hemp. This was an interesting finding. Hemp is originally from Asia, but it seems to have spread over Eastern and Central Europe during Neolithic and Chalcolithic. In Iberia there was a context from Late Chalcolithic that provide a textile made of hemp at Abrigo de los Carboneros, but the context have some problems.

Now, at the Bela Vista 5 enclosure hemp appears in a well preserved and excavated context, with a radiocarbon date from the last quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.

Bela Vista 5 funerary context (image published in Valera, 2013)

It is the most western context with hemp in European Recent Prehistory, and might be a confirmation of Sherrat’s ideas about the quick spread of hemp associated to Bell Beaker (Bela Vista 5 grave is a late Bell Beaker context, associated to what is traditionally designated in South Portugal by “Horizonte de Ferradeira”).

The publication of this context will be done in a monographic study that will come out shortly, edited by Nia-Era..


Valera, A.C. (2013), “Recintos de fossos da Pré-História Recente em Portugal. Investigação, discursos, salvaguarda e divulgação”, Almadan, Segunda Série, 18, p.93-110.


  1. (Sorry if this is a double comment)

    The hemp find is very exciting. Were they braided, as in a bowstring? I tried to look at the graphic closely, but couldn't tell.

    1. Yes, it is braided (in "S"), but we cannot tell the thikness.

  2. This could re-write history. It shows that hemp was available for heavy bows, hemp was braided, and makes the robust Beaker wrist guards make more sense.
    A 90-110 lb composite longbow with Palmela points? That would be a fearsome weapon.

  3. Good article. This shows that we had Evroasian trade networks in the third millennium bc...And probably much earlier...

  4. Interesting mention of Sherrat's beaker theory, in which a cannabis beverage was believed to have been served in hemp twine impressed corded ware, a practice wide spread throughout europe. This is indications of a sort of European Soma, and both traditions, as well as that indicated by the recent find of Scythian gold bowls and cups used for a cannabis beverage (mistakenly reported as bongs in the mainstream media) is also part of this same widespread tradition. I discuss all this at great length as well as looking at the indo-european use and spread of cannabis throughout the ancient world, in my book Cannabis and the Soma Solution.