Bronze Age

The Mold gold cape

The idea of a “Bronze” Age that succeeded  a “Neolithic” or New Stone Age and preceded an “ Iron Age” was developed in the early nineteenth century and was based on the spectacular examples of bronze and gold objects placed in graves, rivers and bogs throughout Europe.

Modern archaeology has shifted the initial emphasis on metal craftsmanship to understanding how people inhabited the landscape.

Whilst the importance of metal should not be denied, its role tends to be exaggerated as compared to more perishable materials such as wood, textiles and food. Taken together, the surviving evidence implies a multitude of inter-connected settled and mobile groups whose livelihoods relied on pastoral and arable agriculture as well as trade.

The creation of elaborate graves containing bodies adorned with objects of skilled craftsmanship such as the Mold gold cape in the British Museum collection, often made from materials bought from far away, testifies to the importance of religious beliefs.

The trend towards increasingly fortified settlements, the rapid increase in the creation of weaponry exemplified by the Zsujta hoard and the emergence of warrior elites in burials suggests that warfare, along with agriculture and religion underlay these societies. However, in a world where the only communication was through word of mouth or practical demonstration, it is unsurprising that there are incredible regional and local variations.

Image caption: The Mold gold cape
Bronze Age, about 1900-1600 BC. From Mold, Flintshire, North Wales

Related galleries