Personhood in the Bronze Age

Topics: Bronze Age, Neolithic / Pages: 11 (2549 words) / Published: Apr 1st, 2013
How did Bronze Age people conceptualise people and personhood? What are the various ways in which archaeologists have investigated notions of identity and personhood in the Bronze Age?
Archaeological prehistoric frameworks were established during the period of antiquarianism and were consolidated by the technological typologies laid out by Thomsen in 1836 (Jones, 2008: 4). The concept of the transition from a Neolithic period to a Bronze Age has since been inextricably associated with technological developments. It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the complexities of archaeological thought on this period of ‘transition’, however, it is necessary to briefly mentioned that the adoption of metallurgy coincided /coalesced with changes in economies, social structures and associated values and ideologies. Although the advent of farming is more commonly associated with the Neolithic, the Bronze Age is now largely considered as a period which consolidated a fixed and ordered agrarian landscape. The middle of the 3rd Millennium BC, in North and Western Europe was characterised by settlement patterns of farmsteads and small hamlets of relative impermanence, whilst the longevity of the period was represented in the burial mounds that scattered the landscape. (Fontijn, 2008: 86; Scarre, 2005: 419). Eastern Europe, however, was characterised by the habitation of long-lived, defended settlements (Champion et al, 1984: 205). Although the settlement evidence from Eastern Europe reflects to some extent, a need for defence, the peaceful nature of the settlement evidence does not indicate a huge increase in social stratification from the preceding, predominantly egalitarian, Neolithic Period. The material culture tells another story of a changing social world. The spread of the adoption of metallurgy was initially explained by the onset of the Late Neolithic ‘Beaker phenomenon’. The burial rites of the Beaker Culture, with the single inhumation interments accompanied



References: Deverenski, J. 2002. Engendering Context. Context as Gendered Practice in the Early Bronze Age of the Upper Thames Valley. European Journal of Archaeology (5)2: 191-211 Champion, T., Gamble, C., Shennan, S., Whittle, A. 1984. Prehistoric Europe. Academic Press Inc; London. Fontijn, D. 2008. Everything in its Right Place? On Selective Deposition, Landscape and the Construction of Identity in Later Prehistory. In Jones, A. (Eds) Prehistoric Europe. Theory and Practice. pp86-106; Oxford: Blackwell Fisher, G. & D.D. Loren. 2003. Embodying Identity in Archaeology. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 13 (2) pp225-30 Jones, A. 2008. Introduction. In Prehistoric Europe. Theory and Practice. In Jones, A. (Eds) Prehistoric Europe. Theory and Practice. pp1-15; Oxford: Blackwell Matthews, S. 2004. The Instantiated Identity: Critical Approaches to Studying Gesture and Material Culture. Paper presented on ‘The Materialisation of Social Identities’ session at The Annual Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference; Glasgow: Scotland Scarre, C. 2005. The Human Past. World Prehistory & the Development of Human Societies. 2nd Ed; Thames & Hudson: London Sarauw, T. 2008. Danish Bell Beaker Pottery and Flint Daggers – the Display of Social Identities? European Journal of Archaeology Vol. 11 (1) pp23-47

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