The European Bronze Age is characterized by bronze artifacts and the use of bronze implements. The regional Bronze Age succeeds the Neolithic and Copper Age and is followed by the Iron Age. It starts with the Aegean Bronze Age in 3200 BC and spans the entire 2nd millennium BC (including the Unetice culture, Ottomány culture, British Bronze Age, Argaric culture, Nordic Bronze Age, Tumulus culture, Nuragic culture, Terramare culture, Urnfield culture and Lusatian culture), lasting until c. 800 BC in central Europe.[1]

Arsenical bronze was produced in some areas from the 4th millennium BC onwards, prior to the introduction of tin bronze. Tin bronze foil had already been produced in southeastern Europe on a small scale in the Chalcolithic era, with examples from Pločnik in Serbia dated to c. 4650 BC, as well as 14 other artefacts from Bulgaria and Serbia dated to before 4000 BC, showing that early tin bronze developed independently in Europe 1500 years before the first tin bronze alloys in the Near East. This bronze production lasted for c. 500 years in the Balkans but disappeared at the end of the 5th millennium, coinciding with the "collapse of large cultural complexes in north-eastern Bulgaria and Thrace in the late fifth millennium BC". Tin bronzes using cassiterite tin were subsequently reintroduced to the area some 1500 years later.[2]



Main article: Aegean Bronze Age

Gold 'Mask of Agamemnon', Greece, 1550 BC

The Aegean Bronze Age begins around 3200 BC[1] when civilizations first established a far-ranging trade network. This network imported tin and charcoal to Cyprus, where copper was mined and alloyed with the tin to produce bronze. Bronze objects were then exported far and wide and supported the trade. Isotopic analysis of the tin in some Mediterranean bronze objects indicates it came from as far away as Great Britain.[3]

Knowledge of navigation was well developed at this time and reached a peak of skill not exceeded until a method was discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) to determine longitude around AD 1750.

Around 1600 BC, the eruption of Thera destroyed the site of Akrotiri and damaged Minoan sites in eastern Crete. The further impact of this event is poorly understood.[4]

The Late Bronze Age collapse

Starting in the 15th century BC, the Mycenaeans began to spread their influence throughout the Aegean and Western Anatolia. By c. 1450 BC, the palace of Knossos was ruled by a Mycenaean elite who formed a hybrid Minoan-Mycenaean culture. Mycenaeans also colonized several other Aegean islands, reaching as far as Rhodes.[5][6] Thus the Mycenaeans became the dominant power of the region, marking the beginning of the Mycenaean 'Koine' era (from Greek: Κοινή, common), a highly uniform culture that spread in mainland Greece and the Aegean.[7] The Mycenaean Greeks introduced several innovations in the fields of engineering, architecture and military infrastructure, while trade over vast areas of the Mediterranean was essential for the Mycenaean economy. Their syllabic script, the Linear B, offers the first written records of the Greek language and their religion already included several deities that can be also found in the Olympic Pantheon. Mycenaean Greece was dominated by a warrior elite society and consisted of a network of palace states that developed rigid hierarchical, political, social and economic systems. At the head of this society was the king, known as wanax.[8]

Southeast Europe

See also: Bronze Age Southeastern Europe and Bronze Age Romania

A study in the journal Antiquity from 2013 reported the discovery of a tin bronze foil from the Pločnik archaeological site dated to c. 4650 BC, as well as 14 other artefacts from Serbia and Bulgaria dated to before 4000 BC, showed that early tin bronze was more common than previously thought and developed independently in Europe 1,500 years before the first tin bronze alloys in the Near East. The production of complex tin bronzes lasted for c. 500 years in the Balkans. The authors reported that evidence for the production of such complex bronzes disappears at the end of the 5th millennium coinciding with the "collapse of large cultural complexes in north-eastern Bulgaria and Thrace in the late fifth millennium BC". Tin bronzes using cassiterite tin would be reintroduced to the area again some 1,500 years later.[9]


The Maykop culture was the major early Bronze Age culture in the North Caucasus. Some scholars date arsenical bronze artifacts in the region as far back as the mid-4th millennium BC.[10]

Eastern Europe

Further information: Indo-European migrations

Chariot model, Sintashta culture, Arkaim museum
Corded Ware, Yamnaya and Sintashta cultures

The Yamnaya culture[a] was a late copper age/early Bronze Age culture dating to the 36th–23rd centuries BC. The culture was predominantly nomadic, with some agriculture practiced near rivers and a few hill-forts.

The Catacomb culture, covering several related archaeological cultures, was first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and showed a profuse use of the polished battle ax, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East. It was preceded by the Yamnaya culture and succeeded by the western Corded Ware culture. The eastern Corded Ware culture (Fatyanovo-Balanovo culture) gave rise to the Abashevo culture, followed by the Sintashta culture, where the earliest known spoked-wheel chariots have been found, dating from c. 2000 BC. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded by the Multi-cordoned Ware culture, and the Srubnaya culture from c. the 17th century BC.

Central Europe

See also: Bronze Age Transylvania and Pre-Celtic

Important sites include:

In Central Europe, the early Bronze Age Unetice culture (2300–1600 BC) includes numerous smaller groups like the Straubingen, Adlerberg and Hatvan cultures. Some very rich burials, such as the one located at Leubingen (today part of Sömmerda) with grave gifts crafted from gold, point to an increase of social stratification already present in the Unetice culture. All in all, cemeteries of this period are rare and of small size. The Unetice culture is followed by the middle Bronze Age (1600–1200 BC) Tumulus culture, which is characterized by inhumation burials in tumuli (barrows). In the eastern Hungarian Körös tributaries, the early Bronze Age first saw the introduction of the Makó culture, followed by the Otomani and Gyulavarsánd cultures.

The late Bronze Age Urnfield culture (1300–750 BC) is characterized by cremation burials. It includes the Lusatian culture in eastern Germany and Poland (1300–500 BC) that continues into the Iron Age. The Central European Bronze Age is followed by the Iron Age Hallstatt culture (800–450 BC).


Main article: Bronze Age Italy

Illustration of a Terramare settlement

The Italian Bronze Age is conditionally divided into four periods: The Early Bronze Age (2300–1700 BC), the Middle Bronze Age (1700–1350 BC), the Recent Bronze Age (1350–1150 BC), the Final Bronze Age (1150–950 BC).[11]

During the second millennium BC, the Nuragic civilization flourished in the island of Sardinia. It was a rather homogeneous culture, more than 7000 imposing stone tower-buildings known as Nuraghe were built by this culture all over the island, along with other types of monuments such as the megaron temples, the monumental Giants' graves and the holy well temples. Sanctuaries and larger settlements were also built starting from the late second millennium BC to host these religious structures along with other structures such ritual pools, fountains and tanks, large stone roundhouses with circular benches used for the meeting of the leaders of the chiefdoms and large public areas. Bronze tools and weapons were widespread and their quality increased thanks to the contacts between the Nuragic people and Eastern Mediterranean peoples such as the Cypriots, the lost waxing technique was introduced to create several hundred bronze statuettes and other tools. The Nuragic civilization survived throughout the early Iron Age when the sanctuaries were still in use, stone statues were crafted and some Nuraghi were reused as temples.

Northern Europe

Main article: Nordic Bronze Age

See also: Tollense valley battlefield

Hünenburg bei Watenstedt, central settlement reconstruction, c. 1000 BC.

In northern Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Bronze Age cultures manufactured many distinctive and artistic artifacts. This includes lur horns, horned ceremonial helmets, sun discs, gold jewelry and some unexplained finds like the bronze "gong" from Balkåkra in Sweden. Some linguists believe that an early Indo-European language was introduced to the area probably around 2000 BC, which eventually became Proto-Germanic, the last common ancestor of the Germanic languages. This would fit with the apparently unbroken evolution of the Nordic Bronze Age into the most probably ethnolinguistically Germanic Pre-Roman Iron Age.

The age is divided into the periods I–VI, according to Oscar Montelius. Period Montelius V, already belongs to the Iron Age in other regions.

British Isles

Main article: Bronze Age Britain

See also: Atlantic Bronze Age

Cadbury Castle Late Bronze Age hillfort

In Great Britain, the Bronze Age is considered to have been the period from around 2100 to 700 BC. Immigration brought new people to the islands from the continent. Recent tooth enamel isotope research on bodies found in early Bronze Age graves around Stonehenge indicate that at least some of the immigrants came from the area of modern Switzerland. The Beaker people displayed different behaviors from the earlier Neolithic people and cultural change was significant. The rich Wessex culture developed in southern Britain at this time. Additionally, the climate was deteriorating; where once the weather was warm and dry it became much wetter as the Bronze Age continued, forcing the population away from easily defended sites in the hills and into the fertile valleys. Large livestock ranches developed in the lowlands which appear to have contributed to economic growth and inspired increasing forest clearances. The Deverel–Rimbury culture began to emerge in the second half of the 'Middle Bronze Age' (c. 1400–1100 BC) to exploit these conditions. Cornwall was a major source of tin for much of western Europe and copper was extracted from sites such as the Great Orme mine in northern Wales. Social groups appear to have been tribal but with growing complexity and hierarchies becoming apparent.

Also, the burial of dead (which until this period had usually been communal) became more individual. For example, whereas in the Neolithic a large chambered cairn or long barrow was used to house the dead, the 'Early Bronze Age' saw people buried in individual barrows (also commonly known and marked on modern British Ordnance Survey maps as Tumuli), or sometimes in cists covered with cairns.

The greatest quantities of bronze objects found in England were discovered in East Cambridgeshire, where the most important finds were done in Isleham (more than 6500 pieces).[12]

Western Mediterranean

Remains of La Bastida de Totana fortified town

Preceded by the Chalcolithic sites of Los Millares, the Argaric culture flourished in southeastern Iberia in from 2200 BC to 1550 BC,[13] when depopulation of the area ensued along with disappearing of copper–bronze–arsenic metallurgy.[14] The most accepted model for El Argar has been that of an early state society, most particularly in terms of class division, exploitation, and coercion,[15] with agricultural production, maybe also human labour, controlled by the larger hilltop settlements,[16] and the elite using violence in practical and ideological terms to clamp down on the population.[17] Ecological degradation, landscape opening, fires, pastoralism, and maybe tree cutting for mining have been suggested as reasons for the collapse.[18]

The culture of the motillas, developed an early system of groundwater supply plants (the so-called motillas) in the upper Guadiana basin (in Iberian Peninsula's southern meseta) in a context of extreme aridification in the area in the wake of the 4.2-kiloyear climatic event, which roughly coincided with the transition from the Copper Age to the Bronze Age. Increased precipitation and recovery of the water table from about 1800 BC onward should have led to the forsaking of the motillas (which may have flooded) and the redefinition of the relation of the inhabitants of the territory with the environment, with the development of the Iberian oppida mode of settlement.[19]

Atlantic Europe

See also: Atlantic Bronze Age, Prehistory of France § The Bronze Age, and Prehistoric Iberia § Bronze Age

The Atlantic Bronze Age is a cultural complex of the Bronze Age period of approximately 1300–700 BC that includes different cultures in Portugal, Andalusia, Galicia, France, Britain, and Ireland and is marked by economic and cultural exchange that led to the high degree of cultural similarity exhibited by coastal communities, including the frequent use of stones as chevaux-de-frise, the establishment of cliff castles, or the domestic architecture sometimes characterized by the round houses. Commercial contacts extended from Sweden and Denmark to the Mediterranean. The period was defined by a number of distinct regional centres of metal production, unified by a regular maritime exchange of some of their products. The major centres were southern England and Ireland, north-western France, and western Iberia.

In the context of Atlantic Bronze Age on Iberian Peninsula, and according to radiocarbon dating, the Early Bronze Age began on the Northern Iberian Plateau in 2100 cal. BC and Late Bronze Age in 1350 cal. BC.[20][21][22] The Bronze Age in Ireland commenced in the centuries around 2000 BC when copper was alloyed with tin and used to manufacture Ballybeg type flat axes and associated metalwork. The preceding period is known as the Copper Age and is characterised by the production of flat axes, daggers, halberds and awls in copper. The period is divided into three phases: Early Bronze Age 2000–1500 BC; Middle Bronze Age 1500–1200 BC and Late Bronze Age 1200–c. 500 BC. Ireland is also known for a relatively large number of Early Bronze Age Burials.[23][24]




See also


  1. ^ Also known as Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture


  1. ^ a b "Ancient Greece". British Museum. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
  2. ^ Radivojevic, M; Rehren, T; Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic, J; Jovanovic, M; Northover, JP (2013). "Tainted ores and the rise of tin bronzes in Eurasia, c.6500 years ago". Antiquity. 87 (338): 1030–1045. doi:10.1017/S0003598X0004984X.
  3. ^ Waldman, C., & Mason, C. (2006). Encyclopedia of European peoples. Infobase Publishing. pp. 524.
  4. ^ Manning, Stuart (2012). "Eruption of Thera/Santorini". In Cline, Eric (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford University Press. pp. 457–454. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199873609.013.0034. ISBN 978-0199873609.
  5. ^ Tartaron, Thomas F. (2013). Maritime Networks in the Mycenaean World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9781107067134.
  6. ^ Schofield 2006, pp. 71–72
  7. ^ Schofield, Louise (2006). The Mycenaeans. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum. p. 75. ISBN 9780892368679.
  8. ^ Castleden, Rodney (2005). The Mycenaeans. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 2, 228–235. ISBN 0-415-36336-5. Archived from the original on 2016-05-03. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  9. ^ Radivojević, Miljana; Rehren, Thilo; Kuzmanović-Cvetković, Julka; Jovanović, Marija; Northover, J. Peter (2015). "Tainted ores and the rise of tin bronzes in Eurasia, c. 6500 years ago" (PDF). Antiquity. 87 (338): 1030–1045. doi:10.1017/S0003598X0004984X. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-11-19. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  10. ^ Douglas Q. Adams (January 1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 372–374. ISBN 978-1-884964-98-5. Archived from the original on 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  11. ^ Ancient Europe, 8000 B.C. to A.D. 1000: An Encyclopedia of the Barbarian World (PDF). Charles Scribner & Sons. 2003. ISBN 978-0684806686. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-09. Retrieved 2019-02-06.
  12. ^ Hall, David (1994). Fenland survey : an essay in landscape and persistence / David Hall and John Coles. London; English Heritage. ISBN 1-85074-477-7., p. 81-88
  13. ^ Legarra Herrero, Borja (2021). "From systems of power to networks of knowledge: the nature of El Argar culture (southeastern Iberia, c. 2200–1500 BC)". In Foxhall, Lin (ed.). Interrogating Networks Investigating networks of knowledge in antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow Books. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-1-78925-627-7.
  14. ^ Carrión et al. 2007, p. 1472.
  15. ^ Chapman, R (2008). "Producing Inequalities: Regional Sequences in Later Prehistoric Southern Spain". Journal of World Prehistory. 21 (3–4): 209–210. doi:10.1007/s10963-008-9014-y.
  16. ^ Chapman 2008, pp. 208–209.
  17. ^ Legarra Herrero 2021, p. 52.
  18. ^ Carrión, J.S.; Fuentes, N.; González-Sampériz, P.; Sánchez-Quirante, L.; Finlayson, J.C.; Fernández, S.; Andrade, A. (2007). "Holocene environmental change in a montane region of southern Europe with a long history of human settlement". Quaternary Science Reviews. 26: 1472. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.03.013.
  19. ^ Lugo Enrich, Luis Benítez de; Mejías, Miguel (2017). "The hydrogeological and paleoclimatic factors in the Bronze Age Motillas Culture of La Mancha (Spain): the first hydraulic culture in Europe". Hydrogeology Journal. 25: 1933; 1946. doi:10.1007/s10040-017-1607-z. hdl:20.500.12468/512. ISSN 1435-0157.
  20. ^ Marcos Saiz, F. Javier (2006). La Sierra de Atapuerca y el Valle del Arlanzón. Patrones de asentamiento prehistóricos. Editorial Dossoles. Burgos, Spain. ISBN 9788496606289.
  21. ^ Marcos Saiz, F. Javier (2016). La Prehistoria Reciente del entorno de la Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, España). British Archaeological Reports (Oxford, U.K.), BAR International Series 2798. ISBN 9781407315195.
  22. ^ Marcos Saiz, F.J.; Díez, J.C. (2017). "The Holocene archaeological research around Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) and its projection in a GIS geospatial database". Quaternary International. 433 (A): 45–67. Bibcode:2017QuInt.433...45M. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.10.002.
  23. ^ Waddell, J. 1998. The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland. Galway.
  24. ^ Eogan, G. 1983. The Hoards of the Irish Later Bronze Age. Dublin
  25. ^ Molloy, Barry; et al. (2023). "Early Chariots and Religion in South-East Europe and the Aegean During the Bronze Age: A Reappraisal of the Dupljaja Chariot in Context". European Journal of Archaeology: 1–21. doi:10.1017/eaa.2023.39.