Atlantic Bronze Age

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Atlantic Bronze Age
Atlantic Bronze Age.gif
Geographical rangeWestern Europe
PeriodBronze Age
Datesc. 1300 — c. 700 BC
Preceded byBell Beaker culture, Bronze Age Britain, Armorican Tumulus culture, Wessex culture
Followed byIron Age Britain, Iron Age Ireland, Iron Age France, Iron Age Spain

The Atlantic Bronze Age is a cultural complex of the Bronze Age period in Prehistoric Europe of approximately 1300–700 BC that includes different cultures in Britain, France, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain.


The Atlantic Bronze Age is marked by economic and cultural exchange that led to the high degree of cultural similarity exhibited by the coastal communities from Central Portugal to Galicia, Armorica, Cornwall and Scotland, including the frequent use of stones as chevaux-de-frise, the establishment of cliff castles, or the domestic architecture sometimes characterized by the roundhouses.[1] Commercial contacts extended from Sweden[2] and Denmark to the Mediterranean.[1] 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.[3]

The items related to this culture are frequently found forming hoards, or they are deposited in ritual areas,[4][5] usually watery contexts: rivers, lakes and bogs. Among the more noted items belonging to this cultural complex we can count the socketed and double ring bronze axes, sometimes buried forming large hoards in Brittany and Galicia; war gear, as lunate spearheads, V-notched shields, and a variety of bronze swords —among them carp's-tongue ones— usually found deposited in lakes, rivers or rocky outcrops;[6] and the elites' feasting gear: articulated roasting spits, cauldrons, and flesh hooks,[5][7] found from central Portugal to Scotland.[1]

The origins of the Celts were attributed to this period in 2008 by John T. Koch[8] and supported by Barry Cunliffe,[9] who argued for the past development of Celtic as an Atlantic lingua franca, later spreading into mainland Europe.[5] They argue that communities adopted early Late Bronze Age Urnfield (Bronze D and Hallstatt A) elite status markers such as grip-tongue swords and sheet-bronze metalwork, along with new specialist know-how needed for their production and ritual knowledge about their 'proper' treatment upon deposition[10] which they see as indicating possible processes linked to language shift.[10] In 2013, Koch saw this east to west elite contact as the simplest explanation for the genesis of Celtic languages with a Proto-Celtic homeland in west-central Europe.[11] However, this stands in contrast to what remains the more generally accepted view that Celtic origins lie with the Central European Hallstatt C culture.


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  1. ^ a b c Cunliffe, Barry (1999). "Atlantic Sea-ways" (PDF). Revista de Guimarães. Especial (I): 93–105. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  2. ^ Ling, Johan; Stos-Gale, Zofia; Grandin, Lena; Billström, Kjell; Hjärthner-Holdar, Eva; Persson, Per-Olof (2014). "Moving metals II: provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotope and elemental analyses". Journal of Archaeological Science. 41: 106–132. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2013.07.018.
  3. ^ Europe Before History by Kristian Kristiansen Archived May 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Comendador Rey, Beatriz. "SPACE AND MEMORY AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER ULLA (GALICIA, SPAIN)" (PDF). Conceptualising Space and Place: On the role of agency, memory and identity in the construction of space from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Iron Age in Europe. Archaeopress. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Cunliffe, Barry (2008). Europe between the oceans : themes and variations, 9000 BC-AD 1000 (First printed in paperback 2011. ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 254–258. ISBN 978-0-300-17086-3.
  6. ^ Quilliec, Bénédicte T. (2007). "Vida y muerte de una espada atlántica del Bronce Final en Europa: Reconstrucción de los procesos de fabricación, uso y destrucción" [Life and death of an Atlantic sword: Reconstruction of the processes of fabrication, use wear and destruction]. Complutum (in Spanish). 18: 93–107. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  7. ^ Bowman, Sheridan; Stuart Needham (2007). "The Dunaverney and Little Thetford Flesh-Hooks: History, Technology and Their Position within the Later Bronze Age Atlantic Zone Feasting Complex" (PDF). The Antiquaries Journal. 87: 53–108. doi:10.1017/s0003581500000846. S2CID 161084139. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  8. ^ Koch, John (2009). Tartessian: Celtic from the Southwest at the Dawn of History in Acta Palaeohispanica X Palaeohispanica 9 (2009) (PDF). Palaeohispanica. pp. 339–351. ISSN 1578-5386. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  9. ^ Cunliffe, Barry (2008). A Race Apart: Insularity and Connectivity in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 75, 2009, pp. 55–64. The Prehistoric Society. p. 61.
  10. ^ a b Brandherm, Dirk (2013). Celtic from the West 2 - Westward Ho? Sword-bearers and all the rest of it... Oxford: Oxbow Books. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-84217-529-3. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013.
  11. ^ Koch, John T. (2013). Celtic from the West 2 -Prologue: The Earliest Hallstatt Iron Age cannot equal Proto-Celtic. Oxford: Oxbow Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-84217-529-3. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013.
  12. ^ Armbruster, Barbara (2013). "Gold and gold working of the Bronze Age". The Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age. pp. 454–468.
  13. ^ Armbruster (2016). "Manufacturing processes of Atlantic Bronze Age annular gold ornaments—A case study of the Guînes gold hard (Pas-de-Calais, France)". Materials and Manufacturing Processes. 32 (7–8): 728–739. doi:10.1080/10426914.2016.1232819. S2CID 114317154.

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