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Prehistoric-Society

In Association with

Bronze Age

A Field Trip to your Classroom

In Britain, it was approx 2,000 BC when metal working first began with the discovery that there was a green coloured stone that would melt if heated. This ofcourse was the discovery of Copper.  Later, people discovered that if you mixed 90% Copper with 10% Tin Ore, another new metal could be created, Bronze.

 

Although we don't know for certain, it is generally believed that the new bronze tools and weapons from this time period came over from continental Europe as trade goods. One of the interesting things about why we think this is because we can see that the skulls recovered from burial sites from the Bronze Age are different in shape from Stone Age skulls.

 

This would suggest that new ideas and new blood were brought over from the continent. When we think of the Bronze Age,  don't think that people suddenly, after 10,000 years stopped using stone and suddenly started sing Bronze tools instead. Stone tools and Bronze tools were used together for a few generations before Bronze became the normal way of life.  Its also interesting to know that both Copper (The Great Orme in Llandudno) and Tin (Cornwall) readily available in Britain at this time.

 

Before Britons started using Bronze tools, the Bronze Age had in fact been used in Europe for some time.  Archaeologists think that the island of Crete was the centre for the expansion of the bronze trade to Europe.

 

The Beaker people

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is widely thought, although not certain, that bronze was first brought over to Britain by the Bell Beaker folk.

They were so named because of their distinctive bell-shaped pottery drinking vessels.

They probably established themselves in Cornwall because there were rich deposits of copper and tin there.

 

The Bell Beaker folk readily mixed with any new culture they encountered, including the Neolithic farmers they found in Britain, and Bell beakers have been found in megalithic tombs and henge temples of the Neolithics.

 

They improved the existing temple at Stonehenge, which is proof that they got on well with the original inhabitants, and at Avebury they made another great henge monument. This is a large circular ditch and bank, and within it was a ring of standing stones - although these have now gone. Nearby, at Silbury Hill, stands the largest man-made mound in prehistoric Britain, again thought to have been made by the Beaker people. No burial has been found inside it.

 

The arrival of the Beaker people in Britain gave rise to what archaeologists call the Wessex Culture. This is the name given to a number of very rich grave goods under round barrows in southern Britain. The grave goods include well made stone battle axes, metal daggers with elaborately decorated hilts, and precious ornaments of gold and amber - these are some of the loveliest prehistoric objects ever to be found in Britain. Among the golden cups found in the graves, some were found that were so like those of the Mycenae that they are used as examples to prove the existence of trade between Wessex and Greece.

 

 

Later Bronze Age

 

By this time, Textile production was an established process and women would wear long woollen skirts and short tunics.  We believe, from the evidence that the men wore knee-length wrap-around skirts, or kilt-like woollens, as well as tunics, cloaks and even one-piece garments. They were also clean-shaven, long-haired and wore round woollen hats.

 

Most farms of ths period consisted of two houses, One was used as the main living house with an out-house for cooking and textile production. The dead were being cremated and buried in small cemeteries behind each settlement. The large burial sites of the early Bronze Age were a thing of the past because the land was needed for agriculture.

 

In the late Bronze Age we also see an advanced pottery-making technique as well as the production of more sophisticated weapons.

 

Just as the use of Bronze took time to be adopted, so then was the new metal. Just around the corner, The Iron Age, the discovery of Iron for tools and weapons started in Britain around 650 BC and finished around AD 40. Again, the knowledge of iron-making was brought to Britain by Europeans, who had already started to build the first blast furnaces.

 

To sum up, the Bronze Age in Britain lasted about 1,500 years.

 

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