Nordic Bronze Age

The Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age, or Scandinavian Bronze Age) is a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 1700–500 BC. The Bronze Age culture of this era succeeded the Nordic Stone Age culture (Late Neolithic) and was followed by the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The archaeological legacy of the Nordic Bronze Age culture is rich, but the ethnic and linguistic affinities of it are unknown, in the absence of written sources. Some scholars also include sites in what is now Finland, Estonia, northern Germany and Pomerania, as part of its cultural sphere.

Nordic Bronze Age
Map of the Nordic Bronze Age culture, c. 1200 BC

General characteristics

Settlement in the Scandinavian Bronze Age period consisted mainly of single farmsteads, with no towns or substantial villages known - farmsteads usually consisted of a longhouse plus additional four-post built structures (helms) - longhouses were initially two aisled, and after c.1300 BCE three aisled structure became normal. Evidence of multiple longhouses at a single site have been found, but they are thought to date to different periods, rather than being of the same date. Settlements were geographically located on higher ground, and tended to be concentrated near the sea. Also associated with settlements were burial mounds and cemeteries, with interments including oak coffins and urn burials; other settlement associations include rock carvings, or bronze hoards in wetland sites.[1]

Both agriculture (including wheat, millet, and barley) and keeping of domesticated animals (cattle, as well as sheep and pigs) were practiced, and fishing and shellfish were also sources of food, as well as deer, elk, and other wild animal hunting. There is evidence that oxen were used as draught animals, domesticated dogs were common, horses were rarer and probably status symbols.[1]

Even though Scandinavians joined the European Bronze Age cultures fairly late through trade, Scandinavian sites present a rich and well-preserved legacy of bronze and gold objects. These valuable metals were all imported, primarily from Central Europe, but they were often crafted locally and the craftsmanship and metallurgy of the Nordic Bronze Age was of a high standard. The archaeological legacy also comprise locally of crafted wool and wooden objects and there are many tumuli and rock carving sites from this period, but no written language existed in the Nordic countries during the Bronze Age. The rock carvings have been dated through comparison with depicted artifacts, for example bronze axes and swords. There are also numerous Nordic Stone Age rock carvings, those of northern Scandinavia mostly portray elk.

Thousands of rock carvings from this period depict ships, and the large stone burial monuments known as stone ships, suggest that ships and seafaring played an important role in the culture at large. The depicted ships, most likely represents sewn plank built canoes used for warfare, fishing and trade. These ship types may have their origin as far back as the neolithic period and they continue into the Pre-Roman Iron Age, as exemplified by the Hjortspring boat.[2] 3,600-year old bronze axes and other tools made from Cypriot copper have been found in the region.[3]

Sub-periodization

Oscar Montelius, who coined the term used for the period, divided it into six distinct sub-periods in his piece Om tidsbestämning inom bronsåldern med särskilt avseende på Skandinavien ("On Bronze Age dating with particular focus on Scandinavia") published in 1885, which is still in wide use. His absolute chronology has held up well against radiocarbon dating, with the exception that the period's start is closer to 1700 BC than 1800 BC, as Montelius suggested. For Central Europe a different system developed by Paul Reinecke is commonly used, as each area has its own artifact types and archaeological periods.

A broader subdivision is the Early Bronze Age, between 1700 BC and 1100 BC, and the Late Bronze Age, 1100 BC to 550 BC. These divisions and periods are followed by the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

Climate

The Nordic Bronze Age was initially characterized by a warm climate that began with a climate change around 2700 BC. The climate was comparable to that of present-day central Germany and northern France and permitted a relatively dense population and good opportunities for farming; for example, grapes were grown in Scandinavia at this time. A minor change in climate occurred between 850 BC and 760 BC, introducing a wetter, colder climate and a more radical climate change began around 650 BC.[4]

Religion and cult

There is no coherent knowledge about the Nordic Bronze Age religion; its pantheon, world view and how it was practised. Written sources are lacking, but archaeological finds draw a vague and fragmented picture of the religious practices and the nature of the religion of this period. Only some possible sects and only certain possible tribes are known. Some of the best clues come from tumuli, elaborate artifacts, votive offerings and rock carvings scattered across Northern Europe.

Many finds indicate a strong sun-worshipping cult in the Nordic Bronze Age and various animals have been associated with the sun's movement across the sky, including horses, birds, snakes and marine creatures (see also Sól). A female or mother goddess is also believed to have been widely worshipped (see Nerthus). Hieros gamos rites may have been common and there have been several finds of fertility symbols. A pair of twin gods are believed to have been worshipped, and is reflected in a duality in all things sacred: where sacrificial artifacts have been buried they are often found in pairs. Sacrifices (animals, weapons, jewellery and humans) often had a strong connection to bodies of water. Boglands, ponds, streams or lakes were often used as ceremonial and holy places for sacrifices and many artifacts have been found in such locations. Ritual instruments such as bronze lurs have been uncovered, especially in the region of Denmark and western Sweden. Lur horns are also depicted in several rock carvings and are believed to have been used in ceremonies.

Remnants of the Bronze Age religion and mythology are believed to exist in Germanic mythology and Norse mythology; e.g., Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi and Nerthus, and it is believed to itself be descended from an older Indo-European proto-religion.

Madsebakke-schiff

Boat and sun symbols. Madsesbakke at Bornholm, Denmark.

Tanumshede 2005 rock carvings 5

Men with weapons. Tanumshede, western Sweden.

Petroglypgh Group Nordic Bronze Age 007

Sun wagon. Petroglyph depiction from Tanum, Sweden.

Solvognen - Do 2010 1276

Sun cult artifacts. The Trundholm sun chariot, Denmark.

Bronse-Lurer-Danmark

Ritualistic lur horns in bronze. Brudevælte, Denmark.

Bronze Age Helmets, Nationalmuseet Copenhagen

Ceremonial helmets. Veksø, Denmark.

Gravhög Gårdstånga

Burial mounds. Gårdstånga, Skåne, Sweden.

Bronsalderslik

Mound burials with oak coffins. Borum Eshøj Man, in Borum, Denmark.

Tjelvars grav01

Stone ship monuments. Gotland in Sweden.

Culture

Alta petroglyphs

Hunting scenes. Reindeer, hunters and fishing boats. Alta in Norway.

Petroglypgh Group Nordic Bronze Age 009

Agriculture. Ploughing with bulls. Petroglyph depiction from Tanum, Sweden.

Bronze Age boats

Boats and sun symbols. Bardal Rock carvings, Steinkjer, Norway.

PSM V35 D806 Stone mold for casting four bronze saws

Metallurgy and tool making. Bronze saw mold, Sweden.

Mens clothing Trindhøj

Wool clothing. Trindhøj man, Denmark.

2M16-B1606 Kopia av kam fr Hasslekärr i Hångsdala sn

Bronze combs. Gotland, Sweden.

Rakkniv av brons skåne

Bronze razor knife for shaving. Scania, Sweden.

Rorby bronze age sword, Nationalmuseet Copenhagen

Bronze swords. Rørby, Denmark.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Thrane, Henrik, Peregrine, Peter N.; Ember, Melvin (eds.), "Scandinavian Bronze Age", Encyclopedia of Prehistory, 4 (Europe), pp. 299–314
  2. ^ Ling 2008. Elevated Rock Art. GOTARC Serie B. Gothenburg Archaeological Thesis 49. Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Gothenburg, Goumlteborg, 2008. ISBN 978-91-85245-34-5.
  3. ^ https://www.realmofhistory.com/2016/05/17/cypriot-copper-axes-bronze-age-sweden/
  4. ^ Kane, Njord (1 November 2016). The Viking Stone Age: Birth of the Ax Culture. Spangenhelm Publishing. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

Bibliography

  • Dabrowski, J. (1989) Nordische Kreis un Kulturen Polnischer Gebiete. Die Bronzezeit im Ostseegebiet. Ein Rapport der Kgl. Schwedischen Akademie der Literatur Geschichte und Alter unt Altertumsforschung über das Julita-Symposium 1986. Ed Ambrosiani, B. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien. Konferenser 22. Stockholm.
  • Davidson, H. R. Ellis and Gelling, Peter: The Chariot of the Sun and other Rites and Symbols of the Northern European Bronze Age.
  • K. Demakopoulou (ed.), Gods and Heroes of the European Bronze Age, published on the occasion of the exhibition "Gods and Heroes of the Bronze Age. Europe at the Time of Ulysses", from December 19, 1998, to April 5, 1999, at the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, London (1999), ISBN 0-500-01915-0.
  • Demougeot, E. La formation de l'Europe et les invasions barbares, Paris: Editions Montaigne, 1969-1974.
  • Kaliff, Anders. 2001. Gothic Connections. Contacts between eastern Scandinavia and the southern Baltic coast 1000 BC – 500 AD.
  • Montelius, Oscar, 1885. Om tidsbestämning inom bronsåldern med särskilt avseende på Skandinavien.
  • Musset, L. Les invasions: les vagues germanique, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1965.
Ale's Stones

Ale's Stones (Swedish: Ales stenar or (Swedish: Ale stenar) is a megalithic monument in Scania in southern Sweden. It is a stone ship, oval in outline, with the stones at each end markedly larger than the rest. It is 67 m (220 ft) long formed by 59 large boulders, weighing up to 1.8 tonnes each.

The carbon-14 dating system for organic remains has provided seven results at the site. One indicates that the material is around 5,500 years old whereas the remaining six indicate a date about 1,400 years ago. The latter is considered to be the most likely time for Ales Stenar to have been created. That would place its creation towards the end of the Nordic Iron Age.

Archaeology of Northern Europe

The archaeology of Northern Europe studies the prehistory of Scandinavia and the adjacent North European Plain,

roughly corresponding to the territories of modern Sweden, Norway, Denmark, northern Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.

The region entered the Mesolithic around the 7th millennium BCE. The transition to the Neolithic is characterized by the Funnelbeaker culture in the 4th millennium BCE. The Chalcolithic is marked by the arrival of the Corded Ware culture, possibly the first influence in the region of Indo-European expansion. The Nordic Bronze Age proper begins roughly one millennium later, around 1500 BCE. The end of the Bronze Age is characterized by cultural contact with the Central European La Tène culture (Celts), contributing to the development of the Iron Age by the 4th century BCE, presumably the locus of Common Germanic culture.

Northern Europe enters the protohistorical period in the early centuries CE, with the adoption of writing and ethnographic accounts by Roman authors.

Bornholm Museum

The Bornholm Museum is located in Rønne, Denmark. The museum's association was first founded in 1893. The museum provides a historic view of Rønne and the island of Bornholm, from the Paleolithic era to the modern age, including the history of occupied Bornholm during World War II. The museum houses a number of Nordic Bronze Age and Iron Age artifacts relating to the island. The museum uses a Mjolnir, which was discovered in Bornholm and now housed in the National Museum of Denmark), as its logo.The museum has several notable sites including:

Erichsensgaard - house known for its association with notable visitors including painter Kristian Zahrtmann and poet Holger Drachmann, who married the daughter of the house: Vilhelmine Erichsen (1852–1935).Hjorths Fabrik - terracotta factory founded by Lauritz Adolph Hjorth (1834-1912) in 1859 and in operation until 1993.

Borremose bodies

The Borremose bodies are three bog bodies that were found in the Borremose peat bog in Himmerland, Denmark. Recovered between 1946 and 1948, the bodies of a man and two women have been dated to the Nordic Bronze Age. In 1891, the Gundestrup cauldron was found in a nearby bog.

Brudevælte Lurs

The Brudevælte Lurs, found in a bog north of Lynge on the Danish island of Zealand, are six lurs, which are so well preserved that they can still be played.

Early history of Pomerania

After the glaciers of the Ice Age in the Early Stone Age withdrew from the area, which since about 1000 AD is called Pomerania, in what are now northern Germany and Poland, they left a tundra. First humans appeared, hunting reindeer in the summer. A climate change in 8000 BC allowed hunters and foragers of the Ertebølle-Ellerbek culture to continuously inhabit the area. These people became influenced by farmers of the Linear Pottery culture who settled in southern Pomerania. The hunters of the Ertebølle-Ellerbek culture became farmers of the Funnelbeaker culture in 3000 BC. The Havelland culture dominated in the Uckermark from 2500 to 2000 BC. In 2400 BC, the Corded Ware culture reached Pomerania and introduced the domestic horse. Both Linear Pottery and Corded Ware culture have been associated with Indo-Europeans. Except for Western Pomerania, the Funnelbeaker culture was replaced by the Globular Amphora culture a thousand years later.During the Bronze Age, Western Pomerania was part of the Nordic Bronze Age cultures, while east of the Oder river the Lusatian culture dominated. Throughout the Iron Age, the people of the western Pomeranian areas belonged to the Jastorf culture, while the Lusatian culture of the East was succeeded by the Pomeranian culture, then in 150 BC by the Oksywie culture, and at the beginning of the first millennium by the Wielbark culture.While the Jastorf culture is usually associated with Germanic peoples, the ethnic category of the Lusatian culture and its successors is debated. Veneti, Germanic peoples like Goths, Rugians, and Gepids, and Slavs are assumed to have been the bearers of these cultures or parts thereof.From the 3rd century onwards, many settlements were abandoned, marking the beginning of the migration period in Pomerania. It is assumed that Burgundians, Goths and Gepids with parts of the Rugians left Pomerania during that stage, while some Veneti, Vidivarii and other, Germanic groups remained, and formed the Gustow, Debczyn and late Wielbark cultures, which existed in Pomerania until the 6th century.The name Pomerania comes from Slavic po more, which means "[land] by the sea".

Egtved Girl

The Egtved Girl [ˈɛɡtvɛð] (c. 1390–1370 BC) was a Nordic Bronze Age girl whose well-preserved remains were discovered outside Egtved, Denmark in 1921. Aged 16–18 at death, she was slim, 160 cm tall (about 5 ft 3 in), had short, blond hair and well-trimmed nails. Her burial has been dated by dendrochronology to 1370 BC. She was discovered together with cremated remains of a child in a barrow approximately 30 metres wide and 4 metres high. Only the girl's hair, brain, teeth, nails and a little of her skin remain preserved.

Horned helmet

Horned helmets were worn by many people around the world. Headpieces mounted with animal horns or replicas were also worn, as in the Mesolithic Star Carr. These were probably used for religious ceremonial or ritual purposes. Horns tend to be impractical on a combat helmet. Much of the evidence for these helmets and headpieces comes from depictions rather than the items themselves.

Håga mound

The Håga mound (Hågahögen) or King Björn's Mound (Kung Björns hög) is a large Nordic Bronze Age tumulus in the western outskirts of Uppsala, Sweden. It is one of the most magnificent remains from the Nordic Bronze Age.

Jastorf culture

The Jastorf culture was an Iron Age material culture in what are now southern Scandinavia and north Germany, spanning the 6th to 1st centuries BC, forming the southern part of the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The culture evolved out of the Nordic Bronze Age, through influence from the Halstatt culture farther south.

Lau, Gotland

Lau is a populated area, a socken (not to be confused with parish), on the Swedish island of Gotland. It comprises the same area as the administrative Lau District, established on 1 January 2016. Originally an island, it is now part of the main Gotland island due to the isostasy. It is mostly known for the good water from the spring Lau Käldu.

Lur

A lur, also lure or lurr, is a long natural blowing horn without finger holes that is played by embouchure. Lurs can be straight or curved in various shapes. The purpose of the curves was to make long instruments easier to carry (e.g. for marching, like the modern sousaphone) and to prevent directing the loud noise at nearby people.

The name lur is particularly given to two distinct types of ancient wind instruments. The more recent type is made of wood and was in use in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. The older type, named after the more recent type, is made of bronze, dates to the Bronze Age and was often found in pairs, deposited in bogs, mainly in Denmark and Germany. It consists of a mouthpiece and several pieces and/or pipes. Its length can reach between 1.5 meters and 2 meters. It has been found in Norway, Denmark, South Sweden, and Northern Germany. Illustrations of lurs have also been found on several rock paintings in Scandinavia.

Lusatian culture

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300 BC – 500 BC) in most of today's Poland and parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, eastern Germany, and western Ukraine. It covers the Periods Montelius III (early Lusatian culture) to V of the Northern-European chronological scheme.

There were close contacts with the Nordic Bronze Age. Hallstatt and La Tène influences can also be seen particularly in ornaments (fibulae, pins) and weapons.

Rock Carvings in Tanum

The Rock Carvings in Tanum (Swedish: Hällristningsområdet i Tanum) are a collection of petroglyphs near Tanumshede, Bohuslän, Sweden, which were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 because of their high concentration.

Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi

In Norse mythology, Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are the horses of Dagr (day) and Nótt (night). The names Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are bahuvrihi compounds, meaning "shining mane" and "rime mane" (or "frost mane"), respectively. Skinfaxi pulls Dagr's chariot across the sky every day and his mane lights up the sky and earth below.

The myth of Skinfaxi is believed to have originated in Nordic Bronze Age religion, for which there is strong evidence of beliefs involving a horse pulling the sun across the sky. The Trundholm sun chariot is drawn by a single horse, and was possibly imagined to be pulled back across the sky from west to east by a second horse. Related are Arvak and Alsvid, a team of two horses pulling the chariot of Sól.

In the Codex Regius, Skinfaxi and Hrimfaxi are mentioned in verses 7 and 8 of the Vafþrúðnismál, during the battle of wits between Odin and (the jotun) Vafþrúðnir. This is the oldest extant manuscript which mentions these two horses.

Stenkyrka

Stenkyrka is a populated area, a socken (not to be confused with parish), on the Swedish island of Gotland. It comprises the same area as the administrative Stenkyrka District, established on 1 January 2016.

Stone ship

The stone ship or ship setting was an early burial custom in Scandinavia, Northern Germany and the Baltic states. The grave or cremation burial was surrounded by slabs or stones in the shape of a ship. The ships vary in size and were erected from c. 1000 BC to 1000 AD.

Tofta, Gotland

Tofta is a populated area, a socken (not to be confused with parish), on the Swedish island of Gotland. It comprises the same area as the administrative Tofta District, established on 1 January 2016.Tofta is most noted for its long, sandy beach. In the north part of Tofta is a military firing range, which is also the location of the annual Gotland Grand National, the world's largest enduro race.

Trundholm sun chariot

The Trundholm sun chariot (Danish: Solvognen), is a Nordic Bronze Age artifact discovered in Denmark. It is a representation of the sun chariot, a bronze statue of a horse and a large bronze disk, which are placed on a device with spoked wheels.

The sculpture was discovered with no accompanying objects in 1902 in a peat bog on the Trundholm moor in Odsherred in the northwestern part of Zealand, (approximately 55°55′N 11°37′E). It is now in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

Timeline of the history of Scandinavia
History of the Germanic peoples
General
Languages
development
Pre-Christian
Pagan society
(until about
Early Middle Ages)
Christianisation
Bronze Age
Bronze Age
(North Caucasus
and Transcaucasia)

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