Mobility and exchanges in the Bronze Age

Migration (changing the domicile of people in the hope of more favorable living conditions) is one of the most current political and social issues of our day. However, not only researchers of contemporary societies are into exploring the causes of international movements: historical wanderings are at the center of the attention of historians and archaeologists as well (see e. g. the conference organized by the Trianon 100 Lendület/Momentum Research Group this year: ON THE ROAD – Escape, Mobility and Integration after World War I in Central Europe).

Archaeological researchers – especially those examining prehistoric communities without written sources – commonly traced certain changes in material culture back to the emergence of new peoples from the very beginning. With the broad use of scientific methods in archeology recently, revolutionarily high quality and quantity of information has emerged in this area as well. The detailed (e.g. isotope) analysis of raw materials or human remains can provide us a much more subtle picture of the drivers of changes (exchange networks, cultural impacts, mobility of individuals/communities).

Most recent stable isotope (Price et al., 2004; Gerling et al., 2012; Giblin et al., 2013; Parker Pearson et al., 2016; Grupe et al., 2017) and archaeogenetic studies (Gamba et al. (see also Mathieson et al, 2015, Van der Linden 2016, Gruppe et al 2017, Kristiansen et al 2017) concerning in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC Central Europe show that the diffusion of archaeological cultures can be linked to actual movements of people. Regarding the northern and western regions of Central Europe, similar analyses suggest that exogamous marriage was a common social norm at that time (Price et al., 2004; Frei et al., 2015; Knipper et al. 2017). According to recent data from the British Isles, almost every third person was buried far away from their place of birth 2500 years ago. Immigrants were not only women, but men, young and elderly people also. The presence of the latter may refer not only to exoamous marriage systems, but also to the migration of entire families/kins (Parker Pearson et al., 2016; Olalde et al. in print).

Our research team faces a number of issues regarding the precise processes of eastwards and westwards migrations affecting the Bronze Age Carpathian Basin as well. How exactly did long-distance tradeware (raw materials like copper, tin, gold, amber) get here? Could the appearance of new settlers be related to exogamous marriage strategies or could we rather look for wandering families and small communities?

In her lecture held on January 31 (2018), Viktória Kiss explained the most recent pan-European and Hungarian research results and mobility strategies by analysing basic case studies. In our next series of posts, we will present the methods and the latest results of research concerning Bronze Age mobility in Europe.

Stay tuned!


Illustration: Prehistoric migration uncovered with the help of DNA; Troy (movie, Warner Bros.)




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