T Urnfield culture first emerged in c.1300 bc in eastern Europe. During the 12th century BC. it spread into what is now Italy and northern Europe. By 850 BC, it had been adopted by Celtic tribes throughout Europe. In the Atlantic regions, however, the burial tradition remained.
Urnfield culture This Late Bronze Age urn (c. 1250-850 bc) was found at the Celtic oppidum of Mont Lassois, north-east France. The geometric pattern is typical of the period.
The increase in the numbers and variety of bronze objects that characterised the Undtice culture, in what is now the Czech Republic, soon spread to adjoining regions (including Silesia in Poland) and thence to other parts of Europe. Even those regions, such as Scandinavia, that lacked raw materials became involved in metallurgy by trading metals for amber and fur. Other economic factors also began to influence European scxriety at this time. Wcx)lly sheep, for example, were intrcxluced, which could be sheared annually to produce large amounts of valuable fibres for clothing. Pastoral farming, especially cattle rearing, became more widespread in western Europe, and horses spread to the Atlantic coast region. The horse, probably domesticated, is also found in Beaker levels at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. The most energetic and innovative area at this time was Carpathia in eastern Europe, where two-piece moulds with clay cores were used to make shaft-hole axes, and an advanced form of prestige weaponry - the chariot - was introduced from farther east.
These factors further encouraged the development of warrior elites who, by accumulating and controlling wealth in the form of metals, livestock and woollen cloth (and employing skilled workers such as smiths and weavers), were able to establish themselves in a socially dominant position. In the early centuries of the 2nd millennium bc, fortified hilltops became an increasingly common feature of the European landscape, and many rich warrior graves attest to the wealth and ostentation of the new elites.
Trade in metals
Another result of these economic developments was an explosion in the volume and complexity of metal trade, mainly in copper, tin and bronze. Traditional trade routes developed into a series of regional trading networks that stretched right across Europe. The elite centres traded and exchanged raw materials and finished goods, both locally and over long distances. The commodities traded were not restricted to metals. For instance, amber from the Baltic coast was available at this time both in Britain and Ireland to the west, and in Greece further east. Trade in fur was also significant.
The trade routes themsehes generally followed water - either by sea (following coasts and crossing to islands), or along Europe's great rivers such as the Danube and Rhine, natural highways to be travelled by boat or followed on foot. In the south-east, the trade network centred on Greece and under the control of the Mycenaeans, was in direct contact with the civilisations of the eastern Mediterranean, and therefore its historv is
Well dcxnimented. The other European trade networks were excluded from direct contact with Mycenae, and consequently have no clear identification with a named group. At best, we can say that the trade network in the extreme west of the Mediterranean was centred on El Argar in south-east Spain, or that the ranchers of the Wessex culture in southern England were part of the Atlantic trade network.
Although they cannot be ethnically identified like the Mycenaeans, the peoples of other regional networks certainly fostered the development of regional styles of manufacture and decoration. Some of these styles, both technical and 'artistic', entered the trade network and became adapted, altered and dispersed. Although 'civilian' artefacts such as jewellery are present, the archaeological record of the Middle Bronze Age has a strong 'military' bias.
About 1300 BC, at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, a social revolution known as the Urnfield phenomenon began to transform Europe. In the course of the next 500 years, a remarkably unified culture was progressively established over much of central and western Europe. Emerging initially in western Carpathia, the phenomenon spread first, not to adjacent territory, but to the hubs of the nearby trading networks.
The distinguishing feature of the transformed societies, is a change in 'funeral' practice. From a tradition of inhumation (burial), or other means of disposing of the dead - for long periods in Britain, for example, there is no readily detectable archaeological record for the practice of burial - there was a shift to cremation, with the ashes of the deceased placed in p>ottery 'urns' that were buried in large cemeteries (umfields). This change, generally interpreted as evidence of a revolution in belief systems, was by no means complete and most umfields contain a mixture of inhumation and cremation. The significance of these differences is a matter for fierce debate and issues of ethnicity and migration remain unresolved, although it seems generally agreed that, in eastern Europe at least, the early Urnfield period was marked by major social upheaval involving significant population movements.
T This bronze cuirass from St-Germain-du-Plain, east FrarKe, dates from the Late Bronze Age (c. 1250-850 BC). About 50 cm (20 in) high, it was crafted from an embossed bronze sheet.
ЎЎ During the Middle Bronze Age, trade routes used by the Mycenaeans expanded further west to mainland Italy. In central Europe, the River Danube opened up trade routes to the north and west.
Urnfield culture 1350 to 1250 BC
I 1 Urnfield culture 1250 to 1000 BC
I I Urnfield culture 1000 to C.850BC
I I Allontic culture c900 BC