England - Periods - Pre-history - Bronze introduced

Bronze Introduced

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Bronze is an alloy made primarily of copper and tin, and its introduction to civilizations around the world was a significant technological advancement. There were several important qualities of bronze that improved civilization:

Strength and Durability: Bronze is much stronger and more durable than copper, which was the main material used prior to the Bronze Age. This made it ideal for making tools and weapons that needed to withstand heavy use and wear.

Versatility: Bronze is a highly versatile material that can be easily cast and molded into a wide variety of shapes and sizes. This allowed for the creation of a range of tools, weapons, and other objects, from small ornaments to large agricultural implements.

Corrosion Resistance: Bronze is highly resistant to corrosion, which means it can withstand exposure to moisture and other environmental factors without deteriorating or degrading. This made it ideal for use in marine environments, where other metals would quickly rust and corrode.

Bronze was mainly used for making a wide variety of tools and weapons, including axes, swords, knives, and spears. It was also used to create farming implements, such as plows and hoes, as well as jewelry, ornaments, and other decorative objects.

The introduction of bronze had a significant impact on the development of civilizations around the world, allowing for the creation of more complex societies, improved agricultural practices, and the growth of trade and commerce. The use of bronze was a key technological advancement that paved the way for further innovations and advancements in metalworking and other fields.

Bronze was first introduced to the British Isles during the early Bronze Age, which lasted from around 2500 BCE to 1500 BCE. Bronze is an alloy made primarily of copper and tin, and it was used to make a variety of tools and weapons.

It is believed that the knowledge of bronze metallurgy was brought to Britain by traders or immigrants from the continent, possibly from the region of modern-day France or the Iberian Peninsula. The earliest bronze artifacts found in Britain date back to around 2100 BCE and were discovered in the east of England, indicating that the technology may have been introduced to the region from the continent via trade routes.

The use of bronze gradually spread throughout the British Isles over the course of the Bronze Age, and by the end of the period, it had become the dominant material for making tools, weapons, and ornaments. The Bronze Age in Britain ended with the arrival of the Iron Age, around 800 BCE, when iron began to be used in place of bronze for many purposes.

During the Bronze Age in Britain, the island was inhabited by several different groups of people, each with their own distinct cultures and traditions. Archaeological evidence suggests that these groups were organized into small, rural communities that relied on agriculture and animal husbandry for their sustenance.

The Bronze Age saw the emergence of a number of new technologies and innovations in Britain. In addition to the introduction of bronze metallurgy, other developments included the construction of stone circles and other megalithic monuments, the development of pottery, and the creation of new styles of jewelry and ornamentation.

Bronze had a significant impact on these communities by providing them with a new and versatile material for making tools, weapons, and other objects. Bronze tools were harder and more durable than those made of stone or bone, and they allowed people to clear land, till fields, and harvest crops more efficiently. Bronze weapons, such as swords and axes, were also more effective than their stone counterparts, giving warriors an advantage in battle.

The availability of bronze also helped to increase trade and exchange between different communities in Britain and with the wider world, as the metal was highly valued and sought after. This led to the development of long-distance trade networks and the growth of regional centers of commerce and industry.

Overall, the introduction of bronze to Britain played a key role in shaping the cultures and societies of the Bronze Age, helping to spur innovation and technological progress, and enabling the growth of complex social and economic networks.

The Celts were not the only group of people who lived in Britain. In fact, the Celtic culture only emerged in Britain during the Iron Age, around 800 BCE, long after the introduction of bronze to the island.

Before the arrival of the Celts, Britain was inhabited by a variety of different peoples and cultures, including the Beaker people, who are associated with the early Bronze Age, and the Bronze Age people of the Wessex culture, who lived in southern England from around 1700 BCE.

There were also several other groups of people who lived in Britain during the Bronze Age and earlier, including the Neolithic and Mesolithic peoples who constructed stone circles and other megalithic structures, and the early farmers who arrived in Britain from continental Europe during the Neolithic period.

Over time, these different groups of people would have interacted and intermarried, leading to the development of complex and diverse cultural traditions and social structures in Britain. The island has a rich and varied history, with many different peoples and cultures leaving their mark on the land over the millennia.

Bronze Age Finds

There have been many major finds of bronze artifacts from the Bronze Age in Britain, some of which are listed below:

The Amesbury Archer - This is the nickname given to a man whose remains were found near the town of Amesbury in Wiltshire in 2002. The Amesbury Archer was buried with an array of valuable artifacts, including two gold hair ornaments, a copper dagger, and a set of 16 arrowheads made of flint and bronze.

The Mold Cape - This is a gold cape or cloak that was discovered in a burial mound near the town of Mold in North Wales in 1833. The cape is made from sheet gold and features a series of intricate patterns and motifs that were likely created using repoussé and chasing techniques.

The Ringlemere Cup - This is a small bronze vessel that was discovered by a metal detectorist in Kent in 2001. The cup is made from a single sheet of bronze and features a series of intricate designs and motifs that may have had symbolic or ritualistic significance.

The Bronze Age hoards of Cornwall - Cornwall has been a particularly rich source of Bronze Age finds, with numerous hoards of bronze artifacts having been discovered there over the years. One of the most significant of these is the Penwith hoard, which was discovered in 1837 and included a large number of bronze axes, swords, and other objects.

The Bronze Age burials of the River Thames - The River Thames has been another important source of Bronze Age finds in Britain, with a number of burials and other artifacts having been discovered there over the years. One of the most significant of these was the Battersea Shield, a large bronze shield that was discovered in the river in 1857 and is now housed in the British Museum.

The Battersea Shield is a large bronze shield that was discovered in the River Thames in Battersea, London in 1857. It is one of the most impressive and well-preserved examples of Bronze Age metalwork in Britain.

The shield measures about 77 centimeters (30 inches) in diameter and is made of bronze sheeting that has been hammered and decorated with a variety of motifs, including geometric designs and images of animals and warriors. The shield is domed in the center, giving it a distinctive shape, and it features a raised boss that would have protected the hand of the warrior who carried it.

The Battersea Shield is believed to date from the 8th century BCE, making it one of the earliest examples of metalwork from the Iron Age in Britain. It is thought to have been made by the Celtic peoples who inhabited the region at that time, possibly as a ceremonial or ritual object.

The shield was discovered in two pieces, and it is believed to have been deliberately deposited in the river as an offering or a votive offering. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1858, and it has since become one of the most iconic and recognizable artifacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages in Britain.

The Battersea Shield is particularly significant for the intricate nature of its decoration and the skill with which it was crafted. It is also noteworthy for the insights it provides into the culture and beliefs of the people who created it, and the complex social and political structures that existed in Britain during the Bronze and Iron Ages.

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Reference: Article by Greg Scott (Staff Historian), 2023

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