British Collections by Archaeological Period:

Bronze Age (2300 BC-800 BC)

Metals appear in Europe about 3500 BC, reaching Britain in about 2300 BC. Copper and gold were the first metals to be used, followed by bronze (a copper alloy with tin and then lead). Tools and ornaments could now be made easily in a variety of shapes, but flint and stone were still used for many objects. Metals were traded over long distances across Europe, as were other materials such as jet and amber, salt and glass.

Many Bronze Age settlements were very long-lived, so that by the end of the period some of these villages were very large (housing hundreds of people). In Britain, houses were round and were set in small farms or groups of buildings, with fields and trackways around. Many areas in southern Britain were by this time cleared of forests, though the Chilterns were not cleared until the Iron Age.

A sense of ownership appears to grow during the Bronze Age, and perhaps division between communities: we find items for fighting, such as swords and shields; signs of territory, such as long landscape divisions; and evidence for status, such as in grave goods.

Within the British landscape people continued to build communal ritual sites, for instance stone circles (eg Stonehenge and Avebury, Wilts), and cemeteries of round burial mounds (barrows). Ritual deposition of special items in bogs and rivers, especially objects made of bronze, is common from the Bronze Age on.

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stone hammerhead
Stone hammerhead from Lakenheath, Suffolk (AN1886.1120a)

ceramic beaker
Early Bronze Age ceramic beaker from Soham, Cambridgeshire (AN1922.268)

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The wide range of items found at Bronze Age sites can be seen in the British Collections at the Ashmolean Museum. These are from the John Evans collections.

sword from Faversham
Copper alloy sword from Faversham, Kent (AN1927.2355)
Copper alloy palstave from Leeds, Yorkshire (AN1927.2609)
stone hammerhead with perforation
Stone macehead from Denton, Norfolk (AN1927.3505)

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January 2012