Session: #295

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Between Kings, Chieftains and Slaves? New Ways of Tracing Social Stratification in the Central European Early Bronze Age
Social stratification in prehistoric societies has long been a major research topic. Especially the beginning of the Bronze Age world with a rapidly increasing hierarchization was and still is the focus of many of archaeological studies. Much research has been done in finding traces and evidences for the existence of the first state-like organisations in Central Europe. Most obviously the so-called princely graves of the Únětice culture represent people that gathered and inherited a lot of power and wealth. But those narratives of chiefdoms and early state societies portray only one of the possibilities within the diverse Early Bronze Age landscape and its different social structures. The task is to identify hierarchical structures also in those regions or contemporary societies without clearly visible archaeological signs of chieftains or other highly stratified systems.
The session will concentrate on the Early Bronze Age (2200–1650 BC) roughly between the alpine lake dwellings, the southern alpine villages, the Únětice culture and the Tell building societies of the Carpathian Basin. One major focus is gaining knowledge about social stratification from a combined investigation of settlement structures (centralization, fortification, large-scale food storage etc.), burial practices and hoard find patterns to identify different types of hierarchies. New scientific methods (aDNA, isotope analyses, metal analyses etc.) can help to uncover so far hidden social patterns by adding more information about kinship, mobility and trade management and can thus explain the emergence, maintenance and extension of hierarchical structures.
Early Bronze Age, Central Europe, social structures, societies, settlement structures, burial practices
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Main organiser:
Mirco Brunner (Switzerland) 1,2,3
Ken Massy (Germany) 4
Michal Ernée (Czech Republic) 5
Albert Hafner (Switzerland) 1,2
Barbara Armbruster (France) 6
1. University of Bern, Institute of Archaeological Science, Prehistory Department
2. University of Bern, Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR) Research Group, Prehistory Archeology
3. Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, Graduate School «Human Development in Landscapes»
4. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie
5. Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology
6. Centre National de Recherche Scientifique