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While the Bronze Age is recognized as one of history’s most important phases, it’s been hard for historians to precisely date. The idea of the Bronze Age comes from a three-age system developed in the 19th century through which archaeologists and historians believe cultures evolved. These three ages are the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, and the concept of the system stems from the simultaneous development of museums in Europe during that time. In the Royal Museum of Nordic Antiquities in Denmark, Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, the director of the museum, began classifying objects of stone, bronze, or iron to better categorize and exhibit them. 

Each archaeological artifact was thus sorted according to their materials and further organized by shape and style. Through such methodology, working alongside archaeological reports, he was able to show how certain objects changed over time (Fagan 1996, 712). 

Such a typology, combined with stratigraphy noted in archaeological reports, was useful to early archaeologists with no reliable method for dating artifacts. By understanding which object came before or after, early archaeologists had a relative dating system with which to assess the age of an object or culture. This kind of system was useful to the archaeologists who often encountered objects from above-ground burials that lacked stratigraphy. 

When this three-age system reached England, John Lubbock expanded on it by applying cultural anthropology to the ages. Over time, other researchers would gradually add their interpretations to the system, with many arguing for sub-divisions of the Stone Age or the introduction of a Copper Age between the Neolithic and the Bronze Ages (Rowley-Conwy 2007, 243). 

The Bronze Age in Europe: The History and Legacy of Civilizations Across Europe from 3200-600 BCE looks at the different cultures that emerged over those crucial years. You will learn about the Bronze Age in Europe like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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