Bronze Age Metalwork: Techniques and traditions in the Nordic Bronze Age 1500-1100 BC
by Heide W. Nørgaard. Paperback; 205x290mm; xii+502 pages; 290 figures (244 plates in colour). 474 2018. Available both in print and Open Access.
Printed ISBN 9781789690194. £85.00 (No VAT). Epublication ISBN 9781789690200.
Bronze ornaments of the Nordic Bronze Age (neck collars, belt plates, pins and tutuli) were elaborate objects that served as status symbols to communicate social hierarchy. The magnificent metalwork studied here dates from 1500-1100 BC. An interdisciplinary investigation of the artefacts was adopted to elucidate their manufacture and origin, resulting in new insights into metal craft in northern Europe during the Bronze Age. Based on the habitus concept, which situates the craftsmen within their social and technological framework, individual artefact characteristics and metalworking techniques can be used to identify different craft practices, even to identify individual craftsmen. The conclusions drawn from this offer new insights into the complex organisation of metalcraft in the production of prestige goods across different workshops. Several kinship-based workshops on Jutland, in the Lüneburg Heath and Mecklenburg, allow us to conclude that the bronze objects were a display of social status and hierarchy controlled by, and produced for, the elite – as is also seen in the workshops on Zealand. Within the two main metalworking regions, Zealand and central Lower Saxony, workshops can be defined as communities of practice that existed with an extended market and relations with the local elite. Attached craft, in the sense that the craftspeople fully depended on a governing institution and produced artefacts as a manifestation of political expression, was only detected on Zealand between 1500-1300 BC.
The investigation presented here showed that overall results could not be achieved when concentrating only on one aspect of metalwork. Highly skilled craft is to be found in every kind of workshop, as well as an intensive labour input. Only when considering skill in relation to labour input and also taking into account signs of apprenticeship and cross-craft techniques, as well as the different categories of mistakes in crafting, can a stable image of craft organisation be created.
About the Author
HEIDE W. NØRGAARD is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, where she graduated and received her PhD in 2014. With the background as an educated goldsmith, she is working with metal artefacts trying to solve craft technical problems from the Bronze to the early Iron Ages in Northern Europe. Heide W. Nørgaard is currently working on reconstructing the earliest metal trading routes towards Scandinavia, based on over 500 lead isotope analysis of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC.