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Bronze Age Globalism

29 June 2020

Not strictly globalism, as in the modern world, which is corporatist, but something like that – according to https://sciencenorway.no/archaeology-bronze-age-ships/was-there-a-viking… … was there a viking age in Scandinavia 2000 years prior to the vikings? This is a great link and an interesting hypothesis. As many as 90 per cent of all Bronze Age petroglyphs in Norway feature boats, both small and large. It was once thought these had a mythical meaning, somewhat like the heavenly barge of the Egyptians plying through the sky (the ark of other peoples). However, the Egyptians also had earthly barques – and Nile river plying boats. They were used in an extensive trade network. What is below is often transferred to the above (the sky). Hence, it seems eminently reasonable that so too did the Scandinavians have both earthly and heavenly boats (one in the hard reality of life and the other in the mythological depiction of phenomena in the sky). Therefore, the hypothesis that ancient Scandinavians also partook in an extensive trade network using boats to sail around coasts and up and down the many rivers of central and eastern Europe, seems like an archaeological theory with its feet on the ground. The idea is bound up with access to bronze in the ancient world. It necessitates trade routes in order to accrue the alloy as bronze is made from roughly 90 per cent of copper and 10 per cent of tin. As far as NW Europe is concerned we more or less know that copper was being mined and sold on from North Wales to Scandinavia and tin was being exploited in Cornwall at the same point in time the Bronze age in Scandinavia was at its height. The author of this study, however, suggests copper was imported from the Mediterranean region, specifically from Italy. W also know that copper ingots were imported into southern Britain in the Bronze age with an origin in the Mediterranean (possibly Cyprus or Spain). Shipwrecks have been salvaged with lots of copper in the hold. The idea this was equivalent to globalism is of course far fetched but trade networks were widespread in the ancient world of the Bronze age, as even Egyptian faeince turns up in Norway and in the UK. Cornish tin was probably traded  far and wide, via the Phoenicians and the Greeks. However, that was the Iron age. We are talking about the Bronze age – when the elite had an eye for anything of intrinsic value, especially bronze, which looked like gold and when polished shined up like solidified sunlight. Therefore it had more than a monetary value as gold was often associated with the gods in the sky. 

In Norwegian terms the Bronze age is defined as the period between 1700/1600BC and 500BC. In the UK this would be defined as the Middle and Late Bronze ages but in the Mediterranean and Near East, including Egypt, it was the Late Bronze age which has been described as a high point of human endeavour, with major players such as the Hittites, Egyptians, and the Assyro-Babylonians. It was also highly populous and as far as climate is concerned, is defined as the Minoan Warm Period. The author of the piece says temperatures were 3 degrees warmer than in the modern world in Scandinavia. 

In Bronze age Scandinavia, including Norway, ships, houses, weapons and clothing etc., were very similar to what they were in the Iron Age – right down to the Viking era. There was one difference however. The Bronze age people seem to have commonly worn horned helmets but in the Viking era their use was sporadic.

Farms in Norway, and Scandinavia, were much the same in the Bronze age to what they were in the Viking era, as archaeology has shown. Scandinavia became a land of bronze  smiths. They produced jewellery and ornamental dagges for example, which were traded widely. There was also the Baltic amber, a long time item of trade and much valued in the Mediterranean world. Scandinavians had previously been fine stone workers, and in the Iron age they made use of ample bog  iron (with an origin in glacial periods) found in wetlands and streams right across the region, becoming blacksmiths and itinerant smelters. Farmers, for example, collected the bog iron and the blacksmiths moved from farm  to farm producing tools and such like. They also made iron weapons for the elite. A common culture was endemic to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and northern Germany, much as what existed a thousand years later in the post-Roman era…. The arrival of iron technology in Scandinavia is estimated at around 600BC. It may have been a bit earlier, contemporary with its appearance in the UK. Presumably it arrived via contact with the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures in central Europe. Iron was obtained from what is called bog iron (which occurrs naturally in quite large quantitiies in Scandinavia but not so much in southern Britain). There are iron ore deposits in Northamptonshire for example and iron ore is common in different locations. Presumably bog iron was readily available in Scotland, for example. Climate warmed up in the Roman era and trade with the empire no doubt led to a revival of fortunes in Scandinavia. However, cold periods from 1200 to 800BC and in the 5th and 6th centuries AD may have led to population movement, as farms became less viable due to crop yields declining. This may explain the lack of Scandinavian trade between the Bronze age and the Viking era. Rather, the amber trade would have persisted but a truly globalist network came to an end with the collapse of the LB age in the Mediterranean. The Viking age actually coincided, or followed on, from a warm period in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.


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