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Stockhammer, Philipp W.; Massy, Ken; Knipper, Corina; Friedrich, Ronny; Kromer, Bernd; Lindauer, Susanne; Radosavljevic, Jelena; Wittenborn, Fabian; Krause, Johannes (2015): Rewriting the Central European Early Bronze Age Chronology: Evidence from Large-Scale Radiocarbon Dating.
In: PLOS ONE 10(10), e0139705


The transition from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age in Central Europe has often been considered as a supra-regional uniform process, which led to the growing mastery of the new bronze technology. Since the 1920s, archaeologists have divided the Early Bronze Age into two chronological phases (Bronze A1 and A2),which were also seen as stages of technical progress. On the basis of the early radiocarbon dates from the cemetery of Singen, southern Germany, the beginning of the Early Bronze Age in Central Europe was originally dated around 2300/2200 BC and the transition to more complex casting techniques (i.e.,Bronze A2) around 2000 BC. On the basis of 140 newly radiocarbon dated human remains from Final Neolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Age cemeteries south of Augsburg (Bavaria) and a re-dating of ten graves from the cemetery of Singen, we propose a significantly different dating range, which forces us to re-think the traditional relative and absolute chronologies as well as the narrative of technical development. We are now able to date the beginning of the Early Bronze Age to around 2150 BC and its end to around 1700 BC. Moreover, there is no transition between Bronze (Bz) A1 and Bronze (Bz) A2, but a complete overlap between the type objects of the two phases from 1900-1700 BC. We thus present a revised chronology of the assumed diagnostic type objects of the Early Bronze Age and recommend a radiocarbon-based view on the development of the material culture. Finally, we propose that the traditional phases Bz A1 and Bz A2 do not represent a chronological sequence, but regionally different social phenomena connected to the willingness of local actors to appropriate the new bronze technology.