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Shifting networks and mixing metals: Changing metal trade routes to Scandinavia correlate with Neolithic and Bronze Age transformations

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Based on 550 metal analyses, this study sheds decisive light on how the Nordic Bronze Age was founded on metal imports from shifting ore sources associated with altered trade routes. On-and-off presence of copper characterised the Neolithic. At 2100-2000 BC, a continuous rise in the flow of metals to southern Scandinavia begins. First to arrive via the central German Únětician hubs was high-impurity metal from the Austrian Inn Valley and Slovakia; this was complemented by high-tin British metal, enabling early local production of tin bronzes. Increased metal use locally fuelled the leadership competitions visible in the metal-led material culture. The Únìtice downfall c.1600 BC resulted for a short period in a raw materials shortage, visible in the reuse of existing stocks, but stimulated direct Nordic access to the Carpathian basin. This new access expedited innovations in metalwork with reliance on chalcopyrite from Slovakia, as well as opening new sources in the eastern Alps, along an eastern route that also conveyed Baltic amber as far as the Aegean. British metal plays a central role during this period. Finally, from c.1500 BC, when British copper imports ceased, the predominance of novel northern Italian copper coincides with the full establishment of the NBA and highlights a western route, connecting the NBA with the southern German Tumulus culture and the first transalpine amber traffic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0252376
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Nørgaard et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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