11th Nordic Bronze Age Symposium, Day 1

Helsinki isn't far from Stockholm. It took me a bit more than four hours from home to my hotel here, and I could have shaved more than an hour off of that if I had taken the bullet train to the airport and a cab to the hotel instead of going by bus.

I'm at the 11th Nordic Bronze Age symposium, which for the first time includes a bunch of Baltic colleagues as wall. Everybody's very friendly and the atmosphere is informal. It's a pretty sizeable conference as these things go in my discipline: about 60 registered participants, of which I have made the acquaintance of at least half by now. For reasons unclear to me, I was made the afternoon's discussant, which was fun and flattering.

I'm here to learn what Bronze Age scholars in my part of the world are doing right now, because I'm planning to become one of them. So far I've been able to understand everything reasonably well, though I lack basic skills of the trade for the period in question. Menace me with a Bronze Age sword, and I will generally not be able to place it in the right Montelian phase to save my life. (Unless you lend me the sword so I can look it up in the literature. It's safe, I'm a pacifist. Come on now, just hand it over.)

Here are the main themes touched upon in today's presentations:

  • Building a new model of how Bronze Age society in Southern Scandinavia was organised.
  • Current Bronze Age research in Estonia.
  • Past and present interpretations of the Early Metal Age and Bronze Age in Finland.
  • Why does the Hajdusamson-Apa sword type occur both in Scandinavia and in Carpathia?
  • Is it possible to find a northern border of the Nordic Bronze Age culture along the coast of Norway?
  • The Bronze Age in the Stockholm archipelago (Mattias & Roger reporting on their on-going Ornö dig!).
  • Recent rock art surveys in Södermanland province.
  • Is it possible to radiocarbon date bronze?
  • Bronze socketed axe found with a piece of the shaft inside, this has been dated, sadly the typological date didn't match the radiocarbon.)
  • The ethnic and social background of various find types in the Finnish Bronze Age.
  • A Late Bronze Age seal-hunting centre in Ostrobotnia.

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I have a pretty naive question. When was the Bronze Age in the Nordic? About the same time as the Mediterranean and mid-east? Second millennium BCE or so? How quick did this tech move?

By Markk BCE (not verified) on 29 Oct 2009 #permalink

Well done! There is a tiny bit of copper already from the 4th millennium BC onward, but the real Bronze Age of Denmark and southern Sweden/Norway begins about 1700 and ends in 500 BC.

In Finland the dating of the BA is approximately the same, 1700 - 500, although actual bronze artefacts are rare and especially in the inner parts of the country it is more an Eneolithic or Epineolithic than real Bronze Age.

OK, so having got my attention, are you going to tell us the answers? CAN you carbon date bronze? If so, how? What conclussions were drawn about the axe whose dates did not match?

By eleanora. (not verified) on 01 Nov 2009 #permalink

You can date the smelting of copper ore because the metal absorbs carbon from the fuel. BUT the date of your bronze object will get messed up if:

- Old wood was used for fuel.
- Old scrap bronze was used.
- Fossil coal was used.
- Limestone was used as slag liquefier (it contains ancient carbon).

As for the axe, IIRC it does not belong to a common type with a well-established date.

I have a stone ax that has been passed down through the family. My late father lived in Skövde. As a boy he helped his father and Farfar (fathers father) plow fields. One day plowing a new field they uncovered 20 stone axes. A museum was contacted but Farfar secretly kept one ax. To this day I assumed the ax to be made of stone, but I just looked at it under a scope and I see green corrosion growing on it suggesting copper. What is the best way to find the true age of this wonderful piece of history.

By Leslie Johnson… (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

If you would send me a few pix from different angles and measurements, then I can determine its type and date. Also, if you give me the name of the farmstead and the parish, I may be able to find pix of the rest of the axe hoard.