|Atlantic Bronze Age|
There is a lengthy article today at BBC on what appears to be an economic crisis in Late Bronze Britain, between roughly 800 BCE and 500 BCE, when Iron begins showing up and a recovery seems to take place.
The article is lengthy but inconclusive. However I have my own ideas of why this decline: the Celtic invasion of Western Iberia, which, together with other parts of Atlantic Europe constituted an economic region since the beginnings of Megalithism beyond Portugal, in the fourth millenium BCE.
Hence, when we contemplate this crisis in Britain we are surely contemplating the last, extremely decadent, episode of an international civilization that had some three millennia of unwritten history.
Very briefly (dates may change slightly depending who you read):
- c. 4800 BCE the first dolmens (chamber tombs) appear in Southern Portugal, with their characteristic “collective” (clannic, sequential) burial style. This type of tomb defines the cultural phenomenon we can well call Domenic Megalithism.
- c. 3800 BCE Dolmenic Megalithism migrates to Armorica (Brittany, Mid-West France), where it acquires an elitist flavor peculiar of this country.
- c. 3500-3000 BCE Dolmenic Megalithism expands through all Atlantic Europe, often hybridizing with other pre-existent of co-arriving traditions and in some cases at least signifying the first or almost first serious Neolithic, with the demographic implications this may have.
- Further expansion happens then into parts of Central Europe (Danubian area north of the Alps) and, later, into parts of Italy and North Africa.
- c. 2600 BCE two civilizations appear in Iberia: Los Millares and Zambujal (VNSP), the latter surely central to the Dolmenic Megalithic cultural area
- c. 2400 BCE Central and Northern European parts of this area (east of the North Sea-Rhine line) are lost to Indoeuropean culture (Corded Ware), however Western France and Belgium are consolidated into it (Artenac culture).
- For a whole millennium this ethno-cultural divide at the Rhine is stable. Bell Beaker (a secondary mercantile phenomenon) acts as a unifying force probably at between Westerners and Indoeuropeans.
- Around 2000 BCE the center of Corded Ware is at Zambujal, which is a thriving civilization.
- c. 1800 BCE Los Millares is replaced by El Argar, a larger state probably, and one influenced by Mycenean Greece, specially in its last phase.
- c. 1250 BCE Indoeuropean tribes (proto-Celts more or less) descend along the right bank of the Rhône river penetrating into Catalonia. It is the Urnfield culture expansion that has reflections in other parts of Europe (but does not affect other parts of the West yet).
- c. 1200 BCE Zambujal civilization ceases to exist, coincident with a silting of its 10 Km long “marine branch” or canal, which joined it to the Atlantic Ocean (tsunami?) At a similar date El Agar state collapses and its cities become independent (it seems: post-Argarian culture).
- Atlantic Europe, not really anymore Megalithic in any intense sense of the word, retains its distinct personality within the Atlantic Bronze trade networks.
- c. 700 BCE Hallstatt-Urnfield Celts of NE Iberia invade the Northern Plateau and the Atlantic areas. It is likely, judging from the archaeological record, that at this time (or maybe a little earlier) the city of Tartessos was destroyed by the Phoenicians of Gadir (modern Cádiz). The Atlantic Bronze economic (and cultural) area is broken for good.
This last is what I think that caused the apparent economic crisis in Britain and not just the generic concept of technological advance of Iron: the destruction of their main economic partners in the South, with links to the Mediterranean (Sicily, Cyprus) and such. Only later, as new networks were established with continental (Celts of Belgica and Armorica) and naval (Phoenicians) partners, would Britain experience some economic recovery. But that would also be the seeds of their own Celtization a few centuries later (La Téne).