The History of Ancient Europe 1500 BC - 1000 BC (pt 4/8)

Major population movements in Europe have caused widespread upheaval, and the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations have vanished

- The Urnfield culture

Civilization and catastrophe

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ancient europe map

Map of Europe 1000 BC


Farming settlements in western Europe, at around 1000 bc, are becoming more stable and substantial, a trend probably associated with the development of field systems around the villages and the more efficient use of land that this implied. In eastern Europe, the number of fortified settlements continues to increase.


The Urnfield culture

The trend towards fortified settlements in eastern Europe was linked to a major change at this time, which was the spread of a new type of burial, beginning in the east and spreading into central and even western Europe. Cremation became the usual form of burial ritual, with the ashes placed in urns. The many urns, sometimes hundreds, were placed together in what archaeologists have called “urn fields”, so this practice marks the “Urnfield” culture.


 Typical burial of Cremation Urn 


With a few spectacular exceptions, most such burials were unpretentious, giving the impression of equality – at least in death. The common occurrence of bird motifs in urn decoration suggests that this development might have been linked to the spread of some religious movement or idea.

Elites there certainly were, however. Urnfield bronze workers were skilled at producing elaborately ornamented sheet metal helmets and breastplates – prestige items presumably used for display rather than battle, for which they were too flimsy. They also produced superbly designed slashing swords, for real war.


Civilization and catastrophe

In southwest Europe and the Mediterranean, the first literate European civilizations, those of Crete, Greece and the Aegean, flourished and then vanished. This catastrophe happened just after 1200 BC, and was part of a general pattern of disasters involving the entire Middle East, where all the great Bronze Age civilizations experienced major set backs.

One ingredient in this general catastrophe is the depredations of a people who are known to history as the “Sea Peoples.” These seem to have been a collection of different groups from Europe as far west as Sardinia, and from the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea, who, banding together, raided along the coasts of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt.

Whether these peoples were a cause or a consequence of the fall of Mycenae and other civilizations is a matter for debate, as is the extent to which the general destruction was the result of population movements within Europe itself. At the same time as the Sea Peoples were ravishing the eastern Mediterranean, however, another European people were invading Asia Minor. This was the Phrygians. It seems highly likely that some demographic movement was causing peoples on the periphery of Europe to spill out eastwards.


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History Maps of Ancient Europe:

Maps of Europe 3500 BC , Maps of Europe 2500 BCMaps of Europe 1500 BCMaps of Europe 1000 BCMaps of Europe 500 BC,Maps of Europe 200 BCMaps of Europe 30 BC

The History of Ancient Europe:

Ancient Europe up to 3500 BC - The Coming of Farming Central Europe The Mediterranean The Atlantic Cultures Expansion and Development Emerging Elites

Ancient Europe 3500 BC - 2500 BC Temperate Europe   The Indo-Europeans The Horse  Mediterranean transformations

Ancient Europe 2500 BC - 1500 BC - Bronze and Trade A Fashion for Beakers The Indo-European Speakers Conflicts and Chieftains The First European Civilizations

Ancient Europe 1500 BC - 1000 BC The Urnfield culture Civilization and catastrophe

Ancient Europe 1000 BC - 500 BC - Iron Age Europe The Mediterranean City State Links between north and south

Ancient Europe 500 BC - 200 BC - The Celts The Mediterranean Europe The rising power of Rome

Ancient Europe 200 BC - 30 BC - The Continuing Rise of Rome Temperate Europe The North

Ancient Europe 30 BC - 200 AD - Rome, the centre of the world Temperate Europe The Greek East Non-Roman Europe