Household Economy, Long-Term Change, and Social Transformation: The Bronze Age Political Economy of Northwestern Europe

in Nature and Culture
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In this article I examine how long-term economic strategies in the Bronze Age of northern Europe between 2300 and 500 BCE transformed the environment and thus created and imposed new ecological constraints that finally led to a major social transformation and a "dark age" that became the start of the new long-term cycle of the Iron Age. During the last 30 years hundreds of well-excavated farmsteads and houses from south Scandinavia have made it possible to reconstruct the size and the structure of settlement and individual households through time. During the same period numerous pollen diagrams have established the history of vegetation and environmental changes. I will therefore use the size of individual households or farmsteads as a parameter of economic strength, and to this I add the role of metal as a triggering factor in the economy, especially after 1700 BCE when a full-scale bronze technology was adopted and after 500 BCE when it was replaced by iron as the dominant metal. A major theoretical concern is the relationships between micro- and macroeconomic changes and how they articulated in economic practices. Finally the nature of the "dark age" during the beginning of the Iron Age will be discussed, referring to Sing Chew's use of the concept (Chew 2006).