The Bronze Age

The Amesbury Archer lived around 2,300BC, at the beginning of the period classified by archaeologists as the Early Bronze Age (2,400BC-1,500BC). This followed the Neolithic (or Late Stone Age) period (4,000BC-2,400BC).
Artists impression of a Bronze Age landscapeArtists impression of a Bronze Age landscapeThe period was marked by the introduction of metals into Britain, at first copper and gold and later bronze (formed from copper and tin). The gold found in the Archer’s grave was the oldest found in Britain, dating to 2,470BC.
The period saw the introduction of artefacts from the Beaker culture, marked by a new style of pottery, the use of barbed flat arrowheads, copper knives and small gold ornaments.
Perhaps the most significant fact about the Archer is that he was from the Alps region. He was most probably from what is now Switzerland, although it is possible he could have come from areas of Germany near Switzerland, or Austria. Archaeologists have long known that the distinctive Beaker pottery and artefacts which began appearing in Britain around the time of the Archer were from Europe. At first they thought this was as a result of an invasion, but more recently they attribute this to trade and cultural links.
The Archer is thus example of people from abroad bringing the Beaker culture from the continent to Britain. The enormous wealth of the goods in his grave reveals to archaeologists the growing differences in wealth and status in society at this time; the Stone Age had been a time of relative equality.
At this time most tools were still made from stone. Copper was rare and too soft to be effective as a weapon – the Archer’s three copper knives were most likely for show.
This was a society of people who were farmers, growing crops such as wheat. A few families would have lived together, though nothing like towns or villages would have emerged.
Although the Archer was probably from what is now Switzerland or Germany, these countries did not exist at that time. The Archer may have spoken an early form of Celtic.
This was also a time when some of the great monuments were extended. The stones were brought to Stonehenge at this time, for instance.