In Bronze Age Europe many bronze objects such as axes, swords, and jewelry deliberately were left at very specific spots in the landscape.
According to PhD research by University of Leiden archaeologist Marieke Visser, these practices were expressions of people’s relationship with the world around them.
“It was a completely normal practice, which we shouldn’t label as irrational,” she said.
Since the 19th century, researchers have been trying to explain the motives behind these selective metal object depositions. And they still are shrouded in mystery.
“Archaeologists have become stuck in very strict interpretation models,” said Visser. “Certain criteria were drawn up and boxes ticked per find. The assumption was that there were religious and non-religious depositions. I find this approach problematic because the data often don’t fit in these boxes. You can’t simply project the modern idea of religion onto the Bronze Age.”
Research shows deposition patterns
Through a modern eye it seems illogical to throw away valuable objects, but thousands of years ago this simply was an ordinary thing to do.
“It seems to have been something you just did,” said Visser who compares it with throwing coins in a fountain. “There you also deliberately throw away something of value at a certain place. You throw a coin in a fountain, not in the bin,” she said.
To gain a better understanding of these actions, Visser focused her research not on any religious or ritual motives, but rather on just the actions themselves.
“An incredible number of depositions have been found from throughout the Bronze Age. If you systematically research these, look at which object in which place, you discover the conventions. That shows that these objects weren’t lost by accident. There are clear patterns. This was deliberate,” she said.
Read more here.