Middle European Copper Age flat axe

The first metal to be worked anywhere in Europe was copper. Until recently the near East was suggested to be the site of origin for extractive metallurgy, but findings from Belovode, a Vinča culture site in Eastern Serbia challenge this view. This site provided the earliest direct evidence for copper smelting to date. The earliest copper smelting activities there took place ca 7000 years ago, contemporary with the emergence of the first cast copper objects. It is of special importance, that copper metallurgy occurred at a location distant from the Near East, challenging the traditional model of a single origin of metallurgy and reviving the possibility of multiple, independent inventions.

Smelted copper tools and ornaments began to circulate around 5000 BC. Copper Age flat axes are common in early Eneolithic societies of South East and Middle Europe. The rich findings of the Varna cemeteries could indicate a  connection between power and metallurgy, but Varna remains an abnormality in the Archaeological record. The Late Neolithic to  Copper Age cultures of Hungary for example  lack any evidence for the existence of significant differences in social status beyond age, sex and individual identity. Therefore specialisation does not seem to automatically lead to a hierarchisation in early societies. For structural changes in settlement patterns during this time period, a model of tribal cycling has been proposed (W. A. Parkinson). In such a tribal society, kinship groups create a basic unit of organization within metallurgical knowledge will have spread without being confined to elites.

During the 3rd millennium BC tools, weapons and jewellery made of copper were a customary part of everyday life in the Mediterranean and Carpathian Basin.  North of theAlps, by contrast, metal objects are considered a rarity in archaeological context. Such objects were  found in graves only in exceptional cases, and these were usually small awls or different forms of jewellery made of copper sheet and copper flat axes as displayed in this post.

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