Our primary area of interest is to understand how travel and participation in trade networks affected sociocultural change and the emergence of social inequality in later European prehistory (200-1500 BC).
During the Bronze Age, social inequality becomes entrenched in many parts of Europe, never to return to the more egalitarian relationships of the earlier Neolithic and Copper Age. Powerful chieftains are buried with chariots, large fortified villages control the production in metals, and a dense network of trade connected the Mediterranean with Northern Europe.
Archaeologists argue that it was control of this trade that allowed an elite class of warriors to emerge and travel great distances. Spirals and other symbols are found on axes, whip handles, and ceramics across large areas of Europe and are often considered to be the calling cards of the new social class.
But was social inequality really a necessary consequence of participation in this trade? Under what conditions could more egalitarian relationships prevail? Research at the Middle Bronze Age cemetery of Békés Jégvermi-kert is helping us answer these questions for a time when massive social changes were affecting economic and political systems across Europe (2000-1500 BC).