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The Autonomy of the South-East European Copper Age1

  • Colin Renfrew (a1)

Ten years have now elapsed since the death of V. Gordon Childe, whose great achievement it was to relate the many disparate elements of European prehistory into a single coherent whole. These ten years have seen not only the sustained application of radiocarbon dating to the south-east European Neolithic (Quitta, 1967; Kohl and Quitta, 1966), but the publication of important stratigraphic sequences, especially that of the great tell at Karanovo in Bulgaria (Georgiev, 1961). Both these advances put in question one of the essential elements in Childe's structure for the chronology of Europe: the chronological equation between Troy I and the Vinča culture of Jugoslavia (Childe, 1929, 32; 1927; 1939).

This is the cornerstone for the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of much of Europe, and to remove it would cause widespread changes both in chronology and culture history.

The crucial importance of this point has been well expressed by Professor Clark (1938): ‘Thanks to the synchronisms established between Troy and Iberia and the western Mediterranean on the one hand, and central and northern Europe on the other, any important alterations in the absolute dating of the successive “cities” is bound to affect the dating of every culture in Europe of the period, much in the same way as fluctuations in the price of certain key commodities are felt in the exchanges of the whole world’. Today, of course, it is not so much the absolute dating of Troy which is in question, but the synchronisms with Europe: the effect, however, is the same.

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M. Gimbutas , 1965b. Bronze Age Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe.

E. L. Kohler and E. K. Ralph , 1961. ‘C-14 dates for sites in the Mediterranean area’, American Journal of Archaeology, 65, 359.

C. Renfrew , 1967a. ‘Cycladic metallurgy and the Aegean Early Bronze Age’, American Journal of Archaeology, 71, 1.

C. Renfrew , 1969. ‘The chronology and classification of the Early Cycladic figurines’, American Journal of Archaeology, 73, 1.

T. A. Wertime , 1964. ‘Man's first encounters with metallurgy’, Science, 146, 1257.

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Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
  • ISSN: 0079-497X
  • EISSN: 2050-2729
  • URL: /core/journals/proceedings-of-the-prehistoric-society
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