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Connecting Bronze Age Europe: High-precision Radiocarbon Dating 1700-1500 BCE

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - JOINTIME (Connecting Bronze Age Europe: High-precision Radiocarbon Dating 1700-1500 BCE)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

Through interdisciplinary synergies between archaeology and physics, Jointime proposes to provide the first reliable and fine-meshed radiocarbon grid synchronizing social interactions in critical parts of Europe from Scandinavia over the Carpathian Basin to the Aegean in two crucial centuries between 1700 and 1500 BCE.
As it rests on an imprecise macro-chronology the Bronze Age is currently interpreted as a simple and rather static configuration of cores, peripheries and margins. By contrast, Jointime will break new ground in two interlinked thrusts. In the first one, the newest science-based chronological methods will be activated at the AU Department of Physics & Astronomy (AMS centre). In the second one, Jointime will use these novel methods to detail recent ground-breaking research at the AU Department of Archaeology. This research has conceptualised the Bronze Age, not as a world-systemic order, but as bronzization which is an intricately interactive and web-like process in deep time. Firstly, aided by archaeological site-specific and link-indicating data, a fine-meshed grid of radiocarbon dates will be established across the transect from c. 1700 to c. 1500 BCE: this will push Bayesian statistics onto entirely new ground as this methodology has never previously been developed to firmly elucidate culture-geographical links. Secondly, the results will spearhead a historical inquiry into the speed and direction of social and material change.
The gained knowledge will be at the crux of Europe’s deep history with relevance for predicting and sequencing the future of our modern globalisation. The results are also cultural heritage with economic and cultural value because the past provides people with a sense of identity, meaning, influence, education and involvement in the present. Transfer to national and transnational policy units (e.g. WHO, FAO, European Globalisation Adjustment Fund) and public is given high priority.

O-1: obtain transferable skill to boost project ends and an independent career in academia or industry
O-2: establish a high-resolution chronology of bronzization’s consolidation-phase in Scandinavia, the Carpathian Basin and the Aegean respectively, and to add results from in-between these three hotspots
O-3: use this high-resolution grid to statistically evaluate, detail and simulate bronzization as process: movement, direction and speed of social and cultural change (incl. the possibility of non-linkages)
O-4: to interpret the historical consequences of the results
The research will unfold in a three-stage strategy:
1) Data collection and the making of the high-resolution 14C-based chronological grid. Clearly, the 14C data from each of the sites in the transect must be accompanied by a stringent archaeological assessment of exogenous impact and of the position in the regional relative chronology.
The OxCal statistical package will be variously activated. The vast potential of high-resolution radiocarbon dating in making artefact-based relative chronologies truly historical—aided by Bayesian statistics—is currently being realized. Recent results amazingly have resolved old controversies, and the potential is great for dating historical watersheds and for sequencing the underlying events. Bayesian statistics is a procedure opposed to the traditional methodology of comparing and visually ordering selected calibrated dates without proper statistical processing and validation. Also, to spearhead new results, the AMS Centre of AU will offer state-of-the-art radiocarbon dates from each of the major three regions whereby new crucial 14C samples will be dated precisely.
2) Once established, this fine-meshed grid will be linked to statistical analyses of the speed and direction of change in society and material culture from Scandinavia to Greece.
The directionality and speed of dispersal of archaeological material culture are on the research agenda. While building on the results of the first method, the software will be employed to arrive at results that statistically estimate and simulate the geographical connectivity involved. This presumes mathematic modelling and state-of-the-art computers to establish probabilistically the direction of moving goods and their innate ideas.
3) An initial historical review will ensue of the cultural transfer underscoring bronzization’s consolidation-phase in the transect. Some possible interpretive scenarios will be charted as regards the speed, routes and directions of change, including the impact of the Thera eruption.
This European web of interactions will be validated from a deep-historical perspective. This will draw on and further develop the critical historical thinking to pursue knowledge of the Bronze Age as a precursor of modern globalisation.
The underlying motivation is to challenge and to move beyond the prevailing simplifying core-periphery-margin models of the European Bronze Age. The project is particularly urgent in studies of mobility, which cannot proceed without a reliable wide-ranging framework of time-geography. To meet these pressing demands, Jointime will build the required chronology grid and clarify precisely how, when and if local histories were linked, possible correlations with the Thera eruption (c. 1610 BCE), the most precisely dated high-impact event in the Bronze Age, and whether the bronzization process was continuous, stepwise or abrupt. We expect to uncover hitherto undetected linkages and flows of culture while placing local histories securely in chronological time and geographical space.
The proposed project entails a number of innovative aspects with the potential to advance the two involved academic disciplines, to role model future interdisciplinary collaboration in the field in addition to generating useful spill-overs to the rest of society:
• A reliable fine-meshed spatio-temporal grid, pioneered by extended Bayesian statistics, will transform the entire groundwork for exploring Bronze Age mobility: travels, transports and encounters
• The explorative 3-stage methodology, combining frontline science with cutting-edge archaeology, will open new scientific horizons by enabling the pursuit, charting and interpretation of wide-ranging connectivity
• Methodologically, the project will push Bayesian methods onto new ground with future uses in for example geography and GIS-led industry. This advance rests on mathematically advanced software, developed by Olsen to probabilistically model the geographical advance of for instance societal change
• The ground-breaking concept of bronzization, coined by Vandkilde, will be refined through data-strong research. This will provide a fresh focus on the Bronze Age as crucial deep history constituted by a unique web-like connectivity which dictated interlinked change
• The refinement of bronzization as a historical and geographical process can provide clues to how the globalisation of our own time may develop or decline in the future
The novel methodology will be perfected through the planned research and consolidated through the publication of the results. The grid and the gained historical knowledge will innovate the action field of Bronze Age studies. Bronzization, when detailed, will appeal to the public and policy-makers in the Age of Globalisation. Open access publication is the firm policy of AU, and storage of big data will deliver added value inside and outside academia.