‘Unexpected’ marriage practices, slavery, social inequality revealed in analysis of Bronze Age remains

bhm pfahlbauer austauschhandel bunterhund illustration
Image: Bernisches Historisches Museum

A fascinating new study chronicles the family histories of European Bronze Age households, revealing the presence of surprising marital practices, patterns of inheritance, and the unexpected early emergence of social inequality within these homestead farms—including the possible use of slaves or servants.

[Alissa] Mittnik and her colleagues, including co-authors Johannes Krause, also from the Max Planck Institute and the University of Tübingen, and Philipp Stockhammer from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet, reached these conclusions by studying the remains of over 100 individuals who lived in Germany’s Lech Valley, located south of Augsburg, during the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age—a timespan lasting from around 4,750 to 3,320 years ago.

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The nature of this unexpected social structure and apparent social inequality is not fully understood, but the researchers speculate cautiously that this is an early example of slavery or servitude. As the authors point out in the study, some households in ancient Greece and Rome included slaves. If the same arrangement existed among these Bronze Age Europeans—a big if—it would push back the origin of this social disparity back in time by around 1,500 years.

Read full, original post: Social Inequality, Marriage Habits, and Other Clues to Bronze Age Life Revealed in New Study

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