During the Late Bronze Age in Central Europe (1300 to 800 B.C.), and indeed Europe more widely, archaeological evidence suggests that societies were increasingly characterised by a martial ethos, hierarchical social structures and a focus on military prowess as a means of securing and expanding territory. There is evidence of the emergence of a specific warrior class that held a prominent place in society. Many such individuals were buried with their weapons and other possessions, which were believed to be necessary for their journey into the afterlife. The following collection contains a range of objects that would have belonged to people from this world.
Echoes of this martial culture are to be found in Homer's contemporaneous epic poem, the Iliad, which provides a vivid portrayal of the spirit of the Late Bronze Age, where large groups of armed individuals would travel significant distances in search of plunder and enrichment. The actual reasons for the emergence of these warrior cultures is not entirely clear. However, some scholars suggest that it may have been driven by a need for protection and control of natural resources such as metal ores and fertile land. Others propose that it may have been linked to the increasing complexity of political structures and the need for military power to enforce social order.
In Central Europe, this warrior elite appears to have enjoyed high social status and power, and the objects featured here reflect their world of privilege.
The drinking cup (illustrated above) would likely have originally been part of a set, with a number of such cups accompanying a larger vat from which would have been served beer or in more southerly locales, wine.
Archaeological evidence from burials also reveals the importance of personal grooming in Late Bronze Age Central Europe. Alongside martial gear, warriors were often buried with personal care items such as razors and knives (see lots 18, 19, 20) suggesting that personal grooming and appearance was an important aspect of their culture. For example, a burial discovered in Hungary contained the remains of a male warrior who was buried with a set of bronze grooming tools, including tweezers, a razor, and a comb. The presence of these grooming items alongside weapons and armour suggests that personal appearance and hygiene were important considerations for warriors, and that they may have used these items to maintain a clean-shaven or trimmed appearance.
Further to the south in Mycenaean Greece, we have contemporaneous literary traditions making reference to such practices. For instance, within the Iliad there are several references to personal grooming among the warrior elites. In Book 18, the Trojan prince Hector is described as taking a moment to comb his hair and beard before re-entering the battle. This moment of personal grooming suggests that even in the midst of a violent conflict, appearance and presentation were still important considerations for warriors.
The twisted torque (lot 22), bronze bangle (lot 24), spiral fibula (lot 29) & spiral brooch (lot 21) are fine examples of the ostentatious jewellery worn by the elites of the Late Bronze Age. In the case of the brooch & fibula, their use of the spiral is also significant; the spiral is believed to have held symbolic meaning, and its presence in various forms of art suggests that it held significance for people during this period. Its importance is widely debated, but it is often associated with notions of cyclical time, movement, and transformation.
The significance of the spiral in Bronze Age art may have also been influenced by the materials and techniques used in its production. Bronze Age artisans were skilled in the creation of intricate metalwork, and the spiral may have been seen as a way to showcase their technical abilities.
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