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About the Project

About the Project

The Bronze Age, often referred as “The First Golden Age of Europe” was a period of technical innovation, social transformation and transmission of knowledge highly stimulated by long distance connections. The Nordic Bronze Age (1.700 – 500 BC) has left us with clear and easily recognizable cultural remains in the everyday landscape including the numerous burial mounds, votive depositions and rock carvings. In addition to these impressive cultural remnants, Denmark also possesses a unique collection of exceptionally well-preserved human remains: the well-known oak-coffin people. These individuals (both male and female) represent the elite of a crucial prehistoric period during which today’s society started to take shape. Due to its importance, the Bronze Age has been extensively investigated. However, there are still many key questions that remain unanswered. Some of those questions center around long-distance exchange and degrees of ancient mobility as integral themes to creating an understanding of Bronze Age society. While the presence of exotic artifacts across Northern Europe indicate extensive connections with distant areas, scholars do not know whether those exotic objects were been traded from neighboring chiefdom to neighboring chiefdom (low mobility) or whether they were transported by individuals who traced long trajectories  across the continent (high mobility). This essential research question has recently been brought into the limelight by our cross-disciplinary investigations of the Egtved Girl which provided the first evidence of the long distance mobility of a single individual.

Mobility in the Bronze Age

Until now, prehistoric human mobility of single individuals has been investigated most successfully via the strontium isotope analysis  (87Sr/86Sr) of tooth enamel and sometimes bone. These human tissues reveal a geographical origin based on an individual’s average diet consumption over several years. Consequently, these tissues provide a signature of long-term mobility. We have further developed the method so that it may now be applied to hair and nail tissues. These new developments provide the unique possibility of investigating short term human mobility on a monthly basis for the first time. Hence, in a single step, the detailed level in which we can study past human mobility has moved from the average of several years’ worth of information to a month-by-month resolution. As a result, we are now able to identify short-and long-term mobility for the same individual, thereby furnishing a life-long record of mobility in which it is possible to identify complex travel schedules, such as was the case with the Egtved Girl.