(Chapter V, section 9)

The Bronze Age in Central Europe

In the Early Bronze Age there were, aside from the Aegean, three important cultural centers in Europe—southeastern Spain, Britain, and central Europe. We have already dealt with the first two and studied the racial derivations of their peoples. In central Europe, the center of civilization was again on the Danube; in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Lower Austria, and Saxo-Thuringia. The Bronze Age culture of this Danubian region is called Aunjetitz (Únětice) after an important site in Bohemia.

The origins of this Aunjetitz culture were multiple. The elements of which it was composed include: the basic local Neolithic and Copper Age; northern influences which were mostly Corded; the Bell Beaker invasion; and metallurgy from Anatolia and the Aegean, coming directly overland72

The evidence as to the racial composition of this culturally heterogeneous population is fortunately abundant and clear. A number of large and well-analyzed series makes it possible to determine its nature without much doubt. On the whole, the group is moderately varied. Three major elements are involved: the short, moderately dolichocephalic, high-vaulted, small-faced Danubian Neolithic type; the familiar Corded form, and some brachycephals, in moderate numbers, which are probably for the most part of Bell Beaker origin, although the same racial type may have come up the Danube from the Black Sea and the Aegean. Dinaric influence is most evident in the earliest Aunjetitz sites of Lower Austria, as at Hainburg-Teichtal,73 but it disappeared shortly through absorption.

One of the most fruitful groups for examination is that of the skeletons from the Lower Austrian cemetery of Gemeinlebarn.74 Here fifty-one adult crania were found which were in condition for study, to which have been added twenty-five others from smaller sites in Lower Austria and Moravia, making a total of forty-seven male and fifty-two female skulls, as well as a large number of associated long bones.

The mean stature of the males is 165 cm., a moderate figure, lying between that of the earlier Neolithic Danubians and the Corded people, as represented in the larger series in which the latter appear, in Scandinavia and England. The limb proportions show a greater length of the distal segments in both arms and legs than is the case with most historic Germanic or Nordic skeletons—the Lower Austrian Aunjetitz people resembled their Neolithic ancestors in this respect. The bones, however, are quite heavy and powerful, and show that they must have had wide and heavy shoulders.

The crania (see Appendix I, col. 27) belong metrically about half-way between the Corded and Danubian Neolithic means in almost every character; the only exception being a slight addition in the head breadth dimension which might be attributed to the inclusion of a few brachycephals. The cranial index, which varies individually from 64 to 85, centers about a mean of 74; and dolichocephaly is the prevailing form. The profile of the skull as seen from above usually takes one of two forms— a long oval with almost parallel sides, which is the Corded type, and a pentagonoid, or “shield shape,” which is the Neolithic Danubian. The vaults are high, in most cases higher than the breadth, a feature which is derived from both of the principal ancestral types. The face is quite long in both segments, and narrow. Although the mean nasal index is mesorrhine, a little less than half of the series is leptorrhine. The orbits, like those of both earlier strains, are of moderate height.

In the male series, only four crania have indices over 78, and all of these are curvoccipital. One of them, with heavy browridges, a wide interorbital distance, a wide, deep jaw with everted gonial angles, and no canine fossa, looks like some intruder from the northern European forests, such as we have already met in the Neolithic; while another, which is hyperbrachycephalic, has an extremely narrow face and jaw, and may be either an Anatolian or a Beaker remnant.

The group as a whole has a normal to excessive development of the browridges, and a narrow-rooted form of the nasal bones, which spring prominently from a considerable nasion depression. The continuous fronto-nasal profile of Near Eastern Bronze Age skulls is apparently alien to this composite type.

The above discussion could be applied without much change to other Austrian Aunjetitz series, notably that from Stillfried,75 which includes nine males. Here the ratio of factors involved may be slightly different, for the cranial index mean is mesocephalic, and the nasal index purely leptorrhine—however, the group contains no brachycephals.

Nearly a hundred crania from Bohemia, collected from a number of sites76 (see Appendix I, col. 28), are on the whole extremely dolichocephalic with a mean index of 71. A series of thirty-two males77 (see Appendix I, col. 29), like the Austrian group, is again intermediate in most if not all measurements between the Corded and Danubian Neolithic means. As with the Gemeinlebarn series, the longest crania are the highest, and possess the longest faces. A Corded-Danubian cross, with a very little Dinaric (since the highest indices go up to 83) is indicated. This hybrid form, as will be seen later, may be given the name “Nordic” in the skeletal sense, since it seems identical with that of historic Nordic peoples living in the same area.

The stature of Bohemian and Moravian Aunjetitz males, as with those from Lower Austria, is about 167 cm.78 This is considerably less than the Corded stature for Scandinavia, and that of the British Bell Beaker long heads, but more than that recorded in the central European Corded series of Neolithic date. Either our groups are too small for accuracy, which is quite probable, or else the Corded people of central Europe were not as tall as those who invaded the far northwest. At any rate, the Aunjetitz people of central Europe are less exaggerated in head and face dimensions than those whom we have previously studied, and anticipate the “Nordic” peoples of the Iron Age.

Around the peripheries of the Upper Danubian center, modifications of the standard Aunjetitz racial amalgam occurred. In Saxony and Thuringia, where there was an especially strong Corded cultural element, the coincident type was of course equally strong.79 But on the Rhine, the Bell Beaker cultural influence continued, and brachycephals also persisted.80 In the Tyrol and Upper Austria, Dinarics of the Bell Beaker type remained firmly ensconced,81 where their survival in this mountain refuge was destined to be permanent.

About forty skulls are known from the Bronze Age sites of Switzerland.82 The most important fact to be deduced from them is that the old Neolithic elements persisted with little change. An infiltration of Aunjetitz culture was accompanied by the addition of some Corded types to the group, and in the meanwhile a few planoccipital brachycephals of Bell Beaker type appeared. On the whole, the Swiss seem to have become slightly longer headed during this period, probably due in large part to Aunjetitz influence.

It is impossible to carry this survey of the Early and Middle Bronze Age racial types in central Europe much farther to the westward. We have already seen that brachycephals of the type which spread through the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age entered the southern departments of France, near the eastern end of the Pyrenees and the Gulf of Lyons (page 149). Aside from this Spanish overflow in the south, the French Bronze Age was largely confined to two other peripheral points—Savoie and Franche Comté—and Brittany in the extreme west.

On the northeastern flank of France, in Franche Comté, a number of skeletons have been taken from tumuli which apparently date from the Middle Bronze Age, a time at which invasions spread over the upper Rhine and Jura from the Bavarian highlands into northeastern Gaul.83

Seven out of eight skeletons of this period were those of tall, planoccipital, brachycephals,84 who belonged, as far as one can tell, to a Bell Beaker type familiar in earlier times in the Rhinelands. Two tumuli of later date contained high-vaulted dolichocephalic crania, belonging to small statured individuals, like the single dolichocephalic example from the earlier group. Thus, as far as we can tell, a Bell Beaker type, associated with an older Danubian Neolithic element, entered northeastern France in the Middle Bronze Age from the highland belt of southern Germany, south of the central Aunjetitz range.

In Brittany, the earliest metal industry was mostly of the Middle Bronze Age; round barrows were built apart from the megalithic tombs, which were still used by the descendants of the bringers of that cult to the Atlantic seaboard. In one cemetery, that of Saint-Urnel en Plomeur in Finistère, tall, dolichocephalic people with large heads, narrow noses, and robust jaws were buried throughout the Bronze Age.85 There were Beaker people in Brittany as well, and one may suppose the presence, in addition, of the usual Beaker physical type.

Aside from these instances there are no Bronze Age remains from France which give us a definite picture of the population of any specific part of the country. France, for the most part, failed to participate in the great cultural movements of the Bronze Age, and was a backwater in which Neolithic and even Mesolithic peoples survived with little change in their manner of living.



72 Childe, The Bronze Age, pp. 139—140.

Geyer, E., MAGW, vol. 60, 1930, pp. 65—140.

74 Szombathy, J., MAGW, vol. 64, 1934, pp. 1—101

Schurer von Waldheim, Hella, MAGW, vol. 39, 1919, pp. 247-263.

76 Stocký, A., AnthPr, vol. 9, 1931, pp. 225—275.

77 Hellich, B., Praehistorické lebky v Čechách ze Sbírky Musea Království Českeho.

78 Matiegka, J., MAGW, vol. 41, 1911, pp. 348—387.

79 Heberer, G., VGPA, vol. 8, 1937, pp. 59—68.

80 As at Rheinsheim. Basler, A., MAGW, vol. 55, 1925, pp. 261—266.

81 Meyer, A. B., MAGW, vol. 15, 1885, pp. 99—106.

82 Pittard, E., Anth, vol. 10, 1899, PP. 281—289; voi. 17, 1906, pp. 547—557; ASAG, #1, 1934, pp. 1—7; RA, vol. 45, 1935, pp. 5—12.

Schenk, A., BMSA, ser. 5, vol. 8, 1907, pp. 218—228; REAP, vol. 15, 1905, pp. 389—407.

Schlaginhaufen, O., BSGA, vol. 2, 1926, pp. 15—24; MAGZ, vol. 29, 1924, pp. 220—241.

83 Childe, The Bronze Age, p. 174.

84 Piroutet, M., Anth, vol. 38, 1928; pp. 51—60.

Le Pontois, Bernard, Le Finistère préhistorique.