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Bertan > Bertan 20 Burdin aroko herri harresituak Gipuzkoan > Ingeles bertsioa: Cultural background: the late neolithic and bronze age

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Cultural background: the late neolithic and bronze age

38. Hand-made pottery from the Olatzazpi cave (Alkiza).© Xabi Otero
38. Hand-made pottery from the Olatzazpi cave (Alkiza).© Xabi Otero

During the last three hundred years of the third millennium BCE and throughout the second millennium BCE, the people of this territory saw constant transformations in several spheres, mainly related to arable farming, the domestication of animals and copper and bronze working.

39. Iritegi Cave (Oñati).© Lamia
39. Iritegi Cave (Oñati).© Lamia

Although we have traditionally thought of human settlement from this period as centring on caves, we are finding increasing evidence of outdoor dwellings.

These people mainly lived off the crops they cultivated and the animals they raised. Although during the Late Neolithic (or Aeneolithic) period (4,700 - 3,800 years ago) they still hunted wild animals, such as deer, goats and wild boar, as the Bronze Age progressed, domestic animals - chiefly sheep, goats and cattle - came to account for between 70 and 95% of all meat consumed, and hunting became gradually less common. They also complemented their diet by gathering wild plants.

37. Bronze axes from the Zabalaitz cave (Urbiako Partzuergoan) and the digs at Arritxikieta (Oñati) and Larragain (Arrasate). © Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
37. Bronze axes from the Zabalaitz cave (Urbiako Partzuergoan) and the digs at Arritxikieta (Oñati) and Larragain (Arrasate). © Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

Throughout the period, the old stone tools became less important and although pointed arrow heads, scrapers and hole punches were still being manufactured in the Palaeolithic, they also developed new stone tools, better suited to their new lifestyle, such as parts for sickles and axes, saddle querns and planes. In general, though, the Bronze Age saw stone being replaced by metal as a raw material.

Pottery continued to evolve throughout the Palaeolithic Era, with the development of "bell-beaker pottery" which was to remain in use until the second millennium BCE. During the Early and Middle Bronze Age, the hand-turned vessels became larger and in some cases had cord decorations; smaller bowls, pots and other vessels also continued to be used.

40. Gold ornaments found at the Trikuaizti I burial mound (Beasain) and the Ausokoi dolmen (Zaldibia).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
40. Gold ornaments found at the Trikuaizti I burial mound (Beasain) and the Ausokoi dolmen (Zaldibia).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

Metalworking first emerged during the Palaeolithic, when copper pieces were manufactured which included flat axes, daggers, punches and ornaments, On rare occasions the latter were made of gold. During the Bronze Age, bronze became the basic metal used to make a wide variety of pieces and it was to hold its own until the emergence of iron-working, well into the first millennium BCE.

41. Copper-tongued daggers from the Urtao II cave (Oñati).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
41. Copper-tongued daggers from the Urtao II cave (Oñati).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

One of the features of this entire period was the spectacular funerary constructions. Ceremonial burial was a collective rite, and dolmens, burial mounds and caves were all used for this purpose. Many examples of this type of burial site have been found in Gipuzkoa.

42. Dolmen at Aitzetako Txabala (Errenteria).© Lamia
42. Dolmen at Aitzetako Txabala (Errenteria).© Lamia
43. Bell beaker from the Pagobakoitza dolmen (Urbiako Partzuergoan).© Xabi Otero
43. Bell beaker from the Pagobakoitza dolmen (Urbiako Partzuergoan).© Xabi Otero
45. Flint arrow heads and other geometric shapes from the Trikuaizti I burial mound (Beasain) and a bronze arrow head from the Ausokoi dolmen (Zaldibia).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa, Xabi Otero
45. Flint arrow heads and other geometric shapes from the Trikuaizti I burial mound (Beasain) and a bronze arrow head from the Ausokoi dolmen (Zaldibia).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa, Xabi Otero
44. Necklace beads from the Larrarte dolmen (Beasain).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa
44. Necklace beads from the Larrarte dolmen (Beasain).© Aranzadi Zientzia Elkarteko Gordailu Zentroa

With the bodies were buried a series of personal possessions of a symbolic nature: arrow heads, buttons, beads, daggers or shards of pottery, among others. Ceremonial burial was replaced towards the end of the Bronze Age by cremation, a practice which prevailed throughout the Iron Age, with new types of funeral monument evidencing a radical change in the whole world of the dead.

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