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  • Isadora Martin-Dye

Podcast Renews with Beaker Breakthroughs

Welcome back to the History Through a House: Blogosphere! After a bit of a break that included my husband and I travelling to our home and business in Virginia we’re back for our regularly scheduled programming to educate the boys on all things English. This week we talk about bronze production, Beaker culture and new breakthroughs in BIG SCIENCE!


As the boys have learned we name our historical periods by the most commonly used material. Bronze is an alloy composed mostly of copper and tin, both of which are prevalent in the Southwest of England and Wales. Bronze was used to make weapons and jewelry, and due to its malleability it was polished to a high sheen and used as mirrors. Bronze also has modern day uses; because it is much softer than other metals it won’t create sparks when struck so bronze cannon balls were common. In modern engineering bronze is commonly used in the production of bearings due to its nearly self-lubricating property. Thanks to advances in modern day science, people much smarter than us are able to trace isotopic signatures of excavated bronze. Isotopes act like a fingerprint, and it allows for the bronze to be traced back to a very specific origin. Tracing bronze back to its origins creates an accurate map of where Bronze Age people would have traded and traveled.

At this point we transition into an interesting breakthrough known as Big Science, and it relates to a group of people known as the Beakers. Before the Big Science the Beakers were thought to be a trend more than a people with unique culture. “V” shaped buttons were uncovered and group burials gave way to the new method of one body per grave. This mirrored what was happening in other parts of Europe. Single person burials also came with the practice of leaving grave gifts such as pottery and jewelry. The idea of this simply being a cultural shift was disproved when DNA tests were performed on 400 buried skeletons. DNA structures that varied drastically from the local Brits were discovered. The Beakers were not just a culture but a group of migrant farmers who were also skilled potters and archers. They must have been friendly because the Bronze Age Brits adapted to them and their new culture, but DNA evidence didn’t suggest more than a merging of culture. One of the oldest stone structures in the South West is a chambered tomb in Torbay. This structure is exemplary of Neolithic burial customs. A group or family was buried together and they were buried with a few pots. In Amesbury is a grave that is more exemplary of the Beaker style. The Amesbury Archer was buried by himself with elegant stone wrist guards, arrows and the earliest known gold objects ever found in England. Next week we’re finally moving on to Ben’s favorite part of English history. We’ll be talking about Stonehenge and other stone circles found in Scotland and Ireland.


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