Bronze Age (2300/2200-800/750 B.C.): The transition from the Copper Age, a period when pure copper was worked, to the Bronze Age took place in Austria around 2300 B.C. Its beginning was marked by complete mastery in the use and processing of bronze, a copper-tin alloy, and ended with the rise of the Iron Age. Bronze working brought considerable changes in the development of tools and equipment, as well as in the economic and societal structure: without the organisation of labour, the mining, smelting, and processing of the ore would not have been possible. This division of labour and consequent specialisation led to the development of groups engaged in different crafts and occupations and thus to considerable social differentiation. The hoarding of metal objects made people feel a greater need for protection and security. Fortified camps were constructed and political institutions as well as a "class" of leaders emerged. There is evidence of links with the cultures of the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. The Bronze Age is divided into early, middle and late periods according to the type of burial; a further subdivision is made on the basis of cultures named after important archaeological sites with their distinctive forms of vessels, tools, ornaments and weapons and differences in development ( Prehistory). a) Early Bronze Age (2300/2200-1600 B.C.): The farmsteads were mainly in the lowlands, with houses up to 20 metres long. Naturally and artificially protected settlements, probably centres of trade and metal working, increasingly appeared. The term "crouched burial culture" (also "flexed burial culture") refers to the burial of the dead lying on their sides in a contracted position. Gradual transition to: b) Middle Bronze Age (1600-1250 B.C.): The dead were interred in burial mounds ("Tumulus Culture"). Burial and cremation are both found in this period, and bronze objects appeared in increasingly intricate forms and ornamentation. The rich finds from the Pitten burial fields are particularly beautiful. Despite certain distinctions, the early and middle Bronze Ages form a unified whole. c) Late Bronze Age. Urnfield culture (1250-800/750 B.C.): In the 13th century B.C. a new culture developed in central Europe. Its predominant burial form was cremation with burial of the ashes in urns or unseparated cremation. This habit is regarded as the visible expression of a spiritual-religious change and the emergence of new conceptions of life and death. As well as open-country settlements, more and more fortified hilltop settlements appeared, which were probably the main centres. A larger number of defensive camps, numerous weapon grave-gifts and hoards seem to indicate that this was a troubled and warlike period. Iron objects such as ornaments, knives, spearheads and axes appeared first sporadically, and then with increasing frequency. In the course of the 8th century, smooth transition to the Hallstatt Culture. Important archaeological sites are: Boeheimkirchen; Fels am Wagram; Franzhausen (in the municipality of Nussdorf ob der Traisen); Gemeinlebarn; Goetschenberg; Herzogenburg; Inzersdorf an der Traisen; St. Andrae vor dem Hagentale (in the municipality of St. Andrae-Woerdern); Schleinbach; Stillfried; Unterwoelbling ( Unterwoelbling Civilisation), all in the province of Lower Austria; Siegendorf (Burgenland); Mitterberg (Muehlbach am Hochkoenig) and Goetschenberg (both in the province of Salzburg); Tillmitsch (Styria); Kitzbuehel (Tirol).
Literature#J.-W. Neugebauer, Oe. Urzeit, 1990; C. Eibner, Der Kupferbergbau in den oesterreichischen Alpen in der Urzeit, 1992; J.-W. Neugebauer, Archaeologie in Niederoesterreich, 1993; idem, Bronzezeit in Ostoesterreich, 1994.