Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 August 2022
The archaeology of Eurasia has undergone a tremendous change in the last thirty years. The chronology was completely revised by using calibrated radiocarbon dates. The radiocarbon revolution was already on the horizon in the 1970s (Renfrew 1973), but the whole potential for Prehistoric archaeology emerged from calibration since the 1990s. And this changed a lot. The Neolithic period started much earlier than previously thought; the Bronze Age in Central Europe was also dated much earlier. Perusing archaeology handbooks from the 1980s, the changes in our knowledge become clear. For the first time Prehistoric archaeology was able to date archaeological findings directly by scientific methods. It was no longer necessary to speculate about the time necessary for the formation of archaeological layers in tell settlements. Prehistoric archaeology was no longer dependent upon the Egyptian or the Mesopotamian chronologies. Yet, the revised chronologies make it necessary to reassess the whole framework of interpretations. New finds were the motor of new research. In 1991, a mummy was found in the Ötztaler Alps near the Hauslabjoch. The archaeological importance of the find attracted detailed research on the life and the death of ‘Ötzi’. An end to this research is still not in sight (Fleckinger 2011). The first dating of the mummy to the Early Bronze Age in the second millennium bce had to be revised after the radiocarbon dates. Ötzi died in the last quarter of the fourth millennium bce. This surprising date triggered a complete revision of the alpine Late Neolithic and Copper Age (de Marinis 1992: 389ff.). Firstly concerned was the Italian Remedello culture, but then all other cultures in the regions as well. The new chronology also touched upon the huge number of anthropomorphic stelae in the alpine region (Casini 1994; Philippon 2002; Casini and Fossati 2004). Whole groups of metal objects like the halberds were re-dated. Their development did not take place during a short period in the second millennium but instead during a very long one starting from the middle of the fourth millennium bce (Horn 2014). Actually, the revision of the regional chronology was part of a comprehensive rearrangement of chronologies in Europe. This concerned especially the chronology of the third and fourth millennia bce.