This chapter compares the structure and organisation of settlements across Europe, bridging the chapters on regional settlement patterns and households. The settlement represents the local organisation of habitations: how households were placed with respect to each other and to common spaces for work, ceremonies, and social interaction. Important variables included the density and number of contemporaneous households, the permanence of house sites and their interrelations, the existence of defining fortifications, and internal social differentiation marking social distinction. Overall, the settlement types varied within each region and appear in each region to represent settlement hierarchies of regional polities (Chapter 3). The size and density of the largest settlements, however, show a marked trend from relatively small and informal aggregates in Scandinavia to large, proto-urban settlements in Hungary and Sicily. The larger settlements in Hungary and especially in Sicily appear to have a regular settlement structure, with houses in well-defined lots, roadways, and public spaces. In Sicily, a central, religious complex defines a new level of corporate labour investment. Although social differentiation surely existed in all circumstances, complexity varies quite markedly in its form. In Scandinavia, elite households stood out, but appear more as a part of a flexible network of changing power relationships seen also in the metal wealth and burial mounds; in Hungary, a more common, corporate group identity was signalled by apparent uniformity of houses and material culture; and, in Sicily, the formal settlement structure suggests a clear elite stratum defined by multiroom structures and international material culture evidently marking differences (Chapters 3 and 5).
Settlements and their organisation in southern Scandinavia during the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age were heavily dependent on the significance of the individual regions and their natural resources, though some general trends seem valid for the whole area (Artursson 2005a,b; 2009). Our two case studies in southern Scandinavia focus on regions in close proximity to the sea – Thy in northwestern Jutland, Denmark (Earle 2002) and Tanum in western Sweden (Ling 2008). The Thy region, at least during the Early Bronze Age, must be considered an important part of the networks in the central Limfjord region, but Tanum was more marginal.