The Social Role of Non-metal ‘Valuables’ in Late Bronze Age Britain

Joanna Brück*, Alex Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
796 Downloads (Pure)


Bronze Age metal objects are widely viewed as markers of wealth and status. Items of other materials, such as jet, amber and glass, tend either to be framed in similar terms as ‘prestige goods’, or to be viewed as decorative trifles of limited research value. In this paper, we argue that such simplistic models dramatically underplay the social role and ‘agentive’ capacities of objects. The occurrence of non-metal ‘valuables’ in British Early Bronze Age graves is well-documented, but their use during the later part of the period remains poorly understood. We will examine the deposition of objects of amber, jet and jet-like materials in Late Bronze Age Britain, addressing in particular their contexts and associations as well as patterns of breakage to consider the cultural meanings and values ascribed to such items and to explore how human and object biographies were intertwined. These materials are rarely found in burials during this period but occur instead on settlements, in hoards and caves. In many cases, these finds appear to have been deliberately deposited in the context of ritual acts relating to rites of passage. In this way, the role of such objects as social agents will be explored, illuminating their changing significance in the creation of social identities and systems of value.

Original languageEnglish
Article number688
Pages (from-to)665
Number of pages24
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jun 2018

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