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Re-Evaluation of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Chronology of the Western Belgian Urnfields Based on 14C Dating of Cremated Bones

Guy De Mulder, Mark Van Strydonck, Mathieu Boudin, Walter Leclercq, Nicolas Paridaens, Eugne Warmenbol


The urnfields in western Belgium have been studied since the second half of the 20th century. Most of these studies, as well as the excavations themselves, date from before the last quarter of the 20th century, except for the urnfields at Velzeke and Blicquy, which were excavated recently. The chronology of these cemeteries was largely based on typochronological studies of pottery. Other funeral gifts, like bronze objects in the graves, are rather exceptional. The typochronology was worked out in a comparison with the framework of neighboring regions and central Europe. There was a need, then, for

a chronology based on absolute dates. This was only possible by radiocarbon dating of the cremated bones. Tests on duplicate samples, like cremated bone in context with charcoal or 2 depositions of cremated bones within 1 urn, have shown that the results are reproducible and that there is no discrepancy between the charcoal and the cremated bone dates.

The results of the 14C dating project on the cremated bones of the 2 urnfields at Velzeke and the one at Blicquy are promising. The interpretation of the occupational history of both sites at Velzeke can be revised, and the currently accepted ceramic sequence for this period needs reworking. In addition, the chronological framework of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age is open for discussion. It seems plausible that the urnfield phenomenon starts earlier in western Belgium than previously expected. These dates can also contribute to the discussion about the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age.

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