Archaeologists Uncover Europe’s Hidden Bronze Age Megastructures

TSG site of Kačarevo 2 showing

The modern archaeological methods, employing advanced technologies, have unveiled a network of megastructures from the Bronze Age in Europe, long concealed. This discovery, a result of international collaboration, exposes hitherto unexplored facets of European prehistory.

The recent archaeological discovery in the Carpathian Basin represents a significant milestone in European archaeology. A collaborative effort involving archaeologists from the University College Dublin, Serbia, and Slovenia has unveiled a network of megastructures dating back to the Bronze Age, a period roughly spanning from 3000 to 1200 BCE, renowned for its technological and social advancements.

The findings, reported in the journal PLOS One, shed light on crucial aspects of prehistory. Massive structures and evidence of interconnected communities have been revealed, providing a deeper understanding of ancient civilizations and their interactions across Europe.

These structures, possibly identified as “prehistoric mega-forts,” are recognized as the largest constructions predating the Iron Age. Their size and structural complexity indicate a high level of sophistication and social organization for that era. These mega-forts likely served as centers of power, communal gathering places, and defensive bastions against external threats.

The discovery in the Carpathian Basin is particularly significant as it offers insights into the evolution and interactions of Bronze Age societies. The massive structures suggest the existence of well-established communities capable of mobilizing substantial resources for construction. This implies a complex social organization with a hierarchy and division of labor conducive to such engineering projects. People of the Bronze Age demonstrated advanced knowledge in architecture and civil engineering.

Precision Mapping Through Modern Technologies

Tumulus (left), settlements and cemeteries in Middle Bronze Age (center) and Late Bronze Age (right) topographic perspective. Image: Marta Estanqueiro and Caroline Bruyére.

To conduct this exploration, the team utilized modern technologies such as satellite imagery and aerial photography. Satellite imagery detects anomalies in the landscape, such as changes in vegetation color or irregularities in terrain, indicating the presence of buried structures. Aerial photography provides finer details and helps contextualize discoveries in their immediate environment.

These techniques identified over 100 sites, unveiling a dense network of interdependent communities from the Bronze Age. The authors created precise maps of archaeological sites, revealing not only the locations of major structures but also individual dwellings. This detailed mapping offers insights into the spatial organization, density, and extent of communities, providing a glimpse into their daily lives and interactions.

Structured and Connected Bronze Age Societies

Central area of the Baranda site showing
Central area of the Baranda site showing 1) a tumulus, 2) a watercourse and 3-5) areas of activity aligned with the tumulus. Image: arry Molloy.

The research results suggest that Bronze Age societies were more structured and connected than previously believed. Innovations extended beyond physical structures to areas such as agriculture, resource management, and possibly governance systems.

The archaeological sites, collectively known as the Tisza Group (TSG), stand out for their strategic location along the Tisza and Danube rivers. Proximity to waterways suggests that these communities leveraged river resources for trade and agriculture, fostering extensive cooperation between different localities.

Overview of a selection of TSG sites showing a range of organizational features, including ditches and natural watercourses.
Overview of a selection of TSG sites showing a range of organizational features, including ditches and natural watercourses. Image: Caroline Bruyere

The TSG emerges as a major innovation center in prehistoric Europe. At a time when civilizations like the Mycenaeans in Greece, the Hittites in Anatolia, and New Kingdom Egypt dominated the cultural and political landscape, the TSG played a crucial, often underestimated, role. Its influence extended to European culture and iconography during the second millennium BCE, attesting to its significance in the sociocultural fabric of the time.

However, around 1200 BCE, a period of significant upheaval marked the end of these communities. The TSG sites, along with many other realms and empires across Europe, Anatolia, and the Mediterranean basin, experienced an almost simultaneous collapse.

Evidence of conflicts is evident in innovations in warfare and defensive structures. Fortifications, weapons, and defense tools found on these sites reflect an era where protection against invasions and internal conflicts was a major concern. These defensive elements indicate that a society is constantly facing threats, both external and internal.

This period, often described as a crisis era in the history of the Old World, witnessed the demise of established political and economic structures, leading to radical changes in regional dynamics. The exact reasons for this collapse remain a topic of debate among historians and archaeologists, but the discovery of the TSG sites offers new insights into understanding these tumultuous events that shaped human history.