2,100–750 BC - Bronze Age

  • A Bronze Age family group on their way to a burial ceremony. Perhaps the children are carrying some offerings. Everything they had they made themselves: clothes, leather straps, baskets, pots, knives and ornaments.

About the Bronze Age

Finding how to make bronze from tin and copper was a big step forward.  Now all sorts of tools, brooches, weapons and jewellery could be cast in metal.  People owned and wore beautiful bronze objects to show their importance.  Some people became very wealthy.

The land itself was very important to people. They depended on it to live.  They felt as if they belonged to it.  When people died it was as if they were returning to the earth.  So they chose special places to bury their dead.  In the Bronze Age, they buried important people under big mounds of earth (barrows) or stones (cairns).  Often these burial mounds were on the tops of hills, where they could be seen for miles around. People would gather together for the funeral. They cremated the body, put the ashes inside a decorated pot and them covered the pot with a mound of earth or stone.

  • An imaginary view of people arriving at a funeral ceremony high on the hills, near Higher Hare Knap. The body is being cremated on a pyre, and they are making a stone cairn.

Most people in the Bronze Age were farmers, growing crops and keeping animals. They ploughed the land in small, square fields and made enclosures to keep animals in (or out). They hunted wild animals as well. They lived in small family groups, in round wooden houses.

What were the Quantocks like in the Bronze Age?

Archaeologists have worked hard to record everything they have found or noticed from prehistoric times.

These bronze tools and ornaments were discovered in 1854. They had been carefully buried in a wooden box by Bronze Age people living near the Quantocks.

  • A collection of bracelets, rings, sickles (curved tools for harvesting crops) and palstaves (a type of axe head). The wooden handles of the tools haven’t survived.  From clues like this we can start to imagine life in the Bronze Age.

Here are some decorated pots, called ‘beakers’. These were found under an ancient bronze age burial mound in Stogursey.

  • Look carefully at the patterns on these pots. They were made by pressing or dragging objects into the soft clay before the pots were baked in a fire to make them hard.

In the Bronze Age people went hunting on the Quantock hills, which were still covered with ancient woodland. Today, people still find the arrowheads that got lost or broken on their hunting expeditions.

  • A broken arrowhead found on an excavation on the Quantocks.  It has been skillfully made from a piece of flint.  You can see where small pieces of stone have been chipped away to make exactly the right shape..

We also know that people buried their dead high on the Quantock Hills. It must have been a special place for them.

  • A lone archaeologist standing on top of one of the Bronze Age barrows on Cothelstone Hill.

Over 60 Bronze Age burial mounds are known of so far. Many of them can still be seen. Some of them have been ploughed flat and only show as cropmarks.

  • Two groups of people standing on top of overgrown barrows high on the common.

There are some more mysterious features which might be as old as the burial mounds. These are parts of longs earth banks and ditches which used to be much longer. Perhaps they help to show which parts of the Hills were specially sacred and holy. They seem to ‘protect’ clusters of burial mounds. But no one can know for sure.

  • An archaeologist uses special equipment to measure a ditch and bank on Higher Hare Knap.(Nearby are the two barrows shown in the picture of a Bronze Age funeral).

The best known of these ancient earth banks is the mysterious ‘Dead Woman’s Ditch’, which is about a kilometer in length.

  • Measuring part of Dead Woman’s Ditch. People say got its name because of a murder in 1789, but it is much more ancient than that, perhaps going back to about 1,000 BC.