Three-age System

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


The system of classification pioneered by the Danish antiquarian C. J. Thomsen in the early 19th century whereby artefacts of stone, bronze, and iron were recognized as characteristic of successive periods or phases in prehistory. This scheme, based essentially on the materials used in the manufacture of ancient artefacts, was used as a method of sorting the Danish archaeological collections and formed the basis upon which they were displayed in the Danish National Museum after 1836. With further subdivisions, including the partitioning of the age of stone into a Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic, the scheme remains the basis of prehistoric classification until the present day and underpins much cultural‐historical periodization of the ancient past.

Subjects: Archaeology.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.