Wessex Culture

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Stuart Piggott (1910—1996) archaeologist



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Early Bronze Age culture of central southern England, defined by Stuart Piggott in 1938 on the basis of a ser‐ies of well‐known richly furnished burials under round barrows in the Wessex region of Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, and surrounding areas. Later, in 1954, Arthur ApSimon proposed subdividing the Wessex Culture into two consecutive phases, initially on the basis of the dagger typology: Wessex I (c.2000–1650 bc), with richly furnished inhumation graves containing bronze triangular daggers (Bush Barrow type), axes, beads, and buttons of amber and shale, and gold dress fittings. The most famous example is the Bush Barrow burial, near Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Wessex II (c.1650–1400 bc) was characterized by ogival daggers (Camerton–Snowshill type), together with cremation replacing inhumation and faience beads becoming more common. However, Joan Taylor has shown that the gold used for the manufacture of objects variously assigned to both Wessex I and II in fact came from the same crucible, thus making the objects themselves contemporary and the traditional chronological divisions meaningless. Instead, the differences in burial tradition may be explained in terms of rank, status, gender, or identity. Connections between the Wessex Culture and contemporary communities in northern France are widely accepted (e.g. with the Armorican Tumulus Culture), and these date to the European early Bronze Age, Reinecke A1 and A2. There has been much discussion of the possibility of long‐distance links to the Aegean world, but most can be discounted on chronological grounds. Graves of the Wessex Culture are especially numerous around Stonehenge, but they mainly date to the centuries after the main monument had been constructed.

Subjects: Archaeology.

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