Can anyone estimate the number of high-prestige burials that have been found in France, Spain or Portugal which date from, say, 3000 BC to 1000 BC?

For example, supposing that there were 2000 persons of highest prestige over that broad time and place, about how many of those 2000 high-prestige burials (or cremated-ash burials?) have been investigated by archaeologists? About when did burials give way to cremations?


1 Answer 1


I can only offer you a partial answer.

First, as to the total numbers, as noted on page 108 of European Societies in the Bronze Age, there are actually tens of thousands of barrows that are potentially of Bronze Age date in Western Europe. These would all be high-status burials. However, even in 2018, we do not have a complete Europe-wide list.

Sadly, there is - as yet - also no central database for Bronze Age burials across Europe. In fact, there aren't even central national databases for that data! Furthermore, many of the burials were excavated by early antiquaries who were basically interested in looting valuable from the burial, so we have only limited information about them.

There is no sudden change from inhumation burials to cremation burials. We can certainly say that cremation burial become more dominant over time, and cremation is considered "normal" for late Bronze Age (~14th–9th century BCE) sites.

One pan-European database that is currently being developed is the Cremation Bronze Age Burials (CBAB). It was launched in late 2016 and has gradually been coming online over the last year.

Another online database is the EU-funded TOMBA project. This is intended to include both Bronze Age and early-Iron Age burials, but so far coverage is patchy.

  • +1. Illuminating. So, basically, only a very small percentage of these burials have been investigated by 'real' archaeologists (as opposed to looters) then. Is there data on how many bronze age burials have been dug by professional archaeologists in Europe? OK, I know that digs can last days or years so I guess there's a problem here in defining 'investigated' and 'dug'... Let's just say (if possible) more than a couple of test pits. Jan 25, 2018 at 0:05
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    @LarsBosteen There is data, but it isn't all available in one place. And most of it isn't yet in a digital form. Almost everybody wants it on a central, online database. Nobody wants to pay for it! And this isn't unique to the Bronze Age. I got an email this week saying MOLA are currently calling for volunteers to digitise the records of St James's burial ground in London ahead of excavation this year. Jan 25, 2018 at 0:12
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    Depressing. Actually, my interest in this stems from childhood (on my Dad's farm of 360 acres in Denmark there were 4 burial mounds), and Denmark is one of the few countries on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumulus#Denmark for which an estimate is given. Jan 25, 2018 at 0:49

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