A bronze harvest: Dutch Bronze Age sickles in their European context


  • S. Arnoldussen
  • H. Steegstra


A total of 42 bronze sickle blades dating from the Middle Bronze Age-B (c. 1500-1000 cal. BC) to the Early Iron Age (c. 800-600 cal. BC) are known from the Netherlands, yet these have never been studied or published in full. In this contribution, we aim to determine the significance of Bronze Age sickles in both practical and symbolic terms. Did communities in later prehistory perceive sickles solely as functional tools for agricultural tasks such as reaping, pruning, coppicing or weeding, or did sickles obtain a particular symbolic significance that rendered them suitable for votive depositions in hoards, graves and settlements? To answer this question, first a status quaestionis of European Bronze Age sickle research is presented and the terminology and typology applied are explained. Following this, the Dutch corpus of sickles with tangs, knobs (Groups 1-2), elongated knobs (Group 3) and peg holes (Group 4) is described, with particular attention to their dating, use-histories and the context of their deposition. Moreover, analysis of their alloy compositions was deployed to classify sickles of dubious “Dutch” provenance. For all proposed groups of sickles, their supra-regional affinities are discussed. From such supra-regional affinities it can be shown that communities in the Dutch later Bronze Age were integrated into Nordic as well as Central European exchange networks. In addition to this supra-regional integration, distinctly regional types of bronze sickle can be identified as well.