Migration of women prevailed during the Bronze Age.

A study in Orkney revealed that migration dominated by women led to a period of prosperity for the Bronze Age community. Is this the main reason for the prosperity of this period?

Migration of the majority of women.

The Links of Notland site is a 4,000-year-old agricultural settlement near Grobust Bay on the north coast of Westray in Orkney. Previous excavations have identified more than 35 buildings, including residences, workshops and a public sauna, with a cemetery containing the ancient remains of about 105 individuals. In 2009, archaeologists discovered a diamond-shaped figurine known as the Westray Wife, believed to be the earliest representation of a human face ever found in Scotland.


In a study published in the Journal of Antiquity, researchers found that DNA from the settlement suggested a wave of female-dominant migrations. Leads to a period of great development in which new and more complex products are created. Research has also shown that migrants have joined strong and resilient households, leading to a mix of new and old ideas.

Dr Graeme Wilson, from EASE archeology said: “The DNA shows that the community at Links of Noltland consisted of local men and women from the continent. DNA not only reveals the reality of immigration, but also the manner in which it is mediated. “

Archaeologists paired the aDNA data with an analysis of Notland’s cemetery – which includes a large tomb that was used as a family cellar for centuries. And they found the cemetery was grouped into three households with a long history of male descent, suggesting that the men remained and inherited while the women migrated.

Dr Wilson said: “These results demonstrate how Orkney engages with broader networks at a time when it was previously thought to be isolated and experiencing a kind of ‘recession’ big.” The researchers found that household numbers were stable, suggesting that assets are not divided among multiple heirs.

The most prosperous period of the Bronze Age.

Such indistinguishable succession seems to be a Bronze Age development, with the increasing number of households seen in earlier periods. This change ensures each household has enough resources to survive in the harsh Orkney environment.


In addition to providing resilience in the face of a Bronze Age environment, the system also explains the Beaker’s unique migration pattern – female intercommunal migration is the norm in Orkney and it does not. no different for newcomers.

Alternatively, the Beakers’ integration into a long-standing community may explain why they left behind so little archaeological evidence.

However, life on Orkney hasn’t completely changed: “New and more complex identities have been created to emphasize the relationship with the household and the village,” says Dr. Wilson “found in cemeteries, where various burials are found.”

There have been new ways to build community and identity, bringing together this increasingly diverse population with common rituals and activities, leading to social stability. There is also the application of new farming technologies and techniques. Together, this blend of new and old ideas seems to have resulted in a period of peace and fruitfulness.

Far from presenting an existential threat, as has sometimes been suggested, the influx here coincides with a period of social stability, said Dr Wilson.

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