Economies of Destruction. The emergence of metalwork deposition during the Bronze Age in Northwest Europe, c. 2300-1500 BC.


The accumulation of wealth is generally regarded as a universal way of achieving power and prestige, but how can a society function when its members deliberately and systematically destroy wealth? Strange as it may seem, this is exactly what happened in Bronze Age Europe at a massive scale. In this period, bronze metalwork often came from far and was important for power and status. However, Bronze Age communities systematically destroyed these scarce and prestigious valuables, by deliberately depositing them in the bogs and rivers, inaccessible forever.
We want to understand this puzzling practice by reconstructing how it emerged and developed in non-metalliferous Northwest Europe from 2300-1500 BC. Our approach is different from previous ones, as we do not solely see objects as indices of prestige. Rather, we think objects were perceived as right for permanent deposition because of what people did with them ? ranging from production to final deposition. Three PhD students will study the rise of depositional practices in three key regions in the Channel/North Sea Nexus and the Middle Rhine. They investigate which objects were for example placed in a grave and which in a river, and how this was done. Systematically comparing what happened in different contexts, the PhD students can follow how a system emerged in which specific types of places came to be seen as the ?right? ones for deposition of specific sorts of objects. Postdoc1 will research how craft and visual appearance of objects influenced selections of objects for depositions. Why were similarly-looking objects deposited in the same way? Postdoc2 and 3 will explain the strange orderings of depositions in the Bronze Age landscape: they were not placed in temples or cult places, but in strange orderings in natural zones. They will use Geographical computer models and vegetation reconstructions to study this. The PI will reconstruct how a supra-regional destructive economy emerged in the Bronze Age and bring this back to the question of how a society with such destructive practices operates. Was what happened in the Bronze Age historically unique, or is object destruction a universal strategy? The project will add a thought-provoking dimension to objects that have a great appeal to the general public. It will yield models that can be used to predict the location of still-undiscovered depositions and to protect these as heritage. This is essential to stop the alarming rate of illegal looting of metalwork from deposition landscapes.


Boek of monografie

Hoofdstuk in boek

Wetenschappelijk artikel

Professionele publicatie

Publicatie bedoeld voor een breed publiek


  • D. Fontijn(2015): landscape and identity in the Bronze Age and Iron Age- session Chair
  • S. Autenrieth, K.M. Visser(2015): Website "Economies of Destruction
  • D. Fontijn(2015): The complexity of Ritual landscapes
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2015): House structures of the Orcadian Neolithic. An architecture-sociological analysis
  • M. de Boo(2015): De economie van vernietiging
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2015): Space Syntax and the Orcadian Neolithic
  • Arnon Grunberg(2016): Voetnoot in Volkskrant ('Vernietiging'), refereert aan onderzoek D. Fontijn
  • S. Țerna, H. Tiede, L. Brandtstätter, S. N. Autenrieth, R. Hofmann, W. Mainusch, C.-E. Ursu(2016): Geomagnetic surveys in Baia and Adâncata (Suceava County, Bucovina, Eastern Romania): Spatial organization and population size of small Cucuteni-Tripolye settlements
  • M Doorenbosch(2016): Distal palaeoecological impacts of the Great Bronze Age eruption of Mount Vesuvius at Femmina Morta
  • D.R. Fontijn(2016): Informatievideo's tentoonstelling 'Het Oudste Goud van de wereld- de schatten van Varna'
  • Arnon Grunberg(2016): Voetnoot in Volkskrant
  • K.M. Visser(2016): Swords and the Bronze Age warrior ideal
  • D. Fontijn(2016): Economies of Destruction
  • A. Willemsen, L. Amkreutz(2016): Vlijmscherp verleden
  • C. N. Popa(2016): Lessons from the Past. Building Large Group Identities
  • M. Janssens(2016): 'Zo geweldig waren we in Europa niet'
  • L. Powell(2016): Wessex is a place; Wessex is a state of mind
  • onbekend onbekend(2016): artikel in Chinese Social Sciences Net n.a.v. D.Fontijn's '(Un)familiar and (un)comfortable- the deep history of Europe
  • C. N. Popa(2016): Urbanism in the Eastern Carpathian basin and the Lower Danube
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2016): How to become a (Project) PhD
  • C Popa, D Fontijn, M Doorenbosch(2016): Economies of Destruction, modelling Bronze Age deposition landscapes in Northwestern Europe
  • Cor Speksnijder(2016): 'Bronstijd had economie van vernietiging'- artikel wetenschapspagina Volkskrant
  • D. Fontijn(2016): Economies of Destruction
  • M Doorenbosch(2016): The Avellino event: did a major volcanic eruption lead to mass migration in the Pontine Plain and Fondi basin during the Bronze Age?
  • M.H.G. Kuijpers(2016): Cultuurklas: de archeoloog
  • D.R. Fontijn(2017): political and moral economies in Bronze Age society
  • C. N. Popa(2017): A recipe for making ancestors: from nationals to Europeans
  • M.H.G. Kuijpers(2017): Technological entrapment; an archaeologist’s perspective
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Das Ganze ist mehr als die Summe seiner Teile – Frühbronzezeitliche Deponierungen im mittleren Rheingebiet
  • D. Fontijn(2017): Key note lecture, Barrow landscapes- the social and economic geography of death
  • L.P Powell(2017): A Grave Misunderstanding: Same Old Graves: New Relational Perspective
  • D. Fontijn(2017): Key note lecture, ‘Circular and destructive economies’
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Orcadian Megalithic
  • Th. Toebosch(2017): het bronzen zwaard van vijf ton
  • K.M. Visser, E.J. Kroon(2017): Nat in Context: Deposities in natte contexten in Noordwest-Europa
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Frühbronzezeitliche Deponierungspraktiken diesseits und jenseits des Rheins
  • KM Visser(2017): Retro or Revolutionary? Selective metalwork deposition in the Bronze Age
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Liminalité de la Destruction - L'émergence de dépôts métalliques au cours de l'âge du bronze ancient dans la région du Rhin moyen, environ 2300-1500 a.C.n.
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Connected Minds - Ideological networks of the Bronze Age
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Creative Destruction – Early Bronze Age depositions in the broader Middle Rhine Valley
  • M.H.G. Kuijpers(2017): An archaeology of skill
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2017): Stream of Consciousness - Early Bronze Age depositions in the Rhenish river landscape
  • M Doorenbosch(2017): A Bronze Age palaeoenvironmental reconstruction from the Fondi Basin, Lazio, central Italy
  • M.H.G. Kuijpers(2017): Material is the mother of innovation
  • D.R. Fontijn(2017): Barrow landscapes- the social and economic geography of death
  • D.R. Fontijn(2017): congres van de Nederlandse metaaltijden-dagvoorzitterschap
  • M.H.G. Kuijpers(2017): An archaeology of repair
  • C. Speksnijder(2017): Amerikaans onderzoek: "ongelijkheid was in Europa groter dan in Noord-Amerika"
  • C.N. Popa(2018): The responsibility of being a European Archaeologist
  • D.R. Fontijn(2018): Economies of Destruction
  • C.N. Popa(2018): Adopting the past, adopting identities. How Romanians embraced their Dacian ancestors
  • C.N. Popa(2018): The role of the past in contemporary identity constructions: the case of Romania
  • D.R. Fontijn(2018): Objectscapes- unravelling burial practices
  • M. Keulemans(2018): de Oer-Europeaan was niet blond
  • D.R. Fontijn(2018): Imagined and Real. On the nature of depositional landscapes in Bronze Age Europe
  • D.R. Fontijn(2018): Economies of Destruction
  • MHG Kuijpers(2018): Carnegie Peace Building Conversations: Universal Declaration of Material Rights
  • M.H.G. Kuijpers(2019): The Future is Handmade
  • K. M. Visser, S. N. Autenrieth(2019): All the single finds – single object depositions in the Netherlands, Belgium and beyond
  • H. Spiering(2019): Genocide in de bronstijd?
  • Martyn F.(2019): EPOCH: Early Inventors
  • S. N. Autenrieth(2019): Everything, everywhere matters to everybody. Relational depositions during the Early Bronze Age in the River Rhine landscape
  • H. Spiering(2019): In slechts 200 jaar werden megalieten overall populair
  • C.N. Popa(2019): Archaeology of the Balkans
  • T. de Wekker(2019): 10.000 jaar geschiedenis in een spel
  • D.R. Fontijn(2019): (On)aangenaam Verleden - Waarom het Verleden ertoe doet en archeologie Geschiedenis moet schrijven
  • H. Spiering(2019): een ijsmummie die blijft verrassen
  • C.N. Popa(2019): Becoming European. From a past of national separation to a future of European togetherness
  • H. Spiering(2019): Genocide in de bronstijd?
  • D.R. Fontijn(2020): Economies of Destruction
  • M. Soressi, Q. Bourgeois, D.R. Fontijn, R. Jansen, M. Kuipers, A.J. Louwen, L. Amkreut(2020): Prehistorie was niet zo wit als in de canon
  • H. Spiering(2020): 17 minutenlang schijnt de zon diep de grafheuvel in
  • D.R. Fontijn(2020): Economies of Destruction
  • D.R. Fontijn(2020): human-thing relations and social evolution





Prof. dr. D.R. Fontijn

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Archeologie


Drs. S.N. Autenrieth, Dr. M. Doorenbosch, C den Engelsman MSc, Prof. dr. D.R. Fontijn, E.J. Kroon, Dr. M.H.G. Kuijpers, Dr. C.N. Popa, Drs. L.R. Powell, Drs. K.M. Visser


01/09/2015 tot 01/09/2020