Archaeologists using satellite images and aerial photography have uncovered a network of previously unknown Bronze Age sites in Europe. The team believes these newly identified structures could explain the origins of contemporary megaforts, the largest prehistoric constructions made before the Iron Age.
The research, led by archaeologists from University College Dublin and colleagues in Serbia and Slovenia, used images and photos to create an impression of the prehistoric landscape of the southern Carpathian Basin. Over 100 sites belonging to a complex ancient society were found.
The use of defensible enclosures in these sites likely served as precursors to the large hillforts of the Bronze Age. The researchers also discovered that these massive sites were not isolated but were part of a dense network of closely related and interdependent communities. At their peak, the lower Pannonian network of sites may have been inhabited by tens of thousands of people.
The sites belong to the previously unknown communities of the Tisza Site Group (TSG). They were located near the Tisza river, a major river in Central and Eastern Europe, and are believed to have cooperated and lived along the river banks.
The TSG was an important center of innovation in prehistoric Europe and functioned as a major regional hub during the height of the Mycenaeans, Hittites, and New Kingdom Egyptians, around 1500 to 1200 BCE.
The collapse of the TSG around 1200 BCE resulted in the spread of advanced military and earthwork technologies across Europe. This helps explain the similarity in material culture and iconography across Europe during this period.
The team used satellite imagery, survey, excavation, and geophysical prospection to identify and study the sites. Most of the sites were established between 1600 and 1450 BCE and were abandoned en masse around 1200 BCE.
This discovery challenges previous assumptions about European prehistory, showing that the sites were not individual chiefdoms but part of a larger and interconnected society. The scale of the society indicates its relevance and power on a European stage and suggests that it was well-equipped to defend its gains.