The later Bronze Age in Atlantic Europe developed imperceptibly from the preceding earlier Bronze Age. In Iberia, in western and northern France, and in the British Isles, the evidence for cultural change and innovation is relatively slight, although the onset of deteriorating climatic conditions near the end of the second millennium had substantive effects upon the established farming practices in some upland regions. In many areas of western Europe, progressive expansion of settlements and forest clearance, with more and more land-take, may have resulted in permanent deforestation, if the processes of soil podsolization through human interference were substantial.1 The growth of peat which swamped many areas of previous, second millennium, agricultural activity, was probably both a cause and an effect of human exploitation in many regions of the west. 2 We should not, however, attempt to translate particular climatic and anthropogenic factors, applicable to well-studied areas, into other situations of western Europe, where different elements may well have been the principal reasons for changes in social patterns. In more southerly areas, it is possible, if not proved, that increased rainfall and lowered temperatures would have helped to redress any soil exhaustion, by bringing into potential circulation new areas of land not previously suitable for cultivation. 3

The chronological basis for the later Bronze Age in Atlantic Europe must be radiocarbon dating, in the absence of any major cultural change. Elsewhere, the appearance of the true Urnfields makes a convenient point, but in western Europe this phenomenon is absent, and Urnfield 'influences' are shadowy, elusive, and archaeologically indefinable. The evidence for continuity within the entire Bronze Age of the west is strong, and an arbitrary division is therefore made near the end of the second millennium BC, separating earlier from later. The subsistence economies, settlement patterns and industrial activities throughout Atlantic Europe remained as before, with some small alterations in areas

and emphases. Burial practices also did not alter substantially except that in certain regions the methods of disposal of the dead became less archaeologically visible.