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Archaeologists had found evidence for similar changes in central Europe and Iberia at the beginning of the Bronze Age, and it seemed likely that Britain was invaded and settled by a new population from elsewhere in Europe, possibly the Rhineland. Not only that, but axes, by far the most common Early Bronze Age artefact, were unevenly distributed across the British Isles: there are heavy concentrations in Ireland, most of the earliest forms in the south-western region of Munster.
Only later did centres of production develop outside Ireland; these made more developed forms of flat axe in which the metal had different impurity patterns, including relatively high levels of nickel.
The metalworkers had apparently discovered that these ores yielded a superior product.
When archaeologists put metal artefacts in chronological order, they have always assumed that as metals technology evolved, simple designs and materials would gradually be replaced by more sophisticated and specialised ones.
By then, metalwork typologies for Britain were already well developed as were ideas, partly based on them, about the origins of British metallurgy.
The appearance of metals in the archaeological record of the British Isles was associated with other changes, particularly a shift in burial practices and the appearance in graves of a new form of pottery, shaped like a small cup or beaker.