- La Tène culture
The La Tène culture was a European
Iron Ageculture named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtelin Switzerland, where a rich trove of artifacts was discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857.
La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BCE to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BCE) in eastern
France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. To the north extended the contemporary Jastorf cultureof Northern Germany. [The Jastorf culture is the southern part of the Pre-Roman Iron Ageof the north.] La Tène culture developed out of the early Iron Age Hallstatt culturewithout any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from Greek, and later Etruscan civilizations. A shift of settlement centres took place in the 4th century.
Our knowledge of this cultural area derives from three sources: from archaeological evidence, from Greek and Latin literary evidence, and more controversially, from ethnographical evidence suggesting some La Tène artistic and cultural survivals in traditionally Celtic regions of far western Europe. Some of the societies that are archaeologically identified with La Tène material culture were identified by Greek and Roman authors from the 5th century onwards as "keltoi" ("
Celts") and "galli" (" Gauls"). Herodotusplaced "keltoi" at the source of the Danube, in the heartland of La Tène material culture. Whether this means that the whole of La Tène culture can be attributed to a unified Celtic people is difficult to assess; archaeologists have repeatedly concluded that language, material culture, and political affiliation do not necessarily run parallel. Frey notes (Frey 2004) that in the 5th century, "burial customs in the Celtic world were not uniform; rather, localised groups had their own beliefs, which, in consequence, also gave rise to distinct artistic expressions". In some cases where La Tène archaeological sites are overlain by Slavic culture, any identification of La Tène material culture with Celts may become a sensitive local issue.
Extensive contacts through trade are recognized in foreign objects deposited in elite burials; stylistic influences on La Tène material culture can be recognized in Etruscan, Italic, Greek and
Scythian sources. Dateable Greek pottery at La Tène sites and dendrochronologyand thermoluminescence help provide date ranges in an absolute chronology at some La Tène sites.
A disputed La Tène "homeland"
Though there is no agreement on the precise region in which La Tène culture first developed, there is a broad consensus that the center of the culture lay on the northwest edges of
Hallstatt culture, north of the Alps, within the region between the valleys of the Marneand Mosellein the west and modern Bavaria and Austria in the east. In 1994a prototypical ensemble of elite grave sites of the early 5th century BCE was excavated at Glaubergin Hesse, northeast of Frankfurt-am-Main, in a region that had formerly been considered peripheral to the La Tène sphere. [ [http://www.frankfurtlounge.de/Mystery_of_the_Celts.htm Mystery of the Celts] .]
From their homeland, La Tène groups expanded in the 4th century to
Hispania, the Po Valley, the Balkans, and even as far as Asia Minor, in the course of several major migrations. In the 4th century, a Gallic army led by Brennus reached Rome and took the city. In the 3rd century, Gallic bands entered Greece and threatened the oracle of Delphi, while another band settled Galatiain Asia Minor.
La Tène culture
As with many archaeological periods, La Tène history was originally divided into "early" (6th century BCE), "middle" ("ca" 450-100 BCE), and "late" (1st century BCE) stages, with the Roman occupation effectively driving the culture underground and ending its development. A broad cultural unity was not paralleled by overarching social-political unifying structures, and the extent to which the material culture can be linguistically linked is debated.
La Tène metalwork in bronze, iron and gold, developing technologically out of Halstatt culture, is stylistically characterized by inscribed and inlaid intricate spirals and interlace, on fine bronze vessels, helmets and shields, horse trappings and elite jewelry, especially the neck rings called
torcs and elaborate clasps called "fibulae". It is characterized by elegant, stylized curvilinear animal and vegetal forms, with elements akin to Scythian animal designs from the area of Ukraine, allied with the Hallstatttraditions of geometric patterning.
La Tène cultural material appeared over a large area, including parts of
Irelandand Great Britain(the lake dwellings at Glastonbury, England, are a well known example of La Tène culture), northern Spain, Burgundy, and Austria. Elaborate burials also reveal a wide network of trade. In Vix, France, an elite woman of the 6th century BCE was buried with a bronze cauldronmade in Greece. Exports from La Tène cultural areas to the Mediterranean cultures were based on salt, tin and copper, amber, wool and leather, furs and gold.
Initially La Tène folk lived in open settlements that were dominated by the chieftains’ towering hill forts. [ [http://www.frankfurtlounge.de/Mystery_of_the_Celts.htm frankfurt,kultur,highlights,mystery of the kelts ] ] The development of towns— "oppida"— appears in mid-La Tène culture. La Tène dwellings were carpenter-built rather than of masonry. La Tène peoples also dug ritual shafts, in which votive offerings and even human sacrifices were cast. Severed heads appear to have held great power and were often represented in carvings. Burial sites included weapons, carts, and both elite and household goods, evoking a strong continuity with an
Discovery: La Tène site
La Tène is a village on the northern shore of
Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland. It is both an archaeological site and the eponymous site for the late Iron AgeLa Tène culture, also spelt "Latène" or "La-Tène".
In 1857, prolonged
droughtlowered the waters of the lake by about 2 m. On the northernmost tip of the lake, between the river Thièleand a point south of the village of Marin-Epagnier, Hansli Kopp, looking for antiquities for Colonel Frédéric Schwab, discovered several rows of wooden piles that still reached about 50 cm into the water. From among these, Kopp collected about forty iron swords.
The Swiss archaeologist
Ferdinand Kellerpublished his findings in 1868in his influential first report on the Swiss pile dwellings("Pfahlbaubericht"). In 1863 he interpreted the remains as a Celtic village built on piles. Eduard Desor, a geologistfrom Neuchâtel, started excavations on the lakeshore soon afterwards. He interpreted the site as an armory, erected on piles over the lake and later destroyed by enemy action. Another interpretation accounting for the presence of cast iron swords that had not been sharpened, was of a site of sacrifices.
With the first systematic lowering of the Swiss lakes from 1868 to
1883, the site fell completely dry. In 1880, Emile Vouga, a teacher from Marin-Epagnier, uncovered the wooden remains of two bridges (designated "Pont Desor" and "Pont Vouga") originally over 100 m long, that crossed the little Thièle River (today a nature reserve) and the remains of five houses on the shore. After Vouga had finished, F. Borel, curator of the Marin museum, began to excavate as well. In 1885the canton asked the Société d'Histoire of Neuchâtel to continue the excavations, the results of which were published by Vouga in the same year.
All in all, over 2500 objects, mainly made from metal, have been excavated in La Tène. Weapons predominate, there being 166
swords (most without traces of wear), 270 lanceheads, and 22 shield bosses, along with 385 brooches, tools, and parts of chariots. Numerous human and animal bones were found as well.
Interpretations of the site vary. Some scholars believe the bridge was destroyed by high water, while others see it as a place of
sacrificeafter a successful battle (there are almost no female ornaments).
An exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the La Tène site was launched in June 2007 at the Musée Schwab in Bienne, Switzerland. It is scheduled to move to
Zürichin 2008 and the Mont Beuvray in Burgundyin 2009.
La Tène sites
Bern, Engehalbinsel: oppidum
Münsingen, burial field
Bibracte, oppidum of the Aeduiat Mont Beuvray in Burgundy
Hochdorf Chieftain's Grave
Bopfingen: "Viereckschanze", a characteristic rectangular enclosure
Fellbach-Schmiden, near Stuttgart: "Viereckschanze"; ritual objects recovered from a well
Kleinaspergle: elite graves of La Tène I
Waldalgesheim: an elite chariot burial, 4th century
Glauberg, oppidum and elite graves
Dürrnbergnear Hallein: Burial field and earthworks of late Hallstatt–early La Tène
Innsbruck: remains of dwellings
Sandberg Celtic citynear Platt and Roseldorfin Lower Austria
*Vix/Mont Lassois: oppidum and elaborate graves
Titelberg: oppidum in Luxembourg
ome outstanding La Tène artifacts
*"Strettweg Cart" (7th century BCE), found in southeast Austria, a four-wheeled cart with a goddess, riders with axes and shields, attendants and stags. (Landesmuseum Johanneum,
*A woman in Vix (Châtillon-sur-Seine, Burgundy) buried with a 1,100 litre (290 gallon) bronze Greek vase, the largest ever found.
*The silver "
Gundestrup cauldron" (3rd or 2nd century BCE), found ritually broken in a peat bog near Gundestrup, Denmark, but probably made near the Black Sea, perhaps in Romania. ( National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen)
Battersea Shield" (350-50 BCE), found in the Thames, made of bronze with red enamel. ( British Museum)
Witham Shield" (4th century BCE). ( British Museum, London) [http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/nwh/art12215.html]
Turoe stone", Galway, Ireland
*Chariot burial at
Waldalgesheim, Bad Kreuznach, Germany, late 4th century BCE. (Bonn: Rheinisches Landesmuseum)
*Chariot burial at La Gorge Meillet (St-Germain-en-Laye: Musée des Antiquités Nationales).
*A life-sized sculpture of a warrior that accompanied the
*A gold-and-bronze model of an oak tree found at the
Oppidum of Manching.
* Cunliffe, Barry. "The Ancient Celts". Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1997
* Collis, John. "The Celts: Origins, Myths, Invention". London: Tempus, 2003.
* James, Simon. "The Atlantic Celts". London: British Museum Press, 1999.
* James, Simon, and Valerie Rig. "Britain and the Celtic Iron Age". London: British Museum Press, 1997.
* [http://www.archaeologisch.de/forschung/latene/latene.html Excellent and detailed summary of excavations and interpretations] (in German)
* [http://www.edunet.ch/classes/marin/la_tene.htm La Tène site] : brief text, illustrations (in French)
* [http://www.hp.uab.edu/image_archive/uj/ujk.html Images from World History: Iron Age Western Europe]
* [http://gate.cia.edu/cbergengren/arthistory/celtic/slides.html Charles Bergengren, Cleveland Institute of Art, 1999:] illustrations of La Tène artifacts
* [http://www.ria.ie/publications/journals/journaldb/index.asp?select=fulltext&id=100427. Otto Hermann Frey, "A new approach to early Celtic art"] . Setting the Glauberg finds in context of shifting iconography.
* [http://www.beloit.edu/~museum/logan/paleoexhibit/ironage.htm Images from the Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College]
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