Etrusia - The Celts

Celts and Britain

Celtic Cultures - Hallstatt and La Tene


Timespan: 1200 BC - 475 BC

Hallstatt culture is characterised in 4 stages, according to James(2005: 21): A & B late Bronze Age, from c 1200 to 700 BC; C Early Iron Age, from c700-600 BC; D from c 600 to 475 BC

5th Century BC Bronze Flagon from Basse-YutzThe Hallstatt culture spanned central Europe, with its centre in the area around Hallstatt in Central Austria. There were two distinct cultural zones - the eastern:including Croatia, Slovenia, Western Hungary, Austria, Moravia, and Slovakia; western: including Northern Italy, Switzerland, Eastern France, Southern Germany, and Bohemia (Wikipedia).

At the start of the period, long distance trade was already well established in copper and tin - the basic requirements for manufacture of bronze. From about 700 BC, trade in iron also became established. The Hallstat area also already controlled the trade in salt, crucial when there were few other means to preserve food. Control of these two crucial trade goods - iron and salt - provided the basis for the accumulation of wealth and influence. From 800 BC, some burials of rich people can be identified,in central Europe, with grave goods such as wheeled wagons and iron swords.

Hallstatt C saw the construction of fortified hilltop settlements to the North of the Alps. These had burial mounds holding very high quality goods, such as vehicles and expensive imported treasures. By the time of the Hallstatt D period, these increasingly extravagant burial mounds were clustered around a few major hillforts to the southwest of the region. This suggests a development and a concentration of wealth of social power, possibly based on the development of Massilia (present-day Marseilles) as a Greek trading port. The expansion of luxury trade brought greater opportunities for profit and helped to create an increasingly stratified society, with the development of a wealthy nobility (James, 2005: 21).

Over the period from 1846 to 1863, a thousand graves were found at Hallstatt, with an astonishing range of artefacts, including clothing and saltmining equipment as well as weapons, jewellery, pottery and imported bronze vessels in the "chieftains'" graves.

La Tene

Timespan: c 500 BC to c 15 BC

The La Tene era was the time of Celtic expansion and migration and the time of formation of the myths. The La Tene culture is named after the site in Switzerland where it was first discovered. The La Tene people were those known to the Romans as Gauls.

5th Century BC Gold Schwarzenbach CupOriginally found in an area from Eastern France to Bohemia, the La Tene culture spread rapidly from about 400 BC. The La Tene Celts settled in Spain in 450 BC, in Northern Italy in 400 BC, invaded Rome in 390 BC, invaded Greece in 279 BC, invaded Galatia (in modern Turkey) in 270 BC. By 200 BC, they occupied the lands that are now Britain, the Netherlands, Brittany, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

There is much debate over how much of the expansion into Britain was achieved through either/or invasion and settlement and how much was the expression of cultural transfer that accompanied trade and refelected the commonality of kinship and language of many tribes. There is little evidence for actual migration of La Tene people into Britain (James, 2005: 12). Nevertheless, it does appear that the La Tene culture was more militarily-focused than the Hallstatt one. The La Tene graves across Europe hold iron weapons - swords and spearheads - and wooden shields, as well as everyday items such as razors, yokes, cauldrons and jewellery.


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