Burials in the late La Tene

The evidence for these imported artefacts in north-alpine Europe is derived significantly from rich graves, which once again come into prominence in the late La Tene. In much of North-Western Europe in this period the burial rite reverts to cremation in flat cemeteries, often with minimal grave-goods to accompany the cremated remains, which are frequently deposited in a wheel-thrown pottery vessel. In Belgic Gaul and in south-eastern England, this often takes the form of a tall, pedestal vase; in the Wetterau region east of the middle Rhine, where Bad Nauheim has furnished the typesite, the cremations are contained in bowls. Elsewhere, however, a combination of rites persisted. At Basel in Switzerland, the cemetery by the gasworks site revealed that local practice in the first century bc was inhumation, while several of the smaller contemporary cemeteries on the Enge peninsula at Bern had a combination of inhumation and cremation.

Richly equipped burials, if not quite Fürstengräber in the late Hallstatt or early La Tene sense, make a re-appearance in the decades around 100 bc, particularly between the middle Rhine and Luxembourg. Like their predecessors, they are distinguished by the presence of southern imports, but unlike the earlier Fürstengräber they do not normally include gold-work among their funerary inventory. The cemetery at Hoppstädten-Weiersbach near Birkenfeld (Haffner, 1969), included several cremations interpreted on the basis of associated artefacts as women's graves. One distinctive feature of the cemetery was the inclusion in a number of graves of fittings from a draught vehicle, notably iron tyres and rein-rings. The practice of chariot burial does survive intermittently through the middle La Tene phase in north-eastern France and the Ardennes, but the occurrence of vehicles or vehicle parts in graves of the early first century bc must represent the last vestiges of this funerary custom. By the time of Caesar's war in Gaul, the practice of chariot warfare was obsolete - hence the Romans' dismay at first encountering it in Britain — and it would seem that the custom in death was shortly to follow its demise in life.

One relatively early cemetery was that at Clemency in Luxembourg (Metzler et al., 1991), a cemetery in proximity to the major oppidum of the Treveri at the Titelberg. Clemency was a cremation burial in a wood-lined pit, rather larger than most at over 4 metres square, and itself contained within a larger square enclosure. A low barrow mound may have marked the position of the burial. Grave-goods included imported amphorae, a bronze bowl and an oil-lamp, an iron roasting-grill and more than two dozen pottery vessels. What is special about the Clemency burial, however, is not just what was included in the grave, but what was found in and around the funerary enclosure. Numerous other pits containing ashes and the calcined remains of bones of pig, cattle and horses, together with other apparently ritual deposits, were evidently the product of an elaborate funerary ceremony of the early first century bc.

Rather later in the first century was the cemetery at Goeblingen-Nospelt in Luxembourg (Thill, 1966; 1967), a few kilometres from the Titelberg. Four graves were uncovered under low barrow mounds, in each case the rite being cremation with the remains scattered around and under the grave-goods in a rectilinear pit. Teeth and tusks of wild boar may have been residual from the funerary feast, and sherds within the grave filling suggested the possibility that other accessories may have been burnt on the pyre. The fact that three of the graves contained swords, spear-heads or shield fragments lead to the conclusion that these were warrior burials. The presence of spurs prompts the suggestion that they could have been cavalrymen, which would be consistent with the fact that auxiliary cavalry from the Treveri are recorded as serving in the first century ad in the Roman campaigns of Drusus and Tiberius. Spurs are now quite widely included in warrior burials in the middle Rhine and Luxembourg. In itself, the length of the swords, though appropriate for cavalry use, is no more than standard among late La Tene weapons. Grave B was the most lavishly furnished of the four burials, and is the key to dating the group. Apart from an iron sword with its scabbard, the emphasis seems to have been upon the wine-service. There were amphorae of various kinds, a bronze handled cauldron and accessory vessel, a longhandled sieve and Aylesford-type pan, and two flagons, one of late Kelheim type. There were also two stave-built wooden buckets with bronze bindings bearing simple symmetrical geometric or curvilinear designs. Among some three dozen pottery vessels were late first-century Samian and a beaker of the so-called ACO type with the stamp of the potter Hilarus, datable to the last decade bc or first decade ad.

Two of the Goeblingen-Nospelt scabbards are of particular interest because of the open-work ornament of their upper plates. The scabbard from Grave C displays an open-work tendril design for which Werner (1977) cited a close parallel from the Roman military site at Dangstetten. Not only does this provide a close dating horizon in the penultimate decade of the first century bc, it also shows that the stylistic influence was strongly Roman. The stylistic context of the design on the scabbard from Grave B, by contrast, was to be located in the eastern Alps in the kingdom of Noricum, where the arrangement of vertical columns of open-work was so closely paralleled on swords from Vrhnika, west of Ljubljana, and Smarjeta that the possibility of their being the product of the same workshop could not be discounted. In fact, this style is quite widely represented in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and was adapted also in the open-work ornament of the catch-plate of brooches such as those from Stradonice in Bohemia. Here then is evidence of the continuation of long-distance contacts between specialist craftsmen and their aristocratic patrons late in the first century bc.

Probably of later first-century date is the burial discovered early in the twentieth century at Chatillon-sur-Indre in the Loire basin. Grave-goods again included an imported bronze flagon of Kelheim type, an Aylesford pan and a plain bronze basin, together with early Roman amphorae. A round bronze plaque of uncertain function was ornamented with a symmetrically disposed set of four, five-armed whirligigs (Duval and Heude, 1984). Like Goeblingen-Nospelt, the grave contained boar tusks, underlining that beast's symbolic significance in the funerary feast, and like Goeblingen-Nospelt, it was apparently a warrior's grave, containing in this instance an anthropoid hilted sword of Hawkes' Class G (Clarke and Hawkes, 1955).

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