HaLLstaft Culturze

During the 19th century archaeologists uncovered a host of early Celtic graves in a remote valley in Austria. These discoveries were given the name of the modern village where the cemetery is located. The "Hallstatt" people came to represent the earliest identifiable Celtic society in Europe. Although they were the descendants of the Urnfield culture, these people had progressed to become an Iron Age society.

[allstatt is a small, isolated community

_| situated in a mountain valley in the

Salzkammergut region of central Austria. This remote area was one of the earliest centers of salt mining, which led to a significant level of activity in the region from the eighth century BC onward.

The Austrian Alps of the Salzkammergut provided a rich source of readily available salt. Local names such as Hallstatt and Hallein were derived from hall, a word of Celtic origin that became linked with the later German term salz (salt). Salt was used to preserve food during the winter, and provided a valuable trading commodity for the local Hallstatt peoples. With the discovery in 1824 of the ancient cemetery at Hallstatt a string of excavations over the next century revealed the presence of some 2,000 graves and cremation remains dating from the eighth to the sixth centuries BC.

Like the Urnfield people who preceded

Celtic expansion during the Hallstatt period to 200 bc.

extent of Hallstatt culture

Hallstatt culture early 5th century bc extent of Hallstatt culture extent of Celtic

Celtic expansion during the Hallstatt period to 200 bc.

Hallstatt culture early 5th century bc extent of Celtic peoples at c.200 bc Celtic expansion

Hallstatt Celt

them, the Hallstatt people cremated their dead, at least until the seventh century BC. About that time there seems to have been a return to the inhumation of the dead in wood-lined burial chambers, which reflected the earlier Tumulus civilization tradition. It has been suggested that this was prompted by a change in the nature of the early Celtic aristocracy. Horse harness fittings and bits were also found in grave sites from Eastern Europe to the British Isles.

Mysterious equestrian invaders

A steppe people known as the Cimmerians migrated west under pressure from the Scythians. It is considered possible that these people were absorbed by some of the late Bronze Age peoples of central Europe. Horse furnishings appeared in several warrior graves from the eighth century, including some of the Hallstatt sites. Contemporary engravings also depict sword-armed equestrian warriors. Historians now consider it possible that these eastern incomers became part of the "proto-Celtic" aristocracy. Almost one in four of the Hallstatt graves have been linked to a warrior aristocracy which possibly included the equestrian incomers. Bronze grave goods were frequently found in the richer graves, while those of aristocratic women contained bronze decorative objects, jewelry, and domestic items.

One distinctive characteristic of Hallstatt burials was the frequent presence of four-wheeled wagons on which the dead were placed. Similar wagons were found in early Celtic grave sites from Bohemia to Burgundy, and once again, they have become linked with the eastern equestrian warriors.

The Hallstatt graves represent a cross-section of society at a time when the ability to produce iron objects was transforming the civilizations of central Europe. They suggest a well-organized, socially stratified people, and the graves of workers and artisans peoples at c.200 bc Celtic expansion

Hallistatt Warriors

provided as much information for archaeologists as did those of the warrior elite. The most recent graves at Hallstatt date from the early fifth century BC, and they provide evidence of a decline in wealth in the region. It appears that after 600 BC alternative sources were found for salt production, and Hallstatt was overtaken by other, more dynamic communities.

Iron-working and the assimilation of equestrian warriors from the East provided catalysts for further social and political change. The I lallstatt period is usually described as lasting from about 700 until 500 BC. It was followed by the later La Tene culture (see pages 20-21).

Since the discovery of the Hallstatt graves in 1824, numerous similar grave sites have been identified dating from the seventh century BC onward. These were scattered throughout central Europe, in Austria, southern Germany and in the western Czech Republic. This region has subsequently been identified as the original Celtic homeland. During the sixth century BC the nucleus of earl) Celtic power appears to have moved west into the Rhine basin, becoming centered in Switzerland, south-western Germany, and eastern France. This transition also marked the eclipse of the Hallstatt culture by that of La Tene. The Celts were now firmly established as one of Europe's most dynamic civilizations.

Above: A four-wheeled wagon from the early Hallstatt period, recovered from a grave site in Austria.

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