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Hallstatt and the Hochdorf Burial

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1 Hallstatt and the Hochdorf Burial
The First Iron Age

2 Hallstatt In many ways it is not surprising that Celtic civilisation saw one of its earliest periods of rapid development on the north side of the Alps from Burgundy to Bohemia. This area is one of the most geographically favoured areas of Europe. Temperate, fertile, and well-resourced as well as being on the main routes which bind peninsular Europe north to south and east to west.


4 Background to the Hallstatt periods
Much of the Late bronze Age and the first part of the Iron Age from c1250 to 500/450BC is referred to as the Hallstatt period, named after the large cemetary and salt-mining site in Austria which were extensively excavated in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

5 Background to the Hallstatt periods
The second part of the Iron Age from c500/450BC until the different territories were conquered by Rome (except Ireland) is called La Tène after a site on Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland from which a substantial collection of artefacts were recovered over a long period of excavation.

6 Background to the Hallstatt periods
The Hallstatt and La Tène periods have been subdivided, usually on the basis of typology, into a number of phases identified by letters or numbers. For our purposes we can state:

7 Background to the Hallstatt periods
Hallstatt C c750-c600BC Hallstatt D1 c600-c530/c520BC Hallstatt D2-3 c 530/520-c450/440BC La Tène A c450/440-c370/350BC (c=circa, approximately).

8 Background to the Hallstatt periods
In the Late Bronze Age the west-central region of Europe shared a broadly similar culture which had evolved from indigenous origins over the centuries. In the 8th and 7th centuries a certain differentiation began to be apparent in the burial evidence.

9 Background to the Hallstatt periods
These differences are found within part of the region extending from southern Germany to Bohemia. Here distinctive warrior burials can be identified by sets of artefacts including long slashing swords, the bronze trappings from horse harnesses, and in some cases elaborate four-wheeled vehicles.

10 Background to the Hallstatt
It could be argued that the elite societies of Hallstatt D were little more than the intensification of social trends deeply rooted in indigenous Urnfield culture in the region. But the influence of Greek culture was a major factor in the elite economies of the Hallstatt princes.

11 Background to the Hallstatt periods
Other luxury objects include finely decorated pottery, and more rarely items of gold, glass, amber and coral. In the Hallstatt C period we see the focus of an aristocracy using the horse and the vehicle as symbols of status. Horses and vehicle burials may have come from the eastern Pontic region (Black Sea). The horses may have been items of exchange.

12 Background to the Hallstatt periods
The elite of Hallstatt regions began identifying themselves as an élite, through their priviledged access to exotic commodities, and by adopting distinctive rituals (of burial etc). The establishment of a Greek colony at Massalia (Marseilles), close to the mouth of the river Rhone took place around 600BC. This as much as anything contributed to the creation of the aristocratic wealth-culture in the Hallstatt world.

13 Background to the Hallstatt periods
Trade contacts meant that Mediterranean goods found their way north to Burgundy and southern Germany through exchange networks. Exotic items like cauldrons, and kraters (huge amphorae) found their way into Hallstatt graves, as well as imported pottery used by the aristocracy on their hilltop residences.

14 Background to the Hallstatt periods
The burials of the elite of the Hallstatt D period retained many of the traditions of the characteristics of the earlier aristocratic tradition, especially the four-wheeled vehicle. But warrior equipment like swords and spears are no longer found. Instead in the burials the emphasis is on the feast.

15 Background to the Hallstatt periods
This feast element (see the Hochdorf burial) is emphasized requiring the dead person to be provided with all the accoutrements necessary for the drinking of wine and mead. There is also a westerly shift in the distribution of rich graves, most of which are now found in a restricted zone from Burgundy (Bourgogne) to the river Rhine, coinciding with the distribution of ‘princely residences’.

16 Background to the Hallstatt periods
This shift may in part have been caused by the growing importance of the Rhone route at this stage, as the way by which luxury goods penetrated into the north.

17 Hallstatt



20 Hallstatt The concept of the vehicle burial may have been learned from the east, from the Pontic Steppes (near the Black Sea). It is quite possible that the actual horses were brought in from the east as items of exchange. Exchange networks are an important way of understand the development of early cultures (including Celtic) in Europe. The aristocracy identified themselves as an élite, through their privileged access to exotic commodities and by adopting distinctive rituals.

21 Hallstatt For the most part these exotic items from the south found their way into the graves of the élite, but imported pottery was certainly used in the defended hilltop settlements where the aristocracy presumably resided and entertained their clients.

22 Hallstatt: consumer durables
The élite system of west central Europe in the Hallstatt period is often referred to as a prestige goods economy. A social system based on careful control, by chieftains from their hill forts, of rare exotic goods which they used selectively as gifts to subordinates, to maintain the social hierarchy. In exchange the Greeks or their representatives obtained raw materials.

23 Hallstatt These raw materials were probably metals (gold, tin, copper, iron), amber and furs, as well as slaves. These Hallstatt D communities may have acted as middlemen using their native networks as a means to obtaining such raw materials. This business arrangement was undoubtedly far-ranging, including most of western Europe and as far as Britain and Ireland.

24 Hallstatt Not surprisingly, areas on the periphery of the Hallstatt chieftains, began to emulate them, creating elite systems and demand for luxury status-giving goods. In the fifth century (400s BC), from the Loire valley through the Marne and Moselle regions to Bohemia, significant new power centres developed. This culture is now characterized as La Tène.

25 Hochdorf Village, north of Stuttgart, in SW Germany.
The discovery and excavation of the rich and previously undisturbed burial of a Celtic prince dating back to the time to around c550BC took place in 1978. This is one of the most remarkable Hallstatt graves ever to have been discovered.

26 Hochdorf


28 Hochdorf Numerous very rich burials have been found in the immediate and broader vicinity of the Hohenasperg. These finds support the identification of the Hohenasperg as a royal residence. These royal burials form the basis for the reconstruction of the former importance of the settlement.

29 Hochdorf Based on present knowledge, the oldest of these burials goes back to c550BC, and the most recent to the Early La Tene period c400BC.

30 Hochdorf In these monumental burial mounds, the deceased were burial in elaborately constructed wooden burial chambers with precious grave goods and burial gifts. Despite more than 100 years of archaelogical activity in the region, no other burial site comparable to Hochdorf has ever been found.

31 The Discovery Beginning in 1968 Mrs Renate Liebfried, working as a volunteer in the archaeological service, observed that unusual stones were being ploughed up by farmers, which must have belonged to a burial mound. A complete excavation was conducted in the year 1978/9 by Jorg Biel.











42 The Hochdorf Excavation
The burial mound contained two wooden burial chambers, one situated inside the other. The space between the chambers was filled with stones. The roof was reinforced with two layers of oak logs and planks. This construction in Hochdorf made the burial chamber an impenetrable strong room, safeguarding the dead prince against grave robbers.

43 The Hochdorf Excavation
After the burial ceremony the chamber was closed. The northern entrace was blocked with stones. Soil was used from the immediate vicinity to construct the burial mound which was 30 metres long, and went to a depth of 1,5 metres below the ground.

44 The Hochdorf Excavation
The finished mound consisted of 7,000 cubic metres of heaped up soil, which demonstrated to all that a powerful and influential person had been buried there. The discovery of the burial in 1978 was an archaeological sensation, especially since the burial had not been disturbed.

45 The Hochdorf Excavation
The excellent preservation of the objects found in the grave gave a detailed insight into the world of the Hallstatt Celtic princes. The prince’s appearance could be reconstructed as well as aspects of his daily life.

46 The Hochdorf Excavation: the body






52 Hochdorf: body ornaments








60 Hochdorf: the couch The couch is the most striking and most interesting find from Hochdorf, and as yet unparalleled. It served as a deathbed in the burial, but originally it was a couch used during the banquet. The couch was most likely produced locally. It is 2.75 metres long, and composed of six large bronze sheets.


62 Hochdorf: the couch It does also reflect strong influences from Northern Italy. On the backrest, you can see depictions of wagon trips and sword dances.






68 Hochdorf : the couch Small sculptures of women support the couch. They are decorated with coral inlay representing the typical jewelry of the time.








76 Hochdorf The Cauldron


78 Hochdorf: the cauldron
The cauldron was an imported item. It was crafted in a Greek workshop in southern Italy and came as a gift of state to the royal court at Hohenasperg. The cauldron is 80cms high and decorated with three bronze lions, alternating with three handles. It would have a capacity of 500 litres, mostly likely mead.





83 Hochdorf The Wagon

84 Hochdorf: the wagon From the 8th century onwards, iron was generally in use as a new type of raw material. The Hochdorf wagon with its almost complete iron sheathing represents a masterpiece of early Celtic forging technology.

85 Hochdorf: the wagon The wheels, the shaft and the outside of the wagon body are decorated with more than1,320 single pieces of thin iron sheet metal. 800 of these bear punch-mark decorations. The wagon had to be reconstructed since the original 1 metre high vehicle had been crushed after the collapse of the chamber roof, reducing the wagon to a height of 5cms.





90 Hochdorf: utility objects
As in many other Celtic royal burials a drinking and banqueting service was found at Hochdorf. The drinking service consisted of nine drinking horns, the huge Greek cauldron (from Italy), and a golden bowl. The prince’s own drinking horn was crafted from sheet iron. The others were made from auroch horns.





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