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La Tène culture

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The La Tène culture is a late Iron Age culture named after the archaeological site of La Tene on the north side of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland, where a rich trove of artifacts were discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857.

It developed during the late Iron age (450 BC till the Roman Conquest) in eastern France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary. It developed out of the early iron age Hallstatt culture under considerable Mediterranean (Greek, and later Etruscan) influence. There was a shift of settlement centres as well.

Some people with a La Tène-type material culture were identified by classical authors as "Keltoi". Whether this means that the whole of the La Tène culture can be attributed to "a" Celtic people is difficult to decide; it is probably best to keep language, material culture and political affiliation apart.


La Tène site

See La Tene for full details.

During a period of drought, Lake Neuchatel's water level receded, revealing the remains of some wooden construction. When the area was excavated finds of great beauty were uncovered. Subsequent excavation of the areas around the lake found even more treasures.

La Tène dates

Like all archaeological periods, it was tempting to divide the Late Iron Age La Tène culture into Early (6th century BC), Middle (ca 450100 BC), and Late (1st century BC), with the Roman occupation effectively driving the culture underground and ending its development.

The original homeland of the La Tène style is debated; it lay in the area from the Marne in Eastern France, north of the Alps to the upper Danube. La Tène metalwork is characterized by intricate spirals and interlace, on fine bronze vessels, helmets and shields, horse trappings and elite jewelry, especially the neck bracelets called "torcs" and elaborate clasps called "fibulae". It is characterized by elegant, stylized curvilinear animal and vegetable forms, with elements akin to Scythian animal designs from the area of Ukraine, allied with the Hallstatt traditions of geometric patterning. La Tène cultural material appeared over a larger area, including parts of Ireland and Britain (the lake dwellings at Glastonbury, England are a well known example of La Tène culture), northern Spain, Burgundy and Austria.

La Tène culture

Elaborate burials reveal the wide network of trade. In Vix , France, an elite woman of the 6th century BC was buried with a bronze cauldron made in Greece.

Ritual shafts were dug, in which votive offerings and even human sacrifices were cast. Severed heads held great power and were often represented in carvings.

Famous La Tène art

  • Strettweg Cart (7th Century BC); found in southeast Austria (Landesmuseum Johanneum, Graz, Austria), a four wheeled cart with a goddess, riders with axes and shields, attendants and stags.


  • A princess in Vix (Burgundy) is buried with a 1100 litre (290 US gallons) bronze Greek vase, the largest ever found.
  • Gundestrup Cauldron (3rd - 2nd century); found ritually broken in a peat bog in Denmark, but probably made near the Black Sea, perhaps in Romania (Himmerland Museum, Gundestrup)

External links

  • Sampling of Celtic works of art

Last updated: 02-03-2005 16:47:17
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12