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Old January 31st, 2017, 09:01 AM   #1
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La Tene culture in the British Isles


From what I understand, the La Tene culture arose in what is now Switzerland and north-western France in c. 500 B.C.E. I also understand that this culture spread to Britain and Ireland, though I have not been able to ascertain exactly when this is believed to have happened. I have read some things which suggest that the La Tene culture appeared in Britain very early on, even as early as c. 500, when the whole thing started. Yet other sources say that it only reached Britain in the 4th or even 3rd centuries B.C.E.

Could anyone shed some light on this matter? When does the evidence suggest was the earliest emergence of the La Tene culture in Britain?
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Old January 31st, 2017, 01:26 PM   #2
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It's a bit tricky , the La Tene culture was a variation of the Hallstat culture
It was Iron sword based and a more aristocratic ,warrior society with a big emphasis on prestige by the possession of luxuries good ,
especially wine consumption , an imported item
it is significant that it was located in the South East , the classic area of military and cultural contact from the continent
it came to the British isles either by imitation or war bands conquest and raiding
there doesn't seems to have been any large population disruption , more of a new style superimposed over an older related one .
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 01:20 AM   #3
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I don't suppose it's possible to distinguish between La Tene artefacts that were moved by trade and artefacts that were moved by migrations, is it?

But here's something that confuses me. As I understand it, the La Tene culture is essentially synonymous with classic 'Celtic' culture. I have also read that the Celts (specifically the Brythonic Celts) migrated to Britain in 500-400 B.C.E. So what's the difference between those Celts and the La Tene culture Celts? Does the 500-400 Celtic migration to Britain not also signify the emergence of La Tene culture in Britain?
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 06:11 AM   #4
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A very good example of the transition is seen with the onset of the Arras culture in East Yorkshire. Arras by the way is named after the farm where the first artefacts were found.

In the pennines to the west, the Brigantes show a good deal of continuity with the Bronze age. However, in East Yorkshire there is a sharp change from what went before. One such example is seen with the introduction of the famous chariot burials. They are all in East Yorkshire with the exception of one in West Yorkshire and another near Edinburgh. The most numerous burial types though are square barrows, where a square ditch encloses a central inhumation. These sometimes reveal artefacts which have distinctive coral or ivory inlays:

Click the image to open in full size.


Another example is the appearance of the highly distinctive anthropoid sword handle found at Grimston:

Click the image to open in full size.


This style, also found on the continent uses a bronze grip and an iron blade.


These things do start to spread in northern england but in East Yorkshire, the introduction is a dramatic change. The Arras culture is most usually associated with the celtic Parisii tribe and most date it to the middle iron age, 400BC to 100BC. However, La Tene starts to be introduced at the end of the early iron age, 600 BC to 400 BC which makes the exact date difficult so many authors hedge their bets and say it started between 500BC and 400BC. La Tene spreads to the Brigantine areas only later.

The Foulness valley in East Yorkshire is known as 'The Valley of the First Iron Masters' but we do not know if the Parisii came to exploit the ores or came because because ore was being exploited already. Furthermore, we don't know if a large group came or a small number came to show the locals how things should be done whilst making themselves wealthy in the process. The area was already known for bronze age smelting as can be seen by the bronze age boats from North Ferriby. There is no local copper or tin so either bronze goods or ores must have been imported.

Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by authun; February 2nd, 2017 at 06:16 AM.
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 06:37 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calebxy View Post
From what I understand, the La Tene culture arose in what is now Switzerland and north-western France in c. 500 B.C.E.
One always has to be careful here. The type of culture is usually named after the location of the first find of a particular type, in this case, La Tene. However, it doesn't have to be the point of origin. There is usually a wide spread where similar objects are found. Additonally, another entirely different object might be called 'la Tene' because the name then becomes an archaeological period. The two objects might not be connected at all. Thus, a Hallstatt type object might still be found in the La Tene period.
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 07:39 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by authun View Post
In the pennines to the west, the Brigantes show a good deal of continuity with the Bronze age. However, in East Yorkshire there is a sharp change from what went before. One such example is seen with the introduction of the famous chariot burials. They are all in East Yorkshire with the exception of one in West Yorkshire and another near Edinburgh.
And when are these latter two dated, if you know?

Quote:
These things do start to spread in northern england but in East Yorkshire, the introduction is a dramatic change. The Arras culture is most usually associated with the celtic Parisii tribe and most date it to the middle iron age, 400BC to 100BC. However, La Tene starts to be introduced at the end of the early iron age, 600 BC to 400 BC which makes the exact date difficult so many authors hedge their bets and say it started between 500BC and 400BC. La Tene spreads to the Brigantine areas only later.
Thank you, that's very helpful.

Isn't it also the case that the two-wheeled chariots, used by the southern Britons against Caesar, are also the La Tene design (apparently borrowed from the Etruscans, so I've read)? In which case, wouldn't that also be a manifestation of La Tene culture in Britain?

Quote:
The Foulness valley in East Yorkshire is known as 'The Valley of the First Iron Masters' but we do not know if the Parisii came to exploit the ores or came because because ore was being exploited already. Furthermore, we don't know if a large group came or a small number came to show the locals how things should be done whilst making themselves wealthy in the process. The area was already known for bronze age smelting as can be seen by the bronze age boats from North Ferriby. There is no local copper or tin so either bronze goods or ores must have been imported.
I see, that's very interesting. So it's very likely that migration of some sort was involved?
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 09:00 AM   #7
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The chariots are widespread, celtic speaking peoples did use them yes, but the practice of burying people under them is specific to certain celtic cultures cultures. The Hallstatt culture also had 4 wheeled chariot burials so, there may well be a link but, with updated technology, ie the new fangled 2 wheel kind. We are not sure how it all fits together but it may be that certain elites adopted the practice and they moved from place to place or they may have migrated with larger groups. No one knows for sure. We know from the analysis of bronze artefacts that the copper and tin came from wide ranging networks so, some people were moving around the landscape.

The Newbridge Chariot, the one near Edinburgh is thought to date to the 5th century BC, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newbridge_chariot and the Ferrybridge (or Ferry Fryston more accurately) Chariot Burial is dated to the 4th cent. BC. Ferry Fryston ? Iron Age Chariot Burial ? Honouring the Ancient Dead

Jean Manco has a map of the locations of this type:

Click the image to open in full size.



The burial practices are only one small part of La Tene Culture. Much of it is in the art style especially the vegetal style, lots of curvy vine leaves etc.and also in the use of coinage. If I remember correctly, the coins found in east Yorkshire are ones from Lincolnshire, the celtic Coritani. The Battersea shield is typically La Tene celtic:

Click the image to open in full size.


The problem with 'things celtic' is that there is some similaity between regions but also important differences. You see this in the different celtic languages. No one really knows how all these different celtic groups fit together although they do appear to have been very much aware of each other. But, the use of things like ivory and coral, from the indian ocean, are an indication of of the size of the trade networks.


The 2 wheeled celtic war chariot is also seen on coins:

Click the image to open in full size.


http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/...a/chariot.html
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 11:07 AM   #8
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Here's something interesting. According to this source about square barrows in Britain, "Most square barrows date to the La Tène I period in Britain, broadly the 6th and 5th centuries bc, and are found mainly in Humberside and the East Riding of Yorkshire. An increasing number, however, are being recognized in other parts of England. The square barrow tradition in England has been characterized as a key part of the Arras Culture".

Given the last sentence, would I be right in concluding that the 'square barrow tradition' is therefore La Tene, even without the presence of an actual chariot? That's what this source is claiming.

Anyway, it's interesting that more of this 'Arras culture' characteristic are being found in other parts of England. This other source is more specific, saying: "Square barrows are funerary monuments of the Middle Iron Age, most examples dating from the period between c.500 BC and 50 BC. The majority are found in the area between the River Humber and the southern slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors, but aerial photography has suggested a wider distribution into the river valleys of the Midlands and south Essex."
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 04:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calebxy View Post
Given the last sentence, would I be right in concluding that the 'square barrow tradition' is therefore La Tene, even without the presence of an actual chariot?

Yes, that's what I meant when I wrote "The most numerous burial types though are square barrows, where a square ditch encloses a central inhumation." The inhumation is a normal burial, not a chariot burial. Sorry if I didn't make that clear. This is what makes the chariot burials more difficult to interpret. They appear to be at the top of the society but, they are all concentrated more orless in one area so, are they an elite who ruled over the locals or are the square ditch burials also immigrants? There isn't a real consensus on this. They are quite striking when you see them. These were recently found at Pocklington:

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old February 2nd, 2017, 09:45 PM   #10
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.
It seems that the La Tene is strongly associated with the enhancement of a warrior aristocracy ,with a warrior status being displayed in life and death.

the coinage is obviously a cultural import from trade with the Mediterranean lands , as has been said before extensive trade route existed ,
foreign merchants would have made gifts to local with some authority , obtaining their benevolence either for right of passage or trade .
Local craftsmen would imitate , adapt or explore new pattern to satisfies this desire for luxuries .

displaying prestige objects in life and in death would then be a sign of a warrior status
giving to others a sign of one's munificence .
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