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La Tène (Switzerland)

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Artifacts from the La Tene Site, in the British Museum

Artifacts from the La Tene Site, in the British Museum

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Definition:

La Tène is the name of an European Iron Age site located near the village of Marin-Epagnier on the shores of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. Discovered in 1857, the site includes a sanctuary, a walkway and two bridges, the Pont Desor and the Pont Vouga, discovered when the lake levels were lowered in in the 1860s. The site includes features dated to both Hallstatt and La Tène cultural periods of the Iron Age, and dates between ca 650-200 BC.

La Tène was first discovered in 1857, and its identification led to a burgeoning of enthusiasm for archaeological studies. The site consisted of at least two bridges, and a massive collection of armor.

Of the over 3,000 artifacts recovered from the site, nearly 60% are weapons and associated artifacts. Others include a range of iron tools and decorative objects, from sickles and axes to tweezers and fishing gear. Basketry, pottery, wooden bowls, horse and cattle skulls and hooves, and the wheels from chariots have been recovered in the excellently preserved deposits.

The function of the latter La Tene occupation is up for debate. There doesn't seem to be a residence or village here, and theories about the purpose of the site range from military storage or depot to a votive or ritual site where items were placed into the lake for sacrificial purposes. The Hallstatt occupation, discovered in the late 20th century, has not been fully excavated to date.

Sources

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to European Iron Age, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Cunliffe, Barry 2000 Brittany and the Atlantic rim in the later first millennium BC. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 19(4):367-386.

Hummler M. 2007. Bridging the gap at La Tène. Antiquity 81:1067-1070.

Loughton, Matthew E. 2009 Getting Smashed: The Deposition of Amphorae and the Drinking of Wine in Gaul During the Late Iron Age. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 28(1):77-110.

Le Huray, Jonathan D. and Holger Schutkowski 2005 Diet and social status during the La Tène period in Bohemia: Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis of bone collagen from Kutná Hora-Karlov and Radovesice. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24(2):135-147.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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