Hallstatt Culture

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Hallstatt Culture

 

the archaeological culture of the tribes of the southern part of Central Europe in the period of the Early Iron Age (approximately 900-400 B.C.).

It is named after a burial ground situated near the city of Hallstatt in southwestern Austria. One may distinguish two basic regions where Hallstatt culture spread: an eastern region (present-day Austria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and parts of Czechoslovakia), which coincides with the territory of settlement of the ancient Illyrians, and a western region (the southern parts of the Federal Republic of Germany and of the German Democratic Republic and the Rhenish departments of France), where it is associated with Celtic tribes. Hallstatt culture is also known in the eastern parts of the Po River valley in Italy. In the Oder and Vistula basins, the culture of the late Lusatian tribes belongs to the epoch of Hallstatt culture. Special forms of burial rites are characteristic of each of these local types of Hallstatt culture. The transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age took place gradually; indeed, during the initial stage of Hallstatt culture, 900-700 B.C., both bronze and iron implements coexisted even as the latter grew predominant. Agriculture assumed an even greater importance in the economy. Use of the plow became widespread. There was a disintegration of the clan and a transition to class-based social relations. The dwellings of Hallstatt culture (still only slightly studied) were houses made of wooden poles, as well as dugouts and pile dwellings. The most widespread type of settlement was a weakly fortified village with properly laid-out streets. The salt mines, copper mines, iron-casting works, and forges of the Hallstatt culture have been well investigated. The following objects are characteristic of the culture: bronze and iron swords with bell-shaped hilts or bow-shaped hilts pointing upwards (so-called antennae), daggers, hatchets, knives, iron and copper spearheads, bronze cone-shaped helmets with broad, flat brims and crests, coats of armor made of separate bronze plates sewn onto leather, bronze vessels of various shapes, fibulae of a special type, handmade ceramics, and opaque glass beads that are yellow with blue spots.

The tribes of the Hallstatt culture produced both ornamental and applied art. Their art tended toward the pictorial and the extravagant, with an abundance of decoration. Various adornments were made of bronze, gold, glass, and bone. The fibulae are decorated with pendants and animal figures. The bronze girdle mounts have repoussé ornamentation. The ceramic vessels are yellow or red with polychrome carved or stamped geometric patterns. Fine arts appeared as well: funerary stelae; statuettes of clay and bronze that adorned vessels or formed independent compositions (the bronze chariot from Stretweg, Austria, with a scene of a sacrificial offering, 800-600 B.C.); and engraved or stamped friezes on clay vessels, bronze girdles, and buckets (situlae), portraying feasts, celebrations, warriors and tillers of the soil, processions of men or beasts, duels, scenes of war and the hunt, and religious rituals. The burials of the Hallstatt culture attest to a significant social stratification and to the formation of a tribal aristocracy. The Hallstatt culture was gradually replaced in the western regions by the La Tène culture.

REFERENCES

Niederle, L. Chelovechestvo v doistoricheskie vremena: Doistoricheskaia arkheologiia Evropy i v chastnosti slavianskikh zemel. St. Petersburg, 1898. (Translated from Czech.)
Artsikhovskii, A. V. Vvedenie v arkheologiiu, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1947.
Sacken, E. F. v. Das Grabfeld von Hallstatt in Oberösterreich und dessen Alterthümer. Vienna, 1868.
Déchelette, J. Manuel d’archéologie préhistorique celtique et galloromaine, vol. 2. Paris, 1913.
Mahr, A. Das vorgeschichtliche Hallstatt. Vienna, 1925.
Geschichte des Kunstgewerbes aller Zeiten und Völker, vol. 1. Edited by H. T. Bossert. Berlin [1928]. Pages 54-61.
Kromer, K. Das Gräberfeld von Hallstatt, vols. 1-2. Florence, 1959.

A. L. MONGAIT