Urnfield Culture

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Urnfield Culture


a general name for a number of archaeological cultures. The name was given to the cultures because of a characteristic feature— moundless burial grounds containing, for the most part, cremated remains, usually placed in clay vessels at the bottom of the grave.

The Urnfield culture originated in the Bronze Age and lasted for more than 1,700 years. It was widespread throughout Europe. During the early Iron Age, graves containing inhumations and cremated remains in small pits without urns were not uncommon. In the period from the 13th to the fourth century B.C., the most ancient Urnfield culture, the Lausitz culture, extended from the Baltic Coast to the Danube River and from the Spree River to Volyn’. At the turn of the first millennium B.C., the southern German and Rhine variants of the Urnfield culture appeared in the valleys of the Danube and Rhine rivers in northwestern Switzerland and eastern France. At the beginning of the Iron Age, the bearers of these two cultures penetrated farther into what is now France. In the eighth century B.C. they reached the Iberian Peninsula (Catalonia, Castile), and in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., they appeared in Britain.

The spread of the Urnfield culture is not the result of the expansion of some one people or genetically linked peoples. Apparently, the burial custom typical of the culture was accepted by different ethnic groups in Europe. It has been conjectured that the bearers of the Urnfield culture in Spain and Britain were the ancestors of the Celts. In Eastern Europe, the Urnfield culture encompassed the Przeworsk culture, the Zarubintsy culture, and the Cherniakhov culture, the bearers of which, at least to some extent, may have been the ancestors of the ancient Slavs.


Spitsyn, A. A. “Polia pogrebal’nykh urn.” In the collection Sovetskaia arkheologiia, vol. 10. Moscow, 1948.
Pittioni, R. Die urgeschichtlichen Grundlagen der europ äischen Kultur. Vienna, 1949.
Miiller-Karpe, H. Beitr äge zur Chronologie der Urnenfelderzeit n ördlich und s ü dlich der Alpen. Berlin, 1959.
Otto, K. H. Deutschland in der Epoche Urgesellschaft. Berlin, 1960.
Kostrzewski, J., W. Chmielewski, and K. Jazdzewski. Pradzieje Polski, 2nd ed. Wroclaw-Warsaw-Kraków, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Urnfield people, who may have spoken some sort of Celtic dialect, developed villages and farming culture during the 13th century BC.
First, it has been assumed that the fine ware bowls, showing distinct traits of a central European Urnfield culture milieu, that of the Late Bronze Age Lusatian tradition, might signify or express aspects of both personal use and social identity behind these dishes.
Nico Roymans (2005) brings out the strong link between folklore recorded in the 19th century about urnfields and barrows (origin from 1100-450 BC) in southern Netherlands and northern Belgium--although folklore is not treating these sites as burial places.