|Reconstructed fortification at Heuneburg|
Here is some context. The old view of Iron Age Europe was that this was the setting for warlike barbarians who constantly fought one another until the Romans brought peace, civilization, and cities to the area. This view was based more on Classical authors than on archaeology. Julius Ceasar conquered many of these "barbarian" groups when he conquered Gaul in the 50s BC, and he described the larger settlements as "Oppida," meaning a large fortified settlement. Over the past century archaeologists excavated many Oppida sites, and many of these have urban functions that justify their classification as urban settlements (see my prior discussions of urban definitions: Here and Here ). Some of the archaeologists who contributed to this work were at the Stuttgart conference. including old hands like John Collis and Peter Wells and younger scholars like Manuel. The Oppida vary greatly, and this remains an enigmatic form of settlement.
|Reconstructed gate at Heidengraben|
The site of Heidengraben, which we visited today, is the largest oppida, but much of the settlement consisted of apparently empty land within a large walled enclosure. We could see some of the walls and formal gated entrances. Lost of people were out and about today, walking their dogs, cross-country skiing, and sledding on the slopes. The gate and everything else was covered with snow.
|Gold jewelry from an elite burial, Heuneburg|
The conference explored urbanization, social complexity, political organization, and processes of individualization throughout Eurasia during the Early Iron Age (800-400 BC). It was fascinating and I learned a lot and got excited about these sites. My role was to give a talk on the concept of urbanism and how it is studied by archaeologists.
The conference participants were also given a guided tour of a fantastic museum exhibit, "The World of the Celts." This exhibit has many of the important early Iron Age finds that we saw in the slides of conferenece participants, including the gold jewelry pictured above.
One final observation at the end of an excellent trip to Stuttgart: The State of Baden-Wurttenburg really supports archaeology well. The citizens are very interested in their past, turning out in thousands to see the two museum exhibits on the Celts and visiting the sites in the region. The state cultural office has a staff of hundreds, carrying out excavations (with sophisticated and rigorous methods) mounting museum exhibits, and other activities.And one final, final observation: the food in this region is fantastic.
Here are a few sources on the Oppida, emphasizing English-language works:
Collis, John R.
1984 Oppida: Earliest Towns North of the Alps. University of Sheffield Press, Sheffield.
1997 The European Iron Age. Routledge, London.
2005 La ville celtique: Les oppida de 150 avant J.-C. à 15 après J.-C. Revised ed. Errance, Paris.
2010 Re-Thinking the Southern British Oppida: Networks, Kingdoms and Material Culture. European Journal of Archaeology 13:32-63.
2011 The Iron Age. In European Prehistory: A Survey, edited by Sarunas Milisauskas, pp. 405-460. 2nd ed. Springer, New York.
Woolf, Greg D.
1993 Rethinking the Oppida. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 12:223-234.