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Reconstruction of the Celtic Hochdorf Burial Mound

Reconstruction of the Celtic Hochdorf Burial Mound


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Hochdorf Celtic Museum

The Hochdorf Celtic Museum is located in the Hochdorf district of Eberding , around 18 km west of Ludwigsburg in the Ludwigsburg district . It mainly shows replicas of the finds from the Celtic tumulus excavated in 1978 on the outskirts of the village and gives an overview of the way of life of the Celts in general.


The Discovery

In southwest Germany, central Switzerland, and eastern France large burial mounds containing
richly furnished graves were laid out in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. Shortly after the first
explorations of these in the 19th century, the magnificent burials began to be connected to early
Celtic “princes”, a concept that eventually became accepted.

Most of the large burial mounds are grouped around fortified hilltop settlements, the
“princely residences.” It was concluded that larger areas were dominated politically and
economically from these locations.

One of these princely residences is the Hohenasperg , around which some of the typical
monumental burial mounds are located. Earlier excavations revealed however that the
burial mounds had already been robbed and plundered.

For this reason the discovery of the Hochdorf princely grave represents a fortunate exception.
Over the course of centuries, the burial mound was worn away but the grave within lay undisturbed.

View of the burial chamber during
the excavation.

(photo: Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg)

Beginning in 1968 the volunteer representative of the Landesdenkmalamt (State Antiquities and Monuments Office) Baden-Württemberg, Renate Leibfried, kept coming across stone fragments plowed up in the field. Thanks to her alertness, the Archaeological Preservation Office took a closer look at the discovery site and identified what had formerly been a large burial mound. Due to the acute danger from agricultural use, the burial mound was completely excavated during the years 1978 and 1979 under the leadership of Dr. Jörg Biel of the Landesdenkmalamt (State Antiquities and Monuments Office) Baden-Württemberg. The digging was carried out with the most modern research methods then available. The relatively late discovery of the princely burial would become a fortunate exception for archaeological research.

Traces of human activity have been preserved in the soil for thousands of years. From the information
given by discoveries and finds, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct the society, the way of life, the environment, and the history of our ancestors. A prerequisite for that is the detailed documentation
of discoveries and finds: exact location, photos and drawings, precise description and careful removal.
Only this will provide the evidence of a site that no longer exists since each scientific excavation also
entails the destruction of that site. The scientific evaluation of an archaeological excavation is supported
by the documentation of the discoveries, observations during the restoration of the finds, and various scientific investigations. Therefore animal bones or botanical remains are often more revealing than spectacular gold discoveries. The numerous individual data are compared to what is already known and finally fit together like pieces of a mosaic to form a complete historical picture, changing or verifying it.

The original finds of the Hochdorf princely burial are to be found in the Württemberg State Museum
in Stuttgart’s Old Palace


Understanding the Old Model of the Celtic Identity

Grianan of Aileach, a hillfort at Inishowen in County Donegal, Ireland. (Image: shawnwil23/Shutterstock)

Archaeological “Cultures”

What do we know about Celtic identity? Archaeologists have a tradition of identifying what they call “cultures,” or material cultures, from groups of artifacts because that is all that archaeologists can know about for certain. They infer things about social practices and beliefs from these objects, but all archaeologists have are the artifacts they discover.

Archaeologists identify cultures based on finding similar artifacts in a particular region, usually named after the most important site where those artifacts were found. The implicit idea is that this site serves as an epicenter of a particular group of people that share a common identity expressed in its material culture. The obvious danger is that researchers may consider a site more important than it was simply because they happened to find it.

This is a transcript from the video series The Celtic World. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Perhaps other, more consequential sites, have simply not come to light.

This model of identifying cultures by their artifacts has other limitations. Artifacts cannot tell us what language people spoke. They can’t tell us how the people who used those artifacts thought about themselves or what they called themselves. Artifacts also don’t come in neat packages. It was thought that cultures came in neatly packaged bundles of artifacts: people who used this kind of pot also wore this kind of brooch and fought with this kind of sword.

Archaeologists now realize that there are very complicated distribution maps for different kinds of artifacts: different kinds of pots, or brooches, or weapons can overlap with each other on a map. People don’t choose their pots specifically to stake a claim to their own ethnic identity. People make decisions about what objects they will use and what they will wear on the micro-level. What we get is a broad picture of what sorts of objects were popular in certain times and places.

The Celts: A Distinct Ethnic Group?

What does all of this discussion around artifacts matter concerning the Celts? The older model of archaeology helped to create the model of the Celts as a distinct ethnic group that spread out from Central Europe and took over large sections of the European continent. Archaeologists in the 19th century discovered artifacts that they associated with the classical texts about the Celts, and they assumed that the people who owned and used these objects were the same people they read about in the classical texts.

That model prevailed until the last few decades, still present in popular books about the Celts and even in textbooks used today. The traditional story is that the Celts arose in Central Europe in the middle of the 1st millennium B.C. in association with two cultures that appeared, one after the other, both named for the sites of important archaeological finds. The first site was at Hallstatt in western Austria, and the second was at La Tène, in western Switzerland.

The Hallstatt culture flourished from roughly 1200 to 475 B.C. in western Austria, also referred to as Upper Austria. Starting in the early 19th century, about 1,000 graves were excavated at Hallstatt, dating from the early Iron Age. There were thousands of artifacts in these graves, including weapons and imported Mediterranean vessels. Some of these objects had traveled hundreds of miles before being buried at Hallstatt. These objects, then, offer clear evidence for a flourishing system of long-distance trade.

Daggers and short antennae sword found from Hallstatt graves. (Image: Photographed by Tyssil/Public domain)

Were the people buried in these graves Celts? Scholars in the 19th century assumed they were, but no one knows for certain. The Hallstatt culture likely covered areas that included both Celtic speakers and non-Celtic speakers. Some scholars have proposed a connection between the Celts and the excellent metalwork found in the graves, since the Celts were famous for being excellent metalsmiths, at least in the classical texts that have come down to us. The metalwork is spectacular, indicating a high level of professional sophistication this means that there were people wealthy enough to pay for all that expertise.

Princely Graves

The observations about the metalwork mean that we are looking at a highly stratified society with far-flung economic ties around Europe and even beyond. This is seen in another characteristic feature of this period—the hillfort. There are dozens of these large fortifications across Central Europe that are often associated with princely graves. Archaeologists have theorized that the princely graves probably contain the remains of the local strongmen who built and maintained the hillforts, and this seems a reasonable working hypothesis. The hillforts tell us that this society was developing local power centers, in which hundreds or even thousands of people could gather, indicating it was becoming a sophisticated society.

The princely graves associated with these hillforts are spectacular with whole museums that have been built around them. In Eberdingen, Germany, is a museum called the Keltenmuseum, or the “Celtic Museum.” To make the Celtic connection clearer, the address of the museum is Keltenstrasse 2, or 2 Celtic Street, trying to connect an identity between the Celts and the people who lived here.

The grave that gave rise to the museum, discovered at nearby Hochdorf in 1977, dates from the Hallstatt D level, dating to around 530 B.C. Inside the burial chamber was a man of about six feet, two inches in height, which would have been an enormous height at the time. This might remind us of the reports in the classical sources that the Celts were very large in stature. He was about age 40, and he was found resting on a wheeled couch of bronze. We know he was very wealthy because he was buried with a large collection of grave goods.

Reconstruction of the Celtic Hochdorf Grave in the Celtic museum showing the man lying on the wheeled bronze couch and the large collection of grave goods (Image: Photographed by jnn95/Public domain)

Two objects, in particular, are noteworthy: he had golden shoes and a huge cauldron with three lions for decoration. The cauldron originally held 100 gallons of mead, or fermented honey, which was the alcoholic beverage of choice in this part of the world at that time. The afterlife was going to be one long party for this particular prince.

What else can we know for sure about him? Not much. There was a substantial village nearby, and scholars guess that he was probably its chief, however, because no one knows what language he spoke, it is impossible to say whether he was a Celt.

From these sites and artifacts, archaeologists have pieced together clues to understand and unveil the mystery of the Celts: their language, their culture, their identity, and the impact of their presence in European history.

Common Questions About Celtic Identity

Celtic identity rests on six particular nations: Cornwall, Scotland, Brittany, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and Wales.

Celtic identity can be deciphered from determining whether one is born of Scottish or Irish descent and the resulting studies showing alleles and mutations that correspond with the dominant gene pool of Celts.

Celtic refers to the Celtic identity of a group of people who speak the same language and have the same style of culture.

According to a study from Oxford University, the Celts and the Celt identity is largely a matter of culture but derives from what has been shown as a genetic fingerprint: their DNA comes from Spain.


The Museum Tour

During a tour the visitor finds answers to questions: How does archaeology work?
How did humans live in early Celtic times? What do the discoveries say about the daily life
of the population, their economic and social relationships? A 25-minute multivision show
explains the discovery history, the excavations, and the princely burials around Hohenasperg.
In a 20-minute film the metal artisan, Gerhard Längerer, explains the work methods of an
Iron Age blacksmith.

Wir haben wieder geöffnet (ab Dienstag, 1. Juni)!

Führungen sind möglich! (siehe Startseite!)

Sonderausstellung "Steinzeitdorf und Keletngold" verlängert bis zum 19. September 2021!

Vorankündigung: Festkolloquium "30 Jahre Keltenmuseum" (siehe unter Veranstaltungen).

Unikate keltischen Schmucks aus einer badischen Gold-schmiedewerkstatt jetzt neu
in unserem Museums-Shop! Schauen Sie vorbei!

Weitere Termine und Themen
unter der Rubrik "Ihr Besuch"
und "Abendführungen"!

Am Keltenmuseum (Parkplatzbereich) befindet sich eine Ladesäule für Elektroautos! Sie besitzt einen Anschlusswert von 22kW und zwei Ladebuchsen. Es gibt keine Bindung an einen bestimmten Betreiber. Zugleich steht hier ein e-car-sharing-Fahrzeug der deer GmbH (www.deer-mobility.de).

Eine Ladestation für E-Bikes am Museum ist in Vorbereitung!


Szenische Lichtinstallation
in der Grabkammer
des Keltenfürsten


Early Iron Age and Late Mediaeval malt finds from Germany—attempts at reconstruction of early Celtic brewing and the taste of Celtic beer

In this paper, we discuss specialised ditch structure from the early Iron Age settlement of Eberdingen–Hochdorf (early La Tène Period, fifth–fourth century BC), that contained large numbers of evenly germinated hulled barley grains. This malt appears to be the result of deliberate germination, given the purity of the finds and the associated unusual archaeological structure, which may have been used for germination and/or as a drying kiln for roasting the malt. The Hochdorf malt most probably was produced for the purpose of beer brewing. To learn more about the morphology of malt and the effects of carbonisation on it, experiments on modern barley grains were undertaken. Their results are compared to the ancient Hochdorf malt. Based on the excavated findings and finds as well as theoretical reflections on the early Iron Age brewing process, attempts at reconstructing the possible taste of early Celtic beer are presented. Additionally, a malt find from late mediaeval Berlin in northeast Germany is presented. A mixture of deliberately sprouted hulled barley as well as rye and oat grains, which were not germinated, was found. The three different cereals could have been used for brewing a typical mediaeval/early modern beer since the use of mixed crops for producing beer has been quite common. Because of a lack of further evidence, it remains unclear whether or not the half-timbered house in the late mediaeval town was a trading place and storehouse for malt or the brewery itself, where the malt was processed to make beer.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Keltenmuseum Hochdorf

The Celts Museum 2500 years ago - on the heights south of the Enz a magnificent funeral takes place. In a large wooden chamber, a man is buried, whose richness and validity is shown by the glittering grave goods that follow him to the grave. Soon a mightier,
a hill visible from afar over his tomb. 1978 - the grave mound has long since been removed, the grave is rediscovered! It has remained untouched for centuries! The modern excavation and the following years of research
work creates the prerequisite, the burial chamber with its splendid equipment detail
to reconstruct. 1991 - The Celtic Museum Hochdorf / Enz opens. It is the "Celtic Prince of Hochdorf",
dedicated to his time and culture. Standing at the burial chamber, we experience the burial in
all her splendor today as well as the contemporaries of the Celtic prince 2500 years ago. More than
Since then, half a million visitors have been transported back here to the time of the Celts in the original venue - in the museum of the century discovery of Hochdorf.

In the know? Log-in to add a tip for other adventurers!


The Discovery

In southwest Germany, central Switzerland, and eastern France large burial mounds containing
richly furnished graves were laid out in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. Shortly after the first
explorations of these in the 19th century, the magnificent burials began to be connected to early
Celtic “princes”, a concept that eventually became accepted.

Most of the large burial mounds are grouped around fortified hilltop settlements, the
“princely residences.” It was concluded that larger areas were dominated politically and
economically from these locations.

One of these princely residences is the Hohenasperg , around which some of the typical
monumental burial mounds are located. Earlier excavations revealed however that the
burial mounds had already been robbed and plundered.

For this reason the discovery of the Hochdorf princely grave represents a fortunate exception.
Over the course of centuries, the burial mound was worn away but the grave within lay undisturbed.

View of the burial chamber during
the excavation.

(photo: Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg)

Beginning in 1968 the volunteer representative of the Landesdenkmalamt (State Antiquities and Monuments Office) Baden-Württemberg, Renate Leibfried, kept coming across stone fragments plowed up in the field. Thanks to her alertness, the Archaeological Preservation Office took a closer look at the discovery site and identified what had formerly been a large burial mound. Due to the acute danger from agricultural use, the burial mound was completely excavated during the years 1978 and 1979 under the leadership of Dr. Jörg Biel of the Landesdenkmalamt (State Antiquities and Monuments Office) Baden-Württemberg. The digging was carried out with the most modern research methods then available. The relatively late discovery of the princely burial would become a fortunate exception for archaeological research.

Traces of human activity have been preserved in the soil for thousands of years. From the information
given by discoveries and finds, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct the society, the way of life, the environment, and the history of our ancestors. A prerequisite for that is the detailed documentation
of discoveries and finds: exact location, photos and drawings, precise description and careful removal.
Only this will provide the evidence of a site that no longer exists since each scientific excavation also
entails the destruction of that site. The scientific evaluation of an archaeological excavation is supported
by the documentation of the discoveries, observations during the restoration of the finds, and various scientific investigations. Therefore animal bones or botanical remains are often more revealing than spectacular gold discoveries. The numerous individual data are compared to what is already known and finally fit together like pieces of a mosaic to form a complete historical picture, changing or verifying it.

The original finds of the Hochdorf princely burial are to be found in the Württemberg State Museum
in Stuttgart’s Old Palace

Wir haben wieder geöffnet (ab Dienstag, 1. Juni)!

Führungen sind möglich! (siehe Startseite!)

Sonderausstellung "Steinzeitdorf und Keletngold" verlängert bis zum 19. September 2021!

Vorankündigung: Festkolloquium "30 Jahre Keltenmuseum" (siehe unter Veranstaltungen).

Unikate keltischen Schmucks aus einer badischen Gold-schmiedewerkstatt jetzt neu
in unserem Museums-Shop! Schauen Sie vorbei!

Weitere Termine und Themen
unter der Rubrik "Ihr Besuch"
und "Abendführungen"!

Am Keltenmuseum (Parkplatzbereich) befindet sich eine Ladesäule für Elektroautos! Sie besitzt einen Anschlusswert von 22kW und zwei Ladebuchsen. Es gibt keine Bindung an einen bestimmten Betreiber. Zugleich steht hier ein e-car-sharing-Fahrzeug der deer GmbH (www.deer-mobility.de).

Eine Ladestation für E-Bikes am Museum ist in Vorbereitung!


Szenische Lichtinstallation
in der Grabkammer
des Keltenfürsten


Broch, Crannog and Hillfort

The Hochdorf burial is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the Century for Celtic studies. Like the Egyptian tombs, most Celtic tombs were pillaged by grave robbers and disturbed by careless amateur archeologists of the modern period. Although farmers had been tilling the ground for centuries, the tomb was only discovered in the 1970s. Archeologists have placed the large, mound burial to about 550 BCE which means it was untouched for 2,500 years. The first investigations of the mound took place in 1978-79 by Jörg Biel. The burial gives us an unprecedented insight into the burial practices of the elite in 6th-century.

The Hochdorf burial confirms and summarizes other, less complete burials. This rare archeological find also confirms the legends of the prosperous Celtic past. The large, isolated burial gives extraordinary information on tomb construction. The mound measures 60 meters across. The tomb proper was constructed of a masonry perimeter reinforced with timber. The entrance ramp is on the north face of the mound. The tomb proper (where the body was placed) measures 11 meters square, by 2 meters deep, and is constructed of two walls filled with rubble. The rubble between the two walls--designed to withstand robbers is a feature not found in other tumuli, perhaps indicating the importance of the tomb and its occupant.

Inside, the chamber was found lined with textiles that adorned the walls. Although bacteria-killing oxides from the metal artifacts preserved the fabric, the fabric disintegrated when it was exposed to air. The remains of the deceased indicated the occupant was a 45-year-old man who measured 6' in height. He was placed on cloths of wool and badger skin. Since there are no traces of human hair it is assumed that the body was preserved in a vat of salt. Salt mining, of course, was one of the major industries during the Hallstatt period. The flowers in the tomb were the local blooms of late summer and early autumn.

In addition to items of personal adornment, the tomb included objects for personal hygiene, a razor and nail scissors. The three fishhooks and a quiver with arrows, though no bow, probably indicate his elite status as hunter/warrior as opposed to a worker. A large drinking service comprised of nine drinking horns and a large cauldron decorated with bronze lions and a dinner set with accessories indicate the Celtic elite's enjoyment of hospitality. The cauldron held 104 gallons of liquid: probably mead, a honeyed wine drink of the elite class. The cauldron was a luxury import item, probably made in a Greek colony in the south of Italy.


Grave Creek Mound

Grave Creek Mound, c. 69 ft tall and 900 ft in circumference, is the tallest conical mound in North America. The mound has a long, entwined history with European settlers. In 1770, Joseph Tomlinson was the first recorded European to discover its location. 1796, the English astronomer Francis Bailey examined the mound and interviewed local Native Americans, who, no longer descendants of the mound building cultures, had no collective memory of its use or function. Bailey, dissatisfied, wrote that a different race must have built the mounds &ldquo&hellipfor the present Indians know nothing about their use, nor have they any tradition concerning them.&rdquo

In 1803, the explorer Merriweather Lewis visited the mound and wrote: &ldquoThis remarkable mound of earth stands on the east bank of the Ohio [river]&hellipthis mound gives name to two small creeks called little and big grave creek.&rdquo

Grave Creek was first excavated in March, 1838 by descendants of Tomlinson. Although the excavation caused internal damage, due to the cross-channel tunnels dug within, the discoveries included burial chambers, skeletons, and grave goods. The Tomlinsons immediately opened the central mound as a museum. Though the Tomlinsons made an enduringly fascinating, and legitimate, discovery &ndash the first discovery of log tombs from the Adena culture &ndash this was to be overshadowed by the &lsquodiscovery&rsquo of a small, oval sandstone disk found in June, 1838. Three lines, written in an unknown alphabet, were etched upon its surface, and popular, and academic, imaginations were set aflame.

Contextually, the supposed discovery of the disk was popular not only because it fit into the concept that a &lsquolost race&rsquo built the mounds but because Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, had discovered the golden discs of Mormon only a few years earlier, and the discovery was fresh in everyone&rsquos minds. Smith&rsquos recorded &ldquoNephites&rdquo were interpreted by many to have been the &lsquolost race&rsquo who built the mounds and who were destroyed by the &lsquored-skinned Lamanites&rsquo, otherwise interpreted as the present Native Americans. Indeed, Orson Pratt, a Mormon convert, wrote in 1851 that this history was a &lsquosatisfactory&rsquo answer to why there were so many burial mounds across America.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, self-professed leading expert on Native American history, was one of many who attempted to interpret the Grave Creek tablet. His conclusion, after a study in 1842, was that at least four letters resembled the ancient Celtic alphabet he sent copies of the text to European scholars, whose translations ranged from Phoenician, Greek, Libyan, or Numidian.

Unsurprisingly, the surviving &lsquotranslations&rsquo are nonsensical, including:

1857, Maurice Schwab of France: &ldquoThe Chief of Emigration who reached these places [or this island] has fixed these statutes forever.&rdquo

1860s, Jules Oppert: &ldquothe grave of one who was assassinated here. May God to avenge him strike his murderer, cutting off the hand of his existence.&rdquo

1875, M Levy Bing: &ldquoWhat thou sayest, thou dost impose it, thou shinest in thy impetuous clan and rapid chamois.&rdquo

Recent archaeological theory suggests that James Clemens, a local doctor, planted the tablet in the hopes of keeping popular interest in the mound. This was not known at the time, and academic interest remained vivid and divided over its authenticity through the nineteenth century.

Despite this attempt to keep popular interest fueled, interest lagged until finally the summit of the mound was converted into a Confederate fort during the Civil War. Today, it survives largely unchanged due to the conservation efforts of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who rallied to conserve it in the early twentieth century. Although the early excavation revealed a great deal of interest and information, Grave Creek still retains many unanswered questions which must remain unanswered unless and until further excavation is pursued.

Photograph of a reconstruction of the Grave Creek Tablet

A photograph of the entranceway into Grave Creek Mound originally created by the Tomlinson brothers.


Watch the video: Mακεδονικό ταφικό συγκρότημα Τύμβου Καστά Αμφίπολης: Παρουσίαση από την Κατερίνα Περιστέρη (May 2022).


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