Fragile States in Mid-first Millennium BC Temperate Western Europe? The View from Bourges

Ian Ralston

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Abstract / Description of output

This paper considers the short-lived emergence of complex societies in the mid-first millennium BC in western temperate Europe, effectively preceding by some four centuries the major phase of the establishment of secondary states in the decades prior to their conquest by the late Roman Republic. The evidence for the initial phase is essentially archaeological; it consists in the main of small-scale heavily-enclosed sites surrounded by wealthy barrow burials, both types including high-status imports from the Mediterranean world. Bourges, located further west than most sites with these characteristics, represents a variation on the normal spatial arrangements of such sites and, being more extensive (perhaps c. 200 ha), on their overall scale. Associations between high-quality imports and craft sectors around Bourges intimate a less top-down organization than apparent elsewhere. Likely modeled on north Italian exemplars, the expansion and floruit of Bourges c. 500 BC only endured for about three generations before its near-abandonment.
Original languageEnglish
Journal Social Evolution & History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


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