The complexity and fragility of Early Iron Age urbanism in West-Central temperate Europe

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Abstract

The development of large agglomerations is one of the most important phenomena in Later Eurasian Prehistory. In west-central Temperate Europe, the origins of urbanism have long been associated with the oppida of the 2nd-1st centuries BC. However, large-scale excavations and surveys carried out over the last two decades have fundamentally modified the traditional picture of early centralization processes. New results indicate that the first urban centres north of the Alps developed over time between the end of the 7th and the 5th centuries BC in an area stretching from Bohemia, to southern Germany and Central France. Sites such as the Heuneburg, Závist, Mont Lassois and Bourges produce evidence of a process of differentiation and hierarchization in the pattern of settlement that was concurrently an expression of, and a catalyst for, increasing social inequality. Although contacts with the Mediterranean world certainly played a role in such processes, endogenous factors were primarily responsible for the development of these early Central European agglomerations. This paper summarizes recent fieldwork results, showing the heterogeneity and diversity of Early Iron Age central
places and outlining their diachronic development. The fragility and ephemeral character of these centres of power and their territories is highlighted. Their demise was followed by a period of decentralization that constitutes a prime example of the non-linear character of History.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-279
JournalJournal of World Prehistory
Volume30
Issue number3
Early online date5 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

Keywords

  • Iron Age
  • Hallstatt period
  • urbanization
  • social change
  • early states

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