CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

E4: Interregional comparison of Iron Age transformations: from Mediterranean Etruria to Baltic Denmark

The Iron Age conventionally defines a time of significant transformation. This project attempts to investigate transformation processes on a transregional scale: from Central Italy to South-West Germany and Denmark.

All these regions undergo major transformations in their respective Iron Age chronologies. A significant impact is noticeable not only in the interaction with the environment and settlement development, but also on socio-political and economic scale. 

Central Italy is characterized by a significant change in settlement patterns, leading to a gradual consolidation of settlements on high plateaus in the regions of modern Toscana and Lazio, as well as parts of Umbria and Campania. The Etruscan cultural phenomenon is associated with the emergence of powerful multi-generational places, embedded in agriculture-based supply systems and wide-ranging exchange networks. 

Described by later written sources as well established, recent research discovered the internal frontiers being subject to ongoing (re-)negotiations. A possible equilibrium of the Etruscan communità-stato, reached approximately around 400 BCE, was disrupted by the collapse of Veii caused by the rise of Rome.

From the 8th century BCE, in South-West Germany major settlements consolidate on high plateaus in proximity to natural resources and strategic places. These settlements are often referred to as “Princely Seats” - a highly problematic term rooted in the interpretation of the evidence that characterize the Hallstatt period. The emergence of outstanding graves, fortifications and settlement organization are interpreted as signs for the centralization of functions and power at these sites.

The decisive input for these transformations is often searched outside of the Hallstatt context itself. In particular, the interactions with the Mediterranean world have been considered crucial for its development. After the Latène C gap, the contact with the Roman culture would have then led to a central European urbanization process, culminating in the oppida.

As contrast, an endogenous model has been proposed by recent research, trying to overcome the concept of “incomplete” urbanization, showcase of a research approach based on an asymmetric acculturation model.

The evidence indicating transformations is very different in Denmark, compared to the other mentioned regions. At about 500 BCE, linear pit zone fortifications are interpreted as evidence for the gradual emergence of territoriality in Denmark. Another peculiarity of Iron Age Denmark is the mobility of settlements in a certain territory. This is often related to environmental conditions: For example, Jutland is characterized by a lower soil quality, making a sustainable enduring exploitation difficult.

Interestingly, there is a pretty much opposite settlement trend too, as there is evidence for tell-like settlements in other parts of Denmark.

Study areas E2Fig. 1: Study areas of subproject E4.

We aim to answer the following questions:

  • Are the different regional transformations part of the same global transformation?
  • How are the different regional transformation processes interrelated?
  • Do they follow the same rhythms?
  • How are natural conditions and triggers interlinked with social, cultural and economic processes?
  • How are the transformation processes shaped in the different regions and which kind of outcome do the transformation processes produce under different regional conditions?

In order to achieve a broad understanding of Iron Age phenomena on a transregional scale, we first have to do an attentive reflection of the presumptions carried by our scientific vocabulary, which is often considered self-evident.

In setting our theoretical and methodical framework, we must be able to bridge different material realities, different research histories, crossing borders of the present and the past.

The intense interdisciplinary collaboration with a very diverse group of researchers – archaeological theory, archaeoinformatics, geoarchaeology, philosophy, climatology, ... – enables us to address many facets of the phenomenon in question and hence is the key to a successful understanding of the European processes of the first Millennium BCE.



Research activities 2020-2024

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