La Tène Culture: pot, 4th century B.C., from the Celtic royal grave near Sunzig, Upper Austria (Provincial Museum of Upper Austria, Linz).
La Tène Culture, late period of the Iron Age (500/400 B.C. until 15 B.C.), named after the archaeological site La Tène on Lake Neuchâtel (Switzerland) discovered in 1874. The La Tène Culture developed in eastern France and southwestern Germany out of the preceding early Iron Age (500/400 B.C. - 15 B.C.) (Hallstatt Culture) and was influenced by the advanced civilisations of the Mediterranean region (Greek, Etruscan, Roman). It was spread by the trade connections, migrations, and military campaigns of the Celts. First use of the potter's wheel in Central Europe, later production of entire series of typical forms with uniform ornamentation. La Tène art merged Greek, Etruscan, and Eastern European elements, as well as rustic traditions of the Hallstatt Culture, to create a typical La Tène style.
In Austria, the Celtic La Tène Culture is considered to have developed first in Hallstatt and Hallein from 450 B.C. and spread through trade; the first documented mention of the migration of Celts is from the 4th century. First centres were the eastern Alpine foothills (particularly the Traisental valley), the Vienna Basin, and northern Burgenland. Settlement forms were groups of farms and small village settlements along rivers. The increase in average temperature was favourable to grain-growing, fruit-growing, and wine-growing; livestock breeding was also of major significance. Specimens of La Tène Culture art in Austria are the bronze beaked flagon of Dürrnberg (Bad Dürrnberg) near Hallein, the gold torque of the Maschlalm alpine pasture near Rauris, and the Situla of Kuffern. Burial, which was originally prevalent, was gradually replaced by cremation. The types of graves depended upon social position (wooden burial chambers for high-ranking persons). Funerary objects were articles of clothing (belt clasps, fibulae), jewellery, weapons, and articles of everyday life.
In the 2nd century B.C., central forts (oppida) were built, for example on Bisamberg Hill, Braunsberg Hill near Hainburg, Oberleiserberg Mountain Leiser Mountains, Umlaufberg Mountain near Altenburg (all Lower Austria); Leopoldsberg Hill (Vienna), and Freinberg in Linz (Upper Austria). At the same time the first state structure on Austrian territory was established, the Celtic Regnum Noricum. Coins based on Greek prototypes were stamped. In the late period of the La Tène Culture, a type of steel known as Noric iron (ferrum Noricum) was an important and well-known trading commodity. As Rome extended its influence as a great power, economic and political connections with the Romans increased. The La Tène Culture, and with it the prehistory of what is now Austria, came to an end when the territory was occupied by the Romans in 15 B.C (Roman Era). Further important archaeological sites of the La Tène Culture in Austria are: Herzogenburg, Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge, Ossarn, and Pottenbrunn (all Lower Austria), Biberg (Salzburg), Birgitz (Tyrol), Magdalensberg Mountain (Carinthia).
Literature: G. Dobesch, Die Kelten in Österreich nach den ältesten Berichten der Antike, 1979; Die Kelten in Mitteleuropa, exhibition catalogue, Hallein 1980; G. Dobesch, Das Keltentum des Donauraums und der Ostalpenländer in vorrömischer Zeit, 1986; I Celti, exhibition catalogue Palazzo Grassi, Venice 1991; J.-W. Neugebauer, Die Kelten im Osten Österreichs, 1992; H. Birkhan, Kelten. Versuch einer Gesamtdarstellung ihrer Kultur, 1997; idem, Kelten. Bilder ihrer Kultur, 1999.