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Celts, collective name for numerous tribes of the Iron Age. In the 6th century B.C. a cultural unit with relatively uniform political and social structures developed between the Seine and the Inn; the language, religion, and material culture of the various groups were similar, with local variations. They were not politically united; they maintained contacts with the Mediterranean region. The people of this Western Hallstatt Culture were called Celts by the Greeks and Gauls by the Romans.
Around 450 B.C., the La Tène Culture, which had developed in this region, spread to eastern Austria, where the agricultural population, without any military conflicts or conquests, adopted the new cultural form, copied it, and soon considered themselves Celts. The first migrations of Celts into Austria did not begin until the 4th century B.C.; at the same time the Celts began military campaigns extending as far as Rome, Greece, and Asia Minor (Gala).
Celtic art developed from extremely varied elements of the Hallstatt Culture, Greek, and Etruscan influences as well as motifs from the eastern steppes, which were altered to meet a variety of tastes. From the 3rd century B.C., coins were stamped, based on Macedonian prototypes. Knowledge of Celtic deities was mainly passed on by the Romans.
The Celts lived in tribal units. Their local centres were hilltop enclosures: Birgitz, Bisamberg, Braunsberg near Hainburg, Leopoldsberg, Magdalensberg, Oberleiserberg (Leiser Mountains), Freinberg in Linz, Kulm near Weiz, Rainberg in Salzburg. Tribes known by name living in the region of what is now Austria included the Boii, and the Norici Tribe. The Celtic Regnum Noricum probably developed in the 2nd century B.C.; this was the first documented mention of a state-like entity on Austrian territory.
Many names of towns, mountains, and rivers in Austria date back to the Celts, e.g. Bregenz, Lorch, Linz, Tauern, Alps, Inn, Enns, Ybbs, Traisen, and Kamp. In 1970 a Celtic museum was opened in Hallein.
Literature: G. Dobesch, Die Kelten in Österreich nach den ältesten Berichten der Antike, 1979; Die Kelten in Mitteleuropa, exhibition catalogue, Hallein 1980; F. Moosleitner, Die Schnabelkanne vom Dürrnberg, 1985; G. Dobesch, Das Keltentum des Donauraums und der Ostalpen 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.
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