Lusatian culture

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A simplified map of the central European cultures, ca 1200 BC. The purple area is the Lusatian culture, the central blue area is the Knoviz culture, the red area is the central urnfield culture, and the orange area is the northern urnfield culture. The brown area is the Danubian culture, the blue area is the Terramare culture and the green area is the West European Bronze Age. The yellow area is the Nordic Bronze Age

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300-500 BC) in eastern Germany, most of Poland, parts of Czech Republic and Slovakia (in older articles described also as Czechoslovakia) and parts of Ukraine. It covers the Periods Montelius III (early Lusatian culture) to V of the Northern-European chronological scheme.

The Lusatian culture developed from the Proto-Lusatian culture and the Trciniec-culture under some influence of the middle bronze Age Tumulus bronze Age (Hügelgräberkultur). It is contemporaneous with the Urnfield culture that is found from eastern France via southern Germany and Austria to Hungary and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia. It is followed by the early Iron Age Billendorf culture in the West. In Poland, the Lusatian culture is taken to span part of the Iron Age as well (the is only a terminological difference) and is succeeded by the Pommeranian culture.

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Lusatian vessel (Buckelurne), British Museum, London

Burial was by cremation, inhumations are rare. The urn is usually accompanied by numerous, up to 40 secondary vessels. Metal grave gifts are sparse, but there are numerous hoards (e.g. Kopaniewo, Pomerania) that contain rich metalwork, both bronze and gold (hoard of Eberswalde, Brandenburg). Graves containing moulds, like at Bataune, Saxony or tuyeres attest the production of bronze tools and weapons at village level. The 'royal' tomb of Seddin, Brandenburg, Germany, covered by a large earthen barrow contained Mediterranean imports like bronze-vessels and glass beads. Cemeteries can be quite large and contain thousands of graves.

Well known settlements include Biskupin in Poland and Buch near Berlin. There are both open villages and fortified settlements (gords) on hilltops or in swampy areas. The ramparts were constructed of wooden boxes filled with soil or stones.

The economy was mainly based on arable agriculture, as is attested by numerous storage pits. Wheat (emmer) and six-row barley formed the basic crops, together with millet, rye and oats, peas, broad beans, lentils and gold of pleasure (Camelina sativa). Flax was grown, and remains of domesticated apples, pears and plums have been found. Cattle and pigs were the most important domestic animals, followed by sheep, goats, horses and dogs. Pictures on Iron Age urns from Silesia attest horse riding, but horses were used to draw chariots as well. Hunting was practiced, as bones of red and roe deer, boar, bison, elk, hare, fox and wolf attest, but did not provide much of the meat consumed. The numerous frog-bones found at Biskupin may indicate that frog's legs were eaten as well.

Hoards in swampy areas are considered by some archaeologists as 'gifts for the Gods'. Human bones in 5m deep sacrificial pits in Lossow (Brandenburg) might point to human sacrifice and probably cannibalism.

History of research

'Lausitz-type' burials were first described by the German doctor and archaeologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902). The name refers to the Lusatia (Lausitz) area in eastern Germany (Brandenburg and Saxony) and Poland. Virchow identified the pottery as 'pre-Germanic' but refused to speculate on the ethnic identity of their makers.

Numerous Czech (Píć, Niederle, Ćervinka) and Polish (Majewski, Kostrzewski, Kozłowski) authors believed the Lusatians to be Proto-Slavs, while the German archaeologist A. Götze saw them as Thracian, and G. Kossinna first as Karpo-Dacian, a tribe mentioned by Zosimus and then as Illyrian.

Today, most scholars have accepted the historical and changing nature of ethnic groups and do not try to continue ethnic groups known from written sources into the prehistoric period.

Further reading

pl:Kultura łużycka

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