Poignard/dagger/Dolch, 200-100 BC. Photo/Bild: TES.

La Tène , Neuchatel and Celts

Not much is known about the Celts. The main sources are Greek and Latin authors and archaeological finds. They show that the Celts are a name for many tribes that inhabited Central and Southern Europe from about 1 300 BC, including the area of present-day Switzerland.

The Celts have never been a political unity. Not much is known about the Celtic language either. Due to the Romanisation from the first century B.C., this language has disappeared. Scientists can still trace certain words, names and place names back to this language, but nothing is known about its grammar, pronunciation and origin.

Based on archaeological finds, particularly in the graves of the elite and the reconstruction of settlements, called oppidum/oppida, a reasonably reliable picture of culture, trade and social networks can be given.

It was a culture with a high level of crafts and organisation and a European system of trade from the Mediterranean to Scandinavian countries.

Two periods are distinguished in science. The Hallstatt period or the first Iron Age (1300-400 B.C.) and the La Tène period of the Second Iron Age from 400 to the beginning of Roman times, from 122 B.C. until its incorporation into the Roman Empire from Emperor Augustus around 15 B.C.

Hallstatt is named after a place in Austria. La Tène is the area close to Neuchâtel where around 1860 lake dwelling houses and many Celtic objects were found. The nearby museum Laténium has this period as a specialisation. The name is derived from La Tène.

A beautiful monument at the foot of Lake Neuchâtel still reminds us of this era. The memorial is the seven times enlarged faithful representation of a Celtic artefact, which probably had a religious meaning.

La Tène and Neuchâtel are world-famous, at least among historians.