La Tène, canton de Neuchatel, le parc de chênes. Bild/Photo: TES.

The Holy Oaks of La Tène

The Celts are 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.

The language disappeared after the Roman occupation and the romanisation, a process of four centuries from the first century BC until the fifth century AD.

The Celtic culture is mainly known by archaeological finds, particularly in the graves of the elite and the reconstruction of settlements, called oppidum/oppida. They maintained a system of European trade from the Mediterranean to the 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 or the Second Iron Age, from 400 to the beginning of the Roman influence, around 100 BC,  and the incorporation into the Roman Empire around 15 BC.

Hallstatt is named after a place in Austria. La Tène is an area close to Neuchâtel.  Lake dwellings and many Celtic objects were found there in 1860. The Laténium museum derives its name from the “La Tène” history that it showcases.

The oak tree had a religious meaning in the Celtic culture. A park of oak trees has been (re)created in the La Tène area to commemorate those ancient inhabitants.