The Lausitz “Culture”

This is a 3000 years old  “Buckelurne” from the late Bronze age . The Lusatian (Lausitz) complex is an archaeological “culture” of the late Bronze Age [1600-1300 BC] of eastern Germany and Poland, parts of Czech Republic and Slovakia. The archaeological findings mainly consist of urnfields and fortified villages. The Lausitz complex was first recognized by Rudolf Virchow in 1874. It forms part of the a larger urnfields phenomenon, found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

The Lusatian complex is mainly known from cremations. The urn is usually accompanied by numerous, (up to 40) vessels. Metal grave gifts are sparse, but there are numerous hoards with rich metalwork, both bronze and gold (e.g. the famous hoard of Eberswalde, Brandenburg). These hoards were certainly lain down for ritual / religious reasons. The ‘royal’ tomb of Seddin, Brandenburg, Germany, covered by a large earthen barrow contained Mediterranean imports like bronze-vessels and glass beads, thus supporting the view of wide-range networks between central Europe and the Mediterranean sphere. Well known fortified Lausitz settlements include Biskupin in Poland and Buch near Berlin.

We should be careful in the use of terms like “culture” in prehistory. During the formative years of central European Prehistory” influential European Prehistorians were convinced that a unified set of archaeological artifacts, a “culture”, was certainly also the sign of a unified ethnicity.” The most prominent proponent of such a thesis was Gustaf Kossinna (1858 1931), the creator of the Siedlungsarchaologie, or “settlement archaeology”. Kossinna developed the theory that a regionally delimited ethnicity can be defined by the material culture excavated from a site (Culture-historical archaeology). He wrote that “Sharply defined archaeological cultural areas correspond unquestionably with the areas of particular people or tribes. One of his best-known books of Kossina was “Die deutsche Vorgeschichte – eine hervorragend nationale Wissenschaft”. Here he introduced the idea that an Aryan race, superior to other peoples, could be equated with the ancient Germans, arguing that Germany was the key to the unwritten history of the ancient world.

After Germany had lost the WWI the reconstruction of prehistoric “cultures” was misused for the political discussion about the newly drawn boundaries in Middle and East Europe not only by German, but also Polish Prehistorians. At this time Kossinna and his chauvinistic followers consistently assigned several Bronze Age and Iron Age complexes in Central-East Europe to the “Germanic” people. These claims had deadly consequences when they were used by the National socialists to justify later annexations, expulsions and mass executions in Poland, Czechoslovakia and the UDSSR.

Ironically Kossinna and his adherents were not sure about the ethnicity of the Lausitz-people. Through time their interpretation of these groups referred to various historically known people, such as the Germanic, Slavic, Illyric, Karpo-Dacian,  and Celtic, which says a lot about the “scientific content” of Kossinna theories.

In my opinion the search of defined „tribes“ in prehistory is a  methodically flawed method which extrapolates the 19th century conception of modern nations to prehistoric times. The evaluation of social dynamics in prehistory does not need such  epistemologically useless constructs, which are always  open to ideological abuse.

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One Response to The Lausitz “Culture”

  1. Pingback: Battle Axe from the Corded Ware Culture of Middle Europe and the genetic Background of Neolithic cultural Change | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

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