Lusatian culture

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300 BC – 500 BC) in most of today's Poland and parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, eastern Germany, and western Ukraine. It covers the Periods Montelius III (early Lusatian culture) to V of the Northern-European chronological scheme.

Lusatian culture
Geographical rangeCentral Europe
PeriodLate Bronze Age to early Iron Age
Preceded byUrnfield culture, Trzciniec culture
Followed byPomeranian culture

There were close contacts with the Nordic Bronze Age.[1] Hallstatt and La Tène influences can also be seen particularly in ornaments (fibulae, pins) and weapons.


The Lusatian culture developed as the preceding Trzciniec culture experienced influences from the Tumulus culture of the Middle Bronze Age, essentially incorporating the local communities into the socio-political network of Iron Age Europe.[2] It forms part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia. It is followed by the Billendorf culture of the Early Iron Age in the West. In Poland, the Lusatian culture is taken to span part of the Iron Age as well (there is only a terminological difference) and is succeeded in Montelius VIIbc in northern ranges around the mouth of Vistula by the Pomeranian culture spreading south.

'Lusatian-type' burials were first described by the German pathologist and archaeologist Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902). The name refers to the Lusatia area in eastern Germany (Brandenburg and Saxony) and western Poland. Virchow identified the pottery artifacts as 'pre-Germanic' but refused to speculate on the ethnic identity of their makers. The Polish archeologist Józef Kostrzewski, who starting in 1934 conducted extensive excavations of a Lusatian settlement of Biskupin, hypothesized that the Lusatian culture was a predecessor of later cultures which belonged to the early Slavs.[3] Modern archeologists, such as Kazimierz Godłowski and Piotr Kaczanowski, hold the view that at that time, the ethnic geography of Bronze Age central-Europe included peoples whose languages and ethnic identity we simply do not know.[4][5]


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 to the production of bronze tools and weapons at the 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 (burgwall or grod) 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 frogs' legs were eaten as well.

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

See also


  1. Kaliff, Anders. 2001. Gothic Connections. Contacts between eastern Scandinavia and the southern Baltic coast 1000 BC – 500 AD. Occasional Papers in Archaeology 26. Uppsala., OPIA 26 - Uppsala University
  2. (Dolukhanov 1996:113)
  3. Józef Kostrzewski, Od mezolitu do okresu wędrówek ludów, Prehistoria ziem polskich, Kraków 1939.
  4. Kazimierz Godłowski, Z badań nad zagadnieniem rozprzestrzeniania Słowian w V–VII w. n.e.
  5. Piotr Kaczanowski, Epoka brązu – pomiędzy centrami cywilizacyjnymi Bałkanów i Alp a Skandynawią [w:] Wielka historia Polski, t. I, Fogra, Kraków 2003, s. 170.

Further reading

  • J. M. Coles and A. F. Harding, The Bronze Age in Europe (London 1979).
  • Dabrowski, J. (1989) Nordische Kreis und Kulturen Polnischer Gebiete. Die Bronzezeit im Ostseegebiet. Ein Rapport der Kgl. Schwedischen Akademie der Literatur-Geschichte und Altertumsforschung über das Julita-Symposium 1986. Ed Ambrosiani, B. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien. Konferenser 22. Stockholm.
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