Tumulus culture

The Tumulus culture (German: Hügelgräberkultur) dominated Central Europe during the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1600 to 1200 BC).

Tumulus culture
Geographical rangeEurope
PeriodBronze Age Europe
Datesc. 1600 BC — c. 1200 BC
Preceded byUnetice culture
Followed byUrnfield culture

It was the descendant of the Unetice culture. Its heartland was the area previously occupied by the Unetice culture besides Bavaria and Württemberg. It was succeeded by the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture.

As the name implies, the Tumulus culture is distinguished by the practice of burying the dead beneath burial mounds (tumuli or kurgans).

In 1902, Paul Reinecke distinguished a number of cultural horizons based on research of Bronze Age hoards and tumuli in periods covered by these cultural horizons are shown in the table below. The Tumulus culture was prevalent during the Bronze Age periods B, C1, and C2. Tumuli have been used elsewhere in Europe from the Stone Age to the Iron Age; the term "Tumulus culture" specifically refers to the South German variant of the Bronze Age. In the table, Ha designates Hallstatt. Archaeological horizons Hallstatt A–B are part of the Bronze Age Urnfield culture, while horizons Hallstatt C–D are the type site for the Iron Age Hallstatt culture.

The Tumulus culture was eminently a warrior society, which expanded with new chiefdoms eastward into the Carpathian Basin (up to the river Tisza), and northward into Polish and Central European Únětice territories. The culture's dispersed settlements centred in fortified structures. Some scholars see Tumulus groups from southern Germany in this context as corresponding to a community that shared an extinct Indo-European linguistic entity, such as the hypothetical Italo-Celtic group that was ancestral to Italic and Celtic.[1][2] This particular hypothesis, however, conflicts with suggestions by other Indo-Europeanists. For instance, David W. Anthony suggests that Proto-Italic (and perhaps also Proto-Celtic) speakers could have entered Northern Italy at an earlier stage, from the east (e.g., the Balkan/Adriatic region).[3]

Central European Bronze Age
Late Bronze Age
Ha B2/3800–950 BC
Ha B1950–1050 BC
Ha A21050–1100 BC
Ha A11100–1200 BC
Bz D1200–1300 BC
Middle Bronze Age
Bz C21300–1400 BC
Bz C11400–1500 BC
Bz B1500–1600 BC
Early Bronze Age
Bz A21600–2000 BC
Bz A12000–2200 BC

See also


  • Nora Kershaw Chadwick, J. X. W. P. Corcoran, The Celts (1970), p. 27.
  • Barbara Ann Kipfer, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology (2000)
  1. Kortlandt, Frederik. 2007a. Italo-Celtic origins and prehistoric development of the Irish language (Amsterdam: Rodopi).
  2. Eska, J. F. 2010. The emergence of the Celtic languages. In The Celtic Languages, second edition edited by M. J. Ball and N. Müller. London: Routledge.
  3. David W. Anthony, 2010, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World , Princeton University Press, p. 367.
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