Complexity, Trade, and Death: Analysis of the shift in Burial Practices during the Late La Tène Period

Charles Orser


Beginning around the second century BC, the indigenous La Tène culture tradition of western and central Europe underwent a considerable transformation due to an increase in trade and contact with the Mediterranean (Roman) world. One result of this change was the breakdown of any sort of uniform burial tradition throughout the La Tène world, which had generally existed in one form or another in previous related cultural traditions. An anthropological analysis of available archaeological burial site data mostly in central France and southern Germany allows insight into what factors were primarily responsible for this shift. This analysis is investigated in conjunction with relevant anthropological theory, and identifies some potential patterns in the burial data. Evidence for the influences of social complexity, Roman expansion, and “cosmopolitanization” are compelling, but not conclusive.