|La Tène was (and is) is a small village at the Northern end of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland. During a period of some especially low water level in 1857 the fisherman Hansli Kopp discovered a number of iron swords and spear points between several rows of wooden pile stumps. That was 11 years after the Hallstatt discoveries, and Hansli wasn't just running across the stuff by accident. He was actively keeping an eye out for "antiquities" since Oberst (= Colonel) Friedrich Schwab had offered rewards for old stuff. Schwab knew from occasional prior finds that there might be something waiting to be discovered.|
|Hansli collected about 40 iron objects right away - 2 full swords, 12 scabbard parts, 8 lance points plus odds and ends. Schwab started a bit of digging, Hansli Kopp kept collecting, and in 1866 about 50 swords were found in a rather small area. More and serious digging started 1880 and it became clear that the finds concentrated on the locations of two bridges that must have crossed the "Zihl", the rivulet connecting Lac Neuchâtel to "Bielerse", the next lake a few kilometers to the North. Another campaign between 1906 - 1916 unearthed plenty of more swords and stuff.|
|By now, more than 2500 objects,
many of them iron, have been found. We have 166 swords (most without traces of
wear; look at the 108 swords shown
here), 270 lance heads,
and 22 shield bosses plus all kinds of other stuff. The objects are now in
various museums and collections - as far as they haven't been fed illegally
into the trade with antiquities - and no complete inventory was ever made. The
picture in the link above gives an idea of how well these swords were preserved
and how amazing it is to have so many in such a confined space.
But swords were not the only things found. The picture below gives an idea of what else came up:
|What the picture does not show are the many bones
and skeletons found - from humans and animals. As an oddity, there seem to be
no or only very few remains of females.
Objects like swords were often found in packages, sort of in a sack made from coarse cloth. That supports the view that La Tène was a cult place were packaged goods were sacrificed - or that La Tène was a military camp and distribution center where things were received, packed and shipped.
|Many swords were extremely well preserved and some contain punch marks:|
|From reading the extensive literature about punch marks, it becomes clear that they either identify the smith or the owner, if they don't mean something else. You figure it out.|
|What does it all mean? Why is there
so much stuff from a small nondescript area? Who knows! The discussion is still
on. What we can state with some impunity is:
|Up to a point the correct interpretation depends
on having some idea about what La Tène was:
11.2.2 Metallurgy of Celtic Swords
Early Iron Sites: Hattusa
11.2.1 Background to Celtic Swords
Celtic Anthropoid Sword Hilts
Large Pictures - Chapter 11.2
Copper: When and Where?
Large Pictures I
© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)