Chapter 8. A Landscape of Ancestors: The Space and Place of Death in Iron Age West-Central Europe



The early Iron Age peoples of west-central Europe invested a considerable amount of energy in the construction, maintenance, and co-option of mortuary space. The “landscapes of ancestors'” created between about 600 and 400 B.C. represented the social and ideological relationships within and between human groups as well as between humans and the Otherworld. Burial mounds containing over one hundred individuals are situated in the landscape in patterns that suggest their use as lineage monuments as well as territorial markers. This period of time is associated with various changes in mortuary ritual, including the gradual replacement of cremation by inhumation as the dominant mortuary rite and the transition from small mounds containing a single individual to large, corporate monuments representing as-yet unknown social units. Later Iron Age groups in the same region seem to have constructed their ritual landscapes with explicit reference to these earlier mortuary “communities.”1 The association between the enigmatic rectangular enclosures known as Viereckschanzen that characterize the late Iron Age landscape and early Iron Age mortuary complexes is an example of the recycling, through co-option, of geographically marked ritual potency. This chapter presents a regional analysis of mortuary practices centered on the ritual landscape of the late Hallstatt Heuneburg hillfort in southwest Germany as the starting point for an examination of the relationship between the space and place of death in this complex period of European prehistory.