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Pre-Roman Germanic world...?


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I have a hard time piecing together the history of Europe in the early Iron Age... Pre-Roman. I get that east and north were generally Germanic and to the west was mostly Celtic. I see plenty of examples of Celtic swords and I see the single edge Germanic swords and war knives.. and I know that the Germanic tribes adopted Roman swords at some point.. but what double edge swords were of pure Germanic origin .. if any?

 

Another thing I'm curious about but see very little in the literature is the nature of interaction between the Celts and Germans. Obviously it was either trade or war ... but what details and evidence? Obviously there would have been no written account until the Romans became involved. But what does archaeology tell us? Any obvious large battle scenes and how much mixing of artifacts in grave sites etc?

 

It just seems like all of the history of this time was dominated by the Celts.. so I just wonder what the Suebians, Teutons, Goths and all my ancestors were up to.

 

Ughh... it's frustrating to me. I want so BADLY to SEE this time period. What a place early Europe must have been.

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Now I may be wrong but as far as I know the early germanic peoples were similar to the norse,but thats the thing, the Norse influenced so much of northern Europe.

 

You may want to take a look at this page here,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_peoples it states that prior to the collision with the Romans they were all very scattered tribes until one Chieftain united them. There are different periods listed before the "Roman collision" period, though there is a ton of mystery surrounding the Germanic peoples

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Yeah Daniel.. Norse and Germanic are of the same stock. And yeah.. I've read the Wikipedia article. It's actually pretty informative. I have a bunch of books checked out from the library that will hopefully fill some gaps for me. This whole time period... pre-Roman iron age and Migration period.. these are my favorite time periods but the hardest for me to grasp for some reason.

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Celtic and Germanic are part of a spectrum. As a former student of Germanic, Celtic and Romance languages (not all at the same time!), as well as a former student of comparative linguistics, it is fairly clear (to me) that the Celtic languages represent a bridge between Romance and Germanic. Within that spectrum, I'm sure you would have found, during the Dark Ages, Roman times, and before, many languages and/or dialects that blurred the margins. These are, after all, all European Indo-European languages.

Also; 19th Century Nationalist philosophy would have us believe that "peoples" or "volk" were clearly dilineated entities, defined, at the time, by their linguistic classification. The reality is that language, culture and genetic realities are and were very much a spectrum of shifting sands (or a spectrum of mixed metaphors, if you prefer!). Various speculations on the origin of, for instance, the Belgae, are a good example of this. Celtic or Germanic, it seems unclear.

My own name (Prendergast) is a perfect reflection of the Dark Ages; It was first recorded among Saxons in the Kingdom of Northumbria, in all probability is linguistically of old British (Celtic) origin, and is found today only amongst people of Irish (Celtic) origin, the name having been brought there by Romanicized/Frankicized Normans (Germanic?) in the 1100s. Obviously the Dark Ages are post-Roman, but I think the picture would have been similar. Further north in Scandinavia perhaps the waters might have been slightly less muddied, but we know there was active cultural, linguistic and population exchange between Western Europe and Scandinavia from a very early date.

Edited by Dan P.
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Thanks Dan.. nice to get your point of view. Having an evolutionary science background I've been meaning to see what genetics say about a potential Celtic and Germanic 'spectrum'. It's always interesting to see how linguistics and genetics interpret relationships differently.. or the same.

 

With the 'Human Genome Project' going on there must be something related to European caucasoid relationships. Will have to look tonight!

 

Our local librarian is a Pendergrast.

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ha.. among the books I was able to get from my library... one is 'Life and Death of a Druid Prince'. It is about the archaeological investigation of the preserved remains of a Celtic man in England. It has a whole chapter on almost my exact question.

 

Nothing on swords though. ;-)

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Scott et All

 

One of the problems is of definitions - and just who sets the terms of reference.

 

If you define 'Iron Age' as 'marking the use of iron as material' - then the true Iron Age runs from at least about 1000 BC in Northern Europe.

 

One of the other definition problems is that mainland Europeans / British / Scandinavians all see the frame work of their own past marked by different events. So much of what us English speakers have access to is from Britain. The line between 'before the Celts' and after this invasion is fuzzy at best, and does appear to also mark the transition from a primary Bronze Age into the early Iron Age. The Roman period has sharp lines for initial start and theoretical end. Then there is another fuzzy period around the 'Saxon Shores', when the 'Germanic' Angles and Saxons are invading and colonizing.

Complicating this is the whole very modern concept of national boarders. I mean, does a person living in North west France about 200 AD part of 'French' or 'Celtic' or 'Gallish' culture? (Or maybe even some weird mix of Roman plus all of the above?)

 

Part of a big problem for me is the whole concept of the 'Viking Age', which is defined by two British only events : Lindesfarne in 783 and (usually) the Norman invasion of 1066. Some argument at least can be made for an end to the true Viking Age some place about 1000 - 1100, with the growth of centralized kingdoms and gradual adoption of a more feudal structure. The notion that the Scandinavian culture sprung to life fully formed overnight is obviously unrealistic!

 

I was a bit surprised when I managed my one trip to Denmark that there they break the lines at 'Iron Age' to 1000 AD and then 'Medieval', running afterword. (I guess I should not have been!). North Germany and Denmark into Scandinavia was relatively untouched by Roman culture (quite unlike the rest of Europe).

 

Some histories out of mainland Europe will mark 'Migration Period', which usually is some (again fuzzy) time 'post Roman - pre Medieval'. This is at least a bit better than the older seen line of 'Roman to Medieval', given as the 'Dark Ages'. (Honesly, I'm never quite sure just when that is supposed to cover - at least in terms of end dates.)

 

 

As your interest is clearly on * object *, your best bet might be just digging into the archaeological record. Not a simple task, as you are unlikely to find a single point reference that is going to help you. Its going to be a tedious task of checking dates and find locations.

One of the huge problem is one of simple survival of iron objects. The Celts of La Tene are a primary * Iron Age * culture. But what do we find? Bronze objects! Iron swords corroded and locked into decorative bronze scabbards, with only rare x-rays giving any clue at all about physical structure of the blades.

 

Complicating this is the whole modern tendency to apply our current 'best technical practice' backwards. 'Steel' means something quite different when applied as a descriptor by an archaeologist to an Iron Age blade than it means to a modern bladesmith. Original bloomery iron materials most often had little or no carbon - and have a quite different physical structure from our modern alloys. It is clear when you look at primary archaeological reports that our current practices of heat treating were only being developed and more randomly applied through the 'Late Iron Age'.

 

Darrell

 

(ok - I'd guess a big chunk of those commenting here already know this stuff...)

Hoping that one of our friends from NW Europe might add their (better) knowledge!

Edited by Darrell @ warehamforge.ca
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I had a hugely long response typed up, but the aether ate it. :angry:

 

The short version is I don't think anyone really knows for sure. The various tribes of Germanic peoples seem to be originally from the Baltic region, expanding into what we now think of as German territory by pushing the celtic tribes west and south between ca. 1100 BC - 200 BC. The Gallic celts in particular ended up spread from what is now central Turkey (Galatia) to northern Spain (Galicia), not to mention Ireland (Gaels) . Herodotus barely mentions the Germanic tribes, dismissing them as hairy savages.

 

The Migration Period changed all that, but that's a topic for a future date, especially since I just lost about a page of it. The Franks were a Germanic tribe is the short version.

 

Also remember there was no such single country as Germany until 1871. The territory known as Greater Germany was a hodgepodge of minor principalities left over from the original tribes as filtered through the Holy Roman Empire (The Grand Duchy of Saxony and the Kingdom of Prussia, for example).

 

How are you defining Germanic? Rune-using? Linguistics? I don't think there's enough material culture differences to tell much beyond Celtic or non-Celtic populations until the Migration Era.

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De Bello Gallico by J.C. (No, the other one!) is a good read for this period. He describes the various tribes recently conquered by Rome and those just outside her reach.

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I asked a friend of mine, PhD history professor fella, and he had the following

 

 

Peter Heather’s book about the Goths (The Goths, 1998) is a good example, and it would have all the bibliographic references you need. Edward James, The Franks (1991) is similar, but has perhaps more emphasis on material culture. If you want really “iron-age” Germans (without a huge amount of contact with Rome), you probably want to look at Scandinavia and perhaps especially Denmark, but no book

It does seem like a time and place that has not had the work done that other T&P have had, like Rome.

 

Good Luck

 

Geoff

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I live in middle Europe and that topic is one of my latest interest. Offcourse I`m not an expert but as far as i know Germania is a roman word for all the lands that were occupied by the SLAVIC tribes like which were Polans, Scythians (According to Herodotus they massacrated millions in numbers army of persia 500 hundred years B.C) , Galls, Awars, Ungars, Huns (from connecting these two cultures by Attilla we now have Hungary - Ungary + Huns = Hungary) Goths, Wandalls and many others. They all were a part of LECHIA federation or LECHISTAN (Todays persia - Turkey still call Polish people Lechs. Lechia empire was named after their first king Lech.

 

Even today we have many geographicall locations named after Lech, like Lech river and Lech field near Augsburg in todays Germany (I believe that Germans themselve call themselves Deutchs from the name of they country Deutchsland) which was found in 955 A.C. after defeating by their (and christian ) chieftain OTTON I slavic tribe Awars in Battle on the Lechs field.

 

So name Germania is relatively young, Relatively to the History of Lechia empire which is dated at least to 3000 years B.C.

 

Sorry for my english. I hope it is at least understendable.

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Well being a biologist the most interesting thing to me is whether or not a cultural grouping has tangible genetic cohesiveness. I found a BBC report on a study of the British Isles saying that at least within that particular geographical location.. there is no genetic evidence suggesting a Celtic component. Everybody is basically 'English'. The report mentions that many archaeologists have been going with the belief that the term 'Celtic' is more of a cultural and linguistic grouping rather than biological and that this is the first evidence for this.

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31905764

 

edit: I also noticed today that Oakshotte's 'Archaeology of Weapons' has something to say on this. Will be reading that tonight.

Edited by Scott A. Roush
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There is since the 15th century a "Heiliges römisches Reich Deutscher Nationen" wich has its roots in the 10th century from the Ostfrankenreich wich covers most parts of nowadays Germany. The base etymological base of Deutschland is a attribute wich translate roughly to "owned by the people" and is used since ~1490. That for the name. The roman army was as northern as nearly Hamburg where they lost a legion Varusschlacht.

Edited by melf
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Well being a biologist the most interesting thing to me is whether or not a cultural grouping has tangible genetic cohesiveness. I found a BBC report on a study of the British Isles saying that at least within that particular geographical location.. there is no genetic evidence suggesting a Celtic component. Everybody is basically 'English'. The report mentions that many archaeologists have been going with the belief that the term 'Celtic' is more of a cultural and linguistic grouping rather than biological and that this is the first evidence for this.

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31905764

 

edit: I also noticed today that Oakshotte's 'Archaeology of Weapons' has something to say on this. Will be reading that tonight.

 

Scott, that article is interesting, but I wasn't getting "everybody is basically 'English'", rather that nobody is basically English, which given the proliferation of what you might call regional identities in the UK is unsurprising. Some such identities go back a very long way. Ask a native of the English county of Kent whether he is a Kentish Man or a Man of Kent. They will likely know that they are one or the other, but may not know why, but we are told that on one side of the Medway lived Frisians, the other there lived Jutes. Two ethnc groups, both as 'English' as can be.

I believe it's also hypothesized that the island of Britain was under a wave of invasion at the time the Romans invaded, namely by the Belgae. Part of the reason Rome invaded was because they had been providing support to their kinsmen in northern Gaul, but htese Belgae appeared to be different from the other tribes in Britain. I believe this is all in De Bello Gallico. The question remains; were the Belgae Celts? Germanic? It is worth noting that the surviving Celtic languages, those originating in the British Isles, differ in some very major ways from those Celtic languages spoken on the Continent.

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Yeah I realize that statement was not entirely accurate. I just meant that the regional differences that are seen say in Cornwall, Wales, etc... those groups are still more related to the English than to other Celtic groups (continental). So.. while there ARE regional differences in the islands these differences are more due to things that occurred after the Anglo-Saxons arrived causing an isolation of certain cultures. So the regional differences are due to other things.. not necessarily because they were 'celts'. The fact that their isn't a stronger 'Celtic' signal suggests there may not have been enough genetic distance to begin with.

 

What I was trying to say is that the folks of the British isles are more closely related to each other than to anybody else. Which.. in retrospect.. is obvious. This is typically true of any island population.

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The best book that I know of is very hard to find a good copy of (took me a year to find one that wasnt a rediculous price)

 

Scandinavian Archaeology by Haakon Shetelig and Hjalmas Falk; translated by E.V. Gordon. Oxford, 1937.
Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1937 8vo. xx,458pp. 63 plates, 33 illustrations, index.

 

JRR Tolkien's personal copy of the book, from his personal library is on sale for ONLY 2900 euros (with his signature in the front, given to him by EV Gordon) (Tolkien was heavily influenced by scandanavian history and mythology when he created his works of fantasy, heck, Middle Earth is quite literally directly taken from Midgard)\

 

 

 

EDIT: Wow, there are two copies both for reasonable prices up on Abe Books right now

 

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=scandanavian+archaeology

Edited by Justin Mercier
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One of the things about not developing a written language is that everyone else gets to write your history!

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I was just reading Norman Cantor's book on the history of the Middle Ages and he writes that the Germans easily pushed through the more peaceful and agrarian Celts.. the lovers of music and poetry.. to settle the Roman borderlands. I've learned a lot from reading his chapter on the 'Barbarian invasion'.. but I get so tired of his use of the words 'primitive' and 'savage' for the Germanic tribes and their encounters with the Celts and Romans. I just simply CANNOT equate the word 'primitive' with what I see in the archaeological finds.

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Two of the provinces of the Roman Empire bordering "Germania Magna" were "Germania Superior" and "Germania Inferior", so I guess when the empire collapsed the Germanians must have pushed through the peaceful and agrarian Germanians. Whether those people were Celts or Teutons history does not record, historians at the time not being big on linguistics.

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I think he was referring to the initial movement of the Germanians due to the Hun invasions... when there were still Celts living at the Roman border....

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My point is that the Rhine did not present some sort of definitive cultural or linguistic border dividing the tribes either side onto one or another distinct category, excepting that it was the northern limit of the Roman empire. It is not clear whether the inhabitants of either side were "Teutonic" or "Celtic" linguistically or, if such a thing could ever be discerned, genetically. The inhabitants of Gaul and Germania were placed into broad categories by the Romans according to political or cultural affiliations, not linguistic or genetic ones.

 

I thoroughly recommend "De Bello Gallico". It has a lot on this part of the world from the very late years BC, and is a lot more interesting than it sounds.

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I see. I guess I was assuming that there was at least an archaeological support for a different 'cultures' inhabiting different regions at this particular time supporting the statement Cantor made. Something other than Roman designations. I mean... it seems that 'Celtic' artifacts stand out clearly from the Germanian?

 

But .. I see I'm headed back into the grey area in which I started... and this Norman Cantor book has muddied it even more.

 

I will definitely check out that book Dan.

 

edit: Ha! I have "De Bello Gallico" :-) Didn't recognize the latin for it. :D

Edited by Scott A. Roush
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I don't want to give the impression that I read it in Latin. Deary me no! The English version I read just used the Latin title.

 

The only other thing that I would add is that you should be aware, I'm sure you already are, that anything written on the movement of peoples in Europe (or anywhere else, really) any time in the last 3,000 years carries a political element, layers upon layers of it, sometimes explicit, sometimes not.

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