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Oppida and Celtic society in western Spain

Oppida and Celtic society in western Spain

Oppida and Celtic society in western

Oppida and Celtic society in western Spain Jesús R. Álvarez-Sanchís, Departamento de Prehistoria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid Abstract The emergence of large fortified settlements, known as oppida, in "Celtic" Iberia during the Late Iron Age is a process which we are just beginning to understand. As in other areas of temperate Europe, there were probably substantial differences between these settlements in terms of their geographical setting, size, form, function and chronology. The exploration of the relationships between oppida, material culture and ethnicity is considered for the Vettones, one of the most famous pre-Roman peoples of western Spain. It is argued that the configuration of the settlements and communities, the sociological interpretation of the cemeteries and the regional patterns of settlement offer interesting insights into social organization of the indigenous world in Iberia between the fourth and first centuries BC. Keywords Oppidum, Vettones, Identity, Meseta, Iron Age, Roman conquest Europe, prior to the arrival of the Romans, was not an urban society. Most of the people still lived in hamlets and worked the adjacent land. However, large fortified centers began to emerge at the beginning of the second century BC. These exceptional sites have been considered the first cities in these continental regions, from western France and the Iberian Peninsula in the west to Serbia, and from the Alps to the Sudeten Mountains. They were known as oppida, a Latin term used by Julius Caesar in his descriptions of the Gaulish settlements (Büchsenschütz 1988). Some of these oppida, with populations of several hundred or even thousands, had neighborhoods, workshops, markets and public buildings, following a relatively well-planned street layout. It has been assumed that the oppida were centers of political organization, industry and trade. Furthermore, the development of these communities was seen as a response to Rome's growing need for metals, raw materials and slaves. e-Keltoi Volume 6: 255-285 The Celts in the Iberian Peninsula © UW System Board of Regents ISSN 1540-4889 online Date Published: February 28, 2005

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