The emergence and the disappearance of monumental and richly equipped burial places with wagons, valuable drinking equipment and weapons in the Western European Iron Age is generally interpreted as being caused by fluctuations in socio-political organisation. In this study the starting point is that grave data do not reflect the social structure, but that goods and the contexts in which they are used play an active role in the lives of the members of non-modern societies. The instrumentality of mortuary rituals in the dynamics of social processes partly determines the archaeological visibility of burial places.
By means of an extensive dataset of all elite graves, including sword graves, in the Marne-Moselle zone between 500 and 250 BC, the changes in burial practices during the Late-Hallstatt and the Early-La Téne periods are established. These developments are related to the transformation of the society through the emergence of the institutionalisation of social and territorial rights linked to families integrated in clientele networks.
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