Through the Dead to the Living


At the Chair of Prehistory and Early History, question-based research foci are developed that are committed to a theory-based and integrative archaeology. This research profile is also reflected in the project "Über die Toten zu den Lebenden: Human remains from the Late Latène site Basel-Gasfabrik and their cultural-historical interpretations" is committed to this research profile. The Late Celtic site is located on the left bank of the Rhine and was discovered in 1911 during the construction of the municipal gasworks. Since then, numerous archaeological investigations have taken place, in the course of which a settlement of at least 15ha in size as well as two cemeteries dating from about 150 to 80 BC were discovered.

So far, only selective evaluations are available, so that after 100 years of excavations the systematic evaluation of this site, which is important for European Iron Age research, was an urgent desideratum. The mentioned project is the first stage of the overall evaluation, which starts with the mortal remains of the former inhabitants of the settlement. The interdisciplinary evaluation of the skeletons is the most direct access to the life at the Rhine bend in late Celtic times: With the help of bioarchaeometric and anthropological investigations, the skeletons provide information about general and individual living conditions, about the gene pool of the population, about nutritional habits and the geographical origin or mobility of individuals.

In combination with archaeological finds and features, insights into social conditions and funerary customs can also be gained. For the Late Celtic period, an extraordinarily varied way of dealing with the dead can be observed, which is well documented in Basel-Gasfabrik: In addition to burial in a cemetery, the deposition of whole bodies, body parts, individual skulls, and single bones in settlement contexts (including pits, wells, ditches) are attested here. Several single bones show dog bites or traces of burns and cuts, other skeletal elements and all burials on the two cemeteries, on the other hand, were very quickly sedimented. A central goal of the evaluation project is therefore to reconstruct the various forms of treatment of the dead and to develop hypotheses as to which population groups received which treatment.

The project will run from 2011 to 2013 and is being carried out under the lead of the Archaeological Soil Research Basel-City (ABBS) and in cooperation with the Integrative Prehistoric and Natural History Archaeology (IPNA), the Institute of Anthropology of the University of Mainz and the Institute of Medical Biometry and Informatics of the University of Fribourg.

It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Voluntary Academic Society of Basel (FAG) and the ABBS. Building on the results obtained, the overall evaluation of the site will be pursued in further projects.


S. Pichler et al. 2015

Pichler Sandra/Hannele Rissanen/Spichtig Norbert, Ein Platz unter den Lebenden, ein Platz unter den Toten: Kinderbestattungen aus dem latènezeitlichen Fundplatz Basel-Gasfabrik. in: Kory, Raimar W. (Hg.): Lebenswelten von Kindern und Frauen in der Vormoderne, Archäologische und anthropologische Forschungen in memoriam Brigitte Lohrke, PAST Paläowissenschaftliche Studien 4, Berlin 2015, 257-273.

Rissanen et al. 2013
Hannele Rissanen/Sandra Pichler/Norbert Spichtig/Kurt W. Alt/David Brönnimann/Corina Knipper/Marlu Kühn/Philippe Rentzel/Brigitte Röder/Jörg Schibler/Barbara Stopp/Werner Vach/Ole Warnberg/Guido Lassau, "When Children Die..." - Infants and young children from the Latène period site of Basel-Gasfabrik (Canton Basel-Stadt, Switzerland). In: Stefanie Wefers/Jana Esther Fries/Janine Fries-Knoblach/Christiana Later/Ulrike Rambuschek/Peter Trebsche/Julian Wiethold (eds.), Bilder - Räume - Rollen. Contributions to the joint meeting of the Iron Age WG and the Gender Research WG during the 7th German Archaeological Congress in Bremen 2011. Contributions to the Prehistory and Early History of Central Europe 72. Langenweißbach, 127-142.

Pichler et al. 2013
Sandra Pichler/Hannele Rissanen/Norbert Spichtig/Kurt W. Alt/Brigitte Röder/Jörg Schibler/Guido Lassau, The Regularity of the Irregular: Human skeletal remains from the Late Latène site of Basel-Gasfabrik. In: Nils Müller-Scheeßel (ed.) 'Irregular' Burials in Prehistory: Norm, Ritual, Punishment ...? Proceedings of the International Conference in Frankfurt a. M., February 3-5, 2012. Colloquia on Prehistory and Early History 19. Bonn 2013, 471-484.

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Research database of the University of Basel