Wednesday, 17 November 2010

La Tene

Yesterday I was walking down the road through quiet farmlands towards town. I saw a local roadsign that stirred an old memory.
La Tene. I was really quite stunned to realise I'm here.
Apparently a normal, small Swiss town, that wasn't the case 2700 years ago. La Tene's archaeology identified this area as the centre of the Celtic culture, a civilisation which stretched from Turkey to England, Germany to Spain. The infuence from this area radiated out to the corners of Europe for centuries, carried at the pace of the human walk.
Then the Romans smashed everything.
In the face of the Roman military tsunami whole tribes fled north from central Europe, many arriving in the British Isles. At the the time scotland was occupied by primitive stone age people. Then in the archaeological record they vanish, to be suddenly replaced by Picts, a culture distinct from Celtic but sharing many features. It's thought that a tribe of fleeing La Tene celts were driven northward until there was no more north to go. And there they met the neolithic peoples and mingled with them. This unique combination of the most culturally ancient with the most culturally advanced produced the Picts, the first culturally distinct people of Scotland, I suppose. Certainly the first people that we look back on as ancestors.
Here I am at the root of all that, almost three thousand years after the seismic events of war and upheaval that tore apart a huge culture. I wonder what these hills and fields looked like then.
Anyway, better keep moving or I'll miss the trolleybus into town.
I'm here to meet the team of designers that have created the equipment for physiological monitoring in Antarctica, and the head of human physiology research for ESA.

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