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Institut für Archäologie Prähistorische Archäologie

Iron Age Cemeteries in the Mesolcina and Rhine Valleys, a case study in transalpine connections


During the 6th and the 5th century BC the southern alpine area is under the increasing influence of mediterranean people such as Etruscans and Greeks. Due to the new political situation in the Mediterranean there is a considerable effort to develop contacts to the northern alpine region, the starting point naturally being in northern Italy. The direct routes to the North are via the alpine passes, one of them being the San Bernardino. The archaeologically investigated cemetries of Mesocco in the Mesolcina and Tamins at the confluence of the Hinter- and Vorderrhein - one of them being in the South other in the North of the alps - mark important points and are therefore key sites along the route through the alps. These two sites serve as a basis for the present research project which features the quality and intensity of the transalpine contacts. Of special interest is - beside the mobility of people and merchandise - the exchange of concepts.
The role the southern part of Switzerland was playing during the time in question gets obvious when looking at the astonishing amount of corals used in ornaments. The special importance of the site Mesocco Coop, a place that by no means is self supporting when it comes to producing food, is clearly visible in the extraordinary grave goods such as bronze vessels and fibulas produced in the northern alpine area. The analysis of the graves' architecture shows differences between the two sexes an a clear evidence for a special man. Of particular interest is the fact that among female graves in the northern alpine area, for instance in Tamins, there is a great number of woman buried with their trditional southern alpine ornaments - a hint for organized exogamy ensuring the transalpine routes.


Dept. of Pre- and Protohistory, University of Zurich


Archäologischer Dienst Graubünden, Verein für Bündner Kulturforschung, Anthropologisches Institut Universität Zürich


1998 bis 2002

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Prof. Dr. Philippe Della Casa
Projektkoordination und Auskunft