Dr. Christoph Steffen, Alumni


Dr. Christoph Steffen (Germany, 1977)

M.A. in Prehistoric Archaeology, Near Eastern Archaeology & Classical Archaeology

PhD project
Soziale Strukturen der nordwestalpinen Hallstatt- und Frühlatènekultur in Baden-Württemberg
This research project aimed at reconstructing social structures and the underlying processes of social change, which formed societies in the southwestern parts of Germany during the development of Early Iron Age cultures between 800 and 250 BC. The database includes archaeological and anthropological information concerning approximately 2000 grave complexes from about 500 different sites scattered in the area of Baden-Württemberg. The socio-archaeological research mainly focused on statistical analyses of nearly 20,000 grave goods and their associations in the burials.

The objective of the statistical analyses was to reconstruct structuring principles, which underlie different groups of grave good compositions and to decipher their cultural code of meaning. The analyses aimed at identifying social groups and describing horizontal and vertical social structures. In addition to biologically determined factors like sex, age and kinship, social factors such as role and wealth were considered.

Based on theories dealing with concepts of “culture”, “social group”, “collective identity” and “social power” a multivariate statistical method was developed. It allows the assignment of graves to different collectives by using a “cultural metric”. These cultural collectives share standardizations of grave furniture and costume habits. By means of different criteria it was possible to interpret some of these standardizations as modes representing different social groups in the burial contexts.

To approach the vertical social structures, a “wealth” respectively “inventory index” was calculated for each grave. By means of the calculated values representing the exclusivity and diversity of grave goods, it was possible to sort the graves by a rank order. Using the index values as a proxy for the social rank of the deceased and their social groups, we were able to reconstruct vertical social structures. The connection between the statistically approached social groups of grave good compositions and the calculation of a wealth index delivered information on which the reconstruction and interpretation of horizontal and vertical social structures was accomplished. From a diachronic perspective the calculation of a wealth index enables processes of social change to be traced. For example, it was possible to successfully prove increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth during the development from the Early to the Late Hallstatt Culture. This process came to an end with the transition from the Hallstatt to the Early Latène Culture around the middle of the 5th century BC, when a sudden decline of inequality occurred. Increasing social inequality was interpreted as an indicator for social hierarchization, one of the underlying social processes which lead to the construction of the famous “Fürstengräber” (princely burials) of the Late Hallstatt Culture.

In addition to analyses concerned with the horizontal and vertical dimensions of social structures and their chronological developments, spatially conditioned structural differences were also analyzed. The results show that the social structures were not evenly distributed and that shifting and concentration processes took place through time and space. Among other processes, particularly the level of vertical social differentiation seems to depend strongly on environmental and socio-economical conditions. Indicators for complex social structures, such as a highly differentiated pattern of social role representation in the grave good compositions and increased rank differences, appeared mainly in regions which are characterized by a combination of different beneficial factors, for example excellent conditions for agricultural production, spatially restricted mineral resources (e.g. salt and iron ores), and a high degree of integration in regional and supra-regional communication and interaction networks.

The present study combines different approaches in one comprehensive socio-archaeological research concept. The development and application of statistical methods for the analysis of an extensive and area-wide data base enabled the detailed and reproducible reconstruction of horizontal and vertical social structures. These methods have been developed considering theories from cultural studies and the social sciences on concepts such as “culture”, “social group”, “collective identity” and “social power”. Using a diachronic perspective, the reconstruction of development processes, which affected societies over centuries, was successful. The innovative spatial approach to social differentiation showed - for the first time in a socio-archaeological study on Early Iron Age societies - the spatial pattern of their structures and their interrelationship with environmental and socio-economic conditions. This comprehensive socio-archaeological research concept, which was developed and applied in the present study, leads in the synopsis of results to a by far more differentiated picture of Hallstatt and Early Latène societies and their developments during the 1st millenium BC than former studies on comparable topics hypothesized.
Research interests Social archeology (centralisation and urbanisation processes), early metallurgy, applications for GIS, statistics and aDNA-analysis in archaeology (kinship determination).
Post PhD Position Scientific fellow at Baden-Württemberg Landesdenkmalpflege.

April 2008 - 2011
Member of the Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” at Kiel University. Research project: “Sozialgeschichtlicher Wandel in der frühen Eisenzeit – Soziale Strukturen während der späten Hallstatt und frühen Latènezeit in Baden-Württemberg” (Social Evolution in the Early Iron Age - Late Hallstatt and Early Latène Social Structures in Baden -Württemberg).

Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg, Germany.
• M. A. (Magister Artium) in prehistoric archaeology, Near Eastern archaeology and classical archaeology.
• Thesis: “Die Prunkgräber der Wessex- und der Aunjetitz-Kultur – Ein Vergleich der Repräsentationssitten von sozialem Status”.
• Supervisors: Prof. Dr. J. Maran; Prof. Dr. F. Falkenstein.

Work experience

2007 – 2008
Employment as assistant academic coordinator of the DFG-Priority Programme 1171 “Frühe Zentralisierungs- und Urbanisierungsprozesse. Zur Genese und Entwicklung frühkeltischer Fürstensitze und ihres territorialen Umlandes” at the Regional Commission Stuttgart, State Office for Historical Monuments of Baden-Württemberg, Esslingen, Germany.

Selected publications

Steffen, M., Steffen C.: Siedlungssysteme der Späthallstattzeit in Baden-Württemberg: Modellierung des sozio-ökonomischen Potenzials alter eisenzeitlicher Siedlungskammern auf Basis siedlungs- und sozialarchäologischer Kennzahlen. In: D. Krausse (Ed.), "Fürstensitze" und Zentralorte der frühen Kelten. Abschlusskolloquium des DFG-Schwerpunktprogramms 1171 in Stuttgart, 12.-15. Oktober 2009. Forschungen und Berichte zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte in Baden-Württemberg 120/2 (Stuttgart 2010), 333-357.

Steffen, C.: Die Prunkgräber der Wessex- und der Aunjetitz-Kultur. Ein Vergleich der Repräsentationssitten von sozialem Status. BAR international Series. 2160 (Oxford 2010).

Steffen, C., Nakoinz, O.: Siedlungshierarchien und kulturelle Räume 2 – die kulturellen und sozialen Dimensionen des Raums. In: Karl R. and Leskovar J. (ed.): Interpretierte Eisenzeiten. Fallstudien, Methoden,Theorie. Tagungsbeiträge der 3. Linzer Gesprä;che zur interpretativen Eisenzeitarchäologie. Studien zur Kulturgeschichte Oberösterreich 22. Linz, 191–207.

Steffen, C.: Die Wahl der Waffen – Bemerkungen zu den Werkzeug- und Waffenbeigaben in den Prunkgräbern der Wessex- und der Aunjetitz-Kultur. In: Falkenstein, F., Schade-Lindig, S., Zeeb-Lanz, A. (Eds.): Kumpf, Kalotte, Pfeilschaftglätter. Zwei Leben für die Archäologie. Gedenkschrift für Annemarie Häußer und Helmut Spatz. Internationale Archäologie - Studia Honoria 27: 299–311.