Research at the RGZM
Studies on the Genesis and Structure of the Elite in Pre- and Early Historical Societies
The goal of this research project is to understand the emergence and development of the political elite from the Bronze Age to the Early Medieval Period. This group of people can be easily observed, as they are defined by their rich burial sites in comparison to the graves from the rest of the population. The choice of grave offerings is partially made possible by their carefully-selected appeal to the imaginary world, in which pre-historical elite were embedded.
This would be the foundations for a later synthesis of this extensive topic, which was initially concerned with single examples. The following belong to this group of examples: carriage offerings, Bronze period warrior graves, a necropolis from southern Germany from the 8th/7th century BC, five generations of Hallstatt Era imperial burial hills from Kleinklein, of which only one has been examined. There are also two complexes of rich Germanic imperial graves on the forefront of the Roman Empire. The work is not just limited to the analyzation of graves, but also pertains to the elite within Celtic society and their roles and development during Roman rule in South France and Northern Italy.
From the European cultural group, there is a long-term study over the Chinese imperial and royal graves from the timeframe of the 3rd century BC to the end of the 9th century AD. These also appear in modest numbers within Europe, but are regarded more highly, in a monumental sense. There are parallels in structural elements between the early Iron Age imperial graves in middle Europe to a graveyard in Nigeria from the 13th/14th century, and also in historical and ethnographic sources about elite graves and burial practices in western Africa south of the Sahara.