Hallstatt culture is characterised in 4 stages, according to James(2005: 21): A & B late Bronze Age, from c 1200 to 700 BC; C Early Iron Age, from c700-600 BC; D from c 600 to 475 BC
The Hallstatt culture spanned central Europe, with its centre in the area around Hallstatt in Central Austria. There were two distinct cultural zones – the eastern:including Croatia, Slovenia, Western Hungary, Austria, Moravia, and Slovakia; western: including Northern Italy, Switzerland, Eastern France, Southern Germany, and Bohemia (Wikipedia).
At the start of the period, long distance trade was already well established in copper and tin – the basic requirements for manufacture of bronze. From about 700 BC, trade in iron also became established. The Hallstat area also already controlled the trade in salt, crucial when there were few other means to preserve food. Control of these two crucial trade goods – iron and salt – provided the basis for the accumulation of wealth and influence. From 800 BC, some burials of rich people can be identified,in central Europe, with grave goods such as wheeled wagons and iron swords.
Hallstatt C saw the construction of fortified hilltop settlements to the North of the Alps. These had burial mounds holding very high quality goods, such as vehicles and expensive imported treasures. By the time of the Hallstatt D period, these increasingly extravagant burial mounds were clustered around a few major hillforts to the southwest of the region. This suggests a development and a concentration of wealth of social power, possibly based on the development of Massilia (present-day Marseilles) as a Greek trading port. The expansion of luxury trade brought greater opportunities for profit and helped to create an increasingly stratified society, with the development of a wealthy nobility (James, 2005: 21).
Over the period from 1846 to 1863, a thousand graves were found at Hallstatt, with an astonishing range of artefacts, including clothing and saltmining equipment as well as weapons, jewellery, pottery and imported bronze vessels in the “chieftains'” graves.
The Celts of the Hallstatt period are debatable because of recent studies in Genetics.