Pagan Celtic Art In The Early Iron

GENERAL NATURE OF THE MATERIALS AVAILABLE FOR THE STUI>Y OF THE DECORATIVE ART OF THE EARLY IRON AGE IN GREAT BRITAIN

THE materials available for the study of Late-Celtic art in this country may be classified as follows:—

Metalwork. Arms of Offence and Defence. Horse-trappings. Chariot Fittings. Personal Ornaments. Toilet Appliances. Domestic Appliances. Musical Instruments. Objects for Religious Use. Objects of Unknown Use.

Pottery and Glass. Sepulchral LTrns. Vessels for Domestic Use. Beads for Necklaces.

Woodwork and Bonework. Vessels for Domestic Use. Dress-fasteners. Spatula?.

Stonework. Sculptured Monuments. 90

The arms of offence and defence of the Late-Celtic, period are made, of metal; the sword blades, dagger-blades, and lance-heads being of iron : and the sword-sheaths, dagger-sheaths, shields, and helmets of bronze. In this country the bronze objects only are ornamented.1 Bronze sword- and dagger-sheaths have been found in considerable numbers in England, and also less frequently in Scotland and Ireland,

List of Localities where Bronze Sword-sheaths hhvt been found.

Carham

, Northumberland.

Embleton

. Cumberland.

Houghton le Skerne .

. Co. Durham.

Sadoerge

Co. Durham.

Warton

Lancashire.

Stanwick

. Yorkshire.

Cotierdale .

. Yorkshire.

Flashy

. Yorkshire.

Grmthorpe

Yorkshire.

Bugthorpe .

Yorkshire.

Rudstoi.e

. Yorkshire.

Lincoln

Lincolnshire.

H uns bury

. Northamptonshire.

Amerden

Buckinghamshire.

Water Eaton

Oxfordshire.

Dorchester

Oxfordshire.

Boxmoor

Hertfordshire.

London

. Middlesex.

Battersea

. Middlesex

Icklingham .

. Suffolk.

Hod Hill

. Dorsetshire.

Moreton Hall

. Midlothian.

Glencotho

. Peeblesshire.

Bargany House .

. Ayrshire.

Lisnacroghera

. Co. Antrim.

1 A lance-head of iron from La Tene, in Switzerland, is ornamented with engraved patterns, but nothing of a similar kind has been found in Great Britain (E. Vouga, Lc Hdvetes a I,a Tene, pi. 5).

1 A lance-head of iron from La Tene, in Switzerland, is ornamented with engraved patterns, but nothing of a similar kind has been found in Great Britain (E. Vouga, Lc Hdvetes a I,a Tene, pi. 5).

List of Localities in Great Britain where Bronze Dagger-

sheaths of the Late-Cettic I'eriod have been found.

River Witham . . . Lincolnshire.

North Ilinksey. . . . Oxfordshire.

Wandsworth (River Thames; . Surrey.

Southvvark Surrey.

Oookham Berkshire.

Athenry Co. Galvvay.

Pilling Moss (Salford Mus.) . Lancashire.

Some of these sheaths are elaborately ornamented, more especially the specimens from Bugthorpe, Huns-bury, Lisnacroghera, and the River Witham. The shape of the sheaths was evidently derived from a foreign source, as may be seen by comparing those of Great Britain with examples from Ilallstatt and La Tène.

Bron/.e shields of the Late-Ce'tic period are rare ; the British Museum possesses the only two perfect specimens now extant. One of these came out of the River Thames at Battersea, and the other from the. River Witham, near Lincoln.1 The former is about the most beautiful surviving piece of Late-Celtic metal-work. It is of oblong shape with rounded corners like the Gaulish shields,2 and is made out of plates of thin hammered bronze, strengthened round the edge by a roll moulding. The body consists of a plain plate upon which are veted three circular pieces of repoussé work, the largest in the centre, and the other two at the top and bottom. In the middle of each circular piece is a raised boss, the annular space surrounding which

1 The Battersea shield forms the coloured frontispiece to Brit. Mus. Guide to Antiquities of Early Iron Age ; fig's. G8, 6q, 70 illustrate the Witham shield.

2 See article on the Gaulish statue from Montdragon (Vaucluse) now in the Musée Calvet at Avignon in the Revue Archéologique, N.S., vol. xvi. (1867), p. 6q; also Diodorns, bk. 5, ch. 30.

Latene Dagger

IKON DAGGER WITH liRONZE HILT AND SHEATH FROM I IVEI WIT HAM

s filled in with gracefully flowing S- and C-shaped curves raised above the rest of the surface, and starting from and returning to small circular plaques of enamel with a swastika design on each. No written description can give any idea of the subtle decorative effect produced by the play of light on the surfaces of the flamboyant curves as they alternately expand and contract in width and rise and fall above the surrounding level background. The drawing of the curves is simply exquisite, and their beauty is greatly enhanced by the sharp b'ne used in all cases to emphasise the highest part of the ridge. It will be observed that the design is set out with regard to small circular bits of enamel placed in defir ite positions symmetrically round a central boss. If closely coiled spirals like those of the Bronze Age were to be substituted for the enamelled discs, we should then have a style of decoration exactly similar to that of the Christian Celtic MSS. The metalworker who made this shield seems to have possessed the true artistic feeling which told him instinctively exactly how-much plain surface of shining bronze should be left to set off the ornament to the greatest advantage. The other shield in the British Museum, from the River Witham, is very inferior to the one iust described, and 's probably of later date.

Late-Celtic bronze helmets are of great rarity. There are two in the British Museum, one from the Thames at London, and the other from an unknown locality. A third from Torrs, Kirkcudbrightshire, is now preserved at Abbotsford, near Melrose. The specimen from the Thames is furnished with two conical horns terminating in small turned knobs, all the different pieces of wrought metal being riveted together with extreme neatness. The front of the helmet is orna-

merited with small, round enamelled discs and repousse work i very low relief. The other helmet in the British Museum is shaped like a jockey's cap, and is particularly ugly in appearance.1

The helmet at Abbotsford is fully described in Scotland in Pagan Times: The Iron Age (p. 113).

Decorated bronze helmets of the La Tene period have been found at Berru2 and Gorge-Meillet3 (Marne).

It will be seen from the list given below how extremely common finds of Late-Celtic horse-trappings have been.

list of Localities hi Great Britain where Late-Celtic Horse trappings have been found.

Sou<:h Shields

. Co. Durham.

Stanwick

. Yorkshire.

Arras

. Yorkshire.

Hessleskew .

. Yoikshire.

Rise

Yorkshire

Danes' Graves

. Yorkshire

Kirkby Thore

. Westmoreland.

Ilunsbury

. Northamptonshire.

Locality unknown

Lincolnshire.

Leicester

. Leicestershire.

The Fens

. Cambridgeshire.

Saham Toney

. Norfolk

Westhal!

. Suffolk.

Norton

. Suffolk.

London

. Middlesex.

Canterbury .

. Kent.

Rapchild

. Kent.

Stouting

Kent.

Alfriston

. Sussex.

Chessell Down

. Isle of Wight

1 Both these are illustrated in Brit. Mus. Guide to Antiquities of Early Iron Age, figs. 59, 67.

2 A. Bertrand'« Archéologie Celtique et Gauloise, 2nd éd., 18M9, p. 356.

3 E. Fuurdrignier's Double Sipuiture Gau'oise de la Gorge-Meillet.

1 Both these are illustrated in Brit. Mus. Guide to Antiquities of Early Iron Age, figs. 59, 67.

2 A. Bertrand'« Archéologie Celtique et Gauloise, 2nd éd., 18M9, p. 356.

3 E. Fuurdrignier's Double Sipuiture Gau'oise de la Gorge-Meillet.

Inventions The Iron Age

IîEOXZE II VRN'KSS-RIN'fiS 1'ROM POLUKN UILL, SOUKRSKTsHIKt NOW IN THH HRITISH MUSEUM

FCALF, J LINEAR

Under the head of horse-trappings are included a large number of miscellaneous oojects, such as bridle-bits, harness-rings, buckles, mountings, pendants, head ornaments, etc. In fact, the term has been much abused by museum curators, who, when in doubt, say horse-trappings. Much the most important finds, consisting in each case of a large number of objects, have been those made at Polden Hill, Somersetshire, in 1801 ; Hagbourne 111 11, Berks, in 1803; Westhali, Suffolk; Stanwick,1 Arras, and Rise, Yorkshire ; all the objects being now in the British Museum. The specimens from the Saham Toney find, which was equally important, are to be seen in the Norwich Museum.

1 Illustrated in Brit Mus. Guide to Antiquities of Early Iron Age, figs. 111-19.

Hagbourn Hill

Polden Hill .

Ilamdon Ilill

Abergele

Neath .

Clova .

Crichie

Ardoch

Middleby

K:r_iemuir

Henshole

Torwoodlee .

Stanhope

Lochlee

Dowalton

Birren-swark

Auchendolly

Ballycostello

Clooncunra

Emlagh

Tara

Berkshire.

Somersetshire.

Somersetshire.

Denbighshire.

Glamorganshire.

Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire.

Perthshire.

Dumfriesshire.

Forfarshire.

Roxburghshire.

Selkirkshire.

Peeblesshire.

Ayrshire.

Wigtownshire.

Dumfriesshire.

Kirkcudbrightshire.

Co. Roscommon.

Co. Roscommon.

Co. Meath.

King's Co.

Co. Monaghan.

Ballynaminton Kilkeeran

Other smaller finds are preserved in the museums at Edinburgh and Dublin.

Nearly all the big finds of horse-trappings have included several bridle-bits. These are usually quite plain, but there are, at least, four highly ornamented examples known (i) from Rise,1 Yorkshire, now in the British Museum; (2) from Birrenswark,2 Dumfriesshire, in the Edinburgh Museum; (3) found near Tara,3 Co. Meath, now in the Dublin Museum ; and (4) from Kilkeeran,4 Co. Monaghan, also at Dublin. These bridle-bits arc formed of three or four separate pieces linked together, as in a modern one, and the decoration, which is concentrated on the terminal rings, consists of the usual Late-Celtic trumpet-shaped expansions and coloured champleve enamels.

In nearly all the finds of horse-trappings rings of various shapes and sizes are of frequent occurrence. They were probably used for passing the reins or other parts of the harness through, and perhaps also to act as strap buckles. Most of the rings are round in cross-section, except a segment separated from the rest by projecting flanges, the cross-section of which is made rectangular, apparently to enable the ring to be more rigidly fixed to the harness. The decoration of the rings usually consists of curious projections of various shapes, some resembling pairs of mushrooms placed with the convex tops together and the stems inclined at an angle, whilst others are more like segments of an orange. Many of the rings arc ornamented with engraved patterns composed of lines

1 Magazine of Art for 1885, p. 456.

2 Dr. J. Anderson's Scotland in Pagan Times: Iron Age, p 124.

* Journ. R. Hist, and Archteol. Assoc. of Ireland, N.S., vol. ¡., p. 423.

Lower ends of Bronze Sword-sheaths from Hunsbury Nuw in the NortLamptoj Museum h and dots, or are enamelled. The best specimens in the British Museum have been derived from the finds already described at Stanwick, Yorkshire; Polden H1H, Somerset; and Westhall, .Suffolk. The remarkably line bronze find at Neath, including- horse-trappings, is in the Welsh Museum, Cardiff.1

The harness-mountings are either in the form of a cross or a sort of rosette, with petals like a flower, some pointed and some round. At the back of the mounting are a pair of rectangular loops for passing a strap through. The front is, in many cases, beautifully enamelled. There is an extremely pretty little cruciform mounting of this kind in the British Museumr hut unfortunately the local'ty is unknown. A similar specimen has been recorded from Saham Toney,2 now in the Norwich Museum. The most elaborately decorated harness mounting of the rosette type is the one from Polden Hill,3 Somersetshire, in the British Museum.

A large number of objects found in Ireland, resembling a spur or the merry-bone of a chicken in shape, have been conjectured to be horses' head ornaments.4 One of them was found near Tara, Co. Meath, with the bridle-bit already ment-oned.

Iron tyres of chariot-wheels have been found at Stanwick, Arras, Hessleskew, Kiiham, Beverley, and Danes' Graves in Yorkshire, and Hunsbury, Northamptonshire ; but the bronze objects associated with them,

4 There are more than thirty two in the Museum of the Koyal Irish Academy (see Wilde's Catal., p. 109). Others have been found in the counties of Roscommon, Sligo, and Cork (see Pr>c. R. I. A., vol. vii., p. 161 ; Vallancey's Coll de Rebus Hibernicis, vol. :v., p. 54; and Wood. Martin's Pagan Ireland, p. 462;.

Pagan Celtic Ireland

LATE CELTIC FIBULA FROM IRELAND; NOW IN THE MUSEUM OF THE. JtOYAL IRISH ACADEM\ , DUBLIN

LATE CELTIC BRONZE FIBULA FROM WALMEE, KENT; NOW IK THE BRITISH MUSEUM

SCALE I LINEAR

Archeology Celtic Bronze

■kONZK FIBULA WATER EVI'ON, OX OX NOW IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM

ENAMELLED IJRONZK FIBULA FROM RISIN'GHA M, NORTHUMBERLAND; NOW l\ I HI \"L WCAVTLE MUSE CM

do not afford sufficiently characteristic decoration to need description here.

The Late-Celtic personal ornaments consist chiefly of fibula;, pins, collars, and armlets, usually of bronze, but in rare instances of gold or silver.

The evolution of the Roman provincial type of fibula from earlier La Tene type can be nowhere better studied than in this country during the transition from the Late-Celtic to the Romano-British period.

To anyone who is acquainted with the elaborate studies1 made by Scandinavian archaeologists on the origin and development of the various forms of fibula; found ¡n northern Europe it must be a matter of surprise that up to the present no attempt has been made to do the same thing for our own country. With the exception of Dr. Arthur Evans' paper in the Arcliwologia nothing has been written on the subject 'n England, nor do the curators of our public museums make the faintest attempt to classify the different kinds of fibulae of the Romano-British period according to their shapes.3

Looked at from a purely mechanical point of view, a fibula, or brooch, belongs to the same class of appliances as an ordinary door-lock ; being, ;n fact, a device for fastening applied to dress. The fibula was probably in its earlier stages evolved from a simple pin by endeavouring to invent some way by which the pin might be prevented from slipping out once it had been

1 Hans Hildtbrand's Industrial A rls of&attdinavia ; Oscar Montelius' "Spännen J run bronsaldern" in the Antiquarisk Tidskrift for Sverige ; anil 0. Almagren's Studiert über norder europäische Fibelformen.

% This has since been well done by Mr. Reginald A. Smith in the Brit. Mus. Guide to Antiquities of the Early Iron Age. pp. 42-46, 98-102.

inserted in the fabric of the dress. A sufficiently obvious plan for effecting this is to connect the head of the pin With the point by means of a rigid bar sufficiently bent into the shape of an arch to avoid pressing too closely upon the portion of the dress between it and the pin. When fixed in its place the brooch foims a complete ring, so that a locking and unlocking contrivance is necessary in order to enable it to be removed when not in use.

The modern safety-pin, which is also one of the most ancient inventions, is perhaps the simplest kind of dress-fastener, and yet :t is the parent of the almost endless series of European fibula; from the Bronze Age to the present time. It can be constructed in the easiest possible manner out of a single piece of metal wire of uniform thickness by making a coil in the middle of its length to act as a spring and a point at one end and a hook at the other. The pointed end is then bent round until it catches in the hook, and the thing is complete.

There are two other classes of brooches which do not belong to the safety-pin type or its descendants, namely, (i) the Celtic penannular brooch j1 and (2) the Northern Bronze Age brooch,2 which has a pin with a hole through the head enab.ing it to slide, turn, and move about loosely on the body of the brooch. With these we are not concerned at present.

Although the safety-pi i type of fibula was, in its earlier stages, made out of a single piece of wire, it may be considered to consist of four different parts, each of which performs a function of its own, namely, (1) the head, containing the spt!ng or hinge; (2) the tail, containing the catch, or locking apparatus; (3)

1 Dr. J. Anderson's Scotland m Early Christian Times, 2nd ser., p. 7

2 J. J. A. Worsaae's Industrial Arts of Denmark, p. 92.

BRONZE FIBULA FROM CLOGHER, CO. TYRONE; NOW IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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  • alfrida
    Where can i study Irish celtic art in ykrkshjre?
    2 years ago

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