Conclusion

Scabbard ornamentation was a widespread phenomenon in Celtic Europe with notable regional concentrations in Eastern Europe, Switzerland and in Britain and Ireland. Its earliest manifestations are on swords with early La Tene typological attributes, developing to a peak of production in the middle La Tene series in Continental Europe, and thus spanning chronologically the later fourth to second centuries bc. Though reliable associations are frequently lacking, there is no a priori reason for believing that the British or Irish scabbards should not conform to the same chronological span. In terms of ornamental style, the different regional groups are quite distinct, the Eastern European adapting an initial Waldalgesheim impulse into its independent engraved style, the Swiss having a more limited repertory focused notably upon triskele and pseudo-triskele designs. British and Irish armourers developed parallel and perhaps related engraved styles, but not predominantly derived from any Continental antecedent. Pan-European traits are apparent, most obviously the dragon-pair motifs, while tantalizing hints of long-distance connections, like the use of the triple-dot signature on Irish and Eastern European scabbards, may be the result of mobility among specialist craftsmen in the patronage of a ruling elite. In sum, we may infer strong regional traditions with mutual inter-relationships, and with connections direct or indirect with workshops south of the Alps open to Mediterranean influences. These relationships were complex, dynamic and contemporary, rather than unilateral with implications of time-lag before their impact was felt in peripheral parts of the eastern or north-western Celtic world. What part historically recorded or even historically anonymous Celtic migrations had to play in the process can only be guessed; but swords, like pots, are not mobile of their own volition, and there can be no more personal expression of the lifestyle of the Celtic elite than the La Tene warrior's panoply.

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