Definitions Material And Context

Few topics in archaeology have spawned as many perceptions and misconceptions as Celtic art. An Internet search for 'Celtic art' immediately offers patterns of 'Celtic' interlace and knot-work, elements of later Celtic art in fact derived from Mediterranean or Germanic origins, or images of high crosses of ninth-century date or later and related icons of the early 'Celtic' church. For coffee-table books a dust-jacket depicting the Gundestrup cauldron is considered representative, notwithstanding the fact that it was almost certainly of Thracian manufacture, and discovered in northern Jutland, well beyond the limits of Celtic Europe. In academic publications, Celtic art is generally synonymous with the La Tene ornamental style of the pre-Roman Iron Age, but even this equation should not pass unqualified. Since in recent years the concept of Celts and Celtic as an ethnic descriptor has itself been questioned, it seems appropriate now to re-define and re-assess what we mean by Celtic art.

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