Feasting and drinking

The earliest beaten bronze vessels associated with ceremonial and perhaps ritual feasting and drinking occur in the Bronze D phase of the thirteenth century bc in Central Europe. By Hallstatt A1 in the twelfth century a typical set of vessels associated with festive or ritual drinking was buried in the chieftain's grave at Hart-an-der-Alz in Bavaria. Apart from weaponry and some personal ornaments, the grave contained a beaten bronze bucket, and as accessories a handled sieve or straining cup and a handled

Urnfield Cauldrons

Figure 2.6 A: late Bronze Age cuirass from Marmesses. Museé des Antiquités Nationales.

Photo: RMN, Paris © Loïc Hamon. B: Class A Atlantic bronze cauldron from Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire. Maximum diameter of cauldron 60cms. Photo by D. W. Harding

Figure 2.6 A: late Bronze Age cuirass from Marmesses. Museé des Antiquités Nationales.

Photo: RMN, Paris © Loïc Hamon. B: Class A Atlantic bronze cauldron from Shipton-on-Cherwell, Oxfordshire. Maximum diameter of cauldron 60cms. Photo by D. W. Harding drinking cup. Beaten bronze cups in a succession of variant forms are characteristic of the Urnfield late Bronze Age and adjacent regions of Northern Europe, and have been classified into a typological sequence named after the hoards or rich burials in which they are found. Friedrichsruhe and Fuchsstadt cups, with decorated variants such as those from the Dresden-Dobritz hoard (Pl. 2a), date from the end of Bronze D through Hallstatt A1 and A2 respectively, and for Hallstatt B, successively Jenosovice cups, Haslau-Regelsbrunn cups and Stillfried-Hostomice cups are typical. The bucket itself, also found in a variety of different forms, was for mixing and serving the alcoholic beverage. Its ceremonial or ritual associations are suggested by the inclusion of sun-disc and bird symbolism in repoussé, as we have seen, on buckets like the virtually identical pair from Hajdubôszormény and Unterglauheim. Both these hoards also included examples of another class of beaten bronze vessel, a hemispherical bowl with twin, looped handles attached by means of doubled T-shaped plates riveted to the body of the bowl. This distinctive type continues in modified form into the Hallstatt Iron Age, its distribution extending well beyond the primary Urnfield zone. A simpler variant with single handle and A-shaped attachments has a more limited distribution in Urnfield Central Europe.

In Atlantic Europe too, buckets and cauldrons were used for communal feasting and drinking in the late Bronze Age, though without the range of accessory vessels that typifies the hoards of Central and Northern Europe. Beaten bronze buckets occur widely from at least the Hallstatt A2 phase from Transylvania through the Danube, in Italy and extending as far as Northern Europe, in a range of variant types. The Irish and British buckets were related to the later Urnfield Kurd Eimer (von Merhart, 1952, 29—33), but with the significant addition of the loose ring-handles which Hawkes and Smith (1957) believed were assimilated from the Atlantic cauldrons. The cauldrons themselves were not characteristic of Central Europe, though they had their counterparts in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Formerly supposed to derive from these Mediterranean antecedents, the Atlantic cauldrons are now dated from the early first millennium bc, and regarded as an independent western development. In Central Europe, the smaller hemispherical bowls with cross-handle attachments and related types persisted into the Iron Hallstatt C phase, before being superseded in Hallstatt D by a larger form of hemispherical cauldron with inturned rim.

The significance of these typological variations in terms of prestigious aristocratic feasting rituals or communal celebrations is unclear. To argue that the immense volume of the Atlantic cauldrons (Figure 2.6b), compared to the smaller vessels of the Central European Urnfield or Hallstatt C assemblages, reflects communal festivities as opposed to rituals of a more selective aristocratic elite, might be unduly simplistic. But the fact remains that bronze vessels associated with feasting and drinking are a notable component of the archaeological assemblage from the beginning of the late Bronze Age through to the end of the pre-Roman Iron Age and beyond, and not exclusively in regions that by any definition might be described as 'Celtic' or 'proto-Celtic'.

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