Human and animal representations

Anthropoid-hilted swords of Class G are of particular interest because of progressive Romanization in their depiction of the human head. The ancestry of this form of hilt derives ultimately from late Hallstatt weapons, but only in the later La Tène are the hand-grips so distinctively cast with reeled mouldings, and the knobbed 'heads' given hair and facial features. The fact that examples may be Janus-faced suggests some cultic significance for the warrior's protection. The effect and extent of Romanization can be judged by comparing the Châtillon-sur-Indre head with representatives from the immediately preceding phase, probably dating to the later second century bc. A classic example is from the inhumation burial found in a dug-out boat used as a coffin from Chatenay-Macheron in the Haute-Marne, together with a spear and long sword of La Tène 2 type. Hawkes described its 'obliquely-set bulging eyes, frowning mouth, and long straight hair' as epitomizing the Celtic 'barbaric' style (Clarke and Hawkes, 1955, 211), and cited insular examples from North Grimston, Yorkshire, found with a middle La Tène long sword, and from Ballyshannon in County Donegal. Compared with the glum faces with fringe hair-styles of the latter, the Châtillon head's features are more finely depicted, and the hair-style is much more elaborately coiffured. Examples are found as far east in the Celtic world as Hungary. Two examples, broken but presumed to be from anthropoid-hilted swords, from Stradonice in Bohemia and Staré Hradisko in Moravia, have particularly elaborate hair-styles, rather small mouths and carefully highlighted eyes, which has led to the suggestion that they could even be female representations (Duval, 1977, 183).

A unique set of representations of the human head in repoussé distinguishes the silver discs orphalerae from Manerbio sul Mella in Lombardy (Megaw, 1970a, 204—5). On the three larger and fourteen smaller discs, the number of heads varies, being as many as twenty on the larger and up to ten on the smaller discs. The bulging, lentoid eyes, down-turned mouths and the furrowed hair-style are so like representations on the silver coin series, ascribed to the Taurisci, that it is probable the Manerbio pieces were imports into northern Italy from the middle Danube in the first century bc.

The late La Tène phase, and in Gaul the period known as Gallo-Roman précoce in particular, also see the appearance of more complete anthropomorphic representations, possibly of cultic significance, like the limestone figure from Euffigneix in the Haute-Marne (Figure 10.3A). This was doubtless a pillar-stone broken at the waist and damaged at the top of the head. The face is still uncompromisingly Celtic, with lentoid eyes, straight nose and above the ears what originally must have been a hair-style or head-dress in the familiar furrowed technique. The figure is accompanied by two of the most powerful emblems of Celtic spirituality, the torc - a buffer variant with ornamented terminals — and on its torso in vertical disposition a low-relief boar, its bristling back and limbs finely highlighted. By contrast, the bronze divinity from Bouray, Seine-et-Oise (Figure 10.3B), shows clear Roman influence in its more naturalistic features and neat hair-style. But in every other respect it violates Roman decorum. The head is too large for the body, and the shrunken legs, crossed in the pose of Celtic squatting deities, terminate in animal hooves. The arms are missing, but presumably extended from the exaggerated shoulders to the figure's knees. One eye survives, in blue and white glass, and the figure wears about its neck the ubiquitous Celtic torc.

One of the most remarkable collections of human and animal representations of this period was found on the left bank of the Loire opposite the sanctuary of Fleury at Neuvy-en-Sullias. The cast bronze figures, which range from around 13 to 20 centimetres high, have a quality of simplicity despite the rather disproportionate anatomy that lends to them an almost contemporary appeal. The nude 'dancers'

Bronze Figures

Figure 10.3 Late La Tène cuit figures in Gaul — 1. A: Euffigneix. Museé des Antiquités Nationales. Photo: RMN, Paris © Jean-Gilles Berizzi. B: Bouray. Museé des Antiquités Nationales. Photo: RMN, Paris © Gérard Blot.

(Figure 10.4A), in particular, with emphasis of ribs and small breasts, seem likely to be the product of the same artist. There is really no credible antecedent for this figural work in earlier Celtic art, which must reflect the influence of Roman figurines, however un-classical the execution. The torsos of the dancers are slim, even emaciated, while their arms are too sturdy and in one case the hands are disproportionately tiny. Nevertheless the sense of movement has often been remarked, especially in respect of the female dancer poised on the tips of her toes.

By contrast with the human figurines, the boar images from Neuvy (Figure 10.4B) are strikingly life-size. The aggressive-looking creature with its tusks and whiskers rendered in repoussé has its spinal crest bristling in a manner seen on Gaulish coinage. Its front feet, and those of its partners, are rigid in a posture of defiance that is shared by some, but not all, of the smaller boar models from other locations. Most of these are only a few inches in height and length, and though they may have served a votive purpose, it was clearly not on the grand scale of the Neuvy boars. Some, indeed, are hardly awe-inspiring, and look more like toys than votive emblems. The Hounslow piglet (Jope, 2000, Pl. 160, a—i), with its large, saucer-like ears and delicately modelled, curving snout is quite unlike some of the stocky, heavy-shouldered Continental beasts, and would hardly have struck terror into an enemy had it adorned a helmet, as was once supposed. This suggestion arose from the fact that its feet retained pegs for attachment, possibly to a lid, as Jope suggested (2000, 264), rather than on a helmet. The idea of such images as surmounting helmets was revived by Szabo for the Bâta, Hungary, boar, but in spite of the representation of boar-crested helmets on the Gundestrup cauldron, there is little positive evidence for this practice in the European Iron Age. The Hounslow boar is in fact one of three. Two have their crests rendered in open-work circles, the third having its bristles depicted in parallel lines like Neuvy and the coins. The open-work style is also known on the Continent at Tâbor in Bohemia and at Luncani in Romania. All of these are generally assigned to the last century bc. The Hungarian example from Bâta is of interest, therefore, because the designs on its crest suggest possibly an earlier date. The S-motifs and spirals, as well as the modelling of the boar itself was regarded by Szabo probably with justification as reflecting the Plastic Style of the second century, and as such the Bâta boar should be among the earliest in this series of representations that elsewhere continued into the opening centuries ad.

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