The Celtiberians

Nowhere is the tacit equation of Celtic identity and La Tene material culture more apparent than in the study of Celtic communities in the Hispanic peninsula. Accepting the documentary and linguistic evidence for Celtiberians in the eastern Meseta, and even for some late expansion of Celtic speakers into south-western and north-eastern regions, scholars have sifted through the archaeological inventory looking for the most tenuous traces of the influence of Central European La Tene types on swords or brooches, as evidence of the south-westward migration of Central European Celts. It is undeniable that Indo-European Celtic language must have been introduced by settlers from north-east of the Pyrenees, but it is highly unlikely that this episode or process of cumulative Celticization would reflect itself in the appearance of a discrete cultural assemblage or distribution of material types, and even if it had to any recognizable degree, it almost certainly would have preceded the advent of La Tene culture by many generations. In fact, examples of La Tene types in the peninsula are relatively few, and are found in the Iberian region as well as in areas putatively Celtic or Celtiberian. Furthermore, they are commonly adapted in distinctively local fashion, so that very few finds could be regarded as actual imports in their extant form. In effect, cataloguing La Tene finds in the Hispanic peninsula as an index of Celticity is a misguided and ultimately fruitless endeavour.

Not surprisingly, the greatest influence on the artefacts and art of the Celtiberians is from mainstream Iberian culture and from the Mediterranean contacts of the Iberian littoral. It was from this direction that Celtiberia adopted urbanization, monumental architecture and literacy, so it was natural that it should adapt material types such as its weaponry and wheel-thrown pottery from the same sources. Contacts with the Greek and Etruscan worlds are evident from at least the fourth century, and after the second Punic War the influence of Rome intensified, culminating in the conquest of most of the peninsula by the time of Augustus. The debate regarding the relative importance of Iberian and La Tene influences is best exemplified in the so-called 'warrior panoply', represented in both Iberian and Celtiberian regions, though varying in character and composition over time. Scholars like Stary (1982) and Lenerz-de Wilde (1991) stressed the perceived European La Tene elements, where more recent Spanish authorities such as Quesada Sanz (1997) have given greater emphasis to the Iberian component.

Though individual types may reflect trans-Pyrenean or Ibero-Mediterranean influences to varying degrees, the basic assemblage that displays evidence of Celtiberian art and high-quality technical craftsmanship indicates the same social and individual concerns that typify high-status artefacts and assemblages in the Hallstatt and La Tene world, namely, feasting and drinking, generally in the context of the funerary feast, weaponry and defensive armour, reflecting a high regard for martial prowess, doubtless with a concomitant respect for sporting achievement in the hunt (Figure 9.5), and finally dress attachments and personal ornaments. There is of course nothing uniquely Celtic about this, though it tends to reinforce the stereotype of the Celt as depicted by classical sources.

Furniture associated with the banqueting hearth, and possibly with funerary feasting rituals, is hardly represented in great numbers, but the Celtiberian cemeteries at Las Cogitas and La Osera have yielded examples of roasting spit, tripod, gridiron and tongs, mainly attributable to the middle Iron Age between the fifth and third centuries bc. Slightly earlier are the two bronze cauldrons from Carratiermes, apparently crushed deliberately as part of the ritual deposition.

The diversity of potential influences in Celtiberian metal-work is well illustrated by the fifth-century weaponry and defensive armour from Iberian and Celtiberian

Celtiberian Art
Figure 9.5 The Celtiberian boar-hunt; cult-vehicle from Mérida, Badajôz. Museé des Antiquités Nationales. Photo: RMN, Paris © René-Gabriel Ojéda.

cemeteries (Figure 9.6). Several types of sword were current in the peninsula. Short antenna-hilted swords include types that indicate trans-Pyrenean connections, the Aguilar de Anguita type with links to the Languedoc through Catalonia, the Echauri type indicating connections with Aquitania. A different type altogether is the frontón sword, a broader-bladed weapon that derives its name from its distinctive semi-circular hilt terminal. This is widely believed to have reached Celtiberian regions from the south. The dominant weapon in the Iberian region, however, was the falcata, a curving-bladed weapon of Mediterranean origin that continued in use from the fifth to first centuries bc, only appearing in limited numbers in Celtic regions from the third century. A second basic weapon was the spear, either a heavy, thrusting weapon or a lighter version for throwing, the soliferreum, made as its name implies entirely of iron, and possibly originating in south-western France, whence its use spread in modified form along the coast. A regular component of the basic panoply is a circular shield with central umbo of bronze or iron, sometimes decorated with geometric designs in relief. Richer graves of the Celtiberian series also include helmets and disc breast-plates, now seen in the Meseta as introductions from the Iberian south, possibly as the product of diplomatic exchange between the ruling elites of these neighbouring regions. Finally,

Front Sword

Figure 9.6 Celtiberian swords and scabbards. 1-3, Aguilar de Anguita: 1, 'Echauri' type, 2, 'Aguilar' type, 3, 'Aquitanian' type; 4, 'Fronton' type, Alpanesque; 5, 'Falcata', Almedinilla; 6, La Osera; 7, 'La Tene' sword and modified scabbard, Quintanas de Gormaz. Adapted from Schule (1969) and Lenerz-de Wilde (1991).

Figure 9.6 Celtiberian swords and scabbards. 1-3, Aguilar de Anguita: 1, 'Echauri' type, 2, 'Aguilar' type, 3, 'Aquitanian' type; 4, 'Fronton' type, Alpanesque; 5, 'Falcata', Almedinilla; 6, La Osera; 7, 'La Tene' sword and modified scabbard, Quintanas de Gormaz. Adapted from Schule (1969) and Lenerz-de Wilde (1991).

the occasional presence of harness equipment indicates that these were the graves of equestrian warriors. In effect, the warrior panoply of the Celtiberians almost exactly mirrors that of middle La Tene cemeteries in north-alpine Europe, in terms of their range of types, if not in terms of the specific types themselves. From the fourth century, weaponry of the Iberian regions developed independently, and by the end of the third century novel types made their appearance as a result of the Punic wars.

Long swords of La Tene type do, in fact, appear across the Pyrenees, but mostly dating to the third and second centuries. They are found largely in Catalonia, a region that linguistically was Iberian rather than Celtic or Celtiberian, though the distinctive falcata is comparatively under-represented here. From the outset, however, these weapons were subject to adaptation by local armourers, as is demonstrated by the late fourth-century scabbard from Quintanas de Gormaz in the eastern Meseta (Figure 9.6, 7). Decorated with a Type II dragon-pair, a motif that might reasonably be regarded as a distinctively Celtic warrior emblem, it is the most south-easterly in Europe of the dragon-pair distribution. But the scabbard itself, designed to be attached by a suspension-loop to the belt of the wearer, has been adapted by the provision of two ring attachment-plates for carrying over the shoulder in accordance with local practice. From the Iberian cemetery at El Cigarralejo in Murcia, the suspension loop of a La Tene sword from grave 54 has actually been detached and replaced by ringattachments. In effect, the presence of La Tene weapons in the Hispanic peninsula can hardly be regarded as direct evidence for incomers from trans-Pyrenean Europe. They could be the product of diplomatic exchange or mercenary activity, or even trophies of war. They undoubtedly had some secondary impact upon the development of Hispanic weaponry and armour, but the peninsular tradition represents essentially local development. Because it was not mainstream La Tene does not make it any less Celtic in principle, but the common elements in distribution between Iberian and Celtiberian regions preclude the identification of exclusively Celtic types.

A practice that certainly mirrors trans-Pyrenean funerary practice is the deliberate destruction of weapons in burials, including swords, daggers, spear-heads and soliferrea spears. Originating in the Urnfield period in the Hispanic peninsula, this is widely practised in Iberian cemeteries as well as those of the Celtic regions. Its significance could be easily over-simplified, but it certainly suggests a pan-European practice among Iron Age military elites.

One specific question needs to be addressed, namely the alleged examples of Waldalgesheim-derived ornament from the Hispanic peninsula. Lenerz-de Wilde (1991; 1995) has made the case for relationships between the ornament of silver-inlaid antenna daggers like that from La Osera, Avila, and the Central European style, and further has pointed to some Iberian falcata, like those from Illora, Granada, and Almedinilla, Cordoba, which likewise display cognate examples of tendril designs. The inclusion of vortex-triskeles and a hint of over-and-under figure-of-eight in the former certainly has echoes of the Waldalgesheim style, but in general the treatment of classical plant motifs and tendrils lacks the movement of Waldagesheim ornament. The occasional examples from the Celtiberian regions of the peninsula are therefore better regarded as derived through Iberia from Mediterranean originals, parallel to the processes that inspired the Waldalgesheim style, though with lesser impact. In effect, we may prefer Quesada Sanz's (2005, 72) conclusion, that it was hardly necessary to invoke 'a "Grand Tour" of influences marching north from Italy into the Alps and France, then south into the Meseta, and finally into Andalusia, when direct connections between Italy and Iberia have been proved beyond doubt'.

The range and variety of brooch types from the Celtiberian regions in many respects parallel the Hallstatt-La Tene sequence, though the brooches themselves are distinctively peninsular products (Figure 9.7). Some of the earliest Iron Age types, with double-spring, expanded spring or elaborated upturned foot, have counterparts in the serpentiform brooches of Italy and Sicily (Schüle, 1969, Karte 2), while various forms with elaboration of their upturned feet are analogous to late Hallstatt forms north and south of the Alps. The La Tene model is represented in all three of its sequential variants, that is with foot turned back to rest above the bow, as in La Tene 1 brooches, with foot attached to the bow, as in La Tene 2, and finally with foot and bow cast in a single piece, as in Central European La Tene 3 varieties. Some even show double feet, like the double bird-headed brooches of early La Tene in Central Europe, though the birds' heads of the Hispanic versions are fairly schematic. Few, however, have a genuine La Tene spring, rather than a pin-swivel, and few would remotely qualify as potential imports.

A distinctively peninsular variant is modelled in the shape of a horse, and a handful are depicted with rider, the so-called jinete type (Figure 9.7, 9), often presented as an indication of Celticity in the Hispanic peninsula, not least because of examples depicting a human head suspended from the horse's neck, in a manner reminiscent of Strabo's description of Celtic warriors. A warrior on horseback is also depicted in the low-relief funerary stele of first- or second-century bc date from Bezares, while the rider with lance is not surprisingly also included in the imagery of Celtiberian coinage. Horse symbolism is evidently of special importance in the Hispanic peninsula, and Almagro-Gorbea (1998) has argued that it was the equestrian elite that controlled civic life in the later Iron Age oppida in the resistance to Roman expansion and conquest, citing examples of supposed cavalry standards like one from Numantia (Figure 9.8, 1) in evidence.

Among brooches, another departure from the Central European tradition is the annular brooch, of which there are numerous variants. Some have a simple pin, akin to that of the penannular brooches of Atlantic Europe; others have a more elaborate structure comprising bow and catch-plate within the ring. Neither of these has parallels in Central Europe, and the group is illustrative of the independent development of brooch-making in the peninsula.

Belt-hooks are relatively common among the cemeteries of the eastern Meseta, and again afford a cognate inventory to those of Iron Age Europe north and south of the Alps. Of the four principal classes, two are regarded by Lorrio (1997) as Celtiberian, having their distribution concentrated in the upper Tagus and upper Jalón, though with outliers across the Pyrenees in Languedoc and Aquitaine. Two exceptional early La Tene derivatives from La Osma and La Osera date from the early fifth century, but are hardly sufficient to sustain extensive trade in prestige goods with Central Europe. On the other hand, a concentration of the Iberian type in the upper Duero as well as the upper Tagus and upper Jalón certainly indicates further contacts between the Meseta and the Mediterranean coast. These distinctive rectangular and winged belt-plates are commonly inlaid with curvilinear and geometric designs, including lyre-motifs, tendrils and stylized plant-motifs based on Hellenistic themes, but they appear to have had little impact upon the ornamentation of Celtiberian metal-work,

Celtiberian Ring

Figure 9.7 Celtiberian brooches. 1, annular brooch, Lara de los Infantes, Burgos; 2, penannular brooch, La Mercadera, Soria; 3, double-spring brooch, La Mercadera, Soria; 4, Eastern Meseta spiral brooch, Garabajosa, Guadalajara; 5—9, 'La Tene' type brooches, 8, Numantia, Soria; 9, horse-rider 'jinete' brooch, unprovenanced, National Museum, Madrid. Adapted from Schüle (1969) and Lenerz-de Wilde (1991).

Figure 9.7 Celtiberian brooches. 1, annular brooch, Lara de los Infantes, Burgos; 2, penannular brooch, La Mercadera, Soria; 3, double-spring brooch, La Mercadera, Soria; 4, Eastern Meseta spiral brooch, Garabajosa, Guadalajara; 5—9, 'La Tene' type brooches, 8, Numantia, Soria; 9, horse-rider 'jinete' brooch, unprovenanced, National Museum, Madrid. Adapted from Schüle (1969) and Lenerz-de Wilde (1991).

Tene Symbol
Figure 9.8 Celtiberian symbols of status. 1, 'cavalry standard' from Numantia, adapted from Lorrio (1997) and Almagro-Gorbea (1998); 2, gold plaque from La Martela, adapted from Berrocal-Rangel (1992). Not to scale: gold plaque c. 4 cms wide.

with the possible exception of some antenna swords like those from La Osera, in which others have seen the secondary influence of Waldalgesheim Style.

The standard form of decoration in the Celtiberian regions is well represented by the circular bronze disc from Aguilar de Anguita or the series of rectangular plaques from the cemetery at Arcobriga (Lorrio, 1997). Concentric circles in relief, radiating 'eyes' or 'sunbursts' and simple zoomorphic representations are recurrent themes that may have had ritual or symbolic significance. The purpose of these plaques is not clear, but they may have embellished robes or head-dress. Similar motifs feature prominently in the design of so-called 'pectorals' that may have been worn as symbols of rank or office. A similar role is commonly accorded in the La Tene Celtic world to the torc: within the Celtiberian zone, however, torcs are rare, with a few fragmentary examples lacking proper context. In the Castro culture of the north-west, however, a region that has also been claimed on documentary and linguistic evidence as Celtic, the torc is well attested from the later Bronze Age through the Iron Age, though in rather different forms than those that typify the La Tene culture zone. In the north-west anthropomorphic stone sculptures (Figure 9.9, 3) also include figures wearing torcs together with martial equipment, indicating high status if not superhuman qualities. The fact that the torc is occasionally represented on Iberian coins underlines its emblematic role.

It is often remarked that the Celtiberians seemed not to have had the same inhibitions as the Central European Celts in representing the human form. This impression stems from frequently reproduced images like the jinete brooches and the striking portrayal of contesting warriors on a polychrome vase from Numantia (Figure 9.9, 2), and perhaps makes too little acknowledgement of how comparatively unusual these examples are. The painted ceramics are also for the most part late in date, being assigned to the first century bc. Representations from the earlier Iron Age are few, and

Celtiberian Weapon
Figure 9.9 The Celtiberian warrior (1); warrior scene painted on vase from Numantia (2); stone sculpture from Castro di Lezenho, Portugal. Adapted from Lorrio (1997) and Lenerz-de Wilde (1991).

very simply sketched, like the 'matchstick' human and quadruped on the funerary stele from Aguilar de Anguita. Even on the Numantia pottery, the slim-waisted figures of warriors armed with sword or spear are highly stylized in outline. Other figures are less certainly identified. Some with human body and animal or bird-like heads are presumably representations either of mythical and supernatural beings, or of humans dressed in exotic guises depicting ritual or ceremonial events. One figure from Numantia with triple antlers radiating from its head and another antlered figure with hands raised in the orante gesture have inevitably and doubtless erroneously been linked to the horned god Cernunnos. Just as Jacobsthal bemoaned the fact that to some prehistorians 'everything is a palmette' (1944, 60), so we might regret that to others every totemic representation is Cernunnos. In some cases figures are shown wearing tall, pointed caps, again possibly a symbol of class or ceremonial status, in one instance, seemingly performing an act of ritual sacrifice. Female figures, on painted pottery and modelled in clay, have been interpreted as representations of divinities. Representations from the sanctuary site at Penalba de Villastar have even been identified by some as the Celtic god Lug, while others have been variously seen as reflections of the Roman funerary pantheon. While these might well afford informative analogies, however, any approach to interpretation of archaeological data that is text-led from classical sources or based upon conventional understanding of Celtic cosmology should be eschewed, since too easily it pre-conditions our analysis of what may prove to have been a much more complex series of images.

One element in late Celtiberian art certainly prompts comparison with an older tradition in Central Europe, namely the incorporation into more complex designs of individual human heads or face-masks. As in the La Tene fashion, these may embellish the base of handles, though in this case of ceramic rather than metal vessels. But they also are included in more complex designs, not in the elusive manner of the 'Disney Style', but as an overt motif, as on pottery from the oppidum at Uxama. The fragments from the cemetery includes a particularly striking panel in which heads are enclosed within square frames, reminiscent of the niches of the Roquepertuse pillars, alternating in sequence with a series of birds.

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