The Artists Menagerie

During the pre-Roman Celtic Iron Age, the fascination, respect and admiration for the animal world manifested itself time and time again in the incorporation of animal designs in art, particularly metalwork. Animals were represented in their own right, for example as figurines, but more often zoomorphic forms were selected to form the interwoven parts of what were essentially abstract designs. The whole period, from about 700 BC to the first century AD, was a dynamic one, as far as art was concerned. Indeed, it is possible to observe a developing and ever-changing tradition which made greater or lesser use of the animal form. In the earliest, Hallstatt, phase of the Iron Age, the decorative iconography reflects the customs and traditions of the time. This was an aristocratic, horse-riding society and thus horses (figures 3.9, 4.3) and horsemen were common subjects for art. Cattle figures, too (figure 2.1), reflect a herding society, where these animals were symbols and manifestations of wealth. The development of art in the early La Tene Iron Age saw a number of foreign influences at work - from Italy, Greece and further east, perhaps as far as Scythia and beyond. Animal designs are of particular importance, but those represented were not only the homely domestic or hunted creatures by which people were surrounded in their everyday lives. In addition, there are lions, griffins, sphinxes and other exotic or fantastic creatures in the iconography of European metalwork. During the fourth to third centuries BC, art veered more towards 'vegetal' or floreate designs, and animal motifs were, temporarily, of less significance. But in the later third to second centuries BC themes based on beasts reasserted themselves, as decoration on weapons, as mounts for vessels, as harness ornaments, as jewellery designs, and as figurines. By the very late Iron Age, when Roman influences became ever more apparent, things changed again: animals were once more prominent in iconography, with bulls, boars, deer and wolves as particularly favourite subjects. Horses were featured, above all, on coins. In Continental Europe, the vigour of Celtic art diminished in the first century BC, and with it the predilection for zoomorphic imagery. By contrast, in Britain and Ireland, Celtic society remained alive for much longer and, consequently, Insular art continued to develop and blossom into the first century AD and, in Ireland, for even longer.1

Figure 6.1 Bronze chariot-fitting decorated with long-necked birds, probably swans, late fourth century BC, Waldalgesheim, Germany. Height: 7.6cm. Paul Jenkins.

This chapter depends very much on its illustrations, and it is impossible to describe the role played by animals in Iron Age art without constant reference to them. What I intend to do is to introduce the different kinds of object which were decorated by Celtic artists with zoomorphic themes and designs. Two artistic features stand out very clearly: one is the merging of realism and abstraction, so that the animal form is often distorted and manipulated into a flowing design. This is sometimes so successful that it may be necessary to study an object very carefully in order to perceive the animal theme at all. This ambiguity in design can be seen perhaps at its finest in the first-century BC or AD

crescentic plaque (figure 6.2) from Llyn Cerrig Bach on Anglesey, where each element in a whirling triskele motif is a bird's head with a beak and large circular eye. There is an Irish horse-bit which is decorated with the heads of birds and humans: the central ring of the bit has ducks' heads at each side, but if the object is turned upside-down, these become, instead, a human face. So there is a sense in which the art may represent different things to different people and the way an observer 'reads' the art will reflect the message conveyed. The second feature of this 'animalizing' art is the manner in which human and animal forms may become mixed. Thus one often finds a human face or head but with the ears of an animal: a fifth to fourth century BC bronze sword-hilt from Herzogenburg, Austria, is ornamented with a human face with large, hare-like ears (figure 6.3). Bronze harness-mounts of the same date from Horovicky in Czechoslovakia are decorated with human heads bearing horns.3 So the Celtic artist was taking zoomorphic subjects but adapting them and subordinating them to his art: the art itself takes precedence and the incorporation of animal designs is a means to the end of producing pleasing art-forms. None the less, there is plenty of evidence that animals were studied and their forms and temperaments understood. Though an animal may be stylized, simplified or turned into something odd, the essential nature of a given beast was comprehended and somehow managed to manifest itself within the designs. A superb example of this is the horse-mask found at Melsonby (Yorks.) but almost certainly originally from the great stronghold of the Brigantes at Stanwick (figure 4.14). Here, the long, horse-shaped mask is marked with only a few simple lines to indicate what it is intended to represent, but the 'essence' of the animal is

Figure 6.2 Crescentic bronze plaque with central roundel decorated with triskele, the arms terminating in birds' heads, first century BC, Llyn Cerrig Bach, Anglesey. By courtesy of the National Museum of Wales.

Figure 6.3 Bronze sword-hilt in the form of composite creature, with hare's ears and with arms terminating in birds' heads, fifth century BC, from a grave at Herzogenburg, Austria. Height of face: 1.1cm. Paul Jenkins.

A distinctive group of decorated objects consists of items which were concerned with warfare, with horse-riding, chariotry or combat itself. In addition, there are objects which are not themselves part of battle regalia but which depict warriors. One group comprises actual weapons or armour which bear animal iconography in some form. The reasons for such a choice of decoration may be varied: pure design may be one, but there may also be magico-religious connotations in some instances, where the presence of the animal image itself brings luck, good fortune, protection and victory to the individual carrying an animal-ornamented sword or helmet into battle.

Swords or their scabbards were favourite subjects for zoomorphic decoration, which could be stamped or incised on the metal. A scabbard of fifth to fourth century BC date found in a grave at Hallstatt5 is ornamented with realistic figures of soldiers and horses, whose riders wear helmets, trousers and tunics and carry spears (figure 4.2). The there.4


horses themselves have haunch-spirals, an artistic device frequently employed in the treatment of animal joints and sometimes considered as being of Scythian origin. By the third century BC, zoomorphic themes were common decoration on sword scabbards. Often these take the form of birds: depictions of birds' heads adorn scabbards coming from as far apart as Cernon-sur-Coole (Marne) (figure 6.4) and Drna in Czechoslovakia; a British scabbard from the river Witham (Lincs.) is similarly decorated.6 A grave in the cemetery at Obermenzing, Bavaria, contained the burial of a man accompanied by a sword decorated with birds' heads which spring from foliate designs (figure 6.5). Despite the presence of the sword, the owner was not a warrior but a surgeon, buried with a trephining or trepanning saw (used in operations to relieve pressure on the brain) and a probe. The burial of a weapon with his body may mark his high status in society. A sword found at the site of La Tene itself was ornamented with three deer, tendrils of foliage hanging from their mouths, as if caught by the artist in the act of grazing. Sword-stamps in the form of boars are common occurrences, and this may well be because the boar was perceived as the spirit of aggression and invincibility.

Shields and helmets, too, carry animal designs, perhaps for apotropaic purposes. The shield from the river Witham (figure 4.18) originally bore the image of an etiolated boar on its outer surface, perhaps to protect its owner from harm. Boars were acknowledged as ferocious and were often depicted as symbols of war (chapter 4); thus they were frequently present as helmet crests (see pp. 134, 152) as well as on swords and shields. Bird motifs, similar to those adorning swords, appear on the bronze bosses of two shields from the Thames at Wandsworth. Interestingly, the early Ulster Cycle saga, the 'Tain Bo Cuailnge', describes a warrior who carries a shield bearing animal o designs: 'he carried a hero's shield graven with animals.' The zoomorphic iconography on helmets appears either engraved on the cheek-pieces or as free-standing statuettes worn as crests. An animal which is probably best interpreted as a wolf appears on the cheek-flap of a helmet from Novo Mesto in Yugoslavia, and two other helmets from this area bear crane motifs in the same position. The most fascinating animal-9 adorned helmet is the Romanian one at Ciume§ti (see pp. 87-8), dating probably to the third or second century BC (figure 4.17). This is the one with the large figure of a raven crouched on the top, with hinged wings which flapped up and down when its wearer moved at speed. Whilst the iconography of the other helmets is probably present as a magical protection device, this latter represents pure aggression, designed to terrify the opponent facing the raven-bearer. It is almost certain that the raven was a Celtic battle emblem, an image of a black bird of destruction, just as it was in the early Irish written tradition (chapter 7). We know of other helmet-crests bearing animal motifs: the classical author Diodorus Siculus10 alludes to the practice among the Celts of attaching projecting animal figures to helmets. Boar and bird crests are depicted on coinage, and on the Gundestrup Cauldron11 armed horsemen are clearly shown with boars and birds attached to the tops of their helmets (figure 4.5). Perhaps, indeed, such helmets were normally worn by cavalrymen, although one of the foot-soldiers on the Gundestrup scene wears a boar-crest. The little bronze figurine of a bristling boar at Hounslow in Middlesex (figure 5.12) looks like a freestanding statuette but it was probably a helmet crest. Horns, too, adorned helmets: Diodorus mentions this, and there is the superb example of a late Iron Age horned parade helmet from the Thames at Waterloo Bridge in London (figure 4.16). Helmets carved on the first century AD arch at Orange in southern Gaul (figure 6.6) are also decorated with bulls' 12


Figure 6.4 Detail of iron scabbard decorated with birds' heads, third century BC, Cernon-sur-Coole, Marne, France. Width of scabbard: 5.2cm. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.5 Top of iron scabbard decorated with triple bird design, c.200 BC, Obermenzing, Germany. Width c.4.8cm. Paul Jenkins.

Other accoutrements of war were adorned with animal motifs: the carnyx was a long-tubed Celtic

battle-trumpet, which made a fearful braying sound; its mouth was in the form of an open, snarling boar's head. Carnyxes are depicted on the battle scene of the Gundestrup

Cauldron, carried by infantrymen (figure 4.5). The mouth of a bronze trumpet from Deskford, Grampian (Scotland), has been described on p. 91 (figure 4.20). Dating to the first century AD, it has a movable jaw, a vibrating wooden tongue and a pig's palate inside the mouth.14 Like the Ciume§ti helmet, this implement was designed to be frighteningly realistic and to unnerve the enemy with its shrieking roar. Perhaps most curious of all objects connected with war and having artistic ornamentation is the 'pony-cap' or chamfrein from Torrs in Scotland: this is a metal mask into which two curving horns were later added (figure 6.7). The cap itself carries ornament in the form of stylized birds, and originally the horns themselves terminated in cast bronze birds' head. Professor Martyn Jope has suggested15 that the Torrs mask was worn not by a horse for protection in battle but by a human, presumably in some kind of shamanistic ritual. Professor Jope points to the 'hobby-

horse' figure on the Aylesford Bucket, which is not a real horse because the legs bend the wrong way and are clearly those of two men in a horse-costume, perhaps performing in some religious 'pantomime'.

Figure 6.6 Bull-horned helmets carved on a Roman triumphal arch at Orange, France, early first century AD. Paul Jenkins, after Ross.

Figure 6.7 Bronze horned pony-cap, second century BC, Torrs Farm, Kelton, Scotland. Paul Jenkins.

Horse harness was sometimes decorated with zoomorphic designs. Two back-to-back bulls' heads with knobbed horns adorn the bronze rein-ring at Manching (figure 2.4). The pair of first century AD splay-legged bull figures with curled-up tails from the Bulbury (Dorset) hillfort (figure 7.13) were perhaps fittings for a chariot or cart: the curved tails are so designed as to function as rein-guides, and each leg is pierced for attachment to wood.16

Depictions of warriors on horseback frequently decorate Celtic metal-work: this is particularly apparent in the Hallstatt Iron Age, where cavalry riding ithyphallic horses adorn such sheet-bronze objects as the bucket-lid at Kleinklein in Austria (figure 4.3). A brooch from Numantia in Spain is in the

form of a mounted warrior (figure 4.7), a severed head beneath the horse's chin. The little figure of a rider in sheet-bronze from a chariot-grave at Kärlich in Germany was probably applied to a vessel or fitting. There are horsemen images on one of the plates of the Gundestrup Cauldron, and they are 18

frequent on coins.

The objects which were made for the preparation and consumption of food and drink frequently bear zoomorphic imagery, and there may well have been specific symbolism associated with such images. An early La Tene example is the pair of drinking-horns from the rich tumulus grave of Kleinaspergle, probably made in the fifth century BC, which terminate in rams' heads. The artists have used these animal heads to indulge their creative fantasies, and have departed from realism in the lines delineating the faces.19 Bronze vessels for mixing wine and flagons for pouring it bear images of the birds and animals familiar to people in daily life. A gold bowl from Altstetten, Zürich, is decorated with images of

20 21 deer, and the sun and moon; a bronze bowl from a burial at Hallstatt has a handle in the form of an enchanting group of a cow followed by her calf (figure 2.21). This kind of iconography may have been chosen because of the importance of cattle as units of wealth and currency in a society which relied on


its herds for its economic prosperity. Cattle quite often appear as handles for vessels: an example is the realistic bull at Macon in Burgundy. Many Hallstatt vessels were adorned with friezes of horses or horsemen, water-birds and suns (figure 6.8): the Kleinklein bucket-lid (figure 4.3) possesses all these motifs; and there is a close parallel between this iconography and that of an early sixth-century BC belt-plate at Kaltbrunn in Germany, which is decorated with rows of ducks, horses and solar motifs. Water-birds are popular images on repoussé

ornamented vessels, and reflect an earlier Urnfield tradition.22 Their meaning is obscure, but in Bronze Age iconography, they are frequently associated with sun symbols and sometimes form the prow and stern of solar boats. It may be that the water-bird, with its ability both to swim and fly, is an emblem of the two elements of air and water. Late Iron Age bronze vessels sometimes have spouts or handles in the form of animal heads: a bowl of the first century AD from Leg Piekarski in Poland has a spout in the form of a boar; and another bowl from the river

Shannon at Keshcarrigan bears the head of a duck as its handle.23 Sometimes creatures that existed only in the imagination were depicted. Flagons or jugs from graves possess handles or lids decorated with beasts that sometimes take weird and wonderful forms: the fourth-century BC princess's grave at Reinheim contained a flagon with a lid bearing the cast figure of an imaginary animal; a similar vessel comes from the chariot-burial of a lady at Waldalgesheim, and here the animal figure standing on the lid is a human-headed horse (these fabulous creatures of the Celtic imagination recur later on Iron Age coins). Two superb late fifth-century or early fourth-century BC bronze flagons from Basse-Yutz (Moselle) (figure 6.9) bear images of dogs on the handles and lids and, swimming along the spouts, are small ducks, 'the simple expression of a neatly observed bit of nature'. These vessels are Celtic imitations of Italic beaked flagons, made in a Rhenish workshop. The flagon from a grave at the Durrnberg (Austria), again of fifth-century date, has a human-headed beast as its handle (figure 6.10), and on the rim is a curious creature resembling an ant-eater with a long, trunk-like nose; both animals are decorated with shoulder-spirals. Objects interpreted as flagon-mounts from such sites as the third century BC Czechoslovakian cemetery of Malomerice (figure 6.11) are themselves fashioned in the form of beasts and birds: one mount consists of a complex and twisted design centred on an ox's head with great horns; another from the same site takes the form of a bird of prey.

Figure 6.8 Sheet-bronze vessel-stand decorated in repoussé with solar symbols and water-birds, Hallstatt Iron Age, Hallstatt cemetery, Hallstatt, Austria. Height: 32cm. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.9 Bronze wine flagon decorated with wolf or dog and birds, fifth to fourth century BC, Basse-Yutz, Moselle, France. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.10 Detail of bronze flagon depicting human-headed animal, fifth century BC, from a grave at the Dürrnberg, Hallein, Austria. Paul Jenkins.

Vessels ornamented with zoomorphic motifs may take the form not just of bronze containers but also of clay pots or wooden buckets with metal fittings. A number of bronze mounts for late Iron Age buckets are in the form of bulls' heads: those from Dinorben and Welshpool in Wales (figure 7.14) and Ham Hill (Som.), are good examples of a common type of escutcheon. The mount from Boughton Aluph (Kent) is in the form of a human head but with jutting bulls' horns.26 Pots used for holding liquid or for cooking food bear animal imagery, often in the form of a frieze around the belly of the vessel. Among the earliest of these are the pots from the seventh-century barrow-group at Sopron in Hungary, which depict scenes from everyday life, including horse-riding (figure 4.10), cattle-herding, cart-pulling and

hunting. A pot at Radovesice in Czechoslovakia had been placed in a hut (perhaps a shrine) in about 400 BC: on the vessel was a frieze of swans, picked out in red paint (figure 7.7). Vincent Megaw28 has suggested that the birds may represent migrating wild swans and that there could be a link between these images and the swans which played such an important role in later Celtic myth (chapter 7). A beautiful long-necked fourth-century BC bottle or flask has engraved ornament on the shoulder, consisting of a range of wild creatures: three hinds, a stag, a hare pursued by a hunting-dog and two boars. The pot comes from a Bavarian cemetery of fifty barrows at Matzhausen

(figure 3.3), found in a tomb with a family group of a man, a woman and a child. Another grave, at Labatlan, Hungary (figure 3.5), contained a pot with incised and stamped ornament in the form of a graceful, long-bodied deer being attacked by a wolf or dog which sinks its teeth into the neck of its victim. The hide of both animals is represented by circular stamps. The vessel dates to the third or second century BC. In the late Iron Age, pots continued to be decorated with animal friezes: the painted pot from Roanne (Haute-Marne) is an example (figure 1.1).

Figure 6.11 Bronze mount in the form of a horned head, third century BC, MalomerDice, Czechoslovakia. Height: 18cm. Paul Jenkins.

Apart from containers, representations of animal ornament appear on other paraphernalia associated with the consumption of food. The fleshfork from Dunaverney, Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland (figure 2.25) is a rare example of an implement which must have been used to spear boiling meat from a cauldron once it had cooked over the fire. Here, a positive decision was made to decorate a utilitarian object with animal images: all along the length of the fork are freestanding figures of swans and

cygnets, echoing the water-bird themes of earlier metalwork in Europe. The other important items associated with feasting are iron firedogs, which are frequently ornamented with bull-head terminals. The most spectacular of these is the Capel Garmon firedog from North Wales (figure 5.13), with its

magnificent horns and elaborate and fanciful manes. The Capel Garmon find was clearly a very precious object: indeed, recent experiments suggest that the complete process of manufacture could have taken as long as three man-years. The firedog was found deliberately buried in a peat-bog lying on its side with a large stone at each end. It was probably a votive gift to the spirit of the sacred pool in which it was deposited. The artist made no attempt to create a realistic image of a bull's head: instead he fashioned a strange, hybrid creature with the horns of a bull but with mane and facial details more

suggestive of a horse. Jean-Louis Brunaux has put forward a convincing argument for there being a direct association between the imagery of firedogs, with their bulls' or rams' head, and the sacrificial feast in which oxen or sheep were consumed. The function of these firedogs was probably to contain fires,34 rather than for spit-roasting, as has been argued in the past, but even so, their link with feasting is

not negated. The recent 'Celts in Wales' exhibition at the National Museum of Wales had an impressive reconstruction of a Celtic round house, inside which was a cauldron suspended over a fire, which was guarded by a pair of replicas of the Capel Garmon firedog.


Jewellery is particularly interesting because it seems likely that certain motifs combined a decorative function with magical or symbolic properties. This is especially true of the zoomorphic iconography which is often incorporated into jewellery design.

Many Iron Age Celtic brooches, which had a genuine function in fastening clothes as well as an ornamental purpose, are in the form of beasts (figure 6.12), which are unrealistic and in some manner fantastic, often being part-man, part-monster or made up of composite animals.

This weird supernatural element may well point to the perception of magical, amuletic properties. Most of the surviving brooches come from burials and a very large number consist of bird forms. One very interesting, coral-inlaid brooch from the Reinheim princess's grave is in the form of a hen,36 a newcomer to temperate Europe in Hallstatt times and thought to have been imported from India. Remains of domestic chickens have been found at the Hallstatt stronghold of the Heuneberg in Germany.

Figure 6.12 Detail of bronze, coral-inlaid brooch, with terminal in the form of a cat's head, mid-fourth century BC, Chynovsky Haj, Czechoslovakia. Length of brooch: 7cm. Paul Jenkins.

Neckrings or torcs, symbols of status and high rank, were worn by the higher echelons of society in life and in death. The animal iconography which is sometimes present may reflect this high status, in addition to possessing magico-divine symbolism. The sixth-century Hallstatt prince buried in a rich wagon-grave at Hochdorf, Germany was interred with a gold neckring decorated with rows of tiny horsemen, as if evoking the dead man's own knightly rank. The bull-head terminals on a late second-century BC silver torc at Trichtingen near Stuttgart (figure 6.13) may again reflect the status and wealth of a nobleman, perhaps the owner of great herds. It is notable that the bulls on the torc are themselves

adorned with torcs. An early La Tene lady, cremated along with her chariot at Besseringen in Germany, was buried wearing a magnificent gold neck-ornament (figure 6.14) in which two wedge-tailed eagles are depicted as part of the design. The motifs on some arm- and neckrings are sufficiently complicated to suggest the representation of a myth or sacred story: both the gold neckring and an armlet from the grave of the high-born woman at Reinheim bear similar iconography, which includes females whose heads are

surmounted by those of a bird of prey with large round eyes and hooked beak (figure 7.17). This theme is reminiscent of the Irish myth of the raven-goddesses, the Badbh and the Morrigan, who possessed the ability to change at will from human to bird form. Other possible mythology may be observed in the gold neckrings at Erstfeld in Switzerland: one scene depicts a bull or ox being threatened by a bird with enormous talons.39

One persistent theme, which can be traced right back to the Urnfield Bronze Age (from around 1300 BC), is that of the sun-wheel and water-bird. We have seen this combined iconography on the vessels, and it is particularly prominent on jewellery. A group of La Tène bronze torcs (figure 6.15) from the Marne region - Catalauni, Pogny and Somme-Taube - consists of plain metal rings with a single group of images comprising a four-spoked wheel flanked by two ducks.40 Pendants, of Hallstatt and later date, carry similar imagery: those from Charroux and Hauterive in France consists of small sun-wheels apparently in boats with a swan or duck at each end.41 These date to the earliest Iron Age, as does the

complex pendant at Forêt de Moidons (Jura), which is made up of rings, sun symbols and ducks. The most attractive ornament of this group comes from a grave at Nemejice in Czechoslovakia, which is in the form of a bronze chain and a miniature wheel, with water-birds perched at the hub and rim, beaks down, as if eating or drinking from a bird-table (figure 7.5).— There could be religious symbolism here, or the scene may simply represent a charming vignette from life, the capture in art of a subject witnessed by the artist.

Figure 6.13 Terminals of silver torc decorated with bull's heads, second century BC, Trichtingen, Germany. Length of heads: c.6cm. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.14 Detail of gold neckring decorated with a pair of eagles, fifth century BC, Besseringen, Germany. Width of detail: c.4cm. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.15 Iron Age bronze torc decorated with wheel and water-birds, Marne, France. Paul Jenkins.

There are a few objects in Iron Age art which are of outstanding significance in terms of an association between animal iconography and religion. One group consists of cult cauldrons, great vessels which were undoubtedly of ritual rather than of secular use. These cauldrons are from Denmark, but the imagery owes a great deal to Celtic traditions. The huge Rynkeby Cauldron is decorated with the image of a human head flanked by two bull-heads; an inner plate depicts two wild animals, one on either side of a triskele.44 The Brâ Cauldron is fitted with suspension-rings ornamented with birds' heads; the handle-mounts are in the form of bulls (figure 2.6) — But the most spectacular animal-decorated cauldron is that from Gundestrup, a large, silver, once-gilded, vessel whose inner and outer plates, decorated by many different artists, are covered with repoussé iconography of gods, plants and beasts of all kinds, both real species and ones which owed their form to the imagination of their creators (figure 6.16).46 The cauldron was probably made sometime between the second and first centuries BC: its iconography shows mainly Celtic influence, but the most likely place of manufacture is eastern Europe -Romania, Hungary or Bulgaria. The 'Gundestrup Zoo' which adorns the five inner plates is fascinating in its variety and in the clear importance of zoomorphic imagery. Stags, bulls, gods and boars are among the temperate European species represented, but there are also elephants flanking the figure of a

47 48

goddess; leopards accompany the Celtic sky-god; and a trio of winged griffins gambol beneath him (figure 6.17). Many of these exotic creatures are related to the fantastic beasts belonging to the repertoire of silversmiths living in the Lower Danube. Bulls figure very prominently: on one plate are three


identical bulls each threatened by a hunter with a sword and a hound above and beneath each bull (figure 5.3).— The baseplate of the cauldron features an enormous dying bull, perhaps a wild aurochs, which sinks to its knees before the onslaught of a hunter and his dogs (figure 5.1). The killing of the bull seems to be important, perhaps as an act of sacrifice or as a representation of a myth of death and re-creation, similar to that of the Persian Mithras, who slew the divine bull so that the earth would be nourished by its blood. The bull imagery is very persistent on this cult vessel: the sky-god with his solar wheel is attended by a small human figure who wears a bull-horned helmet with knobs on the end of the horns. These knob-horns recur elsewhere in bull images, for example on the firedog at Barton, Cambridgeshire (figure 2.23); the figurine from Weltenburg near the oppidum of Michelsberg in Bavaria;

and on the bull-heads on the bronze rein-ring at Manching (figure 2.4). Megaw has suggested that the knobs on bull-horns may be associated with stock management and the use of knobs in farming.50 But, to my mind, this is unlikely, especially in view of the horns on the Gundestrup figure. In any case, there is no evidence for the use of such knobs in Celtic husbandry. I think that such horn terminals are more likely to relate to some form of symbolism, perhaps related to some 'defunctionalizing' device, introducing non-realism to the image in order to render it appropriate as a sacred motif.51

Some of the zoomorphic imagery at Gundestrup has very definite divine associations, which may be linked with the unequivocal religious iconography of Romano-Celtic Europe. Such is the monstrous ramheaded serpent, which appears on more than thirty monuments or figurines in Gaul and Britain. This hybrid creature, which combined the fertility symbolism of the ram with the chthonic and regenerative imagery of the snake (see chapter 8), occurs three times on the Cauldron, once on the same panel as the wheel-god, a second time in company with the stag-god Cernunnos. The latter association is particularly significant, since it is with Cernunnos that this idiosyncratic beast appears on the monuments of Romano-Celtic Gaul. Cernunnos is the stagantlered god, lord of animals, nature and abundance. At Gundestrup, he sits cross-legged, wearing tall antlers on his head, wearing one torc and holding a second (again a recurrent and distinctive feature of his symbolism in Gaul), and grasping a ram-horned serpent in his left hand (figure 6.18). Beside him and facing him is his stag, who has identical antlers; the close affinity between god and animal is very clearly reflected, and the stag may even be Cernunnos in non-human form. With the god also are two bulls, a wolf, two lions, a boar and a dolphin ridden by a boy. This early image of Cernunnos can be related to another depiction, far away from Denmark, at Camonica Valley in north Italy, where a rock carving dating to the fourth century BC depicts a standing antlered anthropomorphic figure, with two torcs and a horned serpent (see chapter 8). The third depiction of the ram-horned snake at Gundestrup appears on the Celtic army scene depicted on one of the plates (figure 4.5). This comprises a curious set of images which includes a great tree or branch set horizontally along the plate, apparently supported by the tips of six spears carried by marching infantrymen beneath it. Above the tree, at the top of the plate, ride four cavalrymen led by the horned serpent. Behind the horsemen stands a god, apparently dipping a human sacrificial victim into a vat, perhaps to bless the battle about to take place. The zoomorphic imagery of this plate is intense: in addition to the snake and the cavalry horses, one of the horsemen wears a horned helmet, a second has one with a boar-crest and yet another sports a bird perched on his helmeted head. The last infantryman below the tree carries what appears to be a sword, rather than a spear like his companions, and he alone of the foot-soldiers has a boar-crested helmet, while the others are bareheaded. Facing the first foot-soldier is a leaping dog, and behind the soldiers march three more infantrymen bearing open-mouthed boar-headed carnyxes.

Figure 6.16 Gilt silver cauldron decorated in repoussee with mythological scenes, second to first century BC, Gundestrup, Jutland, Denmark. Diameter: 69cm. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.17 Inner plate from Gundestrup Cauldron, depicting wheel-god, a being with a bull-horned helmet, ram-horned snake, leopards and winged mythical creatures. Paul Jenkins.

Figure 6.18 Inner plate from Gundestrup Cauldron, depicting the antlered Cernunnos as Lord of the Animals. Height of plate: 20cm. Paul Jenkins.

Whilst it is the five inner plates on which the greatest variety of divine and zoomorphic imagery is to be found, the seven outer panels of the cauldron are not devoid of animal iconography. These outer plates possess figural decoration very different from the narrative, mythological scenes of the inner panels. Each bears a depiction of a human bust, four male bearded heads and three female. The male figures54 each have large heads and diminutive upthrust arms: clasped in the hands of two of them are images of animals, which must be meant to represent effigies, perhaps of wood, rather than living (or dead) beasts (figure 6.19). One of the figures holds two antlered stags, the other a pair of curious seahorse-like creatures, with horses' manes and front legs but with wings on their backs, long tails and no hind legs. Beneath the god's shoulders are two small 'acrobats' with a long, two-headed boar or dog stretched between them. A third 'male' panel shows a god holding two small human effigies by one arm each and these humans in turn brandish smaller boar-figures, balanced on their hands; a dog and a winged horse prance beneath the humans. The effigies held by these male figures are strongly reminiscent of the cult imagery of the Viereckschanzen of Fellbach-Schmiden near Stuttgart (figure

2.13).55 This consisted of a square ritual enclosure surrounding a sacred well, from which came oak carvings of animals, including a stag. There are carved hands holding the creatures, as if they were once grasped in precisely the same manner as portrayed on the cauldron. According to dendrochronological evidence, the oak from which the Fellbach Schmiden figures were made was felled in 123 BC. The three 'female' panels carry less zoomorphic symbolism but some is present:56 on one, the goddess is accompanied by a

small man, embracing or wrestling with a large animal, perhaps a cheetah. On a second 'female' plate, another goddess has one arm upheld, a tiny bird perched on her thumb. Above are two eagles (recalling the two on the Besseringen neckring); beneath her breast is a small dog or boar lying on its back as if in play.

It is quite clear that the Gundestrup Cauldron depicts some kind of complicated mythological narrative, perhaps an epic of creation or an account of the activities of a Celtic pantheon. We will never fully understand it; all we can do is to examine links between its iconography and the Celtic imagery known from other sources, and to note the sheer abundance of animals, a veritable zoo (or safari park) reflecting so many species both familiar and strange to the Celtic world.

A completely different but equally important piece of zoomorphic imagery which dates to the early Iron Age is the Strettweg cult wagon from Austria, made in about the seventh century BC. It comes from the

Figure 6.19 Outer plate of Gundestrup Cauldron, depicting a god holding animal effigies. Paul Jenkins.

burial of a man who was cremated and his remains interred with an axe, a spear and three horse-bits, beneath a mound. He was a warrior of note, a knight, and the presence of this unique wagon-model must imply his high status. The central figure on the wheeled platform is a goddess, bearing a shallow dish above her head. Before and behind her are two groups, each consisting of two women with a large-antlered stag between them whose antlers they hold, and behind them are a man and a woman, she with earrings, he with an axe and an erect phallus. Flanking these humans and stags are pairs of mounted warriors with spears, shields and pointed helmets (frontispiece). The wagon frame bears pairs of bulls' heads at both front and rear. The Strettweg group appears to represent some kind of cult, perhaps involving a ritual hunt or sacrifice of a stag to the goddess, who possibly raises a dish full of its blood in acceptance of the offering. The dead chieftain in whose grave the cult wagon was placed may even have taken part in such rituals himself: he may be depicted as one of the axemen or a horseman; he was, after all, sent to the Otherworld with an axe and horse-trappings.


Few figural sculptures of La Tene date survive, even if they ever existed in quantity at the time, and there are even fewer animal representations among them. The southern Gaulish group of early sanctuary carvings, some of them dating as far back as the sixth century BC, have zoomorphic themes: horses are especially prominent. At Mouries, schematized engraved images of horses and horsemen predominate, and one beast has three horns.59 From the shrine of Roquepertuse, not far away, came a frieze of four horse-heads in profile, and a carved goose perched on top of a lintel guards the temple.60 The sanctuary at Nages had a lintel carved with trotting horses alternating with severed heads (figure 4.6),61 and a helmeted stone bust of a warrior is incised with a group of horses beneath his neck.62 This group of shrines was probably associated with the worship of a war-god; they contained figures of warriors and have revealed evidence for a ritual which involved head-hunting and the offering of the heads of their enemies killed in battle as votive gifts to the gods.

The 'Tarasque' of Noves in southern Gaul (figure 6.20) is a large stone figure of a lion or wolf, with great teeth and long curved claws: it slavers over a dismembered human limb which hangs from its jaws and beneath each front paw is grasped a severed human head. It dates to the third or second century BC.63 Very similar, though cruder, is the monster from Linsdorf, Alsace.64 Both these figures appear to represent the triumph of death over human life, death being perceived as a ravening wild beast. The allegory may have been influenced by traditions of the

Mediterranean world, where lions and sphinxes decorate tombstones, to remind humankind of the victory of death.

Figure 6.20 The 'Tarasque of Noves', a limestone figure of a wolf or lion devouring a human arm, and with its claws resting on human heads, third century BC, Noves, Provence. Height: 1.12m. Paul Jenkins.

The rock art of Camonica Valley is relevant to a consideration of pre-Roman zoomorphic sculpture. This north Italian valley near Brescia had a long tradition of carving on the sloping rocks from the Neolithic until the later first century BC. In both Bronze and Iron Ages, the wild animals which the Camonicans hunted, especially stags, were depicted on the rocks (see chapter 3). In addition to hunt scenes, which portray not only the victims but also the horses and hounds of the hunters, there are agricultural scenes of ploughing, using oxen for traction. Birds, too, are frequently represented: they may have had an oracular function, for they are sometimes placed before a person, as if communicating with him, or are associated with shrines.65 This rock art gives us a glimpse of the way of life of one Celtic community, which depicted its daily activities and its religious life, almost as a kind of iconographic commentary on life, death and its perceptions of the supernatural world.

Figurines of many different animals date from the pre-Roman Iron

Age and these may have played a secular or religious role. The creatures represented were those which reflected man's natural association with the animal world. Of the wild animals, deer and boars were the most commonly depicted: bronze deer, like that from Rakos Csongrad in Hungary (figure 3.1), were common in eastern Celtic lands, from the third century BC.66 A small stag made in about 100 BC was found at Saalfelden near Salzburg.67 A bronze group of hunters, a stag and a boar come from Balzars in Liechtenstein.68 Made in the third century BC, the stag's antlers are enlarged and exaggerated, just like those on the deer at Strettweg, as if the artist felt it important to stress this essential 'stagness'. The Balzars boar is similarly treated, with the dorsal bristles erect and emphasized, presumably to call attention to the ferocity of the beast at bay.

Boar figurines are relatively common from the middle to later Iron Age. Some of them may be helmet crests or standard-fittings rather than statuettes per se :— this is probably true of one of the three little first-century BC boars from Hounslow, which quite clearly once stood on a convex base, probably a helmet. In general, Iron Age boar figurines display this characteristic dorsal crest, which is sometimes developed by the bronzesmith into a glorious scroll design. This happens, for instance, at Lun9ani in

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Romania (figure 2.22) and Bata in Hungary. Thus, not only is the natural aggression of the animal captured but the feature of erect dorsal bristles is utilized by the craftsman in order to display his artistic expertise. But despite their stylization, all the boars display the essential elements of a beast which was fierce, aggressive and dominant, a clear image of combat. Whilst the small figures are often fittings, this

cannot be true of the great bronze boar-figures found at Neuvy-en-Sullias (Loiret) (figure 5.9), one of which is virtually life-sized. These, together with a magnificent stag and horse, date to the very end of the pre-Roman Iron Age, when they were probably buried in a secret hoard to prevent them from being looted by the Roman conquerors.

Of domestic animals, bulls are most commonly represented as figurines. Horses occur in the earlier

Iron Age; the little bronze from a chariotgrave at Freisen in Germany is an example (figure 2.11). But generally speaking, in the later Iron Age, horses were depicted mainly on coins rather than as statuettes (see pp. 156-8). But cattle, especially bulls, were popular. We have already seen that the bull-theme was chosen to decorate objects, like cauldrons, bowls and firedogs, which were concerned with food. The representation of bulls as figurines must reflect respect and veneration for these animals, which were so crucial to the maintenance of the herd and admired for their virility and spirit. Cattle were, of course, required for food, milk and hides (chapter 2) and oxen were essential for pulling the plough. Bulls were represented from the earliest Iron Age: often, the horns are selected by the artist for emphasis and exaggeration. A small bronze bull with huge upcurved horns, dating to the seventh century BC, was

buried in a grave at Hallstatt. Another, treated similarly and of sixth-century date comes from the

curious site of Byciskala in Czechoslovakia (figure 2.1), where the bodies of many women and beasts (among them horses which had been quartered) may represent a ritual slaughter or sacrifice. Both these little bulls once again reflect the artist's genuine rapport with his subject, his understanding of it and his ability to combine art with naturalism. Later bull figures maintain this realism, but less schematically: the statuette from Weltenburg in Bavaria76 dates to the second or first century BC, and is a faithful portrayal of the animal.

Dogs too were represented. In the Romano-Celtic period, the creatures were associated with a number of cults, notably those of Nodens and Nehalennia (chapter 8). But earlier, figurines of dogs were made to accompany the dead in their graves, much as real dogs were buried with their masters in Gaulish tombs (chapter 5). One curious and unique Iron Age statuette is made of blue glass banded in white and gold: it

comes from a second-century BC warrior's grave at Wallertheim in Germany.

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