The Achaeo LogicaL Eience


Celtiberian Jewelry

ince the discovery of the I lallstatt [x'riod Celtic cemetery in 1824, burial sites have provided a wealth of knowledge. Sensational new finds are still being made throughout Europe, and fresh investigations are frequently undertaken to discover new information from previously explored sites. In Orkney, off the north of Scotland, archaeologists are currently excavating a Hctish settlement. In southern Germany, the recent excavation of an early Iron Age (Hallstatt period) burial chamber at Hochdorf near Stuttgart is yielding forensic information using technology that was unavailable to earlier generations of archaeologists.

Celtic sites are as varied as they are numerous. At Manching and Heuneberg in southern Germany archaeologists excavated the remains of fortified settlements, while a similar French site at Mont Beuvray revealed a Gallic fort of the late La Tene period. Religious sites have also been discovered, including Roquepertuse and Entremont in the south of France, Snettingham in England and Fellbach-Schmitten in southern Germany.

One of the more gruesome finds was made in a cave in Bohemia. While parts of the cave contained funerary artifacts dating from the Hallstatt period, the rest contained human remains. Over 40 decapitated human bodies had been deposited in the cave together with animal remains. One female skull had even been fashioned into a drinking vessel, presumably for ceremonial use.

At Roquepertuse in southern central France, archaeologists uncovered a Celto-Ligurian sanctuary linked to a nearby hilltop settlement (uppuia), the capital of the Salluvii tribe. Stone columns had niches carved into them which were filled with human skulls, and other stones were carved or decorated with depictions of animals, humans, gods, and monsters. The area was also scattered with small statues of gods, which were probably votive wales

While Mediterranean historians and geographers from the sixth century BC onward mentioned the Celts in their histories, these accounts provide little hard evidence about early Celtic society. From the early 19th century, archaeologists have helped to till in the gaps, and excavations in Celtic fortresses, towns, religious sites, and graveyards have provided valuable information.

Below: Funerary objects recovered from burial sites such as this have provided a wealth of evidence of early Celtic culture. "Hell Stone" Tumulus chambered cairn, near Portesham, Dorset, England.

Dorset England Churches

offerings of some sort. The sanctuary- was once a long church-like building constructed on a series of raised terraces.

Family sacrifices

Religious ceremonies took place at the site for at least a century. It appears the sanctuary was destroyed by the Romans during the second century BC. Unlike the Bohemian cave, no sacrificial items were found, and archaeologists are still debating the significance of the skulls. Similar finds from other French or Belgian Celtic sites suggest that they may have been linked to some form of hero cult, and were not funerary remains.

The burial mound at Magdalenenberg in the Black Forest region of southern Germany is situated in the center of a region that was exploited by the early Celts for its iron ore. Measuring over 100 yards in diameter it appears to have been constructed about 550 BC, and plundered shortly afterward, probably before 500 BC. Similar burial mounds exist from the north of Scotland to Hungary, and the Magdalenenberg site is little different from the majority of these mounds, apart from its size.

Archaeological material recovered from the larger of these burial mounds suggests that they were used to house the remains of chieftains and their families. Some of these family members may even have been sacrificed at the same time as the chieftain was interred, as has been suggested in the case of the sixth-century BC burial at Hohmichele in southern Germany.

In several other cases the dead chieftain was interred together with symbols of his wealth and status. At Hochdorf in Germany a tomb dating from about 530 BC was lavishly furnished with a wooden funerary wagon, a cauldron of mead and drinking horns, weaponry, and a beautifully decorated bronze couch, on which the body was laid to rest. Four-wheeled funerary wagons (biers) were a common inclusion in these tombs from the proto-Celtic period until the end of the La Tene culture.

Above: Dun Conor, a Celtic fortress in the west of Ireland, was a stronghold, a royal palace, and a religious center.

Dun Conor is situated on Inishmann, middle of the three Aran Islands.






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Merida Shrine

cliffs of Inishmore, westernmost of the three Aran Islands off the Atlantic coast of Ireland

Shetland and Orkney islands

The skulls of Celtic warriors adorn the columns and lie arranged on the ground of the shrine at Roquepertuse in southern France (see page 171)

A Celtiberian four-wheeled funerary wagon, found near Mérida, Spain.

Celtic Warrior

Greeks at Themopylae, and then swept on across the Hellespont to populate central Asia Minor in I_ the regipn of Galatia.

Chapter 2

The CeLtic PeopLes of EciRope bout 3000 BC the Stone Age farmers and hunters of central Europe found themselves under threat from a series of warrior tribes. Known as the proto-Celts, over the next thousand years these Indo-European warriors dominated, then amalgamated with the less aggressive aboriginals they encountered. By 1800 BC proto-Celts migrated into what is now-western Europe, where the process was repeated. Within two centuries their influence had spread into much of what is now Spain, France, and Germany.

Archaeologists recognize that a distinctive Celtic culture had evolved by 1000 BC; a Bronze Age society known as the "Urnfield" Celts, named after the burial grounds and cremation urns which identified them. By 800 BC these Celts had begun to spread into southern France and Spain. This migration continued into the early fifth century BC, when iron weapons found by archaeologists marked the start of the Iron Age. During the next century Celtic influence expanded throughout Spain, but an Iberian counter-migration into eastern Spain separated these Iberian Celts from the rest of Celtic Europe.

At the same time a second movement, known as the Celtic I lallstatt culture began to spread its influence westward from its original roots in Austria. The Hallstatt culture marks the first period of true Celtic domination in Europe, lasting from the seventh to the early fifth centuries BC. About 500 BC, Celtic peoples reached England, and over the next century their influence expanded into Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. A similar migration spread east along the River Danube, and reached the Black Sea by the late fifth century.

By this time the Iron Age Celtic culture-known as La Tene had superseded the earlier Celtic cultural movements. The La Tene (or Gallic) Celts marked the high-water mark of Celtic expansion, although tribes raided northern Greece and Italy intermittently over the next three centuries. The La Tene Celts lacked any centralized control, but rather formed a loose amalgamation of tribes sharing a common culture. This loose-knit confederation continued to dominate most of Europe until the first century BC, when Julius Caesar brought about a collapse of the entire Celtic world.

Tene Gallic


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