The HaLLstatt Pernod

The Hallstatt culture was named after the western Austrian town where 19th-century archaeologists discovered an extensive burial site. The period marks the start of Iron Age culture in Europe and the official beginning of the Celtic civilization. The Ilallstatt period is deemed to have lasted from approximately 700 until 500 BC, and ended with the period of extensive westward migration brought about by pressure from waves of Germanic settlers. The period set the scene for the artistic explosion that was to follow.

Below: Several bronze and ceramic Hallstatt finds were decorated with representations of human figures, which possibly had a votive significance.

n the case of artistic objects, use of iron as a material was rare, because ironworkers usually produced functional items rather than decorative ones. In terms of funerary objects, iron was confined to the aristocratic elite of Celtic society, while bronze decorative items were still widely produced for most levels of the

Hallstatt Period Metal

social order. Artists of the Hallstatt period developed motifs first used by metalworkers of the Urnfield period that predated them.

Objects recovered from Hallstatt graves include stylized animals and birds, and possibly reflect the religious significance of cattle, bulls, and birds in later Celtic society and mythology. These symbols from the natural world that surrounded the early Celts remained in use well into the early historic period (after AD 500). Other Hallstatt sculptures comprise of equestrian figures, cauldrons decorated with domestic animals, and wild and domestic beasts. One of the most dramatic of these is a bronze bull found in the Blansko cave in the Czech Republic, part of a sacrificial vessel.

One of the most spectacular grave finds of the Hallstatt period was that made during the excavation of an early Celtic burial at Eberdingen-Hochdorf in Germany in the late 1970s. The burial chamber contained a bronze couch dated to about 530 BC, and the body of a well-dressed warrior was laid out on top of it. Its back was decorated with depictions of warriors and wagons, while the whole couch was supported on eight castor wheels, shaped like female figures. The primitive style of these depictions is deceptiv e, since the overall effect is one of great detail and esthetic perfection.

A similar crude human figure was found a few miles away in the late sixth- or early fifth-century burial at Hirshlanden near Leonberg. The stone figure stands about five feet high and, although naked, the subject was clearly a warrior. He is shown wearing a metal tore around his neck, a helmet on his head similar to that found in the Eberdingen-Hochdorf grave site, and he is armed with a short sword or dagger.

Long-distance trade

Art historians have traced several outside influences on early Celtic art. One is from the southeast, as characterized by the peculiar "Strettweg" wagon found near Steiermark in Austria. While it was found in a burial chamber of the Hallstatt period, it could date from the Urnfield period, making it a contemporary of the Trundholm "sun wagon" (see previous page).

Strettweg WagonCelte Hallsatt

Boundaries of the Hallstatt culture c.500 bc.



Left: The lower portion of the "Strettweg wagon" from Steirmark in Austria depicts warriors and deer, surrounding a nude female figure who supports the baseplate for a bronze offering dish. Probably 6th century bc, it could be earlier.

A bronze offering dish is decorated w ith a series of paired metal spirals. The dish is balanced on the head ot a female figure, who in turn is surrounded by a host of warriors and deer. The whole piece is mounted on a small four-wheeled cart, and stands approximately nine inches high.

"Cult wagons" of this type have been linked to Thessaly in Greece, and it has even been suggested that the piece has Greek origins, although the figures are similar to the primitive Celtic depictions described above. A Greek connection has also been suggested for some of the collection of Hallstatt era objects found in a burial site in \"tx in southern France. A wagon was used to support the body of a woman, who wore a gold tore bearing Greek-style designs. Trading links existed between the Hallstatt Celts and the Greeks, so it is possible the object provides evidence of a Celtic market for Greek decorative objects.

Boundaries of the Hallstatt culture c.500 bc.




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