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Celtic societies -


  • pg 1
									         THE CELTS

   Contents
    and archaeological
    written and archaeological
   Because what we call Celtic culture has existed
    for more than 2,700 years, and has ranged across
    much of central and northwestern Europe, it is
    not easy to define in simple terms.
   Further problems derive from the fact that it was
    an oral society.
   Most written sources are non Celtic, often from
    writers who fought the Celts.
   Archaeological evidence is fragmentary and often
    contradicts the written sources.
   No society is static. Any attempt to explain the
    society must include change over time
   “The whole race….is war mad, and both high spirited and quick for battle, although otherwise
    simple and not ill mannered” The Geography, Strabo
   “ Among them are to be found lyric poets whom they call bards. These men sing to the
    accompaniment of instruments which are like lyres….Philosophers…and men learned in religious
    affairs are unusually honoured” Diodorus Siculus
   “There were countless horns and trumpets being blown simultaneously in their ranks and as the
    whole army was also shouting war cries, there arose such a babel….Besides this aspect and the
    movements of the naked warriors in the front ranks made a terrifying spectacle.” Polybius
   “ the enemy showed such bravery that when their front ranks had fallen, those immediately behind
    stood on their prostrate bodies.” Julius Caesar
   “ When their enemies fall they cut off their heads and fasten them about the necks of their
    horses….and these first fruits of battle they fasten by nails upon their houses… The heads of their
    most distinguished enemies they embalm in cedar oil and carefully preserve in a cherst, and these
    they exhibit to strangers..” Diodorus Siculus

    Using the information on pg93 explain the contextual bias of the above
    writers. Can the information be regarded as useful?
                                              Using the information on
                                              pg96 explain how History may
                                              impact on the archaeological
                                              record of the La Tene period

              Iron Age Begins 800 B.C.

       Hallstatt Culture                    Celts              Romans

                 New Kingdom
              San Dai                                   Empire

1500         1000                500 B.C.              A.D 1
B.C.         B.C.
    "T he name Celt originated with the ancient Greeks, who
     called the barbarian peoples of central Europe Keltoi.
     Rather that being a broad cultural genetic 'race,' the Celts
     were a broad cultural-linguistic group
     The ancestors of the Celts were the people of the Urnfield
     culture, so-called because they buried their dead in
     cremation urns in flat ground. Between 1200 and 700 BC,
     they spread westward from their eastern European
     homeland into the area of modern Austria, Germany,
     Switzerland, and France. Here, there culture developed into
     a recognizably Celtic form. The earliest stage of Celtic
     culture is called the Hallstatt, after a village in the Austrian
     Salzkammergut where archeologists discovered important
     artifacts. At hallstatt and other places with the 'hall' (salt)
     name - Hallein, Helle, Schwabisch Hall - the Celts' wealth
     was based upon salt extraction and sale. The technology of
     iron, too, was embraced by innovative Celtic blacksmiths,
     who produced the best metal in Europe, that was in great
     demand outside Celtic Areas. An important two-way trade

 By the seventh century BC, the Hallstatt people had become prosperous in
the salt and iron businesses. In around 650 BC, the Celts began to re-
exchange raids with the Greeks and Etruscans, elements of whose culture
they adopted. By adding and adapting Graeco-Etruscan elements to the
Hallstatt culture, the characteristically Celtic style of art came into being.
As a result of this, in northeastern France, Switzerland, and the middle
Rhine, a new stage of Celtic development took place.
  Archeologists call it the early La Tene period, after the definitive
artifacts found at La Tene, on Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. During the
Classical period of Greece and Rome, Celtic culture was predominant
north of the Alps. Celtic technicians of the La Tene period were technically
superior to their Greek and Roman counterparts. Their superior weaponry,
including a new type of sword, chain mail, and chariots, enabled the Celts
to mount military expeditions against neighboring tribes and nations,
including the Greeks and Romans. Celtic fighting men had such a good
reputation that they were in great demand as mercenaries. Caesar was
known to use Gallic cavalry in his victory over Pompey
   Iron Age site on the shores of Lake Neuchatel in western Switzerland,
    discovered in 1857 when the water level in the lake was unusually low.
    This revealed timber piles and a wide range of iron objects, especially
    Subsequent excavations by Emile Vouga between 1880 and 1885 and
    William Wabre and Paul Vouga between 1907 and 1917 have resulted in
    the recovery of a vast collection of objects, human skeletal material, and
    further evidence for timber structures, but no certain evidence for the
    purpose or nature of the site.
   While some scholars see La Tène as a settlement, others interpret it a
    timber platform on the edge of the lake, approached via timber causeways,
    from which votive deposits and perhaps burials were made.
   In support of this is the relative poverty of domestic debris from the site
    and the abundance of high-quality iron and bronze weapons and personal
    ornaments including: 166+ swords and scabbards, 269+ spearheads, 29
    shields, 382+ brooches, and 158 belt clasps. In addition there is a bronze
    cauldron, dart wheels, wooden buckets, and tools for metalworking,
    woodworking, and leatherworking.
   spear
   A long wooden pole with a
    pointed steel head.
   shield
   Wooden piece of armor carried
    on the arm to protect against
    enemy blows.
   breeches
   Full pants that were
    characteristic of Gallic attire;
    they were pulled in at the waist
    with a belt and tied at the ankle
    with straps.
   helmet
   Protective metal headpiece
    decorated with depictions of
    animals, horns or bird wings
   The archeological site of La Tene is on the northern
   edge of Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland. The name of this
   site gives its name to the cultures of the late Iron Age in
   Europe with the earliest being in he sixth century. The
   people associated with this culture are the most
   successful people, commonly known as the Celts, and
   this site is a representative site for the Celtic
   development and expansion.
   La Tene was discovered in 1857 by Hansli Kopp. What
   Kopp found at the site was ancient iron weapons and
   timber piles driven into the bed of the lake. Between the
   years of 1860 and 1880 the lake was dredged and drained,
    exposing human remains, swords, spearheads,
   Routines of daily life varied greatly from region to region
       Best evidence comes from Gaul (France)
   Organization
       “Heroic” warrior chiefs
       Warrior nobility
       “Men of art” (craftsmen, bards, druids)
   Embedded economy based on farming and animal
   Political identity based on kinship
       Chiefdoms were “portable”
   Roman evidence of idiosyncratic behavior
     Boys could not be seen in the presence of their fathers until they
      were adults (~14-15) (Julius Caesar)
     Homosexuality, especially between men and un-related boys, was
      common (Athenaeus)
     Read pg102-105.Summarize the different social and political
      structures mentioned by the ancient and modern authors. How
      do witness 9,10 help to resolve the different views of the
   Romans described Celts
    as “giants”
   Women have greater
    social importance
       Polyandry?
   Most Celtic burials
    reveal hard deaths
    (injuries, infections)
   “Warrior Surgeon”
       Buried with weapons and
        medical equipment
       Trephining saw
                                      Celtic women were powerful queens as
   Celtic women could own             well. The most famous warrior-queen
    property, divorce their            was Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni on the
                                       southeast coast of Britain, who led a
    husbands, and were often           rebellion against the Governor Suetonius
    engaged in the political,          and by extension the Emperor Nero in
    intellectual, spiritual and        60/61 C.E. She succeeded in uniting
                                       several tribes and these laid waste to
    judicial aspects of their          modern-day Colchester, Saint-Albans and
    communities. As wives, they        London, where she was vanquished at
    were not segregated in their       the Battle of Watling Street. She poisoned
                                       herself to avoid capture.
    homes, as were Greek
    women, and had greater
    freedom of movement than                                Supplement your
    Roman matrons. Although                                 notes from pg123-
    they were still subject to                              124
    their husbands’ authority,
    since the Celts were a
    warrior culture, this was
    balanced by a right to equal
   Social power was often cemented and
    transferred through generous acts 
    feasting, prestige goods
   “The keltoi would often exchange a
    slave for an amphora of wine” –
   Most warfare was internecine war
    between clans
   Eventually, Celtic groups would band
    to fight against the Romans
       Celtic warriors sought personal glory
       Roman warfare was business
   The Carnyx was a long Celtic
    trumpet made of beaten bronze
    and held vertically so that the
    sound travels from more than
    three metres above the ground.
    It was known through much of
    Europe from about 200BC to
    200AD and was widely depicted
    - notably on the Gundestrup
    bowl which shows three
    carnyces being played
    simultaneously. The best
    surviving part of a carnyx was
    found in North East Scotland
    and exhibits local design
    elements. The end of the
    instrument is in the form of a
    wild boar's head, and it has a
    movable tongue and lower jaw.
   “On the other hand the fine order and the noise of the Celtic
    host terrified the Romans; for there were countless
    trumpeters and horn blowers and since the whole army was
    shouting its war cries at the same time there was such a
    confused sound that the noise seemed to come not only
    from the trumpeters and the soldiers but also from the
    countryside which was joining in the echo. No less terrifying
    were the appearance and gestures of the naked warriors in
    front, all of whom were in the prime of life and of excellent

   Initially the chariot burials
    were regarded as warrior
    graves given the recorded
    use of chariots as weapons
    of war
   The discovery of a female
    chariot burial begs the
    investigation of a broader
    significance for the chariot
    in celtic culture.
   Diodorus Siculus says
   “In both journeys and battles
    the Gauls use 2 horse
    chariots which carry both
    warrior and charioteer”
   Civilian transport: travelling,
    moving persons from one
    point to another.
   Driving to battle: military
   Representation: public
    exhibition of high social
   Sports and recreation:
    friendly physical
    competition, entertainment
    or peaceful conflict
   Mortuary ritual: a platform
    to present, transport and lay
    the dead to rest.
  Vix, in northern France, is the
   site of a burial of an Iron Age
  The burial took place around
   500 B.C.
  The woman was on the bed of a
   ceremonial cart, which was
   placed in a large square
   chamber in the ground.
  She was buried with a heavy
   gold collar and the tomb was
   filled with a wealth of exotic,
   funerary offerings.             WMiXRSXc
                                THE 2 BURIALS AND WHAT THEY
                                REVEAL ABOUT CELTIC CULTURE.
   The Celtic Druids and Early Christianity
   The Celtic Druids A druid was a member of the priestly
    and learned class in the ancient Celtic societies of
    Western Europe, Britain and Ireland. They were
    suppressed by the Roman government and disappear
    from the written record by the second century CE.
    Druids combined the duties of priest, judge, scholar, and

   The Celtic communities that Druids served were
    polytheistic. They also show signs of animism, in their
    reverence for various aspects of the natural world, such
    as the land, sea and sky, and their veneration of other
    aspects of nature, such as sacred trees and groves (the
    oak and hazel were particularly revered), tops of hills,
    streams, lakes and plants such as the mistletoe. Fire was
    regarded as a symbol of several divinities and was
    associated with cleansing. Purported ritual killing and
    human sacrifice were aspects of druidic culture that
    shocked classical writers
   Druids represented an
    upper class of
    “educated” priests
       No texts, so little
        understanding of their
   The stereotypical idea
    of druids is mostly
   Human and animal
    sacrifice very common
       People often stabbed or
        shot; then druids would
        “divine the future” by
        watching how people
       Cauldrons used to catch
        blood from dying victims
   "They cut off the heads of enemies ...
    and attach them to the necks of their
    horses. Singing in triumph as they
    carried off these trophies, they nailed
    them upon their houses. They
    embalm in cedar oil the heads of the
    most distinguished enemies, and
    preserve them carefully in a chest,
    and display them with pride to
    strangers ... Gathering in a
    chieftain's hall, sitting cross-legged
    on wolf skin, they would consume
    prodigious portions of wild boar.
    And guzzle wine, beer, or mead until
    they fell 'into a stupor or a state of
   Epona: Gallic horse goddess with             Cernunnos: ‘The horned one,’ lord
    fertility aspects. The horse was a            of animals. He is shown wearing
    major symbol of energy, power and             deer antlers and a torc. He holds a
    fertility.                                    torc in his right hand and a
    Sequana: Goddess of the Seine. Her            serpent in his other hand. He is
    totem bird was the duck.                      associated with the ‘wild hunt’ in
                                                 which spirits of the dead were
    Morrigan (Phantom Queen):                     carried to the Otherworld. He
    Goddess of war and vengeance,                 controlled
    magic and prophecy. Usually seen              the culling, purifying and health of
    in the guise of a crow or raven near          the herds.
    battlefields. Sometimes she would
    appear as an old woman washing         Samhain: Celebrated on November 1st, the
    the bloody clothes of a warrior who
    was going to die. In one tale,         most important festival, marking the start
    she (death goddess) mates with the     of the Celtic year and the beginning of
    Dagda (god of life) on Samhain,
    representing the great universal       winter.
    forces at work.                        Celebrated on the eve and day of
                                           November 1, it coincides with the modern
                                           Halloween, the barriers between the world
                                           of the living
                                           and that of the gods and the dead
                                           (Otherworld) were thin
   Among the Celtic animal species the horse
    was the only one whose meat was not
    consumed. This was undoubtedly
    connected with the special, privileged
    status of the horse in the Celtic society. In
    fact, this avoidance of horse meat was one
    of the earliest in the world. It probably
    meant that man did not want to eat the
    meat of his close comrade-in-arms, an
    animal species that was directly associated
    with a goddess (Epona)
   This special status of the horse is clearly
    reflected in its remains too. The number of
    horse bones is small in settlements (the
    dead horses were probably buried outside
    the settlements). The overwhelming
    majority of the bones was complete and
    unbroken and rarely showed cut marks.
Due to the ornamental nature of the
Gundestrup cauldron and its size it is often
assumed that the bowl was used for either
sacrificial or sacred purposes. It was found in
a peat bog in Denmark and was thought to be
either a trade item or more significantly a
royal gift
Use the informatio n on pg 93-94
describe the Gundestrup cauldron and
explain what it reveals about the celtic
                                        Both sexes loved jewelry:
   From workshops in the late           brooches decorated with
    Bronze and early Iron age to         gold filigree, cuttlefish shell,
    the early Christian Era a            garnets, lapis, and other
    wealth of objects were               stones; buckles of gold
    produced that changed the            filigree and stones; pins and
    course of history. Some of           linked pins with animal-
    these include the first              style decoration; necklaces of
    chainmail armour, seamless           amber, granulation and chip
    iron rims for wheels, they           carving. They wore torques,
    pioneered the iron plowshare,        pendants, bracelets, pins and
    and they gave shape to chisels       necklaces. The women
    and saws, tin snips, and             sometimes sewed little bells
    hammers, and they were the           on the fringed ends of their
    first to put Iron shoes on           tunics. The elaborate
    horse's. Mastery over metal          intertwinings of their
    was a hallmark of Celtic             artwork was a guard against
    civilisation.                        the evil eye or curses.

   The torc was a sign of
    nobility and high social
    status: a decoration
    awarded to warriors for
    their deeds in battle, as
    well as a divine
    attribute, since some
    depictions of Celtic gods
    wear one or more torcs.
    Images of the god
    Cernunnos wearing one
    torc around his neck,
    with torcs hanging from
    his antlers or held in his
    hand, have been found.
   Tomb 7 in the cemetery of München-
    Obermenzing is an extraordinary monu-
    This cremation grave (La Tène C: third-
    early second century B.C.) contained the
    weapons of a warrior who was also a
    surgeon. The iron surgical instruments
    included an unidentifiable Shaft, a
    trephining-saw and a rounded-off
    tenaculum with an eyelet handle, which
    bears a remarkable resemblance to a
    modern early twentieth-century probe. Go-
    ing by modern standards, instruments of
    the kind could have been used for
    operating both on the body and on the skull
   READ PG 116 AND
   Use the eyewitness
    quotes and exhibit 20
          The Continental Celtic calendar
           as reconstructed from the
           calendars of Coligny and
           Villards d'Heria had the
           following properties:
          it was a lunisolar calendar,
           attempting to synchronize the
           solar year and the lunar month.
          the months were lunar. Scholars
           disagree as to whether the start
           of the month was the new moon
           or the full moon, or per Pliny
           and Tacitus perhaps even the
           First Quarter.
          the common lunar year
           contained 354 or 355 days.
“All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has
been handed down by the Druids. For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not
by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and
years in such an order that the day follows the night.” JULIUS CAESAR
   During the Iron Age
    around 500 B.C.,
    fortifications were first
    constructed around
    growing villages placed
    on hilltops.
   Such hillforts had
    religious, economic, and
    residential functions.
   Occupation could have
    been as high as 2,000-
    4,000 people.               Similar to a middle eastern tell
   Large pits were dug for
    storage, water
    reservoirs, and other
   Aerial view of the
    Heuneburg hillfort with
    the Danube River in the

                              High status grave goods
   The hilltop was first used
    around 3,700 B.C.
   Maiden Castle was the center
    of an elaborate landscape of
    henge monuments and other
   Some of the walls were as
    high as 65 feet.
   Over 20,000 slingshots were
    found in caches near the
    walls of the structure.
   Maiden Castle fell to the
    Roman legions and their
    siege artillery in A.D. 43 after
    intensive fighting.
   “The unifying factor in Celtic Europe in the first century B.C. was the
    spread of the oppida, the first cities created by the Celts.”
   oppida can be defined as follows: they were vast fortified sites
    covering several dozen hectares, usually located on high ground.
    Defense consisted of a rampart and a ditch. The ramparts were
    continuous, and if necessary could take advantage of the natural
    contours of the land
   The fortifications contain large gateways, through which roads
    lead to the center of the oppida. These roads then divide into streets
    arranged according to various axes (Staré Hradisko in Moldavia).
    The streets thus delimit "blocks" of public religious buildings, or
    constructions containing residential and workshop areas. In fact it
    would seem that specialized districts can be identified: areas
    occupied by craftsmen, by the dwellings of the aristocracy, by
    particular religious functions, or by certain trades (like the
    enigmatic cross-shaped building discovered at Villeneuve-Saint-
    Germain in France)
   The archaeologist uses the
    help of science to determine
    the origin of ceramics. The
    provenance of ceramics, or
    better of the clay it is made
    of, can be exactly localized.
    Different clay deposits
    exhibit characteristic trace
    element patterns, and
    pottery made from that clay
    carries its trace element
    distribution as a fingerprint.
    The trace element contents
    are determined by neutron
    activation analysis, the most
    accurate method of trace
    element analysis.
   “The whole race is war-mad, high-spirited and quick
    to battle…”.

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