La Tène/Pre-Christian Page 2

The Gundestrup cauldron  Click to enlarge




This magnificent silver gilt cauldron was found in a Danish peat bog in 1891 although it is thought that it originates from the Middle Danube region, and is dated to the late 2nd century BC. It is made of several individually embossed plates that depict various scenes - partial or complete human forms including warriors on horseback carrying shields or swords, others blowing horns, a boy riding a dolphin and various human and animal sacrifices. The seated figure is thought to be the god Cernunnos, holding a torque in one hand and a serpent in the other. While some of the designs are clearly not Celtic, many are, the cauldron features cap-shaped helmets, torques, shield bosses and several types of stylised animals - bulls, boars, deer and birds. 
It is believed that cauldrons held a special place in Celtic life, perhaps being used for rituals, and may be the original source of the later Holy Grail legend.


 The Battersea Shield  Click to enlarge

The Waterloo Helmet  Click to enlarge


The Battersea Shield was found in the River Thames in London and was probably thrown into the water as an ceremonial offering to the gods, as several other items including other shields and decorative shield bosses, spearheads and helmets have also been found in the river. Now in the British Museum, it is 85cm long, made of copper alloy sheeting inlaid with red glass and is thought to have been fashioned sometime between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD.
Dating from around the same time, the Waterloo Helmet was similarly plucked from the River Thames, this time from beneath Waterloo bridge. Also in the British Museum, it is made of bronze inlaid with enamel and may have been intended to adorn a statue, as it is too small to be worn by an adult..


The first Celtic coins are believed to have been minted between 400 and 100 BC, and were initially made of gold, then later of bronze or silver. The first coins carried plant motifs, later animal forms became popular especially horses, as can be seen above, with the reverse side often featuring the local ruling chieftain. Celtic coins are sometimes found in great hoards, up to 10000 coins in a single find is not uncommon, and as such they may either represent offerings to the gods or merely status symbols of the wealthy and powerful.
The coin in the bottom middle is of Tasciovanus, ruler of the Catuvellauni and shows the mounted horseman holding a carnyx, or war trumpet, and dates from around 10 BC.
Bottom right is a coin of Verica, ruler of the Atrebates, dated to just before the Roman invasion of 43 AD.

Map of British Celtic tribes around the time of the Roman invasion


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