Oppidum: An Ancient Celtic Fortress

The Celts of Iron Age Europe, thanks to developments in agriculture and manufacturing, were able to prosper and so small urban settlements became more populous. Introduction Celtic hilltop forts, often called oppida (sing. oppidum), after the Latin name given to larger settlements by the Romans, were built across Europe during the 2nd and 1st century BCE. Surrounded by a fortification wall and sometimes[…]

Iron Age Celtic Bronze Shields

The Celts commonly decorated shields whether they were intended for battle, display, or as votive offerings. Introduction The ancient Celts produced magnificent bronze shields in Iron Age Britain which were most likely for ceremonial purposes and display. Several fine examples have miraculously survived as evidence of the imagination, skill, and artistry of Celtic craftworkers. The[…]

Celtic Society in Iron Age Europe

Within Celtic society there was a binding system where powerful individuals undertook to look after others. Introduction The society of the Celts in Iron Age Europe was made up of several distinct hierarchical groups. At the top were rulers and elite warriors, then there were the religious leaders, the druids, and then specialised craftworkers, traders, farmers, and slaves. Our knowledge[…]

An Overview of the Ancient Celtic Pantheon

We have a reasonable picture of at least some of the vast number of deities the ancient Celts worshipped, often described as a ‘fertile chaos’. The ancient Celtic pantheon consisted of over 400 gods and goddesses who represented everything from rivers to warfare. With perhaps the exception of Lugh, the Celtic gods were not universally worshipped across Iron Age Europe but were very[…]

Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in Ancient Celtic Religion

In the ancient Celtic religion, there was a belief in an afterlife in the ‘Otherworld’, a place like this without disease and suffering. Introduction The ancient Celts who occupied large parts of Europe from 700 to 400 CE displayed a clear belief in an afterlife as evidenced in their treatment of the dead. In the absence of extensive written[…]

Sculpture of the Ancient Celts

The sculpture of the Celts evolved over time, receiving influences from many other cultures. Introduction The sculpture of the ancient Celts between 700 BCE and 400 CE is nothing if not varied as artists across Europe developed their own ideas and borrowed what interested them from neighbouring cultures. Early Celtic stone and wood sculptures focus[…]

Designs and Purposes of Ancient Celtic Brooches

Jewelry for the ancient Celts had practical, decorative, ritual, social rank, and other forms of significance. Introduction That ancient Celts wore jewellery is amply attested by both ancient writers and archaeological finds in tombs and pits of votive offerings. As today, jewellery had many functions for the ancient Celts. For men, women, and children, it[…]

Torcs: Jewelry of the Ancient Celts

Torcs (sometimes spelt torques, from the Latin) were meant to be worn around the neck and wrist. Introduction In ancient Celtic cultures, torcs were a common form of jewellery and were made from bronze, copper, silver, and gold. Torcs were not just exquisite works of Celtic art but also identified the wearer’s status and perhaps[…]

Themes and Decorations of Ancient Celtic Pottery

The Celts themselves had no concept that they were part of a wider European Iron Age culture. Introduction The pottery of the ancient Celts, although produced over great distances in space and time, shares several common features no matter where it was made, illustrating that there was contact between people living as far apart as[…]

Ancient Celtic Art, Sculpture, and Pottery

Celtic art must be judged largely by examining only the art objects themselves and the contexts in which they have been rediscovered. Introduction Art, along with language, is perhaps the best way to see the connections between the ancient peoples we label as Celts who lived in Iron Age Europe. There were great variations across time and space but[…]

Trade in Ancient Celtic Europe

Typical goods traded by the Celts included salt, slaves, iron, gold, and furs. Introduction Trade in raw materials and manufactured goods in ancient Celtic Europe was vibrant and far-reaching, particularly regarding the centre of the continent where there was a hub of well-established trade routes. As the Celts’ territory expanded, so their trade networks encompassed the Mediterranean cultures (Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans), Iberia, and Britain.[…]

Manufacture, Design, and Functions of Ancient Celtic Coinage

An enormous number of Celtic coins have been found in burials and as part of ritual treasure hoards across Europe. Introduction The coinage of the ancient Celts, minted from the early 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, at first imitated Greek and then Roman coins. Celtic engravers then soon developed their own unique style, creating distinctive coins with depictions of stylised horses,[…]

Sacred Sites and Rituals in the Ancient Celtic Religion

The religious leaders in Celtic communities were the druids. Introduction In the religion of the ancient Celts who lived in Iron Age Europe from 700 BCE to 400 CE, certain natural sites like springs, river sources, and groves were held as sacred. These places, as well as some urban sites, often had purpose-built temples, shrines,[…]

A History of Ancient Celtic Religion

Besides gods, animals were also important to the Celts and were perhaps themselves regarded as sacred. Introduction The polytheistic religion of the ancient Celts in Iron Age Europe remains obscure for lack of written records, but archaeology and accounts by classical authors help us to piece together a number of the key gods, sacred sites, and cult practices. Variations existed across regions and the[…]

Celtic Warriors, the ‘Barbarians’ of Antiquity

Our best view of the Celts in terms of written sources is the works of Greek and Roman writers. Introduction The warriors of Celtic Europe were amongst the most distinctive of any fighters in the ancient world. With their great height, long hair and moustaches, frequent nakedness, painted and tattooed bodies, and fondness for collecting[…]