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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day School: Hillforts: What are they and how are they conserved?

Date: 6.6.09

Held 9.30am (registration, talks begin at 10am) to 4.30pm at The Drill Hall, Lower Church Street , Chepstow , NP16 5HJ by Chepstow Museum .

Six distinguished speakers: Professor John Collis, Niall Sharples, Dr Ray Howell, Dr Neil Rimmington, Jon Hoyle and Samantha Williams

Cheques payable to Monmouthshire County Council, pre-booking required. Cost £7 / 2.50 conc.

Contact: Chepstow Museum, Gwy House, Bridge Street , Chepstow, Monmouthshire NP16 5EZ, tel 01291 625981 e-mail:

For a PDF document relating to this event please click here

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dig's treasure trove on show

From the Harborough Mail:

Published Date: 21 May 2009

THE story behind one of the most significant Iron Age and Roman finds in Europe is being told at Hallaton Museum.

The Rituals, Hoards and Helmets exhibition tells the exciting tale of The Hallaton Treasure being discovered by a group of walkers in a field near the village eight years ago.

It opens at the museum, in Hog Lane, on Sunday from 2.30pm to 5pm. There will be opportunities for children to try on a replica Roman helmet and cloak and have their photograph taken, as well as piece back together a broken pot and sort through shards of pottery.

Get the rest of this article...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Potentially New Dating Method for Ancient Pottery

From the BBC News Channel:

Ancient clay has internal clock

A new way of dating archaeological objects has been found, using water to unlock their "internal clocks".

Fired clay ceramics start to react chemically with atmospheric moisture as soon as it is removed from the kiln.

Researchers believe they can pinpoint the precise age of materials like brick, tile and pottery by calculating how much its weight has changed.

The team from Edinburgh and Manchester universities hope the method will prove as significant as radiocarbon dating.

Edinburgh University's Christopher Hall explained: "Almost every archaeological site has old bits of old pot but there's no good method to date it."

Radiocarbon dating, used for bone or wood, cannot be used for ceramic material because it does not contain carbon.

Their new rehydroxylation dating method, reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, measures the amount of water the material has "recombined with".

Professor Hall, who described the advance as "very exciting", said it would plug a "yawning gap in the dating methods for ceramics".

He and his team, from the universities of Edinburgh and Manchester and the Museum of London, were able to date brick samples from Roman, medieval and modern periods with remarkable accuracy.

They have established that their technique can be used to determine the age of objects up to 2,000 years old but believe it has the potential to be used to date samples around 10,000 years old.

Researchers are now planning to look at whether the new dating technique can be applied to earthenware, bone china and porcelain.

"The recombination goes on for several thousands of years," said Professor Hall.

"And what's strange about it is that it abides by a precise physical law.

"If we can work out how much moisture has been taken up, we can estimate the age of the sample."

Get the rest of this article...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lindow Man to be star attraction at Great North Museum

Published in The Journal, May 15th 2009 by Tony Henderson:

ONE of the most fascinating figures from distant history will be the star of the Great North Museum’s first major exhibition.

The £26m venture, based on the Hancock Museum in Newcastle, opens on May 23.

And its summer exhibition, running from August 1 to November 27, will feature Iron Age Lindow Man, whose remarkably preserved body was found in a peat bog in Cheshire.

Lindow Man, who lived in the First Century AD was discovered in August 1984 when workmen were cutting peat at Lindow Moss bog.

Nicknamed Pete Marsh, he will come to Newcastle on loan from the British Museum.

Research by British Museum scientists has provided more information on Lindow Man – his health, appearance and how he might have died – than on any other prehistoric person who lived in Britain.

The conditions in the peat bog meant that the man’s skin, hair and many of his internal organs are well preserved. Radiocarbon dating shows that he died between AD 20 and 90.

He was about 25 years of age, around 168cm tall and weighed 60-65 kg. He had probably done very little hard, manual work, because his finger nails were well manicured.

His beard and moustache had been cut by a pair of shears. There is no evidence that he was unwell when he died, but he was suffering from parasitic worms. His last meal probably included unleavened bread made from wheat and barley, cooked over a fire on which heather had been burnt.

Get the rest of this article here...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Conference about Iron Age Leicestershire and the Hallaton Treasure

As a former student of ULAS (University of Leicester Archaeological Services), I am always thrilled to hear about projects associated with them, particularly when they pertain to the Iron Age period of Britain.

Ongoing archaeological excavations undertaken by both ULAS and local community archaeologists have resulted in the unearthing of a large number of Iron Age and Roman artifacts from an internationally significant ritual site in Southeast Leicestershire. The finds generally date from the time immediately prior to the Roman invasion of Britain to the 1st century AD. Declared as treasure under the Treasure Act of 1996, objects include an exceptional gilt Roman helmet (as pictured), jewellery, pottery and a considerable quantity of silver and gold coins. It is believed that the local Corieltavi tribe had deliberately buried the Treasure, although many questions remain about the nature of contact between Britain and Rome during that time.

The Southeast Leicestershire Treasure (SELT) Project was launched in order to make the objects accessible to the general public, as well as to preserve, understand and promote the Southeast Leicestershire Treasure. Exhibits will be made available at both the Hallaton Museum and the Harborough Museum, which are due to reopen on 24th May 2009 and 19th September 2009, respectively.

Please click here for the Leicestershire Treasure Project Newsletter, the “Harborough Helm” for further information relating to this remarkable discovery.

The Conference

A conference is being held next month to foster discussion about the implication of the Hallaton Treasure in the context of the area’s Iron Age period. Details are as follows:

Held 10am to 4pm at Rattray Theatre, University of Leicester. The event will be chaired by Prof. Haselgrove and speakers include Pete Liddle, Ian leins, Dr Jeremy Taylor, Vicki Score, John Thomas and Lynden Cooper.

In the first public conference of the Hallaton Treasure, the speakers will be re-evaluating the importance and development of the East Midlands in the decades preceding the Roman invasion in light of the incredible finds from the Hallaton site. The Hallaton Treasure is the collection of over 5000 silver and gold Iron Age coins, a silver-gilt Roman parade helmet and some mysterious silver finds excavated from a unique shrine site in southeast Leicestershire.

Fee includes refreshments and buffet lunch. Cost £10.

For more information and for a booking form please contact Frank Hargrave, Project Officer, Harborough Museum, Council Offices, Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough LE16 7AG, tel 01858 821085/7, email, web

For additional facts about the Iron Age period please visit the related web links provided on this blog site.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Article from "Antiquity": Social Frameworks in the Iron Age Cemetery of "La Cerrada de los Santos" (Spain)

This article was written in 2003 by J. A. Arenas-Esteban (Antiquity Vol 77 No 295 March 2003). It compares two phases of cremation at the Iron Age cemetery of "La Cerrada de los Santos". The finds discovered within each phase show marked contrast, with the earlier phase producing abundant grave goods (e.g., iron and bronze ornaments and weapons). Conversely, the later phase reveals few grave goods, but does provide evidence of liquid consumption such as a large number of intentionally smashed ceramic drinking vessels. The paper goes on to explain the plausible reasons for such a major difference in burial rite.

To read this article...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Study: Late Iron Age (“Celtic”) coinages in the Lower Rhine area

This is a new study from “Coin use in a dynamic frontier region: Late Iron Age coinages in the Lower Rhine area” by Nico Roymans and Joris Aarts. It can be located through the Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries - JALC 1(1)5-26 (May 2009) - and downloaded as a PDF document.

"The introduction of money in the form of standardized objects of value made of metal and bearing images marked a new phenomenon in the pre-Roman societies of Western and Central Europe. In the Late Iron Age, the Lower Rhine region formed part of the northern peripheral zone of the La Tène culture, whose influence in this region has emerged as stronger than was previously thought. This is reflected among other things in the large numbers of ‘Celtic’ coins from this region.(1)

Although very little was known about these coins until about 1980, the number of coins in the archaeological record, as well as what we know about them, has increased dramatically in recent decades.

This study seeks to survey these earliest coinages in the Lower Rhine region. We start with a few introductory remarks about the development of Celtic numismatics, and follow with a discussion of the research potential of coins from the Lower Rhine region.

We then survey the evolution of coinage and coin production in this area from the 2nd century BC. The most important coin groups are discussed, with an emphasis on their distribution, dating and possible attribution to a particular tribe. Finally, we address the implications of these coinages for some broader socio-cultural issues.

Our aim is to provide answers to the following questions: Why and by whom were Celtic coins produced and in what types of context were they used? To what extent can we link patterns in the numismatic material to the historically documented formation of a series of new tribes in the decades immediately after Caesar’s conquest of Gaul? What factors attributed to the relatively slow, late start of coin use among Lower Rhine groups, and why did the use of coins stop at the Dutch/Belgian coastal plains and the area north of the Rhine delta?

We shall argue that the study of coinage from the Lower Rhine region can make a significant and original contribution to our understanding of both Late Iron Age societies in the broader sense, and of their increasing integration into the Roman Empire.

(1). The term ‘Celtic’ is not used here in a strictly
ethnic sense. It has emerged that in the Lower Rhine
region Celtic coins were struck by tribes whom the
Greco-Roman written sources describe as ‘Germanic’."

Get the rest of this article…

Monday, May 4, 2009

This is “KNOT” Celtic Art? What does the term “Celtic Art” mean to you?

Many people refer to Celtic art in the belief that the term relates to a homogeneous form of art. However, it is important to recognize that it was actually quite varied and that it changed over a considerable period of time. For instance, an object that was made around 500 BC would have been somewhat different from something created around the birth of Christ.

To add further complication to the name, today there appears to be a great deal of political correctness concerning what actually constitutes being Celtic. There are numerous descriptions of the currently very popular “Celtic knotwork”, “Celtic interlace” or “Celtic Christian art”, a form that consists of the complex interweaving of lines, curves and geometric patterns, as well as minutely detailed “Celtic letters”. Such work relates to the substantially later Christian art style and illuminated gospels from Ireland that was produced in the 6th century AD by Saxon Christian monks. Although it is very attractive, it is quite different from the art produced by the ancient Celts who actually left few written records. Such art did, however, arise in the context of existing artistic traditions with roots firmly embedded within ancient Iron Age artistic design.

The label is also frequently applied to the elaborate spiral, concentric circle, and curve designs and motifs that were carved into the rocks by earlier Neolithic megalith builders in Britain. Prehistoric megalithic art can be found in many parts of west and northwest Europe (particularly in Ireland, Brittany and Iberia) and the practice continued into the Bronze Age. Like early Celtic art, it tends to be highly abstract, with relatively few representations of identifiable objects (for instance, the decorated stones in the chambered tomb at Newgrange even boasts a triple-spiral image). However, megalithic art existed long before the Celtic culture had even arrived.

Nowadays, we also see a great deal of jewellery and even tattoos being produced in distinctive and extravagant knotwork style that incorporates animal shapes. There are numerous websites offering Celtic clip art with “gripping beasts”. These, however, show strong Viking influence and are certainly not Celtic in its original sense.

“Early Celtic art” is essentially used to represent a group of distinctly decorated artifacts found across a great part of Europe during the later Iron Age and early Roman periods (although it also continued to influence other artistic designs). This art relates to the Hallstatt (around the 8th century BC) and, later, La Tène (5th Century BC) styles, which are named after two sites of major Celtic archaeological finds, in modern-day Austria and Switzerland, respectively. Celtic peoples north of the Alps transformed imported classical designs from Italy and Greece into something new. The fusion of formulaic classical design with indigenous Celtic patterns led to wonderful abstract art with intricate curvilinear motifs. La Tène art was basically an extension of the Hallstatt stylized figurative style, but it included bolder and more abstract designs. Four main styles that were identified by Paul Jacobsthal in his classic Early Celtic Art (1944) are now generally accepted for the La Tène period: the Early Style, the Waldalgesheim Style, the Plastic Style, and the Sword Style. Celtic art has been found on various objects from household utensils and jewellery to warrior equipment. It is present primarily on metal artifacts but also on some pottery, and only occasionally on stone. For more information, please click here.

The term “Celtic art” is without a doubt problematical to define, as it seems to encompass a vastness of time, geography and cultures. I realize (and am delighted) that today’s artists interested in Celtic art need to add their own creativity and interpretation into producing something that is attractive for today’s market. But should the term Celtic art really be applied to this more modern phenomenon or should it be reserved solely for the ancient Celts? Ought there be a more appropriate term to use for later representations that will still acknowledge its connection to ancient Celtic forms? Or is the term better applied to all art – both old and new - that has some relation to its ancient form? What do you think? Comments are very welcome.