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CELTIC-L  February 2008

CELTIC-L February 2008

Subject:

Re: Thinking Celtic (was Re: Old list memories)

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Thu, 14 Feb 2008 15:46:17 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (183 lines)

> well, I wanted to keep silent about this, as I have too many other
> things to do, but I guess as I've already been given as a reference in
> this discussion, I'd better say something on this as well.

Sorry Ray, but I'm very pleased that you have joined in! Not that I had
any intentions of drawing you into this discussion by using your Britarch
post as a refence (ahem ;-)), but you are a great source of valid
criticism in such matters and we do come to the subject with, often, very
different perspectives which I find to be very beneficial.

> First of all, I think that John is raising some interesting points, but
> the conclusions you arrive at, John, seem a bit far-fetched for my
> taste...

Thank you for the first, as for the second -- it is only to be expected as
I was rather too terse and did not include enough for a well-informed
critic to find that palatable. I hope that my reply to Kevin will help to
fill in some of these gaps.

I will try to clarify some of the points you bring up that are not covered
enough in my earlier reply to Kevin.


> Well, I would not class the Gundestrup cauldron as a situla, and I don't
> see how you could argue that.

I completely agree with you. It is not a situla. I think it is related in
its type of iconography and well might be included (with later buckets
such as those from Marleborough and Aylesford) as serving a related ritual
function.

> Situlae actually do have a wide distribution, even though the decorated
> situlae have a much more restricted distribution than the typological
> precursors of the situlae in the late Bronze Age, like the buckets type
> Kurd (where we even have some from as far off as Ireland, even though
> the centre of their production seems to lie in NE Hungary / E Slovakia).
> Also, at least bronze situlae mostly seem to go out of fashion in the
> 2nd half of the 5th century BC, and I am not aware of many that are
> decorated in anything like proper La Tène style. Rather, at least in
> much of central Europe, they seem to be replaced by various types of
> flagons, which do come with La Tène decoration on them.

True, but the decoration often seen on the handle mounts, and of the
palmette variety, is taken up in the La Tène styles. Also, I am including
the Aylesford bucket in this broad ritual (but not typological) group
because of the Campanian jug which accompanies it in the same grave group
so the situla-flagon relationship is mirrored by the much later bucket-jug
relationship.

>
> Which class of objects? Situlae (the bucket of specific form) or situlae
> with situla art on them (the bucket with the characteristic decoration)?

The latter, of course. I dicuss the earliest function of the situla in the
message to Kevin

> Well, I don't know the specific find you're talking about, but the
> situlae I know don't seem to me anything like a proper bridge between
> Hallstatt and La Tène.

This situla is unpublished and my calling it a bridge is merely being
applied to this one vessel: the form is clearly Etruscan, the plate where
the handle meets the side is decorated in a sort of palmette motif that
can also be found on early La Tène mounts but of a form and style that is
far too crude to be of Etruscan work, yet the border consists of incuse
chevrons, also very crudely done and these are more typical of late
Hallstatt work. Whenever it gets photographed, I can send you copies if
you would like them. It has no more of a specific provenance than
"Germany".

>> I don't know if you read my definition of Celtic A and B in a previous
>> message, but I am connecting the emergence of the La Tène styles with
>> the influence of the Greek mystery cults -- in which rites, the situla
>> figures largely. It's prior origin being a well-bucket. To me, the La
>> Tène style itself indicates a Druid, or proto-Druid religious
>> development, and this is what I call Celtic B.
>
> Now, while I don't necessarily agree with much of this, there may be an
> argument that connects the development of La Tène style to some kind of
> 'druid' or 'proto-druid' group. There are some aspects to La Tène art,
> particularly in the construction of complex geometrical motives with the
> aid of a compass, that indicate clearly that somebody was designing them
> who had pretty advanced knowledge of geometry and as such probably was
> pretty well educated. Also, the use of motives taken from art created
> far away and - even though there probably was quite a lot of trade
> between the Mediterranean and central Europe - probably quite rare and
> precious in central Europe, implies that whoever came up with La Tène
> art was pretty knowledgeable in other fields as well, and had access to
> material acquired via long range contacts, or had good long range
> contacts. That person or group of persons therefore also probably was
> part of some kind of a social elite. Now, the 'well-educated, scholarly
> minded, mathematically trained' part of a social elite sounds pretty
> much like the descriptions we get for druids in historical sources.

Very astute of you, considering the lack of detail I gave!

>> However, religion was just one aspect of the Druids and the paper by
>> Sean B. Dunham, "Caesar's Perception of Gallic Social Structures", in
>> Celtic Chiefdom, Celtic State, (1995) equates the Druids to the ruling
>> class. I think that the history bears this out as the Knight class seems
>> to consist of private armies for hire.
>>
>
> Well, here again I have to say that while Dunham makes some interesting
> points, I don't think the evidence he provides substantiates his claims
> that the druids should be equated with the Gaulish nobility. While his
> paper is interesting, it does not seem to have convinced many people,
> and I would actually argue that his main conclusions are simply false,
> for several reasons. I also don't think that history bears this out, as
> there is clearly very little evidence for druids being the ruling class.
> See my Altkeltische Sozialstrukturen, Budapest: Archaeolingua 2006 for
> why I think Gaulish social structure was quite different from what
> Dunham has proposed.

Nevertheless, it should be included in the body of literature on the
subect and might be better supported or refuted with subsequent
investigations.

>> The Druidic social structure appears to adjust itself to meet the rather
>> difficult problems caused by a heavy increase in Celtic wealth caused by
>> the Celtic armies work and campaigns, especially in Italy and when they
>> returned to their homelands, this was magnified even more. Checks and
>> balances had to be put into place to prevent the rise of a tyrant who
>> would have eventually obtained all of the gold and thus ultimate
>> military power.  <cut a lot of details> found in a chariot remains from
>> Germany which includes maple pegs. This wood was not native to Ireland).
>>
>
> Again, I don't think that much really supports this argument. Not that I
> want to go into it, but if one looks at the settlement evidence, a quite
> different picture from the one you describe seems to emerge for much of
> Europe. If one looks at evidence for 'ritual activities', again a quite
> different picture seems to emerge (and that not just different from
> 'your' picture, but also from that the settlement evidence would
> produce). To me, you're cutting much too many corners here for an
> 'adjustment of druidic social structure'-argument to hold water. Again,
> if this were a bridge, I wouldn't want to cross it.

I did not cover much of this, but it has to do with the fall of the
Etruscan economy which reveals that the Celts made off with about half of
the Etruscan treasury. This was just one source of vast Celtic wealth. It
also has to do with the increases of the amounts of gold in many parts of
Europe (including, especially, Britain) which had shown a decline in the
late Bronze age to early Iron Age. I cannot see why there would be any
evidence in settlement characteristics and it has nothing at all to do
with rituals. It is purely economic/military in its importance. It could
explain the richer burials in La Tene 1 in some areas that seem to have
"dried up" in the period afterward as being before a tighter control was
placed on gold. Later, a lot of gold was used in military coinage payments
to fight Romans and the source of the metal does seem to be the philippi
of a much earlier time. The question then is "where was this gold between
the Italian campaigns and the flurry of rich burials before and after --
and the time of the huge amount of gold used later in the Gallic war?"

I think that controls were placed on its capture in wars between tribes so
that it could not be used to provide even more troops. If there were no
controls, then the "last man standing" would have been richer than
Croesus!
This, I think is the purpose behind the large piles of treasure that the
druids did not allow anyone to touch. Simple military trophies were just a
sample of mostly arms and the like. Booty was used in the Greek world to
fund more ways of getting even more booty! Alexander III of Macedon was
quite talented at it, and the Celts were no fools when it came to
accumulating vast amounts of money from the Greeks and Etruscans or seeing
how it could be used for building huge armies -- what stopped them when
they got back home with it if not for inter-tribal agreements to prevent
them being enslaved by a particularly able commander eventually -- a sort
of Celtic Alexander?

Cheers,

John


John's home page:
http://www.writer2001.com
Celtic Improvisations (the on line book):
http://www.writer2001.com/improvisations.htm
Celtic Coin Index On Line:
http://www.writer2001.com/cciwriter2001/index.htm

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