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Hi all,

forwarded from Irish Iron Age, here`s an interesting paper by Bettina Arnold
on Celtic feasting culture:

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> Power drinking in Iron Age Europe
> Iron Age leaders bolstered their claim to rule by giving feasts awash
> with prodigious quantities of booze, writes Bettina Arnold.
>
> At some time around 550 BC, a great leader was buried under a mound
> in what is now south-west Germany. The walls of his log cabin-style
> burial chamber were draped in fabric, and he was laid out on a
> decorated bronze couch covered with furs and other material.
>
> About him lay the trappings of wealth and power. The couch was held
> up by cast bronze human figures riding unicycles. Around the
> chieftain's neck lay a gold torc, and on his right wrist was a gold
> bracelet. His bronze belt plate and iron dagger were both decorated
> with sheet gold, as were his shoes. On his head he wore a conical hat
> made of birchbark. A quiver of arrows hung on the wall.
>
> Yet most impressive of all was the array of feasting and drinking
> equipment buried with him. Against one wall of the chamber stood a
> four-wheeled wagon laden with nine bronze plates and three bronze
> serving platters, as well as equipment for carving and serving large
> cuts of meat. Eight large drinking horns, probably from the now-
> extinct aurochs, were decorated with gold and hung from hooks in the
> wall, while a ninth horn - a tremendous thing capable of holding 10
> pints (5.5 litres) - hung over the chieftain's head.
>
> In one corner stood an enormous bronze cauldron with decorative cast
> bronze lions around the rim. Badly worn, and repaired several times,
> the cauldron had clearly enjoyed hearty use over a number of years.
> And inside, to accompany our chieftain to the Otherworld, it
> contained over 600 pints (350 litres) of mead. By the time the grave
> at Hochdorf near Stuttgart was excavated by Jg Biel in 1978-79, the
> mead had become a dark, shrunken, cake-like deposit in the bottom of
> the cauldron.
>
> The inclusion of feasting equipment, drinking horns, a cauldron and
> alcohol in this prince's tomb provides the clearest possible evidence
> for the importance of feasting in Iron Age Europe. Moreover the
> Hochdorf burial is far from unique. Every undisturbed, high status
> burial found on the Continent from the late Hallstatt and early La
> Tene periods (about 600-400 BC) contains feasting and drinking
> equipment. My own excavations last summer at a burial mound near
> Heuneburg in Germany produced yet another high-status grave with
> cauldron and spear points, sword and possibly a shield.
>
> Dispensing prodigious quantities of alcoholic drink to followers was
> an important part of the political career of a prehistoric leader in
> western Europe during this period. The archaeology is supported by
> documentary sources, not only near-contemporary classical texts such
> as Poseidonius (2nd century BC) but also later texts from Ireland and
> Wales reflecting the continuation of the tradition.
>
> These texts suggest that the ability to give feasts awash with
> alcoholic liquor was a key part of a leader's claim to rule. Such
> feasts might take place at inauguration ceremonies such as dynastic
> weddings, or to accompany the distribution of loot or booty from
> raids or trading expeditions.
>
> Feasts of various types - community feasts, work-party feasts given
> to reward workers for the completion of communal building projects,
> ritual or even 'political' feasts - have roots deep in prehistory.
>
> Read the rest at http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba57/feat2.html
>
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____________________________________________

Raimund Karl <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Research Fellow for European Archaeology
Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies
National Library of Wales
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Cymru, UK
SY23 3HH
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