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COLLOQUIA ANTIQUA

————— 1 —————

THE BLACK SEA, GREECE,


ANATOLIA AND EUROPE
IN THE FIRST MILLENNIUM BC

Edited by

GOCHA R. TSETSKHLADZE

PEETERS
LEUVEN – PARIS – WALPOLE, MA
2011

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction to the Series . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VII

Introduction to the Volume . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IX

List of Abbreviations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . XI

List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . XIII

CHAPTER 1 Ancient Thrace during the First Millennium BC


Nikola Theodossiev . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

CHAPTER 2 The Getae: Selected Questions


Alexandru Avram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

CHAPTER 3 The Black Sea: Between Asia and Europe


(Herodotus’ Approach to his Scythian Account)
J.G.F. Hind. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

CHAPTER 4 The Scythians: Three Essays


Gocha R. Tsetskhladze . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95

CHAPTER 5 The American-Ukrainian Scythian Kurgan Project, 2004–


2005: Preliminary Report
N.T. de Grummond, S.V. Polin, L.A. Chernich, M. Gleba
and M. Daragan
Skeletal Analyses: A.D. Kozak
Faunal Remains: O.P. Zhuravlev . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141

CHAPTER 6 Persia in Europe


John Boardman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195

CHAPTER 7 The Etruscan Impact on Ancient Europe


Larissa Bonfante . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203

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VI TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 8 Hallstatt Europe: Some Aspects of Religion and Social


Structure
Biba Terzan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233

CHAPTER 9 The Elusive Arts: The Study of Continental Early Celtic


Art since 1944
Ruth Megaw and Vincent Megaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265

CHAPTER 10 An Archaic Alphabet on a Thasian Kylix


M.A. Tiverios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317

CHAPTER 11 The Iron Age in Central Anatolia


Hermann Genz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331

CHAPTER 12 The Role of Jewellery in Ancient Societies


Iva Ondrejová. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 369

CHAPTER 13 The Mushroom, the Magi and the Keen-Sighted Seers


Claudia Sagona and Antonio Sagona . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 387

List of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 437

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 439

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS:
THE STUDY OF CONTINENTAL EARLY CELTIC ART SINCE
19441

Ruth MEGAW and Vincent MEGAW

Abstract
This survey begins, as all modern studies of early Celtic art must, with references to
the life and work of the classical archaeologist, Paul Ferdinand Jacobsthal. Borrowing
heavily from prior analysis by Rudolf Echt, a number of authors down to 2004 are
examined and their varying approaches to – and definition of – Celtic art discussed.
The difference between the methodology of those who are primarily art historians and
those who are archaeologists is highlighted. Since Jacobsthal, there has been half-a-
century of work but it remains true that by and large there has been little discussion of
general principles or of methodology which might today be deemed appropriate to the
study of early Celtic art. In conclusion, it is suggested that in addition to further detailed
technological studies, anthropologists of art may assist our still sketchy interpretations
by shedding further light on patterns of manufacture, distribution and exchange.

INTRODUCTION

Jan Bouzek’s scholarship has covered a huge range of topics in prehistoric and
classical archaeology as is clear from the bibliography for an earlier volume in
his honour (Eirene XXXI [1995], 167–83). It is a particular pleasure to write
for this collection since Jan and I have been friends and colleagues through
1
This paper owes a debt to many other contributors to this volume. Of necessity it is ‘a col-
lection of other men’s flowers’, as Stuart Piggott once wrote at the end of an undergraduate
essay, and our illustrations offer only the smallest sampling of the rich and diverse material we
are attempting to review. We must, however, thank in particular one scholar and long-time
friend, Prof. Dr Rudolf Echt, who has generously allowed us to pillage a major contribution of
his own (Echt 1999, especially. section 5.1), thereby proving yet again that scholarship is simply
plagiarism with footnotes. Our survey draws in part on earlier studies (R. Megaw and V. Megaw
1994; R. Megaw and V. Megaw 2001, 9–23) and the unpublished text of a lecture given in the
United States in 1996 on the occasion of the centenary of Fred Norris Robinson’s inauguration
of the teaching of Celtic studies at Harvard. It should be added that insular art is largely excluded
from our review and that, in order to keep what follows to a manageable length, works cited are
simply examples or, in our opinion, the most significant examples of various individuals’ output.
It should also be noted that, with a very few exceptions, we have not included works published
after September 2005 – the date of completion of our essay – but see the bibliographic footnote
on p. 305.

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266 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

many decades and many tumultuous events, meeting in many disparate parts
of the world. In the 1970s we drove out to the oppidum of Závist in his trusty
Trabi the better – and more securely – to discuss the current political situation,
while three decades later, we examined the tomb paintings of the Kazanlak
tholos before moving on to drink together a glass of good Bulgarian red.
Although this volume is largely devoted to broad regional overviews, we
have chosen instead a more limited survey, as much an account of the history
of ideas as a chronological account of the study of archaeological material;
earlier surveys have taken a broader review (for example De Navarro 1937;
Hawkes 1963). Our chosen field of necessity touches on both later prehistory
and the classical world and thus we trust that Jan may find something of inter-
est: he will certainly find something to debate.

THE GENESIS OF STUDYING AN ART WITH NO GENESIS

‘Celtic art has no genesis’ wrote Paul Ferdinand Jacobsthal in his Early Celtic
Art (1944, 158). Having been sacked from his post as Professor of Classical
Archaeology at Marburg, Jacobsthal was a refugee from Nazi Germany and
living in Oxford, and his is a work which, irrespective of any shortcomings,
remains of such quality that he ‘made his successors all his commentators’
(Hawkes 1963, 12) (Fig. 1). There have, however, been developments in the
years between its publication and its Golden Jubilee.
Following his dismissal ‘aus rassischen Grunden’, Jacobsthal and his wife
found academic refuge in Oxford under the patronage of another great figure
in classical archaeology, J.D. Beazley, through whom he obtained a position,
though virtually without salary, as College Lecturer at Christ Church in
1937. Ten years later he became Student and University Reader in Celtic
Archaeology.
In a memorial essay in the Proceedings of the 1983 Oxford meeting of the
International Congress of Celtic Studies, Martyn Jope (1986) percipiently
observes how rigidly self-circumscribed were Jacobsthal’s researches into
early Celtic art. Although he nowhere defines the term, Jacobsthal’s four
‘styles’, which are not chronological phases, commence around 500 BC with
the ‘Early style’, or styles associated with the rich warrior- and chariot graves
of the middle Rhineland and north-eastern France (Figs. 2, 5–6). These were
followed by, or more properly overlapped with, the late 4th century ‘Waldal-
gesheim style’ with its obvious affinities to stylised classical lyre or vine
motifs (Figs. 10–15). Third is the ‘Plastic style’, Plastic in the German sense
of ‘Plastik’, three-dimensional, a feature of disparate groups of material mostly

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 267

Fig. 1. Paul Ferdinand Jacobsthal (1880–1957) in his room in the Philipps-Univer-


sität, Marburg ca.1934 (photograph: H. Möbius, Archäologisches Seminar, Marburg).

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268 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 2. Kleinaspergle, Kr. Ludwigsburg. Attic stemless cup by the Amymone Painter
with La Tène gold leaf additions ca. 450 BC. Maximum diameter 220 mm.
Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart.

of 3rd- and early 2nd-century date (Figs. 16–18). Finally there is the ‘Sword
style’, regarded today as more properly several regional styles. In these
engraved designs continued a now largely asymmetric use of plant motifs,
which took their artistic cues from elements of the ‘Waldalgesheim’, now fre-
quently named ‘Vegetal’ style and, like the ‘Vegetal’, provided in turn the
inspiration for the development of the earliest insular Celtic art.
As a classical archaeologist, Jacobsthal, like his friend Beazley who had
established individual ‘hands’ amongst the classical vase-makers and painters of
ancient Greece through minute observation of their design details, was particu-
larly interested in observation of the formative processes of early Celtic art. Not
for him its wider cultural implications and certainly nothing of its possible rela-
tionship to Celtic languages and literature and, of course, there is total silence in
Jacobsthal’s writings on the now fashionable debate concerning the existence or
non-existence of a prehistoric Celtic ethnicity. There are also classes of material

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 269

Fig. 3. Glauberg bei-Glauburg-Glauberg, Wetteraukreis. Sandstone figure from


beside warrior grave 1. La Tène A, later 5th century BC. Height 1.86 m. Hessisches
Landesmuseum, Darmstadt (photograph: U. Seitz-Gray, Frankfurt).

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270 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 4. Horovicky, okr. Rakovník. Detail of bronze on iron harness disc from chariot
grave. La Tène A, later 5th century BC. Total diameter 120 mm. Narodní Muzeum,
Prague.

Fig. 5. Somme-Bionne, ‘L’Homme Mort’, Marne. Bronze disc from chariot grave.
La Tène A, last quarter 5th century BC. Diameter 69 mm. The British Museum,
London.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 271

Fig. 6. Cuperly, ‘Le Grammonerie’, Marne. Coll. Fourdrignier.


Bronze disc from chariot grave. La Tène A, late 5th century BC. Diameter 108 mm.
Musée des Antiquités Nationales, St-Germain-en-Laye.

Fig. 7. Gemeinlebarn, Schneiderweg, grave 82. Detail of decoration on


Linsenflasche. La Tène A. Maximum diameter 240 mm. Museum Nussdorf
(photograph: A. Schumacher).

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272 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 8. Dürrnberg-bei-Hallein, Ld. Salzburg, Eiselfeld, grave 70/2. Collection of


seven bronze brooches from the burial of a young woman. La Tène A, 5th century
BC. Length of bird brooch 31 mm. Salzburger Museum Carolino Augusteum,
Salzburg (photograph: A. Coreth, Salzburg).

with which Jacobsthal did not engage. His view of what the art historian might
term craft – a false division if ever there was one outside our own modern
society – resulted in scant attention being paid to decorated pottery. Glass was
entirely ignored since Jacobsthal noted that ‘it was of little value for my pur-
pose’ (Jacobsthal 1944, v). On the other hand, no one has bettered Jacobsthal’s
eye for the differences between this barbarian art – to use again his term – and
that of the contemporary classical world or described more clearly the basic
stylistic differences.
Jacobsthal also had a sense of the whimsical. Every Christmas, he and Bea-
zley would exchange greetings in the form of mini-essays on topics of com-
mon interest. In 1957, in what was to be the last of the Jacobsthal-Beazley
Festschriften, Jacobsthal conjured up the figure of ‘Leopold Bloom the Sec-
ond, a Hungarian sword-scabbard maker who had immigrated to Ireland’. This
was not simply a reference to James Joyce, but the first hint of a developed
argument linking the decorated sword scabbards of northern Ireland and north-
eastern England with those of Middle La Tène in Central Europe – Jacob-
sthal’s over-restrictively labelled ‘Hungarian sword style’. This was not fully
discussed until later, in the studies of the Irish sword scabbards by Barry Raf-
tery, like his father a graduate of Marburg (Raftery 1984, 75–107; 1994), and
in Martyn Jope’s completion of the project Jacobsthal had planned as the
sequel to Early Celtic Art (Jope 2000, especially 30–35).

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 273

Fig. 9. Grotte des Perrats, Agris, Charente. Bronze and iron jelmet covered
with gold and with coral insets. La Tène A2/B1, mid- to late 4th century BC.
Diameter 230 mm. Musée des Beaux Arts, Angoulême,

Jacobsthal’s ability to conjure up telling imagery occurs in his Sir John


Rhys lecture for 1941, a prelude to Early Celtic Art. Here Jacobsthal laid out
the characteristics of his late 4th-century BC Waldalgesheim style, which
seems to have immediately preceded that of the continental sword engravers.
Jacobsthal noted the subtle Celtic artist’s love of ambiguity and the visual
double entendre, and described the allusive imagery where the eye is drawn

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274 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 10. Waldalgesheim,


Kr. Mainz-Bingen. Derail of one of a
pair of gold armlets. Diameter 65 mm.
Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn
(photograph: J.V.S. Megaw).

‘into the mechanism of dreams where things have floating contours and pass
into other things’ (Jacobsthal 1941, 308). This suggested Jacobsthal, evoking
Lewis Carroll’s excursion into verbal and visual surrealism, could be consid-
ered the ‘Cheshire [Cat] Style’— now you see the face, and now you don’t
(Fig.12). In 1966 when one of us published his first extended essay on the
human face and early Celtic art, he was so taken with the analogy that he went
one step further and perceived ‘a Disney-like abstraction’ in a small group of
3rd-century BC cast bronzes, objects more or less contemporary with the his-
torically attested incursions into the Balkans and beyond (Fig.16). Having pre-
viously drawn attention to a Disney-like abstraction (V. Megaw 1962, 24) in the
manner by which a face is broken down into a number of curvilinear elements,

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 275

Fig. 11. Épiais-Rgus, Val-d’Oise. Mouth of fragmentary bronze scabbard.


Width 51mm. La Tène B1, late 4th century BC. Musée Archéologique Départmental,
du Val-d’Oise, Guiry-en-Vexin (photograph: L. Uran, IRRAP).

the concept of the ‘Mickey Mouse style’ was introduced into early Celtic art
studies: ‘here divorced from the whole, no single detail of the drawing is essen-
tially mouse-ish but the total image is immediately recognisable’ (V. Megaw
1966, 124) (Fig.16). Formalised into the ‘Disney Style’ (translated into German
as das Disney Stil) it becomes more academically acceptable but is still consid-
ered too frivolous by some (Jope 1971). Nonetheless, study of the Jacobsthal

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276 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 12. Filottrano, Santa Paolina, grave 22. Detail of bronze sword scabbard.
La Tène B1, late 4th century BC. Length (of detail) ca. 75 mm. Museo Nazionale
delle Marche, Ancona (photograph: Univers des Formes, Paris).

Fig. 13. Dürrnberg-bei-Hallein, Ramsautal. Detail of pottery stamps. La Tène B1,


late 4th century BC. Height of stamp ca.10 mm. Salzburger Museum Carolino
Augusteum, Salzburg (photograph: J.V.S. Megaw).

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 277

Fig. 14. Komjatice, okr. Surany, grave 1. Detail of pottery stamps.


La Tène B1/B2, late 4th/early 3rd century BC. Archeologicky ústav SAV, Nitra
(photograph: F. Schwappach).

Fig. 15. Palazzo Zabelli, Padua. Basal sherd with stamp. Diameter 74 mm.
La Tène B1, late 4th century BC. Museo Nazionale Atestino, Este.

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278 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 16. Paris. Head of bronze covered iron linch pin. Width 85 mm. La Tène B2,
earlier part of 3rd century BC. Musée des Antiquités Nationales, St-Germain-en-Laye
(photograph: I. Kitlitschka-Stempel).

Fig. 17. ‘La Fosse Cotheret’, Roissy, Val-d’Oise. Head of bronze covered linch pin
from one of two chariot graves. Width 65 mm. La Tène B2, earlier 3rd century BC.
Musée des Anriquités Nationales, St-Germain-en-Laye (photograph: J.V.S. Megaw).

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 279

Fig. 18. Mal-tepe, Mezek. Detail of bronze-covered linch pin from secondary chariot
grave found in entrance of a tholos tomb. Width 72.5 mm. La Tène B2, earlier
3rd century BC. Narodnija Archeologicheski Muzej, Sofia (photograph: R. Staneva).

archives in the Institute of Archaeology of Oxford did, however, lead to the


discovery of a cutting of a Disney strip-cartoon from the Sunday Graphic for
26 November 1939. It seems yet again that Jacobsthal has provided a precedent
for later scholars (V. Megaw and R. Megaw 1998b).
One cannot help admiring Jacobsthal’s analysis of this ‘barbarian art’ and
his brilliant manipulation of a language which was not his own. However,
Jacobsthal, the refugee Jewish intellectual, was after all an outsider engaged in
analysing the art of an outsider culture. One of the more bizarre periods of his
later life started when on 5 July 1940 he was arrested as an enemy alien. As he
described it a year later, having been interrupted in his Christ Church rooms
‘while writing on Celtic Geometric ornament’, he was interned on the Isle of
Man, there to spend the next three months organising ‘Kultur for the polloi’
and planning for the creation of a German Manx University – Jacobsthal does
certainly come across in his own unpublished account of this period as some-
thing of a cultural snob.2

2
As yet there is no really adequate biography of Jacobsthal; the fullest is to be found in
Schefold (1977), while in English Jope (1986) is a much briefer account of his life. Some other

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280 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Before considering the study of Celtic art after Jacobsthal – and like him, we
shall restrict our review to the Early and Middle periods of the La Tène culture
as conventionally ordered – we should further examine the varying responses
to the basic question: ‘What is Celtic art?’ This is a question which has been
posed by Jacobsthal and certainly by many since – albeit that one of our ster-
nest critics has maintained that Celtic art ‘is an immediate, rough and ready
description but it has no explanatory value’ (Taylor 1995). We make no apolo-
gies that most of our examples are taken from English authors or those writing
in English, since – with some exceptions – it is these which contain the most
eloquent statements on the subject. Indeed, there is a long history of British
concern with Celtic art.
In 1863, the same year as Ferdinand Keller’s interpretation the site of La
Tène as the remains of a Celtic village of pile dwellings related with the Hel-
vetii, Augustus Wollaston Franks, in his commentary to John Kemble’s post-
humous Horae ferales or Studies in the Archaeology of the Northern Nations,
referred to a collection of insular metalwork as ‘Late Celtic’ with continental
antecedents; indeed Horae ferales may be claimed as the first study of early
Celtic art in Britain, even more important for the way in which insular prod-
ucts were placed in a wider European context. In 1890 John Evans, who had
instigated excavations at Hallstatt in 1866, and his son Arthur excavated a
cremation cemetery at Aylesford in Kent which they identified as ‘Late Celtic’
and also as showing connections with the Continent, notably in the famous
bronze-bound stave bucket from cremation grave Y. In 1895 Arthur Evans
gave the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Rhind Lectures, entitling them
‘The Origins of Celtic Art’, a series which, had it ever been published, would
stand fair comparison with many more recent overviews. In his lectures, Evans
detected in the development of the art of the second, La Tène, phase of the
Iron Age not only Etruscan but placed particular emphasis on the art of the
Venetic region and Archaic as well as Classical Greek influences and other
Eastern elements which he regarded as having been transmitted through Scyth-

sources are cited in V. Megaw and R. Megaw (1998). The typescript account of Jacobsthal’s
period of internment in 1940 referred to in our note is held in the archives of his old college,
Christ Church, Oxford. It is inscribed and dated ‘January 18th 1941 With the writer’s compli-
ments’ and has been reproduced twice (in Kochan 1983; Cooper 1992). For assistance in track-
ing down this memorial we are indebted to Miriam Kochan and Judith Curthoys, Archivist of
Christ Church where the typescript is catalogued OP xx.c.1; there is also correspondence con-
cerning attempts to obtain British citizenship for Jacobsthal. We have also been able to study the
Jacobsthal Archive held in the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford as well as related material in
the Beazley Archive in the Ashmolean Museum.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 281

ian art. As we shall comment further below, Otto-Herman Frey’s Rhind Lec-
tures, given in 1977–78 under the title of ‘Pre-Roman Celtic Art’, and also,
alas, unpublished, contained more than an echo of his predecessor.
For Jacobsthal, as Rudolf Echt (1999, 237–38) has written:
La-Tène art [was] simply Celtic art. The Celts are a people who have not achieved
state formation but nevertheless possess ‘a culture which is remarkably uniform
over wide areas in the forms of its utensils and jewellery’. That is the old concept
of culture [where culture] is conceived of purely in material terms, as an associa-
tion of forms and types. The question of the connection between La Tène culture
and the La Tène style has not yet been posed. Jacobsthal is for the time being
involved in analysing individual patterns and motifs and then tracing the sources
of the style. His programme consists of ‘first of all writing a grammar of the lan-
guage which is to be decoded’ (Jacobsthal 1934, 17–18).
In Early Celtic Art, written and published in Oxford a decade later, his think-
ing had advanced:
The concept ‘La Tène’ occurs now and then in Jacobsthal’s text, mostly as syn-
onymous with ‘in Hallstatt or La Tène times’. But [‘La Tène’] does not play any
role as a term for either a culture or a stylistic concept. [Jacobsthal] does not
speak of a La Tène culture, much less of a La Tène style. In its place he has, in a
logically consistent continuation of the initial concept first mooted in 1934, used
the terms ‘Celts’ and ‘Celtic’. The distribution area of the La Tène culture is
called ‘the Celtic domain’, and since the Celts created La Tène art it is called
‘Celtic art’. In his choice of words Jacobsthal deliberately sets himself apart from
the usual terms of pre- and proto-history. He manipulates his system masterfully
over a wide area, but gets into difficulties – and perhaps not only conceptual dif-
ficulties – when he compares the Hallstatt style with that of La Tène.3
Echt himself then offers a definitional overview which is as masterly as that of
his subject:
Since Paul Renecke [in the early decades of the 20th century], La Tène research
did not make advances similar to that resulting from the publication of Early
Celtic Art. [In Jacobsthal’s book] for the first time La Tène style was comprehen-
sively acknowledged as the creative achievement of the La Tène culture. Although
Jacobsthal repeatedly demonstrates the Mediterranean foundations of La Tène art
in the objects discussed – ‘the foreign models are unmistakable and can be exactly
traced’ (Jacobsthal 1944, 103) – it is not the reception of foreign elements which
is the focus of his study. The issue is rather the formative principles of La Tène
art itself, recognising its uniqueness. Meticulously exact analysis of the patterns
and their syntax leads to completely new insights into the nature of La Tène art,
precisely in comparison with those Classical works which stimulated its birth: ‘A
classic work is the image of things after they have gone through a process of

3
For the sake of consistency, quotations from Echt’s text have been translated into English
throughout; we are indebted to Lois Zweck for her linguistic assistance.

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282 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

distillation; a classic form is the result of abstraction of all that is inessential to a


Greek mind, it exhibits the pure idea. A Greek perceived the organic structure of
a plant, the law behind the puzzling multiformity. A Celt did not care what lay
below the surface; he did not take the surface as accidental, obscuring the idea of
a tree or a plant; he was attracted by their wild weird forms, reflecting the dark
and mighty power of Nature who reveals herself when the buds burst in spring-
time, when the storm tosses the gnarled trees’ (Jacobsthal 1944, 97). In dividing
La Tène art into four ‘styles’ Jacobsthal orients himself by their own nature, their
own formative principles. It is not the Mediterranean substrata of differing ages
– although these are emphatically established – which lead him to distinguish the
Early Style from the Waldalgesheim Style but rather the change in syntax: in the
former enigmatic ambivalence in the patterns, in the latter the firmness of the
clear tendril pattern – as well as the change in basic tenor: in the former dignified
gravity and darkness, in the latter calm and balance (Echt 1999, 238).
But what of others? Nancy Sandars, in a just as beautifully written, but
rarely referred to general survey of European prehistoric art first published in
1968, begins her review of the later Iron Age thus:
The Celtic La Tène art of the last four centuries B.C…. is perhaps one of the
oddest and most unlikely things to have come out of a barbarous continent. Its
particular refinement, delicacy and equilibrium are hardly what one would expect
of men who were… savage, cruel and often disgusting….Not all art in barbarian
Europe in these centuries was La Tène art… but no other approaches the sig-
nificance of La Tène, which is more professional, surer of itself, appearing to
accomplish time after time what it set out to do; and yet so unpredictable and
idiosyncratic, so exactly poised and consistent, telling much and concealing
much, anti-classical yet as disciplined as the best classical art. It is too limited
perhaps to be really great, yet it has an extraordinary toughness and persistence,
so that it lives on through the Middle Ages, where it lies concealed, a source of
tension, an invisible pole, even when apparently obsolete and forgotten (Sandars
1985, 341).

There is perhaps too much reference to the ‘barbarian’, that which is ‘too lim-
ited’ in comparison, one assumes, with High Art but Sandars makes quite clear
her opinion of her material: ‘a book written about prehistoric art is neither art
history nor prehistory’ and makes no claim to offer ‘an escape from the prob-
lematic and speculative’ (Sandars 1985, 9).
Chronologically, the next published statement is our own book, Art of the
European Iron Age: a Study of the Elusive Image (1970), based on a doctoral
thesis which shamefully was never completed. The main argument of the book,
strongly influenced by perception psychology and the writings of Ernst Gombrich
(see also V. Megaw 1985), was to demonstrate the varying representations of the
human face, which it was claimed occurred widely, often in a visually encoded
form, in Celtic art. This was supported by the later accounts of Celtic religion
where the human head was considered not only to be the centre of the intellect but

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 283

of the very soul of the individual. In this we were not wholly successful, one
kindly but stern critic designated the study as showing ‘how unsatisfactory it can
be to design a book on a major subject of this sort as a string of annotations to the
individual items illustrated, not adequately coordinated through a closely rea-
soned text’ (Jope 1971)! Be that as it may, on this occasion our own attempt to
define Celtic art ran as follows:
Only in a minority of examples is it possible to trace copyings or, in detail, adap-
tations of introduced motifs. Equally, though Celtic art has been considered to be
essentially aniconic, it should also be regarded as basically religious. Again, Iron
Age art is not cyclical, in the sense that it neither progresses entirely from a more
linear type of representation to a more pictorial or three-dimensional style, nor is
it progressively more naturalistic. It would seem that the Iron Age craftsman,
altering little in his choice of themes, had a closely defined basic artistic voca-
bulary which allows ready perception of the ‘minimum clues’ of expression
(V. Megaw 1970a, 22).

The passage continues with reference to ‘these clues of expression, of pattern-


ing with a bias towards freehand symmetry which is not quite symmetrical, in
allusions to naturalistic forms within the discipline of an essentially geometric
and abstract method of composition’, and the section concludes with the
repeated statement: ‘Iron Age and particularly La Tène art is predominantly a
religious art’ (V. Megaw 1970a, 38).
Ian Finlay, former Director of the Royal Scottish Museum and an expert in
fine metalwork, especially that of Scotland, understandably sees the Iron Age
artist as a living, breathing individual and not simply as a collection of arte-
facts, however fine:
He is the eternal rebel not only against established authority but against cold
reason… He is a man who feels rather than calculates.. His apparent lack of
tectonic ability and his seeming aversion to the human image are two failings
which have prejudiced his position as an artist in the sight of the western world…
I have heard doubts expressed about the importance of the symbolism on the
grounds that the ‘symbols’ have a direct aesthetic appeal and that this art needs
no apology. I am not prepared to believe, however, that this or the art of any
ancient people is without a profound and deliberate significance, or that aesthetic
appeal was more than a secondary matter with them… There is an uncanny
power in a symbol that no amount of pictorial allusion can compete with, and if
it is executed by a dedicated master it is worthy to be called a masterpiece in any
company. In the same way the mystical significance of purely abstract forms
may still be greater to a Celt than to anyone exposed only to the humanist tradi-
tion (Finlay 1973, 19–20).

Reading this today the no longer acceptable gender-specific language jars –


although in an Iron Age context there are grounds for regarding this as
appropriate. Very different approaches were also current. Two years after the

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284 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

publication of Finlay’s book an important lecture was presented at a Leices-


ter conference (Greenhalgh and V. Megaw 1978). Had it been published, it
would justly have been heralded as a major position paper in the study of
Celtic art. Mansel Spratling, one of the Lost Boys of Celtic art, re-examined
such overviews of the subject as were then available. He commented how
little in-depth analysis of the nature of Celtic art existed, writing that:
Definitions in the Celts’ own terms is (sic) clearly precluded, while any definition
of our own, however made – even supposing that we would agree on the ‘cut-off
points’ distinguishing art from non-art on the usual criteria employed in defining
art…– may well be deceptive.. it is clear that any attempt to isolate a particular
category of their material culture as art would either be unsuccessful or, if appar-
ently successful, highly spurious… The assumption, rather than demonstration,
that art is a readily distinguishable category of La Tène material culture has led,
to a greater or lesser extent, to the abstraction of artefacts from their contexts, and
patterns and motifs from the objects they embellish, not merely for procedural
reasons in analysis, but also in matters of interpretation (Spratling 1973).
In 1977, Paul-Marie Duval, ‘le Mâitre’, the Godfather of French Celtic art
studies, published his own major overview of the field where the sumptuous-
ness of the illustrations almost distracts one from the text. He too sees the
Celtic religious beliefs system to be a key element and continues:
L’art celtique illustré… un certain aspect de la création des formes, qui existe aussi
dans des civilisations différentes, à travers l’espace et le temps. Le Celte, travaillant
sur le champ étroit des objets, recrée procédés et recettes pour déjouer les contrain-
tes, a recours aux déformations que facilite la ligne courbe. D’autres avaient
inventé ce procédé avant lui, d’autres croiront le trouver après lui. Si d’aventure il
s’inspire du monde animal, il choisit alors avec une sorte d’abstraction les traits
essentiels, schématisés souvent jusqu’a la caricature: autre façon d’échapper à
l’imitation. C’est par une tendance permanente de l’esprit humain, celle qui le
détourne du monde extérieur, pour projecter dans ses oeuvres ses propres inven-
tions, que les Celtes on accédé à l’oeuvre d’art (Duval 1977, 9–10).
We shall refer later to Duval’s periodisation of early Celtic art; for the present
here is a much later evocation of what he regarded as ‘uniquely Celtic’ in
Celtic art written for the great 1991 Venice exhibition, ‘I Celti’:
Among the great works of the ancient world, many stand out as being uniquely
Celtic. This art was developed in a temperate climate that fostered a sense of the
mysterious allure of the forest and its powerful animals… In their representations
the Celts showed a clear preference for tribal goddesses, powerful beasts, imagi-
nary monsters, strangely stylised animals and twisting, intertwined plants while
the male figure was all but ignored (Duval 1991, 27).
Like other writers Duval, while continuing to use ‘Celts’ and ‘Celtic’ as givens,
emphasises the use of borrowed stylised plant motifs. Almost unique amongst
students of Celtic art here and elsewhere he drew attention to the relationships

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 285

between Celtic coinage and other aspects of Iron Age art; there is no doubt but
that the integration of numismatic studies within the general field of early
Celtic art is long overdue (see also Duval 1987; Gruel 2003).
As an antidote to so much evocative writing, Ian Stead, who through the
detailed analysis of the artefactual evidence has done as much as anyone to
advance the study of insular art, begins his own overview of Celtic art in Brit-
ain – first published in 1985 – with a warning:
Sensitive and appreciative modern writers have made valiant efforts to interpret
[Celtic art’s] meaning, but the imagination of modern man is an unreliable guide
to the aims, beliefs and feelings of his primitive forebears. Only the Celtic artist
and his patrons could explain Celtic art, and as they never set pen to paper the
knowledge died with them (Stead 1996, 7).

This stern warning was seemingly ignored by Jope, delivering the Sir John
Rhys lecture in 1987 some 45 years after Jacobsthal. With the subtitle ‘Expres-
siveness and communication through 2500 years’, he presented what was in
fact a preliminary sketch for his own magnum opus (Jope 2000) but was also
an argument espousing une longue durée for Celtic art through identification
of certain perceived continuous threads in which key features were a unique
approach to the representation of the human head and use of what he terms the
unnatural ‘through-composed line‘ in the representation of living forms. ‘Celtic
art’ he states, ‘arose in the fifth century BC as a reaction, a dissent from staid-
ness in much of the native (the “Hallstatt arts”), Greek and Italic ornamental
traditions’ (Jope 1987, 98–99).
Moving to perhaps more solid definitional ground and given the emphasis
Jacobsthal put on the careful study of individual motifs in early Celtic art and
in establishing ‘a Grammar of Celtic ornament’ (Jacobsthal 1944, 60–105 and
pls. 261–279), it is salutary to compare a practising artist’s analysis:
Among the motifs which appear in the art of Europe as a result of influences
from, and trade with, [Etruria and Greece] were sphinxes, griffons, bulls and
lions. It was, however, the subsidiary and supporting borders of palmette and
lotus motifs which became the subject of vigorous development by the Celtic
tribes…A distinctive Celtic style emerged as designs developed more abstract
forms, in which paired and opposed scrolls became a dominant motif with a
strong emphasis on diagonals and triangles. The ingenious way in which three
linked scrolls are manipulated is the most typical single feature of Celtic art.
A tendency to ambiguity is another characteristic of this art. There is often doubt
about the real nature of a motif: whether a curving lobe is a leaf or a fleshy scroll,
or whether a face is a face, or merely a juxtaposition of leaves and scrolls which
ambiguously suggests eyes and nose. Likewise, complicated designs obscure the
regular compass-drawn grids on which patterns are constructed. There may also be
an ambivalence between patterns and their background (Wilson 1994, 156–57).

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286 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Stead, collaborating with an artist, produced another pattern-book in which,


typically stripped of the more fanciful turn of phrase, he gives his own defini-
tion – or rather description – of early Celtic art:
The classical, oriental and geometric aspects of early Celtic art interrelate and
integrate and are sometimes found together on a single artefact. They are compo-
nents of an art style that, once established, evolved gradually over the centuries,
accepting new influences, achieving different emphases and varying in different
regional centres. In eastern France, in contrast to the dissected patterns typical of
the Rhineland, continuous flowing patterns developed. Also based especially on
palmettes and lotus flowers, here the various elements were liked by S-scrolls,
lotus leaves or tendrils (Stead and Hughes 1997, 11).
Writers on the Continent were not silent in the later decades of the last cen-
tury and we shall have to say more of the one who most deserves to be regarded
as Jacobsthal’s heir – though as was commented in a review of our 1970 study,
‘Jacobsthals Erben es nicht leicht’ (Driehaus 1972, 613) – Frey. Despite the
absence of a printed version of his own Rhind Lectures, he has contributed to
the literature published summaries and overviews of many aspects of Iron Age
art, not just limiting himself to the La Tène cultural phase (for example Frey
1991; 1993; 1994; 1998; 2002). As an example of Frey’s thinking we may
quote the beginning of an essay on Celtic imagery:
Mit der Wende von der Hallstatt- zur Latènezeit in 5. Jh. v. Chr. Erscheint im
keltischen Kunsthadwek rine Füllr neuer Bildmotive, die uns – wenn auch noch
verhangen und undeutlich – einen Zugang zur Vorstellunswelt der alten Bewoh-
ner Mitteleuropas eröffnen Die Bezeichnung ‘neu’ mag in gewisser Weise irre-
führend sein. Denn teilweise handelt es sich um Bildzeichen, die schon in der
vorangehenden Epoche wurzeln und nur jetz eine neue Darstellungsform finden
(Frey 1994, 153).
But one looks in vain in these lines for a succinct definition; it may be argued
that the material hardly lends itself to such a definition, but instead, as we
shall see, one is lead by Frey to follow the routes by which external influ-
ences were introduced into the Celtic world. Indeed, Frey’s contribution to
the definitive publication – a century and a half after its discovery – of the
Waldalgesheim ‘princess’s chariot grave (Frey 1995a) (Fig.10), offers some
interesting thoughts on just how, when and where the genesis of early La
Tène art occurred. He points out that the tradition of fine gold-working was
already a key aspect of the aristocratic products of the Hallstatt period. Med-
iterranean luxury goods were available and provided a ready, if novel, visual
vocabulary to which local craftsmen soon added a conspicuously Celtic
accent. Frey suggests that there were workshops where a number of craftsmen
worked together, as evidenced by the occurrence of similar motifs on objects
of different materials.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 287

It must be admitted that our own definitional abilities to make clear either
what we consider ‘art’ to be or what is ‘Celtic’ about ‘Celtic’ art have also
been called into question (Taylor 1991, 129). Notwithstanding, we open both
editions of our Celtic Art from its Beginnings to the Book of Kells with the
following:
[Celtic art] encompasses elements of decoration beyond those necessary for func-
tional utility, though these elements represent a form of symbolic visual communica-
tion which is only partially accessible to us’ (V. Megaw and R. Megaw 2001, 18).

Elsewhere, in an essay marking half a century since Jacobsthal’s Early Celtic


Art, we added a further gloss:
A working definition is therefore that [art] consists of those elements which are not
of primary importance to the material function of an artefact: e.g. the engraving of
a sword scabbard, the addition of a human or an animal head to a flagon or an axle
linch-pin, or the extraordinary real, composite or mythical beasts found on early La
Tène fibulae [Fig. 8]; these items are taken to be part of a symbolic language, with
its own vocabulary and syntax’ (R. Megaw and V. Megaw 1994, 296).

In two regards – the essentially religious nature of Celtic art and its role as a
form of visual language – we have been followed by in many ways, despite a
number of minor errors, by the best of several shorter introductions to the sub-
ject which have appeared in recent years (Green 1996).
It is only proper that we should return to the Continent for a last example in
this section of our survey. Christiane Éluère’s massive L’art des Celtes, a wor-
thy replacement for Duval’s 1977 volume, follows on her publications, both
general and scientific, on prehistoric gold (for example Éluere 1987; 1989)
(Fig. 9). Éluere frames her definitions as a series of answers to questions:
Est-il possible d’élaborer un synthèse sur les Celtes à travers les rapports à l’art,
seul témoignage à la fois matériel et spirituel qu’il nous reste vraiment de leur
longue aventure? Les nombreuses découvertes archéologiques, révélations de tré-
sors intimement liés à des mythes complexes présents d’un bout à l’autre du ter-
ritoire, de l’Atlantique à l’Asie Mineure, sont, avec quelques inscriptions, la
source essentielle d’information sur ces peuples des très ancienne et vénérable
tradition orale,
Comment cette marque indélébile de l’âme des Celtes passé-t-elle des œuvres
d’un art populaire païen pour s’infiltrer dans l’art chrétien insulaire, dans la litté-
rature, les parlers qui se perpétuent encore de nos jours parmi quelque deux mil-
lions des habitants des régions de l’Ouest?
Quelle est la signification que nous pouvons donner à l’art des Celtes? Un art
décorative, certes mais probablement bien plus. Quelle importance accorder à
l’aspect religieux ou magique, à l’héritage du premier âge du fer, à l’inspiration
méditerranéenne? (Éluere 2004, 14).

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288 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

ART HISTORY OR ARCHAEOLOGY?

As noted at the outset, a detailed review of recent developments in continental


Iron Age studies must remain beyond the scope of our review. This has in any
case once again been largely covered by Echt (1999), particularly with regard
to the culture history model which, despite the best efforts of many of the
younger generation of archaeologists, is a ghost from the past which, particu-
larly on the Continent, refuses to vanish (for example, see the various regional
studies in Kruta et al. 1991; Green 1995; and, in more detail, Szabó 1992;
Drda and Rybová 1995; Rieckhoff and Biel 2001).
The path which art-historical research into the European Iron Age was taken
by Jacobsthal and by most and since – and this has remained largely art-histor-
ical research – remains to be outlined. Suffice to comment that Jacobsthal re-
applied to the material he studied the best principles of Continental and British
art historians particularly of the Classical world, as we have already noted
concentrating on the morphology of style elements which he set out in his
‘Grammar of Celtic ornament’ (Jacobsthal 1944, 60–105). After all it was, as
he himself wrote, the classical imports into the barbarian world which first
attracted him to Celtic art:
One day in the cold and hungry winter of 1921 when I was studying Greek vases
in Stuttgart, I was attracted by the painted Attic cup from the Klein Aspergle
chieftain-grave, not because of its beauty or importance for the history of Greek
vase-painting… what struck me was the fact that a Greek cup had been found in
this Hyporborean country, and the gold plaques of a strange style mounted on it
(Jacobsthal 1944, vi) (Fig. 2).
Like Jacobsthal, many later writers have also received a major grounding in
classical archaeology and ancient history (R. Megaw and V. Megaw 1994, 288–
90), a background which can sometimes lead to seeing La Tène art primarily in
terms of its relationship with that of the ancient world. Jacobsthal was however
the first to demonstrate just how foreign, how ‘Celtic’ were La Tène adaptations,
deconstructions and reconstructions of classical plant motifs through a detailed
study of the morphology of their pattern-making, a view in which he was to be
followed by many later writers (for example Frey 1976; Frey and Schwappach
1973; Verger 1987). Nowhere, however did Jacobsthal deal in any detail with
the concept of ‘style’ as opposed to ‘pattern’; for him ‘style’ was essentially
defined by form. Contrast this with Echt’s view that ‘style is in the first instance
the technical, semantic, and formal individuality of a single work of art, which
bears the imprint of its maker’s personality. To elaborate, this concept of style
designates the personality of a single artistic individual’ (Echt 1999, 255).4 With

4
Among the many definitions of ‘style’, we have tended to the view that style consists in the
precise combination of technological and iconographic elements to produce a particular form or

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 289

Jacobsthal, though his styles are meant to be defined both by time and space,
there seems to be some ambiguity in how best to consider his ‘Early’, ‘Waldal-
gesheim’, ‘Plastic’ (in the German sense of modelled or three-dimensional) and
‘Sword’ ‘styles’, the first of which is patently not a uniform grouping and the
last of which can best be seen as a series of regional sub-styles which occur on
many objects which are not swords – or rather sword scabbards.
The first to attempt to build on the foundations laid by Jacobsthal was the
Basel-based classical archaeologist Karl Schefold. In a review article which
represents one of the few in-depth critiques of Jacobsthal (1944) to have
appeared (see also Hawkes 1947), Schefold (1953) took as his starting point a
parallel development of style in Greece and among the Celts, and outlined a
tripartite division of the Early Style. Following what were observed to be
traces of Greek stylistic developments in La Tène art he differentiated within
the Early Style a ‘severe’ phase analogous to the Greek high classical, a ‘rich’
phase analogous to the rich style of Greek late classicism between 420 and 380
BC, and a ‘contrast’ phase analogous to the ‘plain’ style of Greek art in the
second quarter of the 4th century. One finds an echo of this in Paul-Marie
Duval’s (1977) periodisation where in which he set out an evolutionary series
commencing with an early ‘strict’ style followed by a ‘free style’ to a ‘free
graphic style – more or less equivalent to Jacobsthal’s Waldalgesheim and
Sword styles – and ending with a ‘free plastic style’.

THE GROWTH OF THE VEGETAL STYLE

While Schefold’s attempt at a refined classification of early Celtic art was


basically flawed, since it depended on a strict parallel development between
Greek and La Tène art, in principle Schefold’s idea that Jacobsthal’s Early
style could and should be chronologically subdivided was right. And here has
been the major contribution of Frey. Even before his joining the Vorgeschich-
tliches Seminar at Marburg – from which Jacobsthal had been removed in
1935 but which after the Second World War under Wolfgang Dehn became
the major centre for Iron Age studies in Europe – Frey identified a small
number of early works which Jacobsthal had assigned to his Waldalgesheim
style. Frey had come to Celtic art through his study of Etruscan Schnabel-
kanne, for about a century from 550 BC the most favoured prestige item north

effect (R. Megaw and V. Megaw 2001, 20), or, as an anthropologist has expressed it, ‘style’
refers to the formal qualities of a work of art and there is ample evidence for the co-existence
within one culture of two or more styles: ‘Style is one of the necessary components of visual
communication but.. like other components … it acquires special qualities when it becomes part
of art’ (Layton 1981, 170–71).

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290 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

of the Alps; his doctoral thesis was concerned with the contemporary ‘situla
art’ of the Atestine region – the same material which had attracted the atten-
tion of Arthur Evans a century earlier (Frey 1998, 1). Frey assigned this post-
‘Early’ style intermediary phase to around the mid-4th century BC, immedi-
ately preceding the Waldalgesheim style. Frey assumed that this group
originated in the Marne region; central to his argument was the unprovenanced
Etruscan beaked flagon now in Besançon with its engraved ornament added by
a native La Tène craftsman (Frey 1955).
Twenty years later, Frey (1976) divided Jacobsthal’s Early style into three
variants. On the basis of the engraved ornament on the spouted flagon from the
Reinheim ‘princess’s’ grave (Echt 1999, especially 115–22) he identifies firstly
in the Rhineland a style dependent on Greek or Etruscan plant ornamentation;
secondly and further to the west is a geometric style whose patterns are drawn
with a compass5 with the openwork harness disc from the Somme-Bionne,
‘L’Homme Mort’ chariot grave and related pieces as its type-fossils (Figs.
5–6); thirdly and also in Champagne he postulated a workshop whose trade-
mark was the use of intermittent wave tendrils, like those decorating the hel-
met from another chariot-grave, that of Berru, ‘Le Terrage’, first excavated in
1872. Neither then nor later, however, was he as sure as his pupil Frank
Schwappach that there was a division in the western distribution of palmette
designs and a more limited and easterly zone of arc-and-intersecting-circles,
the latter particularly to be found in stamped and other forms of pottery deco-
ration (Schwappach 1976, especially fig. 3) (Fig. 7).
From the distribution of the floral and geometric patterns of the Early style,
Frey deduced that these occur almost exclusively in regions of the early La
Tène princely graves, and concluded that the Early style must have been as
much a regional as a chronological style differentiated from that of the Waldal-
gesheim style. Some 20 years later, in his contribution to the definitive publi-
cation of the Waldalgesheim chariot grave, Frey (1995a) made it clear that he
considered the Waldalgesheim style as the product of a new direct influence
on La Tène art in which the tendril was now the governing ornamental motif.
This is a style which we have nicknamed ‘the arts of expansion’ coinciding as
it seems to with the first major 4th-century movements south into Italy and
east into Transdanubia and beyond (for summaries see Frey 1995c; R. Megaw
and V. Megaw 2001, 106–21) (Figs. 12–13, 15). And mention of expansion,
here we must note that recent work and new discoveries such as the votive site
of Fiskerton in Lincolnshire pushes the beginning of insular ‘Vegetal’ decora-

5
A useful summary of Pauli’s views – in English – is Pauli 1985.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 291

tion even earlier than many of us had thought possible. Fiskerton, which has a
fair claim to being the La Tène of the British Isles, includes objects decorated
in ‘Vegetal’ style dateable to at least as early as the 4th century BC (Field and
Pearson 2003, especially 178–88).
Frey of course was not the only person in the 1970s to be considering these
matters. Jope was engaged in taking over from Jacobsthal the study of insular
early Celtic art though this was not to be published until after his own death in
1996. As a biochemist by training, it is not surprising to note his emphasis on
what he termed ‘ornament syntax’ (Jope 2000, 3–4). Also, Jope had for some
time been concerned to study evidence for the transmission of new ideas, an
essential factor in the consideration of what might be termed the post-modern-
ist art of later prehistoric Europe (Jope 1973). One other work deserves notice;
we have already mentioned Duval’s (1977) attempt at a new stylistic terminol-
ogy. However, like Schefold’s not dissimilar scheme of 1953 this has been
largely ignored. The important dissertation by David Castriota (1981) on con-
tinuity and innovation in the use of ornament used a complex model based on
linguistics to analyse the structure of La Tène art, and in particular of the
‘Waldalgesheim style’ in which Italy is seen as the main source for stylistic
innovations. Despite the fact that in its analytical thoroughness it is as close to
Jacobsthal as many others who have attempted to follow him, Castriota has
also been little referred to, and in its current form it suffers from poor illustra-
tions and a difficult writing style.
To return to Frey’s thesis as to the origins of the Waldalgesheim style, as
Echt (1999, 248–50) has pointed out, Frey’s distributional distinction of the
style from that of the Hunsrück-Eifel ‘chieftainly’ graves has led him to con-
sider it as a chronologically overlapping body of material with a tentative
birthplace in the Marne region. On the other hand he points to the stylistically
fertile soil of Italy – ‘Etruria, where the motives grow like weeds’ (Jacobsthal
1944, 46). But the emphasis is clearly on north-eastern France. One might say,
characteristically Frey takes a middle road.
The foremost advocate of Italy being the key to this stylistic conundrum has
been Venceslas Kruta, another scholar with a detailed knowledge of Italy (see,
amongst many other studies, Kruta 1974; 1982a–b; 1991) supported by Chris-
tian Peyre (1982). For Kruta, the replacement of the Early style by the Waldal-
gesheim style is a result of the historically attested migration of the Celts into
northern Italy (Figs. 12, 15). Following settlement in the Po valley and further
south, Kruta believes that the conditions were right for the direct influence of
the art of Magna Graecia. The small number of examples of Waldalgesheim
style in the Celtic area of settlement is blamed on still relatively backward
nature of research in the region – a weak argument if ever there was one!

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292 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Kruta does however share with Frey the belief that the Waldalgesheim style
had its essential stimulus from La Tène culture’s absorbing and assimilation of
new stimuli from the Classical and Hellenistic Greek art as represented in her
Western colonies.
Quite contrary to Kruta’s theory is that of Stéphane Verger who in a dis-
sertation (summarised in 1987) in effect presents a reworking of Jacobsthal’s
picture of linear evolution of this ‘Waldalgesheim’ style from the static ‘Early’
style(s). Triskel chains, based on compass layout are seen as evolving into
continuous tendril patterns or what Verger terms ‘le style végétal continu’.
Certainly ‘Vegetal’ is a much better descriptor than ‘Waldalgesheim’, particu-
lar since the latter is a site peripheral to the main distribution; however, Verger
is no better than many other writers when it comes to defining ‘style’. Verger’s
is a stimulating if controversial study which disputes the primacy of 4th-cen-
tury Italic influence save for a single variant of his tendril patters, and totally
denies the influence of 4th-century Italo-Greek motifs but its mechanistic view
of formal transformation appears to disregard how styles develop within com-
plex societies,
Thus, Frey’s view which combines elements from both the Early style espe-
cially in the Marne together with new motifs from the Mediterranean world
would seem on balance to win the day, even if the means by which the latter
were introduced have not been precisely identified – at least to our satisfac-
tion. Nonetheless, Frey’s dissecting of the Waldalgesheim or Vegetal style
may be regarded as his main contribution to early Celtic art studies but it is by
no means his only contribution. He has also been concerned, like ourselves, to
consider the Europe-wide phenomenon of the so-called ‘dragon-pair’ emblem
as it appears on sword scabbards commencing in the period of the Vegetal
style and extending into the late La Tène period (Frey 1995b; see also
V. Megaw and R. Megaw 1991) (Figs. 19–20). More recently still, his asso-
ciation with the spectacular finds from the rich burials below the Glauberg
north-east of Frankfurt (Fig. 3) and concern with the sources for what little we
have by way of Iron Age sculpture have resulted in a number of articles con-
cerned with representations of the human form (Frey 1996b; 1998; 2003; Her-
rmann, Frey et al. 1997; see further below). In particular, Frey has been using
early Celtic art to reconstruct ancient Celtic belief systems (Frey 2004; 2005).
What we lack from Frey – at least in print – is the major overview of early
Celtic art which he is supremely equipped to give.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 293

Fig. 19. Kosd, Nógrád m. Detail of iron scabbard decorated with Type I
‘dragon-pair’ (a stray find from a cemetery). Width 54 mm. Magyar Nemzeti
Múzeum, Budapest (photograph: F. Gelencsér).

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294 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Fig. 20. Marnay, Seine-et-Loire. Detail of


iron scabbard decorated with Type I
‘dragon-pair’. Width 50 mm. La Tène B2,
3rd century BC. Musée Denon,
Chalon-sur-Sâone.

FIFTY YEARS OF PROGRESS?

The application of Jacobsthal’s styles – which, as we have observed, are not in


any strict art-historical sense ‘styles – to specific geographical areas and
chronological periods has in fact largely been the task of post-Second World
War German scholars. Outstanding amongst these was Ludwig Pauli, whose
early death has robbed Celtic art studies of one of its liveliest minds. Pauli,
largely responsible for leading the discussion of, as well as publishing, the
wealth of material from the still-continuing excavations in and around the Dür-
rnberg-bei-Hallein salt-mines (Pauli 1978), has used a model explicitly derived
from European mediaeval history. In defining those characteristics which set
La Tène material culture apart from earlier and overlapping cultural units,
Pauli sees such new artistic phenomena as the wide range of cast bronze fibu-
lae with figural decoration as the product of times of stress (Fig. 8).6

6
For an even more sophisticated examination of compass-construction in the decoration of
Marnian harness mounts involving standardised measurements, see Bacault and Flouest 2003.
For the history of the study of circle construction in Celtic art, see Pauli 1986; for its extension
to the British Isles, see Frey with V. Megaw 1976. The basic introduction to engraving tech-
niques remains Lowery et al. 1971.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 295

In the area of the Hünsruck-Eifel, many years ago Jürgen Driehaus devel-
oped a model of a number of ‘iron masters’ gaining wealth and importance
from the region’s mineral wealth and thus capable of commanding the talents
of specialist craftsmen (Driehaus 1965). In 1976 Alfred Haffner in an impor-
tant thesis concentrating on the cemetery evidence confirmed the region’s sig-
nificance in the development of early Celtic art. Subsequently Haffner has
identified as a common group a number of gold covered iron disc brooches
with coral inlay as well as other pieces (see below) – his ‘Weiskirchen type’
– as products of a workshop specific to the area, although this may be chal-
lenged on stylistic grounds (Haffner 1979).
The majority of this recent research, however, consists of corpora of mate-
rial painstakingly assembled and analysed in terms of distribution, typology
and chronology, but with little attention given to art theory as such. Also such
corpora largely remain in unpublished dissertations buried in that black hole to
which, even in these days of rapid electronic exchange of information, they
seem all too frequently to be relegated. Some have, it is true, been published,
such as Majolie Lenerz-de Wilde’s 1977 Munich dissertation on the signifi-
cance of compass ornamentation in the art of the La Tène period (Figs. 5–7).
Lenerz-de Wilde argues that these constructions were based on classical
models. While this seems hard to prove, since there is a certain chicken-and-
egg factor at work – was the Celtic artist translating the image of a classical
plant motif into geometric forms or did the motif develop out of the ‘pure’
geometric forms? – even though it might be thought that she pushes her theory
too far, she was right in giving prominence to the part played in the develop-
ment of early Celtic art by compass-based designs as opposed to the floral and
zoomorphic patterns7. Clearly, the construction of such designs required a
sophisticated knowledge of the principles of geometry analogous with the
engravers of insular Iron Age mirror-backs or the illuminators of the great
Hiberno-Scottish Gospel books of a millennium later. Less successful, per-
haps, has been Lenerz-de Wilde’s following of our ideas concerning elusive
imagery in early Celtic art (V. Megaw 1970a–b). At times this may be pushed
too far, as both Lenerz-de Wilde and Miklós Szabó do in too assiduously fol-
lowing the elusive scent of the Cheshire Cat, seeing even more faces in
‘abstract’ La Tène motifs than we do (Lenerz-de Wilde 1982; Szabó 1993;
Duceppe-Lamarre 2003).

7
For a selection where art has predominated, see Szabó and Petres 1974; Pauli 1980; Duval
and Heude 1983; Moosleitner 1987; Charpy and Roualet 1991; Kruta et al. 1991; Cordie-Hack-
enberg et al. 1992.

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296 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

Ulrike Brade’s 1998 study of early La Tène figural brooches (Fig. 8) suffers
from the inbuilt obsolescence which afflicts such theses; Brade makes a brave
attempt at establishing the iconography of her material but shows little or no
sense of style and style variation. Of those German ‘list-makers’, as they have
been somewhat unkindly described, many of them Marburg graduates, Schwap-
pach – whom we have already referred to – is another figure since lost to
archaeology. Through intensive museum research into stamp-decorated pottery
he did much to restore the material imbalance of Jacobsthal’s magnum opus.
Schwappach’s largely stylistic approach eschews the information which is
available through either fabric analysis or the study of ethno-archaeological
analogies (see Gosden 1985; 1989), insufficiently considers material other
than pottery and puts forward a largely unsustainable division of early La Tène
art into Eastern and Western provinces. Notwithstanding, this is one list-maker
whose complete lists one would dearly love to see in print (see Schwappach
1969a–b; 1974; 1979; contra: V. Megaw 1985, 180–82).
One major source for recent work on various aspects of Celtic art has been
a number of exhibition catalogues and conference proceedings.8 Kruta, the
recently retired successor of Duval at the École Pratique des Hautes Études,
has been instrumental in arranging several of these and latterly has co-edited
Études celtiques, one of the major publications for studies of early Celtic art.
He also has organised a number of colloquia – not all published, alas – which
have contained a number of valuable studies and has also published exten-
sively on the art of his Czech birthplace (notably Kruta 1975), although it can-
not be said that he has broken any new ground in terms of approach or theo-
retical background. Notwithstanding, Kruta has published an invaluable source
book in which he links to historical events – linkages which are probably too
close for many other scholars (Kruta 2000).
Amongst other French scholars, the major figure has been André Rapin, by
profession a teacher of art and founder of the Institut de Restauration et de
Recherches Archéologiques et Paléométallurgiques. As a mature student, a
pupil of Kruta’s, through his particular interest in the development of ancient
weaponry and their technology, Rapin has also published widely in the field

8
For example Fitz 1975; Duval and Kruta 1982; Charpy 1991; Bouzek et al. 2002; Buch-
senschutz et al. 2003. The last mentioned is particularly important for the number of papers
which attempt – with varying degrees of success – ‘readings’ of various categories of early La
Tène art. We must not omit the work of a number of younger French scholars who seem readier
than their German contemporaries to grasp the nettle of Celtic art even though they may not be
as well-read as they might. As elsewhere, much potentially useful research remains as unpub-
lished dissertations: see, for example, Challet 1992; Leconte 1993; Delnef 2003; Ginoux
2003a–b.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 297

and has travelled the length and breadth of the ancient Celtic world, enlivening
his many publications by his skilful draughtsmanship and the artist’s eye for
form (Rapin 1985; 1987; 1989; 2000; 2003). Of particular interest has been
his collaborative work demonstrating the links of the indigenous population of
Languedoc with the ‘classic’ La Tène regions to the north and the possibility
of La Tène mercenary settlers in the region (Rapin and Schwaller 1988;
Schwaller et al. 2001).
Occasional spectacular finds, either the result of chance discoveries or, more
and more frequently, a by-product of major road or rail construction works,
have further added to the visual vocabulary of early Celtic art. The gold cov-
ered parade helmet found in the Grotte des Perrats, Agris (Charente) (Fig. 9)
has the most complex arrangement of carved coral known; it betrays clear
Italo-Celtic influence and stylistically it is related to Frey’s group of pre-Veg-
etal material. The carved coral, however, has its closest parallels in the Marne
(Gomez de Soto 1966; Lourdaux-Jurietti 2003). Equally spectacular, though in
a different way, is the discovery of a rich early La Tène cemetery at Roissy
‘La Fosse Cotheret’ (Val-d’Oise) (Fig. 17). Found in advance of extensions at
Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport and excavated by Thierry Lejars, a long-
time associate of Rapin’s, the cemetery consisted of some dozen graves includ-
ing two with chariots. Of these, grave 1002 contained a range of fittings richly
ornamented in our ‘Disney’ style, in effect a subgroup of Jacobsthal’s ‘Plastic’
style; the Roissy finds establish the likelihood that some at least of this early
3rd century BC material was produced in the Paris Basin for a select group of
local elites (R. Megaw and V. Megaw 2001, 139–44; Olivier 2001; Lejars
2005) (Figs. 16, 18).
It might be noted here that Rapin’s approach to the material he studies,
which is first and foremost that of the artist and artisan, contrasts that of
Kruta who only rarely seems to relate the ‘art’ to other aspects of Iron Age
society.9 The same can be said of Hungarian archaeologists and classical art
historians concerned with the La Tène period or ’culture’, the foremost of
whom is Miklós Szabó who has argued for a strong Hellenistic and Eastern
European element in Central European La Tène art (for example Szabó 1985;
1992, especially 109–78). But despite some important overviews, notably a
number of detailed studies of the regional groupings of Jacobsthal’s ‘Sword
(sub) style’ and its putative insular descendants,10 nothing theoretically new

9
These studies build on the pioneering work of J.M. De Navarro (1972) whose plan to pub-
lish all the material from the type-site of La Tène was never completed.
10
Szabó and Petres’s study is illustrated almost entirely by drawings. All drawings, however
‘good’, are impressions rather than necessarily precise reproductions of the real thing and it is

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298 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

has come out of the East (see here Szabó and Petres 1992;11 see also Lejars
1994 on the nearly 200 surviving scabbards recovered from the sanctuary site
of Gournay-sur-Aronde12), There is one exception and this is Pavel Sankot, a
museum-based archaeologist who knows at first-hand through meticulous
excavation and close study of old finds not only the material of his own area
but that of the surrounding regions. Sankot has added to detailed artefact anal-
ysis of early La Tène material the application of new scientific methods not
only to establish evidence for regional workshops in Bohemia – often making
use of fine engraving – but also to reconstruct the interaction of these work-
shops with other regional groups and trading networks (for a sample of more
recent papers see: Sankot 2000; 2002; 2003). It is likely that – at least for his
native Slovakia – Lev Zachar, another artist-cum-archaeologist, might well
have produced a major study but for his early death; as it is, we are left with a
fine volume of superb photographs and a short supporting text (Zachar 1989).
But the major discovery of early Celtic art since the period from the end of
the Second World War has undoubtedly been the rich warrior graves found
below the Glauberg which must be regarded as the most significant to have
been made in the western part of the early La Tène culture (Herrmann and
Frey 1998; Baitinger and Pinsker 2002). Amongst the results of what is still
research in progress, has been the extension north and east of our knowledge
not just of an early La Tène – and earlier – Fürstensitz but of associated war-
rior burials every bit as rich and as diverse in their associated grave goods as
any in the Hünsruck-Eifel group. Detailed stylistic comparisons must await the
conclusion of the work by Frey and Herrmann. Suffice it to note that the
spouted flagon from grave 2 shows in its complex engraved geometric orna-
mentation a close affinity with, perhaps even manufacture in the same work-
shop as those from Waldalgesheim and Reinheim. The beaked flagon from

often difficult to wean trained artists – even Szabó and Petres’s excellent Hungarian illustrators
– from their innate sense of style to reproducing as closely as possible what the eye can see. It is
for this reason that we have given precedence to the photograph with drawings only as ancillary
ways of seeing. As it is, Rapin’s always informative but nonetheless individual if not impres-
sionistic drawings may be compared with those of a much earlier student of insular early Celtic
art: Fox 1958. On this vexed question of photography versus draughtsmanship, see Duval 1982;
and for a history of archaeological illustration by one who was himself a highly accomplished
draughtsman: Piggott 1978.
11
The continuing though as yet unpublished work by Veronika Holzer and her colleagues
from the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna in the area of Sandberg-Roseldorf have added an
eastern relation to Gournay – a very similar Middle La Tène enclosure with deposits of weapons
and human as well as animal bones; the value of such sites as aides to the interpretation of La
Tène belief systems needs no emphasis here.
12
For a cautionary note on the use of cemetery evidence to indicate status, see Hodson 1979.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 299

grave 1 on the other hand has technical aspects which link it closest with the
famous flagen from Dürrnberg grave 112. Clearly the Glauberg must be
regarded as a significant political and economic centre with a widespread trad-
ing network and the ability to call upon skilled craftsmen and their products
just as the Dürrnberg, both gaining their position by control of the exploitation
of the same raw material – salt.
The best known of all the recent finds from the Glauberg barrow complex is
certainly the 2 m-high warrior-statue carved from local sandstone bearing on its
head the curious ‘leaf-crown’ known from other examples of the scanty number
of surviving early La Tène statuary as well as a range of small finds (Figs. 3–4).
The statue has recently been placed in its European context in a number of
papers presented in a symposium entitled ‘Die lusitanisch-galläkischen Krieg-
erstatuen’ (Schattner 2003; see also Bonefant and Guillaumet 1998; Gomez de
Soto and Milcent 2002)). The stylistic points of contact between the statue and
other finds from the Glauberg graves and the Greek-influenced cultures of the
south of French have been discussed. So too has the intended significance of
the Glauberg ‘stone knight’, found mutilated like several other Iron Age statues
has lead to the view that these should be regarded not as representations of dei-
ties but rather dynastic heroes (Frey 1998; V. Megaw 2003; see also Duceppe-
Lamarre 2002; Arcelin and Rapin 2002).
As well studies of new material there have been a number of monographs of
old discoveries only recently receiving the study they have long demanded.
These have made important contributions to the re-evaluation of the broad
outlines of Jacobsthal’s 1944 identification of four ‘styles’ of early Celtic or
La Tène art. Re-evaluations – or rather first full publications – of older finds
include two containing material classed by Jacobsthal as part of his ‘Early
style’, Wolfgang Kimmig’s 1988 monograph on the Kleinaspergle burial dis-
covered in 1879 and our own study of the Basse-Yutz find. The unique pair of
imported Etruscan stamnoi and local beaked flagons remains in the British
Museum as they have done ever since shortly after their discovery in 1927 – to
the undying chagrin of the French. As elsewhere, in our monograph we argue
for a model involving itinerant specialist craftsmen and against the concept of
a direct Eastern or ‘Orientalising’ element in early Celtic art (V. Megaw and
R. Megaw 1990, 54–59; R. Megaw and V. Megaw 2001; forthcoming; con-
tra: Frey 2000). Haffner (1993) in an independent partial study of the Basse-
Yutz flagons refers them to a ‘Weiskirchen workshop’; while the association
with material from the Hunsrück-Eifel barrow group between the Saar and the
Rhine is clear, we are less certain that the actual individual craftsmen respon-
sible for the separate parts of their manufacture necessarily can be identified as
coming from the latter area.

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300 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

We have already extensively referred to the publication in 1995 by Hans-


Eckhart Joachim and others of the Waldalgesheim chariot grave (see also
V. Megaw and R. Megaw 1998a). Not only does this contain a detailed history
of the discovery, description of the finds and stylistic examination, but techni-
cal and metallurgical analyses, particularly of the gold rings with which the
‘princess’ was buried. These at last provide the foundation for firm workshop
identifications. They confirm Driehaus’s (1971) view that far from being the
work of a single hand, there were several workshops involved, in the case of
the gold, three different hands (Fig.10). Echt and Wolf-Rüdiger Thiele in their
analysis of the rings go further and indicate that the source of the gold used
was that of more or less contemporary Macedonian and Persian coinage – sug-
gestive again of mercenary activity (Echt and Thiele 1995).
Echt is once more a German scholar who came to Iron Age studies via the
conventional training of the art historian. His publication of another but earlier
‘princess’s grave’, found at Reinheim near Saarbrücken during sand extraction
in 1956, is in our opinion the most significant monograph to appear on any
aspect of Continental Celtic art since 1944. It is not one study but three – it is
a history of research in the topic as we have already indicated. It is a detailed
examination – once more complete with the results of technical analyses – and
discussion of each of the individual classes of material represented in the
grave. Finally, it presents a serious attempt to define the nature of La Tène
society, which he regards as regional and economically fragmented. ‘La Tène,’
he states
remains a designation for a communication system which linked [various regional]
cultures and saw to it that, for example, groups of people who for religious rea-
sons practised different burial rites, nonetheless were sufficiently in agreement in
their artistic taste to wear similarly made brooches and belt-hooks and to drink out
of similarly decorated vessels (Echt 1999, 254).
We would not agree with him in all points, for example when he moves on
to semiotics (see now also Ginoux 2003b) and a ‘systems-based theory of
style’. While he seems to accept the impossibility of reconstructing the con-
ceptual framework or identifying the range of signifiers employed by Iron
Age craftsmen, he is happy to interpret the layout of the Reinheim grave in
terms of a Classical symposion but with Dionysian undertones and the
imagery of the gold rings as reflecting Artemis or Minerva (see also Frey
2005). Such an interpretatio celtica is taken still further by Martin Guggis-
berg in another important monograph, a full report and analysis of the ritual
hoard of gold rings – as it must be – discovered in 1962 at Erstfeld just north
of the St Gotthard Pass. The author’s subtitle ‘Ein keltischer Bilderzyklus
zwischen Mitteleuropa und der Mittelmeerwelt’ gives the reader due warn-

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 301

ing of what is to come – an ingenious if once more an unconvincing reading


of the rings’ iconography in terms of the Classical pantheon. Guggisberg’s
claim for a local source for the production of the rings is equally hard to
accept (Guggisberg 2000). While other Swiss archaeologist have been dili-
gent in excavation and publication, few other stylistic studies have appeared,
Felix Müller’s study of Scheibenhalsringe which includes an attempt at
regional groupings, being exception (Müller 1989).
On the Dürrnberg, the importance of the continuing work at the salt-mining
complex – a combination of rescue and research-driven archaeology – is vital
for the light it has thrown not only on the dead but the living. Pauli’s major
study of results achieved up to that time includes his views as to the essentially
religious nature of La Tène art referred to earlier (Pauli 1978, especially 456–
60; 1980; 1985; 1992). The concentration on the unparalleled number of rich
graves (Stöllner 1998; Zeller 1995; 2004), while demonstrating the complex
social structure and widespread connections of the area has until recently
tended to give a skewed view of the Dürrnberg’s economic role. The same
applies to the manner in which the ‘art’ was produced and/or traded; this
imbalance is being corrected by a recent and on-going research project (Stöll-
ner 2003, here especially 177–79).
In Lower Austria the large-scale excavations in advance of motorway con-
struction carried out in the Traisental valley by the late Johann-Wolfgang
(Nino) Neugebauer (for a summary see Neugebauer 1992, here especially
100–17) has revealed the existence of a previously largely unacknowledged
eastern extension to the Early style art province with links both to the west and
to neighbouring Transdanubia; this is work in which we were privileged to
assist (V. Megaw, R. Megaw and Neugebauer 1989; 1997; see also Frey
1996a). The post-excavation work on this complex of settlements and contigu-
ous cemetery sites is being ably prepared for publication by Neugebauer’s
former student, Peter Ramsl, and the first volume has appeared, another good
example of the combination of typological and technological studies (Ramsl
2002). To the east, just over the Hungarian border, important work by Erzsébet
Jerem and her colleagues is continuing by on material from the Krautacker
settlement and cemetery close by Sopron in the vicinity of the Várhely-Burg-
stall hillfort. Fabric analysis as well as comparison of the stamps applied to the
products of the Sopron kilns and other sites have demonstrated the existence
of trade links with the Traisental and beyond (Jerem 1976; 1984; 1995, espe-
cially 583–87).
Finally, although our name has not exactly been absent from these pages we
have not commented on our own contributions to the study of early Celtic art.
Perhaps the easiest way so to do is to refer readers to Echt’s verdict:

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302 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

[For the Megaws] La Tène art is Celtic art, exactly in Jacobsthal’s sense; [they]
conduct art-historical stylistic criticism [and are at their best] in tracing formal
relationships between individual works, in recognising formal dependences and
influences. The result of this formal analytical study is the description of ‘classes’,
‘workshops’ and ‘masters’, more recently to an increasing extent with the addi-
tion, where available, of metallurgical analyses and technical aspects of the mate-
rial studied. [Thus they] approach the cultural history of the La Tène period pre-
dominantly through its works of art. A historical interpretation, according to the
methods of pre- and proto-history, of the graves, hoards, sanctuaries and settle-
ments from which the works of art come, is not what [they have] in mind (Echt
1999, 251–52).

Fair enough; apart from two overviews (V. Megaw 1970a; R. Megaw and
V.  Megaw 2001), the first, as we have already noted, grew out of an initial
belief in the central place played in early Celtic belief systems of various for-
mulations of the human head (V. Megaw 1966). Like Frey, we have not pro-
duced the in-depth ‘historical interpretation’ demanded by Echt. And here we
must admit that after some 15 years our major work still remains incomplete
– the compilation of a Supplement to Jacobsthal’s still essential work. How-
ever, from the beginning we have indeed attempted to identify individual
workshops and – more rashly – even separate workshops or ‘hands’, though
some of these attempts have been more successful than others (V. Megaw
1967; 1970c; 1972; see also Echt 1994; 1999, 27–28). More recently we have
become convinced that two of Jacobsthal’s putative sources for early Celtic
art, the Orient and Scythia, have been much exaggerated (V. Megaw 1975;
V. Megaw and R. Megaw 2002). While we have also been concerned not just
to tease out the roots of Celtic art but also to define it, we cannot say that we
have been that convincing. It is true that we have been reduced in extremis to
state that the Celts were indeed those who produced ‘Celtic’ or ‘La Tène’ art
– in other words what best defines that invisible binder which seems to have
held together so many disparate communities is the art, and with the art, the
belief systems which governed its creation.

CONCLUSION – CAN THERE BE A CONCLUSION?

Some points of similarities and many differences can be seen in the various
attempts to define the nature of what is still given the label of ‘early Celtic
art’. There are those who believe that the beginning and the end of possibili-
ties lie in the study of the material itself – analysis without interpretation –
while others, convinced of the existence of a past Celtic culture see lines of
continuity extending right down to the present. And here indeed dragons lie.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 303

But notwithstanding the occasional whiff of Celtomania in such views, apart


from the fragmented evidence of language and the sometimes difficult-to-
reconcile descriptions of classical sources, the aspect of La Tène material
culture which seems to us best to represent an overarching belief system and
a generally shared iconography is – early Celtic art. Despite regional distinc-
tions, there are other widespread stylistic elements which cannot be attributed
to mere chance – before the ‘dragon-pair’ sword scabbards, the lyre motifs of
the ‘Vegetal’ style and, commonest of all, the various representations of the
human head. That Celtic art is a reflection of the religious beliefs of the day,
that it may indeed have been a form of visual language, acting as a bridge
between disparate communities, is perhaps a concept which is gaining ground
despite all the inherent difficulties in ‘reading’ such a language.
To quote Echt one more time, a statement which reflects many of the issues
which we have but touched upon:
Each work of art is at one and the same time…something manufacture, created
form and communicated message. Therefore a concept of style which does justice
to a work of art must combine material observations, semantic and aesthetic
aspects in equal parts. In the case of La Tène art, this demand has until now been
realised only in isolated attempts to deal with isolated groups of material. A basic
necessity is a re-evaluation of the entire corpus of material based on a structuralist
concept of style. Only when this pre-condition has been achieved will one be able
to observe just how many chronological, regional and interrelated styles are con-
tained in that artistic multiplicity which is usually designated, in an an inadmis-
sible short-hand, as La Tène style (Echt 1999, 255).

It is also true that in certain ways Spratling’s verdict which appears in the
same unpublished lecture we have cited earlier, must be regarded as still
largely valid:
Although the approach to the study of early Celtic art has been broadened in
recent studies, there has been little discussion of general principles of analysis, of
research strategy, or of methodology deemed appropriate for this study (Spratling
1975).

Early Celtic art studies may seem to have changed little from the approaches
of the great 19th- and early 20th-century pioneers of Kunstgeschichte. By
inclination rather than of necessity much more emphasis has been placed on
objects of wealth and high social standing rather than in comparison with the
day-to-day gamut of decorated domestic artefacts – though studies of pottery,
that most ubiquitous of all archaeological materials, have been on the increase.
As we have seen, there have certainly been advances in the assemblage of
corpora of various classes of material (an essential first building block in the
construction of style variation, a means to an end not the end itself) and in the

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detailed examination (including technical analyses) of major closed finds and


their interrelationships (for an example of the latter see Stöllner 1998). How-
ever, the field remains but sparsely populated – early Celtic art seems too
vague, too unscientific and undefinable for the contemporary prehistorian and
too stylistically ‘derivative’, too barbarian for the art historian. It cannot be
said that we, by training respectively a modern cultural historian and an
archaeologist-cum-art historian, can claim that our own studies have ventured
far into the theoretically unknown (V. Megaw 1983; V. Megaw and R. Megaw
1993). There is also a certain territoriality with scholars in some countries
rarely seeming to refer to work in other countries – but this will surely change
with the seeming inexorable growth of the no-longer-so New Europe. On the
other hand, the increasing application of metallurgical techniques just men-
tioned, can only aid that most difficult of tasks, the identification and location
of individual workshops if not actual hands. And beyond such studies, anthro-
pologists of art are less pessimistic than some archaeologists when interpreting
their material:
the exact experiences of people in the past may well elude us, but the ways in
which they set up worlds that make sense to them is available to us through an
appreciation of the sensory and the social impacts of the objects that formed the
fabric of past lives (Gosden 2001, 167).
Questions remain, of course. Despite much work on identifying individual
zones of production, we are still unsure where or exactly how early Celtic art
first developed except that now it is clear there were several early centres of
development. The same applies to the beginnings of insular art despite the
major contribution made by those like Jope and Stead in both pushing back in
time this phenomenon as well as suggesting the primacy of east and south-
eastern England. Jacobsthal’s comment of an art without genesis still haunts us
(Jacobsthal 1944, 158). Nor can one be certain about the mechanics of manu-
facture, distribution and exchange despite much having been written on the
subject. While it seems clear that many craftsmen must have been closely
associated with the local La Tène elites, we have also argued for a model
of itinerant craftsmen (V. Megaw 1985), a model which goes back to Vere
Gordon Childe and one which is certainly disputed today (Wailes 1996, espe-
cially 90 and 114–15).13 Again, mindful of Jan Bouzek’s interests in and con-
tributions to the study of ancient Thrace, there is a need for a more rigorous
definition – and identification – of what in the Balkans can rightly be termed
‘early Celtic art’ let alone Celtic settlement (R. Megaw, V. Megaw et al. 2000;

13
The ‘DFG-Projekt Fürstensitz Glauberg’, part of a wider international study of chieftainly
centres and their attendant elite burials, will, it is hoped, clarify some of these issues.

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THE ELUSIVE ARTS 305

V. Megaw 2004; Theodossiev this volume). On a wider front, there remains


today the continuing fascination with not just a Celtic style but a Celtic cul-
ture, albeit that the desire to identify with a Celtic past, as alive in Perth, West-
ern Australia as in Perth, Scotland – or even in Prague – may indeed be an
illusion (R. Megaw and V. Megaw 1995; V. Megaw and R. Megaw 1999;
contra: Collis 2003). As current world events continue to impinge on the past
and while there continues to be debate amongst archaeologists no less than
sociologists and anthropologists on the true nature of ethnicity and identity,
one thing is certain. Personally, we shall continue to seek out the illusive and
allusive meanings behind the material remains of Iron Age Europe, while no
debate is needed on one point – neither the objects we study nor their makers
are illusions. Their material products existed in the past, many exist now and
will do so far into the future, providing scholars and the wider public with a
source of continuing wonderment And that may be a not unsuitable celebra-
tory note with which to end this tribute to Jan Bouzek.14

Na vase zdravi!

A BIBLIOGRAPHIC FOOTNOTE
In the five years since this essay was drafted it is inevitable that a number of important
catalogues and articles, as well as somewhat fewer monographs, should have been
published – not including, to the shame of the senior author, our own Early Celtic Art:
A Supplement, still in preparation for Oxford University Press. As with this essay in
general, the following remains a selection.
Two somewhat similar lavishly produced – and indeed as far as illustrations go –
overlapping overviews are: V. Kruta, D. Bertuzzi, W. Forman and E. Lessing, Celts:
History and Civilization (London 2004); and D. Vitali, The Celts: Histoty and Treas-
ures of an Ancient Civilization (Vercelli 2007).
There is little to add as far as new approaches to, let alone definitions of, continental
early Celtic art is concerned; D.W. Harding, The Archaeology of Celtic Art (London
2007), despite its title and its attempt to give context to the artefacts, is in our view no
real replacement for our own overview which is equally lacking in this regard
(R. Megaw and V. Megaw 2001). Of regional studies Miklós Szabó, A keleti kelták: a
késö vaskor a Kárpát-medencében (Budapest 2005) offers a timely update of his previ-
ous regional overviews which surely demands translation. Two other well-illustrated

14
Much has been written on the general subject of early Celtic art since the above text was
completed. One survey, by our old friend and mentor, Emeritus Prof. Otto-Herman Frey, the
doyen of current early Celtic art studies (Frey 2006), deserves mention not only because it
reviews our own work but it covers much the same ground as that covered here, with rather
greater emphasis on links – or putative links – between the Italo-Greek world and that of the
culture we continue to call ‘Celtic’.

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306 RUTH MEGAW – VINCENT MEGAW

works are: F.Müller and G.Lüscher, Die Kelten in der Schweiz (Stuttgart 2004); and
L.Verhart, Den Kelten auf der Spur: neue archölogische Entdeckungen zwischen
Nordsee und Rhein (Mainz 2008).
For a review of the more recent in the seeming unending series of exhibitions
devoted to a lesser or greater degree to early Celic art see V. Megaw, ‘Imag(in)ing the
Celts’. Antiquity 81 (2007), 438–45.
It is interesting to note that recently students of the Iron Age in Great Britain and
Ireland have once more been turning their attention to Celtic art – or what, with no
more justification than the much maligned ‘Celtic’, is once more being termed ‘La
Tène’ art. Several of this new generation, as might be expected, follow concepts bor-
rowed from anthropology, notably Alfred Gell’s concept of ‘agency’: P. Macdonald,
‘Perspectives on insular La Tène art’. In C. Haselgrove and T. Moore (eds.), The Later
Iron Age in Britain and Beyond (Oxford 2007), 329–38. One may add several essays
in D. Garrow, C. Gosden and J.D. Hill (eds.), Rethinking Celtic Art (Oxford 2008).
These make interesting comparisons with Buchsenschutz et al. 2003.
Detailed studies are still rare; N. Ginoux, La thème sybolique de “la paire de drag-
ons” sur les fourreaux celtiques (IVe–IIe siecles avant J.-C.): étude iconographique et
typologie (BAR International Series 1702) (Oxford 2007), a thesis presented in 1996,
demonstrates the disadvantages as well as the advantages of a detailed typological
approach, an approach which can never be other than personal. Very different is V.
Kruta and D. Bertuzzi, La cruche celte de Brno: chef-d’oeuvre de l’art miroir de
l’univers (Dijon 2007) which, as its title indicates, introduces for the first time archaeo-
astronomy into the study of early Celtic art, hard on the heels of the recent interpreta-
tion of the Glauberg earthworks as forming a virtual calendar.
A final addition, if only since it expresses views which challenge those that Jan
Bouzek has held for so long is V. Megaw, ‘Early Celtic art without Scythians? A
review’. In H. Dobrzanska, V. Megaw and P. Poleska (eds.), Celts on the Margin:
Studies in European Cultural Interaction, 7th Century BC–1st Century AD, dedicated
to Zenon Wozniak (Cracow 2005), 33–47.

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*
All entries for V. Megaw are alphabetised under J.V.S. Megaw; those for R. Megaw under
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