FANTASTIC BEASTS – The Sphinx and other Hybrid Creatures in Iron Age European Art

“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you?”.

(Golding; Lord of the Flies)

 

 

Iron Age European Art is populated by a multitude of impossible creatures, ranging from the Ram Headed Serpent associated with the God Cernunnos, to fantastic hybrid serpentine and human headed beasts depicted on artifacts throughout the La Tène period.

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Hybrid creatures with the body of a horse, neck of a giraffe (!) and bird heads; executed in ceramic and discovered at Römerstein (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

(8/7 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/detail-of-the-ram-horned-serpent-on-the-cheek-piece-of-the-agris-helmetated-from-the-4th-century-bc-which-was-found-in-1981-during-archaeological-excavations-in-perrats-cave.jpg?w=820

The Ram Headed Serpent depicted on a a Celtic helmet from Agris, France (4 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/cernunnos-and-the-ram-headed-serpent/

 

From the early La Tène period (i.e. 5th century BC) onwards,  a particularly interesting development is the appearance of the Sphinx, and variants thereof, in European art. Such representations can be roughly divided into 2 main categories, the first of which is a group which is obviously derived from examples to be found in the Ancient Greek and Etruscan spheres. 

 

Sphinxes depicted on a gold applique from a drinking horn, discovered in the burial of a Celtic chieftain at Weiskirchen, Germany (late 6 – early 5th c. BC)

 

Bone sphinx with amber face discovered in the burial of a Celtic chieftain at Asperg (Baden-Württemberg), Germany. Two sphinxes, of bone and ivory, both with amber faces, were discovered in the burial.

(ca. 500 BC)

 

Such representations continue throughout the Iron Age, and are to be found on Celtic jewelry and other artifacts across Europe. Depictions of sphinxes are particularly common on late Iron Age Celtic coinage.

 

Reverse of a Celtiberian bronze issue from Castro (Andalusia), Spain (2-1 c. BC)

Sphinx springing right – reverse of a silver issue of Cunobelinus, chieftain of the Catuvellauni tribe in southern England (Early 1 c. AD)

 

A second group of hybrid creatures represented in Iron Age European art is perhaps even more interesting. These take a wide variety of forms, combining anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features in a multitude of combinations, resulting in fantastic creatures drawing from elements of both real and imaginary beings.

 

Sphinx-like creatures depicted on a bronze flagon, from a Celtic burial at Glauberg (Hesse) Germany (ca. 420 BC)

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Humanoid and sphinx-like creatures on a Celtic bronze brooch (maskenfibel / 5 c. BC) from Parsberg in Bavaria.

 

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Fantastic sphinx-like creatures on a Celtic bronze belt plate with coral inlay, from Weiskirchen (Saarland), Germany.

(ca. 400 BC)

Hybrid creature depicted on a Celtic bronze flagon from Dürnberg, Austria

(5 c. BC)

Fantastic creature from the Dürrnberg Flagon

 

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Bronze hybrid/sphinx creature, from the Celtic settlement at Horné Orešany, western Slovakia. The creature was most likely mounted on a large ceremonial vessel.

(5/4 c. BC)

 

 

Thus, while the first category of creatures is clearly influenced by / drawn from prototypes borrowed from other ancient cultures, the latter group is born of the experimentation and surrealistic fantasy typical of Iron Age Celtic art, a phenomenon which is continued and expanded upon, culminating in images to be observed in later Insular Ultimate La Tène art. 

 

Winged Ox depicted on Folio 27 V (detail), one of a large number of fantastic / hybrid creatures represented in the Book of Kells (ca. 800 AD)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE GLORY OF CELTIC EUROPE – The Case of the Rich Burial of a Celtic Princess with Horse Armour at Bettelbühl (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

 

The first decades of the 21st century in European archaeology have been marked by a massive amount of new discoveries relating to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, significantly altering our perception of the Celtic peoples who populated Iron Age Europe. One of the most spectacular discoveries in this context was unearthed at the Bettelbühl necropolis, situated just over two kilometres from the well known Celtic settlement on the Heuneburg in the Sigmaringen area of BadenWürttemberg in southern Germany.

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3D Reconstruction of the Celtic settlement on the Heuneburg

 

In the central tumulus at the Bettelbühl site an incredibly rich burial of a Celtic lady and a child was discovered; revealing some of the most spectacular burial goods yet unearthed from this period in European history. The woman, who died aged 30-40, in ca. 583 BC, was accompanied in her journey into the afterlife by a wealth of  wonderfully crafted jewelry of gold, bronze, amber, glass and other materials. 

goldene Fibeln,Perlen, ein Nadelkopf,ein Ohrring und Bettelbühl 583 BC

Gold jewelry from the Bettelbühl burial

Bernsteinanhänger, needle heads - beads Bettelbühl

Amber jewelry from the burial

 

Besides the aforementioned material, perhaps the most fascinating discovery in the burial was an excellently preserved example of horse armour, in the form of a lavishly decorated bronze mask. The tremendous wealth and workmanship to be observed in this and other early Celtic aristocratic burials of the period have provided a valuable insight into the high level of material and cultural sophistication which had developed among the European population by the early stages of the Iron Age.

Horse mask 1

Horse mask 2 - Beautiful bronze horse mask discovered in 2010 in the burial of a Celtic lady at the Heuneburg (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

Bronze horse mask from the Bettelbühl burial, and reconstruction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mac Congail

 

Келтски следи в Източна България

 

Hа български:

http://celtic-society.com/?p=850

 

Оригинален текст:

CELTIC TRACES IN EASTERN BULGARIA

(English version):

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/%ce%ba%cf%8c%cf%81%ce%b1%ce%bb%ce%bb%ce%bf%ce%b9-the-celts-in-eastern-bulgaria/

 

 

 

 

 

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NAZIS, CELTS AND TREASURE HUNTERS – The Celtic Settlement at Nowa Cerekwia in southern Poland

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/intro.jpg?w=820

 

Situated in the Opole district of Upper Silesia in Southern Poland, the Celtic center at Nova Cerekwia is located in a broad depression between the Sudetesland and the Carpathians – the Moravian Gate, which throughout antiquity served as a major communication route linking southern Europe and the Baltic Sea – commonly referred to as the Amber Route. Over the past century the site has attracted the attention of numerous researchers, both amateur and professional…

 

Full Article: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/nowa-cerekwia-a-major-celtic-settlement-and-economic-complex-in-southern-poland/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CATUBODUA – Metempsychosis and the Queen of Death

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/galiche-2-1-c-bc-thracian-silver-gilt-horse-harness-appliquc3a9-2nd-1st-century-bce-found-in-galiche.jpg?w=820

“At one moment she was a broad-eyed, most beautiful queen,

And another time a beaked, white-grey badb”.

(Harleian manuscript 4.22)

 

The central tenet of Celtic religion was metempsychosis – the transmigration of the soul and its reincarnation after death (Caesar J. De Bello Gallica, Book VI, XIV). This belief is probably best summed up by the Roman poet Lucanus (1st c. AD):

While you, ye Druids, when the war was done,
To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned…

 

Read Full Article: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/catubodua-queen-of-death/

 

 

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THE LONGEST TWILIGHT – The Scordisci/Balkan Wars of the 2 – 1 c. BC

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/a-a-a-a-a-a.jpg?w=820

“Part of this region (Thrace) was inhabited by the Scordisci … a people formerly cruel and savage, and, as ancient history declares, accustomed to offer up their prisoners to Bellona and Mars, and from their hollowed skulls greedily to drink human blood. By their savageness the Roman state was often sorely troubled…”

 

(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)

 

 

PAX ROMANA

After the defeat of Macedonia in the 3rd and 4th Macedonian Wars, and the ease and speed with which Rome had destroyed the Achaean League, it appeared that the Roman conquest of southeastern Europe was unstoppable. The utter destruction of the city of Corinth in 146 BC, and the mass looting and enslavement which accompanied the establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia, were a clear warning to those who would oppose the empire.

It was therefore logical to expect that the barbarian tribes of the central and northern Balkans would quickly succumb to the Roman military machine, and the ‘Pax Romana’ which accompanied it. In fact, the conquest of Thrace would develop into a brutal and prolonged conflict which was to rage for over 150 years…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FACE OF THE LORD – The Celtic God Esus in Iron Age European Art

The Celtic deity Esus (aspirated Hesus) has hitherto been known only from a small number of images and epigraphic material dating from the Roman period and later…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/37459609/FACE_OF_THE_LORD_The_Celtic_God_Esus_in_Iron_Age_European_Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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