Grave of Celtic warrior reveals "most important British Celtic art object of the millennium"

Although it has been studied for a long time by archaeologists, Celtic culture still holds many mysteries. The funeral practices of the Celts are known to be complex, the living bringing all possible help to the deceased to continue their life in the afterlife. The tomb of a 2,200-year-old Celtic warrior recently discovered in the United Kingdom, containing various objects including a particularly ornate shield, confirms these ancestral practices.

Among the finds in the tomb is an ornate shield described as "the most important British Celtic art object of the millennium" by archaeologist Melanie Giles of the University of Manchester.

Made in an ancient Celtic art style known as La Tène, the shield has an unusual scalloped edge and a triple spiral design called a triskele. The shield also shows organic shapes such as mollusc shells, as well as repair marks.

“ Popular belief is that elaborate metal-faced shields were purely ceremonial, reflecting status, but not used in battle. Our investigation disputes this with evidence of a puncture break in the shield, typical of a sword. Repair marks can also be seen, suggesting that the shield was not only old but also likely to have been used, "said archaeologist Paula Ware of the MAP Archaeological Practice.

Accompanying the deceased in the afterlife

Measuring 75 centimeters in diameter, the shield was made by hammering a bronze sheet from below. All of the leather and wooden accessories that once existed on the defensive weapon have since rotten. Besides the shield, the tomb also features what appears to be a chariot, with horses - although it is unclear whether the horses were sacrificed for burial or had already died before.

Shield found in the Celtic tomb. Credits: MAP Archaeological Practice

Seeing all these weapons, a means of transport and provisions piled up in the tomb indicates how seriously the Celtic tribes of the time envisaged the passage into the afterlife. The society in which this warrior would have lived would have wanted to help him as much as possible in everything that was to follow.

Remains of horses exhumed in the grave. Credits: MAP Archaeological Practice

The possibility of natural death
It is believed that the man himself was in his late forties or more when he died, around 320-174 BCE. Nothing like this type of burial has ever been seen in the UK before, although another grave with chariot and horse was discovered in Bulgaria in 2013.

These latest findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but come from a funeral site originally discovered in 2018, near the town of Pocklington, Yorkshire. A red glass brooch and pig remains (another potential animal sacrifice) were also discovered in the same grave.

“ We don't know how the man died. There is blunt trauma but they would not have killed him. I don't think he died in combat; it is very likely that he died in "old age" "concludes Ware.


Article: Iron Age shield found in Pocklington is "one of most important ancient finds this millennium"


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