Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Celtic God Mask

I've spent much of today editing a long interesting paper co-written by historian of religion Marianne Görman (Lund) and archaeologist Mikael Henriksson (Karlskrona). The paper will appear in the summer issue of Fornvännen and brings together themes that have appeared repeatedly here on Salto sobrius: cool finds, metal detecting, and the last few centuries BC.

In 2004 there was a rescue dig at Västra Vång, Hjortsberga parish, Blekinge, southernmost Sweden. Henriksson had the foresight to metal detect his site, and BEEP, there it was: a unique cast bronze mask, an instant classic find. It's 82 mm long and depicts an androgynous person with braided hair and a double chin, wearing an open neck ring: a torque, hallmark of the Celts of Antiquity. The last century BC seems a reasonable date.

This beautiful piece once formed part of a larger object but lacks fastening holes. Traces of birch tar on the back-side indicate that it was glued to a wooden substrate. In a pop-sci paper available on-line in Swedish, Henriksson suggests that this would most likely have been a wooden tub, a building, a wagon like the one at Holmsmalma, or a wooden idol.

There's no evidence that Celtic was ever spoken in Scandinavia, but a few finds (e.g. a display belt with human-figurine pendants and an early Knotenring from Ysane parish) show that Blekinge had good contacts with Continental people of this pursuasion. The Västra Vång mask reinforces this impression.

If you feel that you may not know everything there is to know about Celtic torques and head shops, sorry, head cults, make sure to read Görman & Henriksson's paper when it appears in print in July.

Henriksson, Mikael. 2005. Unik keltisk mask påträffad i Västra Vång, Blekinge. Populär arkeologi 2005:4. Lärbro.

Görman, Marianne & Henriksson, Mikael. In print. Maskbilden från Västra Vång. Ett keltiskt avtryck i Blekinges äldre järnålder? Fornvännen 2006:3. KVHAA. Stockholm.

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