Saturday, September 09, 2006

Another Celtic God Mask

The current issue of excellent Danish pop-sci archaeology journal Skalk brings news about Celtic god masks of the kind discussed here before.

Insular Celtic literary sources show that cauldrons played a central role in pagan Celtic ritual and symbolism. This matter has been used to explain Danish bog finds of elaborate imported cauldrons from the later 1st Millennium BC, when Celtic was spoken not just on the Atlantic sea border but over much of Continental Europe as well. Indeed, among the imagery on the the magnificent silver cauldron from Gundestrup in northern Jutland is a scene where a huge ponytailed person dunks a limp little warrior head-first into a cauldron. Mythological sources suggest that through this she may be resurrecting him to fight another day.

A less magnificent yet still very interesting bronze cauldron has been found at Rynkeby on Funen. Parts of it are missing, but still attached along its edge are two bull's heads (with forelegs raised in an attitude of adoration!) and a torque-wearing androgynous face

The Rynkeby mask is much like the one recently found in Blekinge.

Görman & Henriksson believe that the tar on the back side of the Blekinge mask would indicate that it's been fastened to a wooden surface, but as far as I can see it might as well have been part of a cauldron similar to the one from Rynkeby.

Single bull's heads like the ones on the Rynkeby cauldron have been found on Funen and Lolland, evidence that such cauldrons weren't too uncommon. And now fragments of another torqued mask have surfaced at Ringsebølle on Lolland. Here's a picture of the new finds placed on a photograph of the Rynkeby mask.

The fit is nearly perfect. As Flemming Kaul points out, the two masks must have been made in the same workshop. Note the decorative rivet on the god's forehead that's missing from the Rynkeby mask yet still present on the Ringsebølle fragment.

Somebody in Central Europe seems to be mass producing these cauldrons and sending them north to non-Celtic-speaking tribes in southern Scandinavia.

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

Kaul, Flemming. 2006. Figurkedler. Skalk 2006:4. Højbjerg.
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