Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Another step in the evolution of the British Celtic sword pommel: part one

Hallstatt D/ La Tène transition sword or dagger pommel
mid to late 4th cent BC. Found at Alveston, Glos., by a
detectorist from Bristol in ca 1996, and given to his son,
a second-generation detectorist. Previously unpublished
Height: 15 mm. photos: public domain (click to enlarge)
In my primary publication of the first British-made example of the early Celtic art Plastic Style: Important new example of British early Celtic art, through a number of posts in the series, tracked the style's further evolution and the original artist's influence on the course of early Celtic art in Britain. An "important piece" is that which provides answers in the development of an art, but today, sadly, importance in archaeology is placed only on the showy and large objects that attract museum visitors such as parade helmets or golden torcs even when what they can add to our knowledge of the development of artistic thought is minimal, or absent altogether. It was this mindset which failed to see the significance of the Dobunnic Lambay Island (Dublin) settlers site because of its focus on the beaded torc and its neglect of the humble brooches. Important things, however, can come in small packages. Take dna for example.
Top view

I discussed how the immigrant artist had
taken the triskele design used most commonly in
the Plastic Style armlets and had turned it into a
three-dimensional composition from its bas-relief origins, showing off the skills of the new casting technology of the Plastic Style. He also, apparently, created the British trumpet motif, although future discoveries might yet prove that he adapted his style to a pre-existent local motif.
I also discussed how, after his death and the loss of is technology, British Celtic art was able to evolve through its development of high-relief repoussé art based on the Plastic Style casting technology and its development of chased representations of Plastic Style castings which further evolved into the famous British Mirror-style. The original master also created a sophisticated example of oblique anamorphosis more than a thousand years before it was previously thought to have been invented. In literate societies, the names of masters such as Praxiteles or Kimon of Syracuse come down to us. In the non-literate Celtic societies, they are lost forever and sometimes only a single example of their work and the future evolution of their art is left to attest to their greatness.

Thanks to a very perceptive second-generation metal detectorist who had read my series on the Oxfordshire Plastic Style pommel, I am able to publish this piece which is evolutionarily precedent to it. He saw that the form of the Plastic style pommel was related to another Dobunnic piece in his own collection and contacted me about it. While I would like to give him credit by name, he must, like the Dobunnic Master, remain anonymous because he does not want to attract the attention of the more fanatical Internet archaeologist bullies who are against detectorists and collectors and hold such people. and even their friends and relatives up to ridicule and harassment.

Tomorrow, in the second, but not final part of this series: what he saw and the new pommel's place in the evolution of early Celtic art in Britain  (more photos, too).

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