Thursday, 5 January 2017

New type: two plastic style ring-headed pins of the middle La Tène

Objects featured in this post
1: plastic style pin 11.4 cm
2: plastic style pin 4.1 cm
3: pseudo-filigree fibula

all central European, 3rd Cent. BC, pers. coll.
I purchased No 1. at a Timeline Auction last August. It had been previously offered but had failed to reach its reserve price. I knew at once that it was in the rare plastic style and was eager to add this to my single, and only British example of the style. The British Museum has only a single example of this style and it is also central European: a linchpin terminal (Bohemian workshop). from the auction photograph. I was puzzled by the "spike" issuing from the top of the pin, but when it arrived I noticed a very small indentation at the back of the head (situated in the middle of the small light green patina patch visible in the photograph below.

No. 1 back
(click to enlarge all photos)

I realized that the top had originally bent backwards to meet the head and that the indentation had been caused by the pressure of it pressing on the head.

I sent a set of photos to Vincent Megaw saying that I believed the pin to be from a Bohemian workshop. He replied saying that it might equally have come from France. He is currently finishing the text of a supplement to Paul Jacobsthal's Early Celtic Art and has access to previously unpublished examples of the plastic style. The type was new to him.

Following are other views:
1: side
1: top

1: front
1: 3/4 front

Several months later, I noticed another example of the type for sale on an Ebay auction from the U.K. It was part of a lot of three artifacts and so I bought that lot as well. Although the seller was in Britain, the items he had for sale were fairly consistent with objects I saw that were offered from Serbian sellers. The new pin (No. 2.) was much smaller and although most of the lower part of the pin was missing, it had a complete top ring. While No 1 had four curls or comma shapes each terminating in a round boss, No. 2 had only three and the back was plain. Otherwise, the design was very similar.  See below for different views of No. 2.

2: top
2: front
2: side

2: back
Another object in the Ebay lot provided a clue to the second pin's origins. I reasoned that the items in the lot most likely had all come from the same country, and while the second item in the lot was rare, the type had been well recorded with details of the locations of archaeological sites where they had been found. It was a pseudo-filigree fibula of the later 3rd cent. BC. See photos below:

3: front
3: back

3: side
The archaeological site finds (24) of the pseudo-filigree fibula are as follows: Hungary (29.17%), Slovenia (25%), Serbia (16.7%) , Slovakia (8.33%), Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Czech Republic (all 4.17%). Another clue (for what it is worth) is that the British seller had a Hungarian first name and a variation of a Slovak last name.

This broad region of central Europe was very active in the time of the plastic style and it was not just members of tribes from the style's homeland which runs from Bavaria to Bohemia who were present, but also Gauls from the Champagne area of France were there too. I once saw a complete grave set from Romania that had exact parallels with every object with items in the Morel collection (Champagne) in the British Museum.

There are no problems with the legalities of these items as although many of the source countries mentioned in the paper which discusses the pseudo-filigree type have export restrictions, Canada will only recognize claims for objects that have only a single country where they are found. With this lot, there are no records at all for the plastic style pins and the pseudo-filigree fibula is found in at least nine countries, and probably more. Some countries do not follow the letter of the law. For example, the U.S. has seized objects of types that are found in a number of modern countries deciding this on place of manufacture rather than where found. These extra-legal actions could be due to ignorance by archaeologists and/or customs officials and even perhaps even nefarious motives of politicians. Early Celtic art spans a great number of modern countries and finds can be scattered over vast distances from any known homeland of a style. In a number of cases, workshops, themselves, move locations. The first example of the plastic style in my collection (a sword pommel) is  a case in point: It was from the workshop of a probable Bohemian master who moved to Britain and succeeded in changing the evolution of British Celtic art.

There was a time that I believed I would never get an example of the plastic style for my collection. With three items now, I seem to specialize in it!

John's Coydog Community page


  1. Hello John:

    First of all let me wish you a Happy New Year and second, welcome back!



    1. Happy New Year, John!

      It will be a brief stay. I will just have one more post before I get back to my writing project. It will be posted later today.



  2. Hi John,

    Well done on spotting and adding two important Plastic Style pieces to your collection and making them known!
    Great work.


  3. Is it possible that the minute differences in style denotes ones placement in the hierarchy of the society from which they came? There are minute differences with re: to their intricacies and would that not denote the mastery of the craftsman, their placement in society...which in turn would denote the sociological status of said crafstman's clientele?

    1. Brilliant Jules! That is a seriously great idea and worthy of further thought and mention. Whenever I might use it I'll credit you.