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How Art Treasures help reveal the story of the Celts: Decorated Celtic Helmets

By: Celtic Bard Jeff

The Agris Helmet is a ceremonial Celtic helmet from c. 350 BC that was found in a cave near Agris, Charente, France, in 1981. It is a masterpiece of Celtic art and would probably have been used for display rather than worn in battle. The helmet consists of an iron cap completely covered with bands of bronze. The bronze is in turn covered with unusually pure gold leaf, with embedded coral decorations attached using silver rivets. One of the cheek guards was also found and has similar materials and designs. The helmet is mostly decorated in early Celtic patterns but there are later Celtic motifs and signs of Etruscan or Greek influence. The quality of the gold indicates that the helmet may well have been made locally in the Atlantic region.

The helmet dates from the early period of the La Tène culture. The gold leaf is extremely pure, and the helmet may be one of the oldest refined gold objects of Western Europe. It was found further west than most other examples of high-status La Tène metalwork.

The archaeologists who found it think it may have been buried as part of a ritual to the underworld spirits. Roman sources say that the Celtic warriors generally did not wear helmets. The helmet would have been used for display and would have indicated the high rank of the owner, or their wish to obtain such a rank. ¹

Many people think the Vikings invented the distinctive horned helmet, but in fact it was the handiwork of the Celts. This horned Celtic helmet dated to between 150 and 50 BC, was found in the River Thames. ²

Sources: ¹ Wikipedia; ² Canadian Content Images: Agris Helmet via Pinterest; Horned Celtic Helmet

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