Celti Come Again

Article excerpt

This issue of Antiquity features reviews of Harding's Archaeology of Celtic Art (p. 1111-3) and of an exhibition about La Tene (p. 1067-70), so let us take the opportunity to embark on a long-overdue tour of Iron Age Europe. The luck of the draw, or whim of the publishers, has it that a respectable pile of books on the subject has recently been received. Time to make amends.

OLIVIER BUCHSENSCHUTZ. Les Cehes. 278 pages, 50 illustrations. 2007. Paris: Armand Colin; 978-2-200-26757-5 paperback 27 [euro].

IAN RALSTON. Celtic fortifications. 224 pages, 89 illustrations, 29 colour plates. 2006. Stroud: Tempus; 0-7524-2500-5 paperback 18.99 [pounds sterling].

AL OSWALD, STEWART AINSWORTH & TREVOR PEARSON. Hillforts. Prehistoric strongholds of Northumberland National Park. viii+131 pages, 161 b&w & colour illustrations. 2006. Swindon: English Heritage; 978-1-905624-09-6 paperback 19.95 [pounds sterling].

FELIX MULLER & GENEVIEVE LUSCHER. Die Kehen in der Schweiz. 200 pages, 272 b&w & colour illustrations, 1 table. 2004. Stuttgart: Theiss; 978-3-8062-1759-9 hardback 39.90 [euro] & CHFr.69.

HALINA DOBRZANSKA, VINCENT MEGAW & PAULINA POLESKA (ed.). Celts on the Margin: Studies in European Cultural Interaction 7th Century BC--1st Century AD dedicated to Zenon Wozniak. 212 pages, numerous b&w & colour illustrations. 2005. Krakow: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences; 83-908823-8-8 hardback.

COLIN HASELGROVE & RACHEL POPE (ed.). The Earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near Continent. vi+430 pages, 145 illustrations, 23 tables. 2007. Oxford: Oxbow; 978-1-84217-253-0 hardback 75 [pounds sterling].

COLIN HASELGROVE & TOM MOORE (ed.). The Later Iron Age in Britain and beyond, vi+530 pages, 194 illustrations, 26 tables. 2007. Oxford: Oxbow; 978-1-84217-252-0 hardback 90 [pounds sterling].

F.J. GONZALEZ GARCIA (ed.). Los pueblos de la Galicia celtica. 622 pages, 132 illustrations, 6 tables. 2007. Madrid: Akal; 978-84-460-2260-2 paperback 36 [euro].

GUSTAVO GARCIA JIMENEZ. Entre Iberos y Celtas: Las Espadas de Tipo La Tene del Norreste de la Peninsula Iberica (Anejos de Gladius 10). 328 pages, 138 illustrations, tables. 2006. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas/Polifemo; 978-84-86547-97-4 paperback 40 [euro].

PAMELA ELIZABETH CRAVEN. The Final Feast: an examination of the significant Iron Age amphora burials in north-west Europe in relation to the Mediterranean symposium and feasting ritual (British Archaeological Reports International Series 1605). 2007. Oxford: Archaeopress; 978-1-4073-0022-1 paperback 36 [pounds sterling].

Celts are 'ancestors who had the good taste not to explain in their own words ... the character of their civilisation or the significance of their culture' (BUCHSENSCHUTZ, p. 4, my translation). It is the turn of the author of Les Celtes to put forward his conviction that it is the peasantry above all that shaped Europe in the Iron Age and beyond: 'the territorial organisation created in the second century BC has never completely disappeared from European society' (p. 69). Consequently the chapters entitled 'Une Europe de paysans' and 'La diversification sociale' (3 and 7) are the fullest, following the excellent volume Buchsenschutz wrote with Francoise Audouze in 1989 (translated in 1992 as Towns, Villages and Countryside of Celtic Europe). But if Celts are rooted in the land, that landscape is not some ecological fairyland, it is a construct, not a place onto which we can 'project our fantasies' (p. 25). The debate about whether there is such a thing as Celts is not entirely devoid of such fantasies; Buchsenschutz despatches the topic fairly swiftly in chapter 1; having noted the arguments and placed the debate into the broad currents of romanticism, republicanism, nationalism, Europeanism and regionalism, he gets on with his main themes. …