Iron Age Iberia

By Nash, George | Antiquity, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Iron Age Iberia


Nash, George, Antiquity


MARTIN ALMAGRO-GORBEA & MARIANO TORRES ORTIZ. Las fibulas de jinete y de caballito: aproximacion a las elites ecuestres y su expansion en la Hispania celtica. 273 pages, figures, 15 tables, 38 maps. 1999. Zaragoza: Fernando el Catolica Institution; 84-7820-466-0 paperback.

PIERRE MORET & FERNANDO QUESADA SANZ (ed.). La guerra en el mundo iberico y celtiberico (ss. VI-II a. de C.). xvi+217 pages, 50 figures, 8 tables. 2002. Madrid: Casa de Velazquez; 84-95555-29-8 34 [euro].

JESUS R. ALVAREZ-SANCHIS. Los Vettones (Bibliotheca Archaeologica Hispana 1).423 pages, 145 figures. 1999. Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia; 84-89512-32-9 paperback.

This review discusses three volumes tackling various approaches to Iberian Celtic--Celtiberian--archaeology. All three--a detailed catalogue, an edited volume and an area study--are written in different ways. Two have an underlying theme--that of defence and settlement--whilst the monograph collates and discusses distinctive fibulae. All three volumes are, in my opinion, extremely important in helping to bridge the gap between the methodologies for northern and southern Iron Age Europe. In the past, there has been a tendency to regionalise and establish distinctions between Iron Age archaeologies and, in many ways, each of the three volumes does just this. However, the approach taken, in particular by the authors of the fibulae monograph and Vettones study, fall into a recognised kind of synthesis practised elsewhere. Despite the idiosyncratic approaches, the reader is made aware of how certain interpretations are made. In the Vettones study, the author has incorporated wider European approaches.

Horse & rider

There appears to be an inherent procedure within Mediterranean and, in particular, Iberian archaeology--if it's portable, recordable and there's a lot of it, catalogue it! Over the past, many catalogues have tended to describe specific artefact assemblages with little or no discussion and interpretation. However, cataloguing artefacts is all well and good and I dare say that the process of collation relics on publishing a complete rather than a part corpus of material One of the three books does just that. In fairness, Martin Almagro-Gorbea & Mariano Torres Ortiz provide more than just a catalogue of horse and rider fibulae. This book is divided into four sections: discussion, description, statistical analysis and distribution. The discussion is based mainly on chronology, typology, history of discovery, past research and an attempt to provide an alternative narrative based on the statistical analysis. The book, in my opinion, works well on a so-termed Celtic assemblage such as horse and rider fibulae. It is well written and has both Spanish and English summaries; but where are the French or German summaries? These are a must-have for any committed European archaeologist, especially when so much research has been undertaken in this field by German scholars.

The data set, 136 different figures, derives from Spain and Portugal and is divided by typology into nine distinct categories. Unfortunately, the authors seem to be content to recognise modern boundaries--i.e., fibulae from the Iberian peninsula--which, in my view, is sometimes a mistake; this volume should place fibulae in a wider context. The fibulae are catalogued using an invaluable museum accession numbering system. The description and classification system used for each fibula is based on previous catalogues written in the early part of the twentieth century, in particular by Adolf Schulten. The catalogue has a useful discussion followed by a description of each of the fibulae and, finally, their distribution. Although the latter two sections are vital, I fear that the map distribution shows very little spatial patterning. It may have been useful to have provided a discussion, either within the opening chapter or as a spread-sheet with the provenance for each fibula.

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