Visions of the Celts
WITHOUT the descriptions and speculations of Greek and Roman writers, our understanding of the Iron Age communities of central and western Europe-- the traditional homeland of the Celts--would be very different. Alone, the mute archaeological evidence would allow us to sketch a warrior society focused in west central Europe whose aristocracy demonstrated its prowess through elaborately equipped burials. Over the period from the eighth to the fifth centuries different ways of displaying status were introduced. We would be able to recognize growing links with classical cultures of the west Mediterranean, reaching a new intensity in the period from the mid-sixth century to the mid-fifth BC, after which local schools of fine metalwork, using concepts and techniques learned from the Mediterranean world, developed to serve the élite.
The archaeological evidence would amply demonstrate the emergence of a more warlike society by the fourth century whose values and technology, represented largely in the material culture recovered from cemeteries, spread across much of Europe, from northern France to Romania and from Poland to the Po Valley. Without the classical sources as a guide, there would be much learned speculation about the meaning of this phenomenon. Towards the end of the second century and throughout the first, in the decades preceding the Roman Conquest, we would observe an intensification in production and exchange over much of the central area, focusing on large nucleated settlements, many of them defended, which were beginning to appear at this time.
If we stood back and took a broader geographical perspective, it would become immediately clear that at any one time there was considerable cultural variation from one area to another: we would be able to identify core zones of innovation and intensification, and peripheries in which these developments were reflected with decreasing clarity as distance from the core grew.
What we would not be able to appreciate with any degree of certainty is the