According to the collective imaginary, the role of the woman in the Celtic society was not always highlighted; on the contrary, when we think about the Celts, what takes shape in our head is the imagery of a manly man from the 6th and 3rd century BC coming from that wide area of the European continent.

However, thanks to the discovery of many female tombs of the era, it is known that some women covered a role of absolute importance within this ancient population. One of the richest recoveries in this sense is the tomb of the Vix Grave of a princess in Burgundy from the 6th century BC.

Below: the Vix Krater, picture by Peter Northover shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The funerary equiipment of the princess is of extraordinary beauty: beside an enormous krater made out of bronze coming from Magna Graecia (the greatest one of its kind with its 164 cm height or 5.4 ft), it has been recovered also objects in silver and gold in great quantity.

Below:  the Celtic Torc from the Vix Grave, picture by Rosemania shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The find which evokes the biggest admiration though is the solid collar created by approximately 20 different pieces all detached and realised with different methods. For example the small pegasus and the paw of the lion on the edge have been made through fusion while other parts by hammering the pieces.

The pieces are then assembled altogether with mechanical procedures, welding with copper diffusion and brazing. All the parts of the artifact have been realised in pure gold, with a 2% presence of silver and a 1-2% of copper. The extreme sophistication of the decorations in filigree and pearled threads adorning the tiny horses, show that around 500 BC the jewelry making industry in the Celtic environment was leaning towards originality and accuracy in its decorative potential.

Below:  Erstfeld’s golden torque, 300 circa. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The excellent quality of the precious objects found inside the Vix Grave of the princess can have been reached at the time only in workshops where there were employees under the influence of the Etruscan Goldworking Art.

Below:  the Vix Grave (riconstruction at the Châtillonnais Museum). Picture by Claude PIARD shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

In the 5th and 4th century BC there are other tombs of women with funeral goods, once again extremely rich. These women, that in life would occupy a prestigious role in society, were always adorned by a golden torque, by at least 2 bracelets of the same precious metal and by many other jewels.

Below:  golden torque from the 1st century BC found in Spain. Picture by Luis García shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Like the other barbaric populations, gold was for the Celts symbol of power and it is right thanks to these kinds of finds that the archaeologists have been able to understand how the female population was allowed to have roles of prestige within their own society.

Below: Gallic torque. Picture by Dominique Grassigli shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Until the 3rd century BC there have been found torques both in bronze and gold, for the most inside female burials. It is not entirely clear what were the motivations and the social changes which lead these jewels first to be worn by warriors and then turning into votive objects. There is in fact a big amount of torques recovered as ritual offers, actual treasures of beauty spread in all the Celtic regions.

Below: couple of the twisted gold ribbons discovered by Blair Drummond. Picture by John Bod shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Below: Celtic golden torque with 3 balustrades and decorative animals, found in Glauberg, Germaniy, 400 BC.Picture by Rosemania shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Below: elegant torque from the Bronze Age, Northern France,  1200–1000 BC circa. 794 g (1.75 lb). Picture by Siren-Com shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

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Rachele Goracci

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