Why is ‘Celtic Art’ called ‘Celtic’?

View Calendar
29/09/2023 19:30 - 21:00
St. Mary's Church Hall
Address: Darley Lane, Derby, DE1 3AX

Speaker: John Collis

It is usually assumed that Celtic Art got its name because it was the art of the Ancient Celts, but this is only true in a round-about way. When it first gained this name it was thought that the style was confined to Britain and Ireland, and was rare or unknown on the continent.  The first use of the term seems to be by Daniel Wilson in Prehistoric Scotland in 1851 but the first article and definition is by John Obadiah Westwood in 1856 to describe the Early Christian Art of Irish and northern and western British manuscripts and stone monuments.  John Kemble (1857) first recognised that it was also prehistoric, and his work was published posthumously by Sir Wollaston Franks in 1863 in Horae ferales, which was widely cited across Europe.  The use of ‘Celtic’ was based on the false assumption that the ancient inhabitants of Britain and Ireland were Celts, when in fact this is a modern invention, starting in 1582.  It was not until the end of the 19th century that the continental dimension was recognised, by Sir Arthur Evans in the 1880s and 1890s, continuing on with other English publications by J. Romilly Allen (1904) and Reginald Smith (1905).  In Germany the main publisher of prehistoric metal finds, the elder Ludwig Lindenschmid, refused to accept there was any metalworking north of the Alps before the arrival of the Romans.  In France and Switzerland it was assumed that the Celts had arrived in the Bronze Age and were replaced by Gauls in the Iron Age.  Joseph Déchelette was the first continental scholar to accept the concept of Celtic Art (1911-14) re-dating the arrival of the Celts in France to the Iron Age, laying the basis for 20th century interpretations of the Ancient Celts. In 1944 the German scholar Paul Jacobsthal who fled to Oxford in the 1930s, published a monumental study ‘Early Celtic Art’ which in the later 20th century led to the belief that the art and the Celts originated in southern Germany in the 6th – 5th centuries BC, an interpretation which has increasingly come under attack in the last 30 years.

Prof John Collis has written extensively about the Iron Age in Britain and Europe, in this context especially his book ‘The Celts : Origins, myths and inventions’ looking at the development of the concept of the Celts.  He has excavated especially in France, and in his native Winchester, and, in Derbyshire, the multi-period burial site of Wigber Low near Ashbourne.  He was a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology in the University of Sheffield from 1972 to 2005, including a period as Head of Department.

Society Lecture

Related upcoming events

  • 05/01/2024 19:30 - 05/01/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Gary Lock – SPEAKER ON ZOOM

    Within a few miles of the iconic Uffington White Horse chalk figure are three hillforts dating to the Iron Age and Roman periods. This talk will explore the similarities and differences between these sites based on a programme of excavations revealing something about the lives of the people who constructed and used the enigmatic White Horse.

    Gary Lock is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford. He has taught and researched the Iron Age for many years specialising in hillforts of which he has excavated five and was Co-Director of the important Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland Project.

    Society Lecture

  • 26/01/2024 19:30 - 26/01/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Derek Latham

    Derek is an architect, town planner, landscape architect, conservationist and urbanist, who ran his own practice, Lathams, in Derby for 35 years. His clients ranged from community groups to royalty, charities to corporate companies, individuals to local authorities, and a range of heritage bodies. He now chairs the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust and the Derwent Valley Trust. As a founder member he is still active with both the Institute of Historic Buildings and the Academy of Urbanism, and is Visiting Professor at the University of Derby. He is also a Director of Great Northern Classics, the proposed centre of excellence for training heritage vehicle repair skills. Fifteen years ago, he set about pushing the boundaries when building his own home, an Ecohouse designed to fit its context utilising materials from site and other techniques to reduce carbon footprint both embodied and in use.

    Architecture Section

  • 02/02/2024 19:30 - 02/02/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Emma Brownlee

    One of the most unusual forms of burial found in early medieval England is the use of a bed on which the deceased is laid to rest. Several of these burials have made the news recently: the Harpole treasure excavated near Northampton in 2022, and the Trumpington bed burial, whose facial reconstruction made international headlines in June 2023. The burials found in England all belong to women, and all date to the period of Christianisation in the seventh century. Yet bed burials are not confined to England. They appear across Europe, but take quite a different form on the continent. This talk will combine information from the burials themselves with new scientific evidence, to consider what they can tell us about connections across early medieval Europe in a time of social and religious change.

    Dr Brownlee is a research fellow at Girton College, University of Cambridge, where she focuses on how grave good use and burial rites vary across Europe in 5th to 8th centuries AD.

    Society Lecture

  • 09/02/2024 19:30 - 09/02/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Julian Henderson

    Organised by the Archaeological Research Group

  • 16/02/2024 19:30 - 16/02/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Trevor James

    Historic inn names, dating from before the eighteenth century, can provide potential clues, helpful to an understanding of the local history of any neighbourhood.  They are almost a form of oral history and certainly can help us understand the priorities of the people of past times.

  • 23/02/2024 19:30 - 23/02/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Brice Bozier

    The Victorian gasworks building for the Sudbury estate has recently been rescued and restored with the aid of a significant grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, but all the original equipment was lost. Learn how Sudbury Gasworks researched their missing gas producing retort benches and how in 2018 they started with a team of apprentices at JCB on the journey to recreate them, using old and cutting edge techniques and taking trips to the North, South and West!  The speaker Brice Bozier is a Trustee of Sudbury Gasworks who works at JCB Rocester as a controls engineer. Apprentice trained himself, Brice has a background in electrical, mechanical, electronic and software engineering, and he will be supported for the presentation by one or more of the apprentices who were involved.

  • 01/03/2024 19:30 - 01/03/2024 21:00

    Speaker: James Wright – SPEAKER ON ZOOM

    Every single hamlet, village, town and city in the British Isles has a story of secret passages running beneath the landscape. The tales speak of hidden tunnels connecting the castle and the monastery, or the hermitage and the pub, or the church and the manor house. Often these are supposed to be escape tunnels, sometimes they are connected with smuggling or treasure, on other occasions the given reasons for their existence are somewhat salacious and scandalous. The folklore of Britain’s subterranean landscape is ubiquitous, but is there ever any archaeological evidence for these yarns? What are the underlying truths? Can the stories ever tell us something about how people think about their communities and heritage?

    Archaeological Research Group

  • 08/03/2024 19:30 - 08/03/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Sarah Howard

  • 15/03/2024 19:30 - 15/03/2024 21:00

    Speaker: Tony Wilmot

    This talk will summarise the phenomenon of the Roman amphitheatre as experienced in Britain and will concentrate on contrasting the evidence from the amphitheatres of Chester and Richborough, both of which have been excavated within the last 20 years. It will cover variations in amphitheatre construction between the legions and the civilian centres and evidence for the nature of arena events and the behaviour of spectators. Tony Wilmott is a senior archaeologist at Historic England and has worked as a professional field archaeologist for 46 years. During this time he has excavated on many sites, mainly, but not exclusively, of Roman date. He is particularly known for his work on Hadrian’s Wall and at Richborough, and for excavations on the two amphitheatres of Chester and Richborough. He is the author of The Roman Amphitheatre in Britain and is currently working on a fully revised edition.

  • 23/03/2024 14:00 - 23/03/2024 16:00

    Speaker: Dr Richard Clark

    On 15 January 1553 the government of Edward VI put in place arrangements to seize the goods of churches throughout England and Wales. It had ordered these goods to be listed by each parish in the summer of 1552. The seizures in Derbyshire took place in May 1553 as Edward VI's health began to decline and concerns about the royal succession grew. The talk will be based on the records, covering large parts of Derbyshire, which were produced to enable and administer these changes.

    These were edited by the speaker and published by the Derbyshire Record Society as Church Goods in Derbyshire 1552-1553 in 2022. They complement the doctoral studies on the impact of the Reformation on the Deanery of Derby by the late Joan d'Arcy.

    The Library will be open from 1.00pm and there will also be books for sale. A break for tea after the lecture will be followed by half an hour of short presentations on ‘Highlights from the Derbyshire Archaeology Society's Archive’.