One of three, tiny, moustachioed heads discovered in the rich Belgic grave at Welwyn, Hertfordshire, it bears affinities with a group of late La Tène, anthropoid-hilted short swords, one found at Ballyshannon Bay, Co. Donegal, and another at North Grimston, North Yorkshire, both perhaps originating in southern or southwestern Gaul and dating from late in the second century B.C. The three heads originally adorned a wooden bucket likely resembling the specimen recovered at Aylesford Cemetery, outside Maidstone, Kent, in 1886.
The [Celtic] women were very beautiful, and were as tall and courageous as the men. The beauty of Claudia Rufina, a British lady, is celebrated by Martial. Ammianus seems to represent the females as stronger than their husbands, but he probably means in domestic warfare only. They paid much attention to their persons, especially in Aquitain, where you could not see a woman, however poor, in foul and ragged clothes, as in other places.
Small eyebrows were considered very beautiful among the ancient Caledonians, and some females received their names from this handsome feature. Caol mhal signifies a woman with small eyebrows. The heroes of Morven were not insensible to the power of female eyes. Darthula was so called from the beauty of her’s; and a common phrase in the Highlands to this day, when extolling the beauty of a woman, is to say she is lovely as Darthula.
– The Scottish Gaël; Or, Celtic Manners, as Preserved Among the Highlanders: Being an Historical and Descriptive Account of the Inhabitants, Antiquities, and National Peculiarities of Scotland : More Particularly of the Northern, Or Gaëlic Parts of the Country, where the Singular Habits of the Aboriginal Celts are Most Tenaciously Retained, James Logan, London, 1831.
The Battersea Shield probably dates from a hundred years on either side of the birth of Christ, though an earlier date is possible, and dates from as early as 350 BC have been suggested by archaeologists/historians. It was dredged from the bed of the River Thames in London in 1857, during excavations for the predecessor of Chelsea Bridge; in the same area workers found large quantities of Roman and Celtic weapons and skeletons in the riverbed, leading many historians to conclude that the area was the site of Gaius Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Thames during the 54 BC invasion of Britain.
The shield is decorated with repoussé decoration and enamel. The decoration is in the typically Celtic La Tène style, consisting of circles and spirals. As a purely decorative piece, it would not have been an effective shield in combat. As it shows no signs of battle damage, it is believed that the shield was cast into the river as a votive offering.
See Witham Shield.
The beaten bronze shield was made principally from wood, now perished, to a design later known as a “Gaulish Shield” that originated in the VII century BC. What remains is an almost complete facing that had been made to cover its surface.
Originally a leather silhouette of a long-legged wild boar would have been riveted to the shield around the central dome, as indicated by small rivet holes and staining of the shield. The pattern of discolouration was very clear when the shield was recovered from the River Witham (see 1863 drawing below). Although it is still possible to see the discolouration under certain lighting conditions, the boar design is no longer easy to make out.
Images of several birds and animals are incorporated into the design of the Witham Shield. The roundels at each end are inspired by the heads of birds, which are supported by horses with wings for ears. Birds similar to crested grebes are engraved on the central spine and this completes the engraving work elsewhere.
The British Museum consider this shield to be “one of the best examples of the way British craftspeople adopted the new style of La Tène art.”
Their trumpets again are of a peculiar barbarian kind; they blow into them and produce a harsh sound which suits the tumult of war.
— Diodorus Siculus around 60-30 BC (Histories, 5.30).
The word “carnyx” is derived from the Gaulish root, “carn-” or “cern-” meaning “antler” or “horn,” and the same root of the name of the god, Cernunnos (Delmarre, 1987 pp. 106–107). This is the name the Romans gave to the instrument. The original Celtic name is unknown.