Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Celtic Masterpiece Volume 49 Number 5, September/October 1996
by Paul G. Bahn and Spencer P.M. Harrington

A 2,500-year-old life-size statue of a Celtic aristocrat, found this past summer near Frankfurt, Germany, is being hailed as one of Europe's most important archaeological discoveries in recent decades. "We usually consider humanoid forms in Celtic art to represent deities," says Constanze Witt, a University of Virginia art historian. "This statue has been interpreted as a portrait of an aristocrat, opening new fields of inquiry to art historians as well as classicists and military historians." Six feet tall, the sandstone statue was discovered by Fritz-Rudolf Herrmann, who is excavating a Celtic grave in a burial mound identified in aerial photographs two years ago. The statue is believed to have stood atop the mound. The shield-bearing figure, complete except for its feet, is bearded, clad in armor, and crowned with a laurel wreath and two tear-drop-shaped appendages thought to represent horns. Gold neck and arm rings, bronze garment clasps, an iron sword, and a bronze flagon that once held mead were found in the grave. The flagon has a humanoid figure on its handle, which is unique for the period, according to Witt. "I suspect this flagon will raise many new questions about the local and regional styles of Celtic bronze workshops," she says.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America