Constanze Witt (1997)
"Barbarians on the Greek Periphery?
Origins of Celtic art"
Dissertation University of Virginia
The arts of early Iron Age Europe are highly
complex and abstract products of a stylistic
development that is as yet poorly understood.
The period of the transition from late Hallstatt to
early La Tène in the fifth century B.C.E. is
particularly rich in information about internal
artistic developments, regional cultural change,
and important aspects of the relations between
west-central Europe and the Mediterranean,
particularly classical Greece. Studies of Celtic
art have concentrated largely on the relationship
between the Celts and the Greeks.
The Greeks, Romans, and many modern
scholars have seen the Celts as barbarians
living on the periphery of "higher" Mediterranean
civilizations. Underlying most interpretations of
Celtic art has been the assumption that when
the ancient Celts imported Greek goods and
included them in their funerary assemblages,
they imported Greek ideas and customs as
well. In addition, the stylistic change in Celtic
art in the fifth century B.C.E. has been ascribed
to imitation of Greek art, the product of external
stimuli and the desire to emulate the Greeks.
The study of specific works of Celtic art in their
regional, local and artistic context demonstrates
that Iron Age Europe was an important center of
artistic production and innovation in its own
right. Archaeology reveals that the Celtic lands
were economically and politically independent of
Greece. Local funerary customs and beliefs
explain the mortuary assemblages.
Finally, stylistic change is the product of a local,
indigenous, and remarkably un-classical aesthetic
Celtic art is removed in this study from the
periphery of Western art history and restored to
its rightful place as a rival style that consciously
rejected Greek figural representation in favor of