Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Sword, mid–1st century b.c.; Late Iron Age (La Tène)
    Celtic
    Iron blade, copper alloy hilt and scabbard; L. 19 3/4 in. (50 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1999 (1999.94a–d)

    This sword offers eloquent testimony to the value that Celts placed on war and weaponry. Celtic artists often ingeniously integrated animal and human forms in the decoration of precious objects; here a warrior serves as the dramatic hilt for a double-edged sword. With its carefully defined features and finely drawn curls, the figure's head contrasts with the abstract form of the limbs and body. The arms and legs are V-shaped, terminating in round knobs, while the body is made up of three turned ring moldings. The scabbard, now amalgamated to the iron blade, still displays much of its original ornamentation in the form of three small hemispheres on the front upper end, a molding element at the tip, and an elaborate loop at the back for attaching the scabbard to a belt. Swords with an anthropoid hilt are characteristic of Celtic Europe in the first century B.C., with some fifty surviving from this period. Their inclusion in richly outfitted graves suggests that they were the valued property of aristocratic warriors. They may have been meant to enhance the power of the owner, or perhaps served as talismans in battle.

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    On view: Gallery 301
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  • Sword, mid-1st century B.C.; Late Iron Age (La Tène)
    Celtic
    Iron blade, copper alloy hilt and scabbard; L. 19 3/4 in. (50 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1999 (1999.94a-d)

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