(Plate A)

This plate shows a variety of animals around the horned figure in the center. The horned figure is presented with his legs folded and wears a torque around his neck. he holds another torque in his right hand and a horned serpent in his left hand. This torque-wearing god with stag antlers is generally identified as the Celtic god, Cernunnos. Cernunnnos is the Lord of the animals and the torques he wears are the symbols of wealth and prosperity. Cernunnos was first recognized by the inscription of the Paris monument which, along with the inscription, shows a horned deity wearing torques on his antlers. Because of this antlered deity, this plate has often been cited by those who argue for the Gaulish origin. However, this general identification of the central figure with Cernunnos has been challenged by some scholars. As early as 1971, Powell noted that there is no ground for believing that every Celtic horned god should be called "Cernunnos depending solely upon the defective inscription in Paris. In agreement with Powell, Olmsted(1979) suggests that the figure be classified as "Dieu Accroupi." According to him, all of the "accroupi" figures with antlers, torques and serpent come from north central Gaul, while only a quarter of the "accroupi" figures with one or two attributes come from outside the region.

Apart from the identity of the horned deity, it is recognized, however, that the posture and dress of the figure are not necessarily Celtic. His folded legs seen from above hint at the possible link with Buddhism in the East and his costume - tight-fitting breeches and coat fastened by a belt at the waist - is often matched by the costumes of horse-riding races from southeastern Europe. More recently, Anders Bergquist found that the shoes of the deity with zig-zag bindings are exactly the same type as those found in Thracian silver repoussé from Sãlistea and Durentsi. His discovery seems to confirm the eastern influence on the Gundestrup Cauldron for no such examples have been found in the Celtic West.

Although, as in the identification of the central figure, scholars have difficulties in identifying some animals surrounding the central figure, it is generally accepted that beside him on the left and right are a hound and a stag. On the back of the stag is depicted a bull which repeats itself on the upper left corner of the plate. The bull on the left is followed by two other animals: a dolphin with a rider and a lion. However, the identities of these animals have been occasionally refuted. For example, Powell argues that the dolphin is actually a sturgeon. Also, the lion right behind the dophin is identified as a boar by some scholars. Finally, a confronted pair of animals in the lower left part of the plate are generally considered as lions. These diverse animals are given special interest by those who argue for the Thracian manufacture of the cauldron. Powell claims that the stag and bulls have the "stolid look" that seems to have come from eastern Europe and that the confronted pair of lions are typically oriental.

Concerning the iconography of the plate, many scholars assume that the plate has a coherent narrative. Klindt Jensen notes that the eyes of the three figures- Cernunnos, the stag, and the hound- are level, thus suggesting a striking connection between them. Most notably, Olmsted identifies the central figure as a Gaulish prototype of later Irish Cú Chulainn in Táin and reads the whole plate as a combination of episodes from the same tale. According to him, the sequence of the three figures on the upper left corner describes the various transformations (shape-shifting) of the two Irish bulls: Donn Cuailnge and Finnbennach. He calls attention to the fact that the sequence of animal transformations ending in the two bulls occurs in the same order in both the tale and the plate.
 
 
            (Paris Cernunnos)                    (fragment from Durentsi)
                                                       It shows shoes with zigzag bindings

 

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