The focus of this exhibition was to "see" in the Celtic grave something of Celtic life and Celtic after-life.  For the most part, it has proven difficult to do so.  The grave defines a liminal space that is unlike that of the living and not quite that of the dead.  In this way, some of the objects included in the grave define what a person was (i.e. the sword hilt signified the rank of the warrior) or the person's place or role within the society (When seen as a luxury item and an "heirloom" the Rheinheim armlet marks the woman's prominence within her family and her community).  On the other hand, some of the items placed in the grave refer to the next life, these would be characterized by the hopes or desires of the deceased or the family members of the deceased for the next world, these objects look beyond the grave.  This requires that one question how accurately the grave goods reflect the actual position or place of the deceased within their society as compared to the role or place they wished or desired to occupy.

It was the intention of the exhibition to draw attention away from the strict categories traditionally placed on the Celtic grave and towards a closer look at the objects.  This does not suggest that the archaeological evidence collected and categorized that has given modern scholars an impression of early Celtic cultures is not valid.  Quite the opposite, these analyses give us the frame on which new information can be hung.  What has been noted again and again is that many of the objects placed in the grave take on new function along with their interment.  A mirror may function in life as a reflecting glass, but in death it is a luxury item, a sign of wealth or of the domestic sphere where it had hung before. In the same way, a sword and a cauldron, a torque and a chariot, come to say more about a person's place in the community than a person's role.  This suggests that the goods placed in the grave may not guarantee that the deceased will be able to continue their prescribed function in society, but they may certainly retain their place.  The primary concerns of this exhibition have been to look at the "categories" in terms of gender, rank and class.  It is the opinion of the author that gender and rank (interpreted as function) within Iron Age societies has been difficult to determine.  Certain goods like the inclusion of food and drink within the grave suggest that Celtic societies believed the deceased had real needs in the afterlife that could only be satisfied by things they had enjoyed during their life.  At the same time, we are invited to analyze the portrait painted by the grave through the eyes of the living.  A further investigation of the rites surrounding burial would prove helpful, as well as a more narrow but detailed investigation, defined more closely by period and geographical location.  This investigation has acted as an overview.  Its collation intended to open doors and pose questions to be answered in future investigations.



back to main page