Openwork phalera

Chariot Burial, Cuperly, Marne, France
Early 4th c. BCE
10.8 cm. diameter
Paris, St-Germain-en-Laye, Musée des Antiquités Nationales
Photo: After Moscati, p. 197.

This complex phalera epitomizes the geometric tension commonly found in Celtic design. Its patterns were constructed with a compass. This tool, which was introduced during the La Tène period, allowed for the creation of an interlocking system of perfect circles. First, an outer circle of perforation is created. This boundary circle was then divided into equal quarters Each quarter is marked with a circle measuring half the diameter of the original circle. Before these four circles were punched out, a fifth circle of the same size was marked in the center. A final, smaller circle was marked, concentric with the central circle, that serves to bracket the band of design. The compass was also used to generate the pattern within the thick band of netlike design. The systematic intercrossing relies on compass-generated arcs. Small circles within each quarter were also created and decorated with the help of a compass.Clearly, the compass was essential in the construction of this phalera.


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