Ariadne Galleries

Ram Heads Bracelet
Period: Hallstatt A or B, twelfth to eighth century BC
Culture: Celtic
Material: Silver
Dimensions: 7.5 cm Diam.
 
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This rare bracelet is elegantly designed with a flat internal circumference, externally on the body are twenty-six regularly spaced small knobs enclosed by bands of short incisions. It features two opposed ram heads that almost meet but are fractionally separated by a sharp incision. The eyes and ears are stylized and heavily geometricized, the arrangement of the eyes, nostrils, and snouts are configured to form a lesser continuity of the overall knobbed pattern.

In late Bronze Age Europe personal ornaments are clearly important as a marker of social status, since they predominate in hoards and burials. It is interesting that some of the key types change with the transition to the Hallstatt Iron Age (1200-800 BC), which may reflect changes in dress and costume rather than simply decorative fashion. Knobbed bracelets of this character are especially characteristic of the Hallstatt A and B and appear to have been especially prized by elites in this period of Celtic history.

The term Hallstatt, derives from a site in the Upper Austrian Salzkammergut region where objects characteristic of the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age (from circa 1100 BC) were first identified. It is now taken to refer generally to late Bronze and early Iron Age culture in central and western Europe. Excavations between 1846 and 1899, revealed more than 2,000 graves were at Hallstatt. The majority fall into two groups, an earlier phase (circa 1100/1000 to around 800/700 BC), and a later phase (circa 800/700 to 450 BC).

Hallstatt art in general is severely geometric in style, as in the case of the present bracelet, and there is a general tendency towards the extravagant and the ‘Baroque’, and the Greek Orientalizing influence in later Celtic art is not expressed. Plant patterns are rare, although the breaking up of smooth surfaces was often used, and the arrangement of figures in pairs is common, their design is markedly characterized by rigid symmetry, all traits being present in this bracelet.

Our bracelet has few parallels, but an example of similar character and date range, but in copper alloy with 16 knobs, the outer two forming broad circular terminals, from Ranis in Thuringia (7 cm in diameter), south-east Germany, belongs to the collection of the British Museum, dated Hallstatt A or B (Inv. 1868,1228.374). Also, a similar item in copper alloy, albeit an anklet, with 18 knobs (two of which form terminals separated a short distance apart), from Pleurs in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France (8.5 cm in diameter), in the same institution, (Inv. ML.1954, probably La Tène II, second century BC), indicates that our bracelet is from this broader region of north-western Europe.

 

Provenance

J. M. Collection, acquired prior to 1983.
Private Collection, UK, acquired 2010.