Visual Imagery: Statue from Entremont

There are scant images of “Celtic” women that survive that are made by their own culture.  Much of what we get are images from other cultures (Greek and Roman) which may not be the most accurate source of information.  Roman and Greek writers and artists are known for taking liberties with their information after all.  The best known images of Celtic women follow a standard of symbolic “disgrace” identifies such as loose hair, clothing falling off the body that create exposure, running away, in the throws of torment…you get the idea.  Many of the most famous images date from the 2nd-4th century AD and seem to typically depict Dacian “barbarians”.

Whenever I find an image, I get giddy, especially images of women.

The image for this post is a statue from Entremont which was a briefly occupied oppidum near Aix-en-Provence in southern France.   The oppidum was considered Ligurian territory and was occupied sometime around 180 and 170 BC but abandoned by 123 BC due to seizure by Rome.  The Romans abandoned the oppida within a few decades.

I would feel comfortable in saying that this is an item that stylistically doesn’t read “Roman” to me.  If not for a few elements of the clothing I might have assumed it was very early Gallo-Roman as it has that transitional flavor, but oh boy, that checked pattern is a hell of a give away.  I would love to get better images of this item to get a really good look at it.  No date is listed but due to the very short occupation of the native people at this location, I feel comfortable listing this in the 2nd century.  The style emulates wooden and stone humanoid figures from Gournay-sur-Aronde (Somme)’s “war sanctuary” with it’s large collection of surviving votives.

 

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2nd Century BC, Oppida at Entremont, Southern France.  Seated women. Sourced from here.

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Colored version for better detail of the break down of layers.

There are a variety of general assumptions about what a “Celtic” person would look like in the re-enactment word.  Sometimes we come across nuggets that really challenge how people may have lived, what they wore, and what they looked like.  This is one of those items.

The description for this item from its sourced site reads:

“At Entremont, as well as at the contemporary settlements of Mont-Garou and Courtine in the Var region, several portraits and body elements (with draped and decorated clothing), including feet wearing sandals, reveal the presence of females among the characters accompanying the honored heros. Through analysis of statue fragments we can reconstruct seated females wearing long robes and coats. Their heads are covered with long veils that descend down their backs. They are attached to stone bases that were originally low seats. The representations of robes and coats suggest high quality tissues that were decorated with a checkered motif. This last aspect is also shown by the sculptures with incisions emphasizing the motifs and by painted colors, which have unfortunately almost completely disappeared. “

When I look at this image my eye dart to the shoes.  “Bog shoes” are well loved and a standard among Celtic re-enactors but this is a clear, period indicator that there was a sandal variation available.  These sandals would not have screamed Celtic to me.  At the same time, I have been unable to find more images of the statue itself other than the head and reconstructions.  How much of this outfit is conjecture and how much is truth?  I’ve reached out to the museum it is in for a response, so I will likely update if/when I have a response.

In the colored image the red “wrap” reminds me of some of the working theories around women’s costume for this area by Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer in her paper “Möglichkeiten der Rekonstruktion eisenzeitlicher Frauenkleidung mit zwei und drei Fibeln”.  Her paper is amazing and I’ll likely dedicate a post to it someday.  I model some of my own garb from her work.

 

Material Culture: Clasp

This is a lovely anthropomorphic clasp from the Early La Tène with the suggested date of 5th century BCE.

It is listed as a “garb cloak” and “celtic clasp with a human head (mask fibula) from a grave in Holderstüdeli.”  The site it was found is in Switzerland.

Size is listed as 4.2 cm.

Credit for the item goes to the Archiv Archäologie BL.

Source for the item was found here.

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Update and Finds

I’ve been up to plenty of reading and sewing and crafting but precious little logging of my activities.  I went to my first Pennsic recently and man was it both a great time and a massive pain in my ass.  I do not summer.  Just about every image of me I am a puffy and swollen mess (sun allergy, yay!) but I did manage a single image before the Bacchanal Party while visiting Rome and enjoying some “Greek Fire” mead that was lovely.

 

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I’ll be teaching my first class on Epona for Battle on the Bay in the coming weeks.  I made a nice connection with the Ring Tribe which is filled with Iron Age Celtic people from all over that I am pretty excited about.

I had been meaning to start posting little blurbs on artifact I particularly like and a nice way to remind me to “Learn how to make this thing and stop going crazy looking for specific items in your forest of pdfs.”

WIP: Current Skills and Class Topics

The SCA is a hobby of hobbies, as I have been told by others, and boy is it true.  I know I can get caught up with so many interests and goals that I sometimes feel paralyzed with choice.  I have a full set of clothing I am happy with in terms of being period accurate, material accurate and fit.  I have some individual pieces that I have mixed feels about that I use from time to time.

While I certainly need more functional items in general for events, I’m also itching to submit something for A&S competitions…but sometimes I just don’t record my process, love the item, and immediately start wearing it which make it hard to submit.  So I need some more rigid goals.

Right now I am teaching myself some basic weaving.  I picked up a book, tablet cards, wool, and a shuttle and began teaching myself tablet weaving.  It’s been going well but every time I put the project down for the day…I screw up the next few turns when I pick it up again.  So every 6-8 inches I screw it up royally.  My friend, Lady Anne d’evreux, lent me an inkle loom of hers so I can see if using a loom, rather than backstrapping, might help me with the flips and twists that I seem to encounter when I stop weaving.  As much as I wanted to work with backstrapping, I think for the sake of my sanity this is a moment where my “period stick up my butt” needs to be removed.

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The first few inches.

Weaving, while I am not sure will be my thing, is probably the only thing that will get me some of the patterns and prints I want to work with.  I’d love to graduate to a warp weighted loom to make larger panels for clothing, but starting small is probably best.  I also picked up a book and some sticks for sprang, so in the near future I’ll work on that.  I have a modern bit of stretch fabric on one of my archery gloves that I think I am going to removed and replace with a little sprang for a nicer look.  I am also considering a long, rectangular hairnet to get a certain effect.

 

I’d like to finish the two tunic dresses I have in various states of done-ness. One I put in gores…which I have decided really aren’t period for me but I am loathe to undo the 10+ hours to sewing on it.  The other just needs to sleeves adjusted. I’d also like to make at least two more peplos-type dresses and use some tablet weaving to either finish the ends (woven into the fabric) or just be lazy and border it with some decorative stitches.  If sprang works out I suspect a pair of sprang pants for warm weather to cut down on the “chub rub” is in order as well.  I never feel comfortable wearing the dress with bare legs, and while the medieval linen shorts I have work out fine for now, I am wondering if sprang shorts/capris might be even better…

I also cannot seem to decide wtf to do with my hair.  I try a new style pretty much every event with varying feelings on it.  Determining easy and comfortable Gaulish hairstyles that can be done with my modern bob is proving to be a pain.  I can live with clip-in extensions, but it’s the part after that leaves me wanting to gouge my eyes out.  Also the sources for pre-Roman Gaulish hair is pretty much nil…which is super unhelpful.  I could probably just tease the dickens out of my hair and leave it down, but you couldn’t pay me to wear my hair down in warm weather.

As for research topics, I am hoping to start teaching a class or two come summer or fall this year.  The two topics at the head of the list are:

  • Body Part Votives in Provincial Gaul – mostly about body part votives which are thought to be used as a spiritual form of medicine practice.  This would be a NSFW topic as a great many of the votives are genitals and relate to venereal disease.  I would likely have to reference votives in Greek, other areas of the Roman provinces, and even into the Middle East, as the practice itself is rather global, but the focus would be on Gaulish material items and the methodology around determining their usage.  If you ever wanted to say you had a class on a literal box of dicks, this would probably be it.  I feel pretty comfortable working with clay so I’d love to recreate some of the votives not only for a class display but also for an A&S entry.  I figure a paper, A&S entry and class brings the topic full circle.  My only hold up is that I am lusting over a few books that are just out of my price range ($150+) that I know are pretty much a requirement for me to feel like I am up to date with my my info.  I JUST missed a votive exhibit at Bard this past year, so I am a bit salty.

 

  • Curse Tablets – Curse tablets are items created with the intent of harm or justice.  These items are often deposited with the dead as the messenger to the gods, or sometimes even placed with the remains of someone to be cursed into their afterlife.  While curse tablets can also be found independent of burials such as at shrines or in lakes/rivers/streams, being stuffed into an urn is often how we find the best preserved one.  These are common throughout the classical world (and even in pre-colonial North America!) and are fascinating to read…festering wounds and boiling organs anyone?  As an informational class this is pretty simple and has the option for it also being a “how to” class seeing as they are usually made of sheets of lead or metal, carved into with the a nail, rolled, and then the nail is struck through the roll.  This could also fall into the “write a paper, A&S entry, then teach class” category.  I have another friend who is thinking about teaching a class on devotional items that I hope will consider doing a back to back with me.  I think having a class of items of devotion followed by items of cursing has a nice round path of mystical intents.

 

  • Barren Women in the Ancient World – As a woman who has no interest in having children of her own, I find a distinct disconnect with a lot of the history of women when it comes to the Matronae for my own period.  I suspect I would feel this way regardless of what persona I would have picked.  In a more modern Pagan thought process, some people re-assign the “Maiden, Mother, Crone” life cycle to “Maiden, Warrior, Crone,” and again I don’t fancy myself a warrior by any means.  To quote my husband, “The only battles I want to encounter are margarita hangovers.”  For so many cultures the focus on identity for women surrounds having babies, but what about those that couldn’t or didn’t want to?  What role did they play?  This is not something I know a great deal about right now but it’s something I would love to investigate.  I know that Roman women who were widowed, unmarried or barren could not be handed down property unless specifically named in the dead’s “will”.  I also know that many barren women went on to hold spiritual roles in the communities, but this couldn’t be their only outlet for prestige?  I will have to dig more into this.  The previous two topics are the ones that will most likely get actively worked with this year.

    Plenty to work on, read up on and put into practice for the time being.  I will need to take a look at my available sources and decide whether votives or curse tablets should be my first goal.  Spring is here so I need to get working if I want to make a Summer Atlantian University deadline.

 

 

Food: Bacon and Fish Soup

This recipe was taken from “Prehistoric Cooking” by Jacqui Wood which is a great jumping off point for Iron Age recipes and available foods, especially in the UK.  She did years of experimental archaeology on food which is a combination of the use of paleoethnobotany to determine foods available and diets of ancient people as well as the act of using that information to experiment with making edible items.

Things you might learn while doing experimental archaeology, which is learning through living IMO, is that many of the Iron Age bread recipes are best cooked (and more quickly cooked) as bannocks rather than straight up rolls or bread loafs.  That sleeping and bathing in a torc is feasible.  Or that horse hair sleeping rolls are pure gold whether it’s winter or summer.  These are some things you can only learn by doing and experiencing.

While my focus is more on the continent, many of these foods were available in both places, barring some plants which are not a fact in this specific dish.  I would place this recipe in: entirely reasonable for Gaulish consumption.

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Recipe as shown: Bacon, leeks, smoked fish, milk, cream, chives, and salt.  Fry the bacon, add leeks to the grease.  Cook until tender.  Add fish and cover with milk, slow cook for about 30 minutes.  Add cream, chives and salt at the end.

Since I am a consistent and steady lady…I eyeballed everything.  I would have likely used every cooking pan in my kitchen for the sole reason to drive myself insane with cleaning dishes.   All cooking adventures usually ends in our kitchen looking like a greasy tornado touched down, said NOPE and went on it’s way.

However, I convinced myself that as an Iron Age lady, I can’t be bothered with multiple cooking implements.  It was all going to be done in one pot: it was glorious.

This recipe was not entirely the result of careful planning as it was the result of actually having most of the ingredients on hand.  The only item I had to seek out was the smoked fish, in which case I looked for smoked herring without complicated additives: so just fish and salt.

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All ingredients above, just ignore the butter.  Butter just appeared out of no where and photo bombed everything.  Bad butter!

After the ingredients have been assembled and the butter dismissed it was time to cook.

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Bacon cooked in pot.

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After bacon cooked and grease from bacon was released, I added the chopped leaks.

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Bacon and leeks cooked down.

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Add the smoked fish and milk to the batch.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.

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After about 30 minutes I added a little cream, stirred it all up, and served it.

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Finished meal.

This came out very well and got the picky-husband seal of approval.  My husband is one of those guys that is always happy to try new things, but has been generally disapproving of historical recipes.  This one was a hit.  It was great with a little bit of bread for dipping.  I eat mine with a glass of beer which really added to the experience.

This is a heavy and high calorie meal.  This took about 10 minutes of actual work from me and 30 minutes of waiting for things to cook.  I would absolutely consider this for camping events as both a period and easy to make meal.

An adjustment I might make is the drain the bacon grease from the bacon and leeks before adding the fish and milk.  The grease would slowly separate and lay on the top of the dish, which might not be visually appealing for others.  In the interest of time and simplicity on a site I would leave it and just stir it well before serving.

Questions: Bead Distribution in Female Graves

Do you ever ask yourself a question, have an idea to the answer, but need more research to be sure of your thoughts?  This is one of those moments.

I am comfortable with being able to say that the ladies of the more Nordic cultures as well as Anglo-Saxon women certainly hung bead strands from should to shoulder supported by brooches.  I also feel pretty good about the hanging of the same items as well as chain for Bronze Age women across multiple cultures on the continent.

But what about Gaulish women before Romanization?  The more I glance, the more it seems pretty clear to me that these were likely bead strands worn around the neck or tucked away as a general personal belonging at the belt line.  Are bead strands worn around the neck rather than from shoulder to shoulder a possible visual facet to bring a little extra authentication to a woman’s Gaulish persona?

Period and Persona: Figuring It Out Part 4 – Name and Heraldry

Finding a name has been a trial for me to say the least.  There is a limit to the books on surviving names for my period and location and they were not the most easy to find.  Many of the lists available for women’s names online are woefully short and poorly cited.  However, after second guessing myself and being a general pain in the ass I think I have settled on either Litta Celori or Litta Argentias.

Initially I hoped to put together a name with my real-life initials and something that sounded similar but wasn’t a fan of many of my options.  There were some I really liked that were a mouthful.  I suspect having an easy to read and pronounce name would help me connect with others better than something like Sennametomara Autriahenae.

All three components come from the same inscription.  Argentias is a genitive singular of an ā-stem of the Gaulish word “Argenta/Argentia” which is the word for silver.  It’s confirmed to be used as a name in several location across Gaul.  Celori has only appeared in one source I can find as a likely a variation of Celorus or Celorius which general accepted as a Celtic to Latin name.  Being that I plan on having a persona of mixed heritage, this works astoundingly well.

Litta is a funny one in which my google-fu leaves me perplex.  It was clearly used in Latin; I have found one other period source located in Iberia; it was also a late medieval Italian name; is a stem for early Germanic names; comes up as both Latin, Spanish and Danish of origin for modern people…this name travels but doesn’t seem to claim an origin to any one period or culture.  Since I have a period use in the right time, region and mixed with Gaulish names, I would say that it would be a win in general.

Heraldry was easier to work with as it came down to making up something I liked that was no used by another.  I got the clear for use of:

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Argent, an anille palewise sable between in fess two coneys sejant respectant azure.

Rabbits are one of my favorite things on this earth (I have three of my own after all) and I wanted something that somewhat resembled Gaulish shield designs.  While there aren’t really Gaulish designs that were legal for use in the SCA I decided that I would vertically turn an anille and get something that reminds me of those same shield designs.

I’ll be submitting this week.  I hope it all goes swimmingly.