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.

 

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 2

The jump from Pict to some undetermined identity in Gaul was a fairly quick one.  I am convinced that the business of my brain is purely meant to torment me, which means when I don’t know a comfortable amount of information about something: I am going to eat it for three meals a day until I do understand it.

The term “celtic” probably makes you think of ancient insular cultures and people such as the Irish.  However, “celtic” is used as an umbrella terms that casts it’s shadow over a very large area and number of populations. Academically the jury is still out for a decisive explanation of the term depending on specialization, but my education leads me down the linguistic definition of the term.  Which means, rather than limiting the definition to the Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Manx, Cornish and a few other smaller groups, it encompasses the linguistically related tribes in continental Europe as well.

While the Picts hold a dear place in my heart and I absolutely adore them, many books I had and began to acquire touched on other “celtic” populations.  As someone who is genetically broken down into Italian, German, Broadly Southern European and Broadly North Western European…I found myself identifying more with the people of the continent under the celtic scope.  I could see in my head little details of the persona forming and it simply wasn’t Pictish.

As I read, glanced over images of artifacts, and considered the finer details of a persona it became very evident that: There was limited information on the non-Roman inhabitant of Gaul that are female.  I feel as if there is a wealth of information for Hallstatt culture but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go that far back even if the beautiful spiral designs were an easily identifiable feature of the culture.  Romans paint a vivid picture but their sources are laced with the agenda of Rome and are only partially a good source. It seemed like these people, especially in Cisalpine Gaul (Roman provinces on the same side of the Alps as Italy) where they adapted rather quickly to Romanization.  Transalpine Gaul(other side of the Alps, think France, Switzerland, Belgium, and some areas of Germany) took longer and held onto pieces of their pre-Roman culture a bit longer.  Even then, crafting an identity for a female in that world would prove to be a bit of a struggle.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

The SCA certainly appreciates an authentic representation of your period and persona, but for those that are new, not a big fan of research, or feel daunted by the task: don’t be.  There is a little something called the 10 feet rule.  If you made a good attempt that passes at a glance, then you’ve done very well.  I would never take a crap on someone’s garb because their tunic uses a cut out of period for them, or because the edges of their clothing are lined in machine stitched banding, hells no, that’s of no issue to me.  I am sure I will mention this in it’s own post at some point but “Don’t be a dick.”

For myself?  I’m going to drive myself absolutely batty in my desire to address a Gaulish persona.  I am going to search for carvings, images, corpses, grave steles, and curse tablets so see if our impression of a woman in Gaul is accurate and if it needs to be addressed and honestly: so far I am finding things that really challenge the image many of us may have for a Gaulish woman.  Like a veiled mitre/peck hat.  What. preference for pulled back hair rather then free flowing and “wild” barbarian hair in certain provinces.  Something the resembles a modern Japanese vest apron…

For the moment I am going for 100 BCE to 100 CE.  This is a highly transitional time period in Europe and in moments of not having enough sources for a specific item I can look to Roman items as a stand in.  As for location I am dabbling with the idea of the province of Rhaetia/Raetia, south western edges of Gallia and southern Germanica Superior.

The only clear thing I see for my persona is that I would be a woman of mixed heritage (Roman and Celtic) which fits with my own Italian and German heritage.  This would put me into a world and culture in transition and would leave me with many questions.

Will I be more Roman or Celtic?

How would a woman identify with the non-Roman heritage of her family and still navigate life in a Roman province successfully?

How can I skirt the edge of Romanization without taking it on fully?