Ring money "Celtae"

75 €

The Celts, France, c. 200BC to 300AD, private collection from Netherlands.

The Celts were a collection of tribes with origins in central Europe in the Late Bronze Age and through the Iron Age (c. 700 BC to c. 400AD) that shared a similar language, religious beliefs, traditions and culture. Their tribes and groups eventually ranged from the British Isles and northern Spain to as far east as Transylvania, the Black Sea coasts, and Galatia in Anatolia and were in part absorbed into the Roman Empire as Britons, Gauls, Boii, Galatians, and Celtiberians. The mainstream view during most of the twentieth century is that the Celts and the proto-Celtic language arose out of the Urnfield culture of central Europe around 1000 BC, spreading westward and southward over the following few hundred years. The name "Celts" came from the Greeks, who made their first contact with a “barbarian” people they called the Keltoi, Keltai or Galatai (Κελτοί) in 540 B.C. on the southern coast of France. To the Romans the Celts were known as Celti, Celtae and Galli.

The origins of Celtic culture can be traced back to three earlier, closely-related, and overlapping cultural groups. The first of these is the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture present around the upper Danube from c. 1300 BCE. The name of this culture derives from the common practice of interring the cremated remains of the deceased in urns and burying them. This theory links the Celts with the Iron Age Hallstatt culture which followed it (c. 1200BC - 500 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria, and with the following La Tène culture (c. 450BC - 50AD), named after the site of that name on the northern shores of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The Hallstatt culture spread to cover what is today western Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and eastern France on the one side, and eastern Austria, Bohemia, and parts of the Balkans on the other. It was the western side of this area that would eventually develop into what we might today call the ancient Celts. The Hallstatt culture likely spread via various means such as trade, tribal alliances, intermarriages, imitation, and migration. These peoples prospered thanks to local deposits of salt, iron, and copper; commodities which could be traded along waterways. That trade reached as far south as the Mediterranean cultures (the Etruscans in Italy and the Greek colonies in southern France) is evidenced by the presence of imported goods in Hallstatt burial mounds and precious goods such as gold and amber jewellery.

The La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from 450 BC to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) in eastern France, Switzerland, Austria, southwest Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It developed out of the Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from Greek, and later Etruscan civilisations. A shift of settlement centres took place in the 4th century. The western La Tène culture corresponds to historical Celtic Gaul. Cultural features include ironworking, making votive offerings in water sources, depositing weapons in tombs, and art which is stylised with swirling, geometrical, and vegetal designs

The Celts were often in conflict with the Romans, such as in the Roman–Gallic wars, the Celtiberian Wars, the conquest of Gaul and conquest of Britain. By the 1st century AD, most Celtic territories had become part of the Roman Empire. After the Roman conquest of most Celtic lands, Celtic culture was further trampled by Germanic tribes, Slavs and Huns during the Migration Period of roughly 300AD to 600AD. As a result, few if any people living in Europe and restricted to Ireland, western and northern Britain, and Brittany. Between the 5th and 8th centuries, the Celtic-speaking communities in these Atlantic regions emerged as a reasonably cohesive cultural entity. They had a common linguistic, religious and artistic heritage that distinguished them from surrounding cultures.

Across Europe, the Celts have been credited with many artistic innovations, including intricate stone carving and fine metalworking. Celtic art was influenced by that of the earlier indigenous Iron Age cultures mentioned above and by neighbouring cultures or trading partners like the Thracians, Scythians, Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, and through these peoples, ideas from the Near East. Materials used include pottery, stone, iron, bronze, and gold with extra decoration achieved using imported exotic materials like glass, coral, and amber. Metals were cast, engraved, punched, traced, inlaid, and worked on using repoussé (grooving the material from behind to create a relief on the other side). Typical art objects include ornate cauldrons, sandstone or wooden human figures, Celtic bronze shields, gold torcs, fibulae, buckles, penannular brooches (composed of a pin and ring), and animal figurines to be used as votive offerings.

Before the introduction of struck coinage in Celtic lands, Celtic ring money (gold, silver and bronze rings), celtic arrowhead and bell money were used as currency in Celtic lands in Danube area, France, England and Ireland. The actual purpose of these rings in ancient times is disputed. They were almost certainly used as saddle or garment fittings, but it's highly likely that they were a form of proto-money as well. The rings seem to follow standard sizes, and have been found in large hoards similar to coins.

Beautiful set of three Late Iron Age Celtic medium-sized bronze/iron rings. Good condition. Intact. A lovely encrusted green patina. Age-related wear, corrosion and minimal dents. Dirt, soil and dust. Size varies from approx. 2,7cm to 2,2cm x 0,2cm. Weight c. 8g. Sell as a set.

References and citations:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Celt". Encyclopedia Britannica, 25 Oct. 2022. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Celt-people)

Ancient Celts, Mark Cartwright, World History Encyclopedia. Last modified April 01, 2021. (https://www.worldhistory.org/celt/.)

Milestones in Archaeology: A Chronological Encyclopedia, Tim Murray, ABC-CLIO, 2007.

Who Were Celts, History.com editors, Publisher A&E Television Networks, November 30, 2017. (https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/celts)

The Ancient Celts, Barry Cunliffe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Daily Life of the Pagan Celts, Joan P. Alcock, Oxford: Greenwood World Publishing, 2009.

Historical Atlas of the Celtic World, John Haywood, Thames & Hudson, November 2009.

The World of the Celts, Simon James, New York: Thames & Hudson, 1993. 3rd edn. 2005.

Britain and the Celtic Iron Age, Simon James & Valerie Rigby, London: British Museum Press, 1997.