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Old October 26th, 2013, 01:22 AM   #11

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Originally Posted by Alexandros ho Megas View Post
First of all, please correct me if I'm posting in the wrong part of the forum.

A topic that I'd very much like to explore: did the Celts engage in human sacrifice, and, if they did, to what extent was it practiced? What is the evidence for and against?

I know that Roman and Greek writers described the Celts as engaging in human sacrifice, but to what extent can they be trusted? I've read that there is little archeological evidence supporting Roman/Greek claims. Also, could the Celts have sacrificed volunteers, in a sort of potlatch ceremony? I believe there is a reference in Poseidonius' Histories to just such a potlatch gesture.

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There is much evidence of celtic human sacrifice. In fact, one of the responsibilities of the Druids was to oversee these rites and prevent them getting out of hand. In dealing with a people that saw the world as a mysterious and dangerous place, the ill fortunes of fate demanded an explanation. Why had the crops failed? Why had my father died so young? Where are the rains this year?

The Celts had adopted a practice of human sacrifice either to read omens for the future (judged by how a victim died), but also to offer a member of the community who was chosen as 'not fitting in' or unpopular, to please the gods with their blood.

Rites varied. The Romans reported some horrific rites conducted by Germans in ad9, which may have an element of propaganda, but in general the significant number 3 emerges. A victim was bound and hit upon the head to stun them - this was no light blow - then strangled to constrict the blood flow, then the throat cut, to release the blood in a powerful spurt. Only the final cut was intended as the lethal finale - for a victim to have died before that point would undoubtedly be seen as a bad omen.

The reports of the infamous gallic 'wicker-man' as related by Caesar don't leave us with any archaeological evidence. Perhaps he was witnessing exceptional rites caused by the eruption of laerger scale war and misfortune of the period, or perhaps this was a story than grew in the telling. We don't know.

Celtic human sacrifice continued after the Roman occupation and the defeat of the druidic movement at the BAttle of Mona. There is evidence in the north of Britain in the first century ad of victims thrown into a vertical cave after having been 'prepard', a secret alternative to the conventional rites these people wanted kept from the eyes of the Romans. However, such practises don't seem to have survived for longer.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 01:47 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Edgewaters View Post
I have heard the same reference in relation to the Celts, although the way I heard it was that an actual king (ie chieftain) was sacrificed at age 30, not that a random victim was treated like a king. I have no idea the veracity of the claim but it is reported here, for example:

Bog bodies are kings sacrificed by Celts says expert | Irish News | IrishCentral
The King or chief was very much in the firing line when it came to sacrificial Celtic ceremony in Ireland. As has already been mentioned, events like crop failure, losing a battle or any major setback could cast the gaze of the tuath or tribe towards their King. These unwanted times were also opportunities for the aspiring and ambitious who would use such events to gain control of the tuath. The right of ascension in Eire was different to the Primogeniture type custom of other peoples in that it was the strongest who prevailed.
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Old October 27th, 2013, 07:46 PM   #13

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I have heard of the sacrifice of a king; usually an annual event, and linked perhaps to "fertility rites"- though I first read about it as a ancient Greek tradition. I also read that a Irish King as traditionally killed on Samhain. As Eamonn10 said, I have heard that there was a deep connection between the welfare of the Celtic tribe and the kingship- the king was expected to provide victory in war and prosperity in peace. Maybe a king who failed at this was seen as having been forsaken by the gods, and thus killed. Does anyone have more information on that subject?

Also, the sacred caldron themes (especially the images on the Gundestrup caldron) may be linked to an old Celtic myth in which a caldron was used to resurrect dead warriors, though those so resurrected where said to be unable to speak again. Perhaps scenes of the legend were misinterpreted?

caldrail's statements about Roman descriptions of Germanic sacrifice mirror almost exactly the wounds found on the "Lindow Man", a corpse discovered in a bog in England. He had apparently be struck on the head, strangled, and had his throat cut in rapid succession. He also had manicured nails, and traces of mistletoe (a plant thought of as sacred by the Druids due to it's association with oak) in his stomach.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 02:29 AM   #14

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Actually the Germanic sacrifices were more of an uncontrolled bloodletting and torture session. The results of this event were discovered by Germanicus years later as he sought to recover the lost 'eagles'. The druidic style individual sacrifices demonstrate preparation, although it isn't clear whether victims were voluntary or unwiling.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 03:12 AM   #15

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Originally Posted by Salah View Post
This is a rather misleading statement to post in this thread. The pre-Christian Celtic nations were pretty far removed in every sense from the Mexican Triple Alliance.
I was referring to the Celts.

It was a quick post, I didn't have a lot of time to make that explicit but I'd have thought it would've been clear if you'd read the link.

I had a look through that old thread, there were posts in there about the Celtic King for a year phenomenon, before being sacrificed.

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Old November 7th, 2013, 05:30 AM   #16

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The Smithsonian channel documentary Tomb Detectives - battle of the bones, describes the sites of Ribemont-sur-Ancre & Gourney-sur-Aronde.
Click the image to open in full size.
Ribemont-Sur-Ancre battlefield | balkancelts
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This shrine/sanctuary was erected on the site of the Battle at Ribemont, where around 1,000 Celtic warriors are believed to have died. The victorious Belgae erected this shrine to celebrate the great battle, decapitated the bodies of the defeated warriors taking the heads home with them as trophies. The headless corpses and thousands of weapons collected from the battle field were hung from a large wooden platform (‘Tower of Silence’).

Evidence of weathering and dismemberment of the dead at the site, and others such as Ham Hill, is consistent with the well documented Celtic religious practice of exposing corpses after death to be devoured by birds of prey and carnivores.
At Ribemont, two (2) ditch-enclosed structures contained the skeletons of ~1000 warriors, and ~60 higher-status chieftains. The warriors' headless bodies were displayed on some sort of scaffolding, high on a hill. The higher-status chieftains' headless (?) bodies were displayed, with standing stones, somehow associated with each individual.

The above picture is partially mis-leading, since the cited Smithsonian documentary displayed the swords, spear-tips, and shield bosses, as bashed in, punctured, bent, and other-wise warped, into non-functionality. Inexpertly, both the bodies, and their weapons, were displayed, to demonstrate having been beat up, bashed about, and beaten. i suspect, that spear-shafts, and shield-plates (?), would have been broken & busted-up too.

Also presuming to quibble with the documentary, the 60 higher-status skeletons perhaps represented the kings & chieftains of the defeated (not the fallen of their foe). I.e. all the skeletons were displayed, to demonstrate the domination & annihilation of the fallen, and all were from the same tribe, separated by status. The sacred standing stones were demonstrated to have been spiritually dominated.

Employing online translator tools,

Sanctuaire de Ribemont-sur-Ancre - Wikipédia

the "battle of the bones" occurred in the early 3rd century BC, about the time of the Galatian invasion of the Balkans and Anatolia, seemingly circa summer 270 BC. The site contains a thousand skeletons, and ten-thousand metallic objects (swords, spear-tips, shield-bosses), perhaps implying that many more men fought, then were shamefully displayed, perhaps implying, in turn, that the display was designed to intimidate the defeated survivors. Massive migrations, of Belgae into Gaul, and Galatians into the Balkans, could conceivably be causally correlated & connected.

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Old November 7th, 2013, 07:00 AM   #17

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unified "proto-Celtic" language(-and-culture) = 1300-800 BC

conservative Q-Celtic (Ireland) vs. innovative P-Celtic (Spain, Gaul, Britain) = 800-500 BC ~= onset of iron age amongst Celts
e.g. Cruithne (Ireland) <----> Priteni (Britain)
the "K" ----> "P" sound change "occurs in other language groups (especially the Osco-Umbrian and Greek)", perhaps resulting from trade ties to Mediterranean merchants, e.g. Etruria, Italy, and Greece ?
Iron technology was acquired from Mediterranean mercantile contacts ?
presuming to quibble with O'Rahilly's historical model, i personally perceive no evidence, that any Irish ever spoke any P-Celtic tongues. Instead, i inexpertly perceive Q-Celtic to be conservative, more (overall) representative of proto-IE & proto-Celtic (~= R1b ?), whereas P-Celtic seems to incorporate foreign styles of sounds, specifically in sites, where more Mediterranean trade ties are known to have happened.


According to the Smithsonian channel documentary Tomb Detectives - bog bodies, Irish bog bodies were buried along "tuarra" (sp??), tribal boundary lines, between chiefdoms, during the Irish iron age = 500BC - 500AD:
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The reasons behind these bog body killings remains uncertain but Ned Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland has suggested a very interesting theory (see Archaeology, No. 63, Vol 3, May/June 2010) . He believes that “these men were failed kings or failed candidates for kingship who were killed and placed in bogs that formed important tribal boundaries. Both Clonycavan and Old Croghan men’s nipples were pinched and cut. “Sucking a king’s nipples was a gesture of submission in ancient Ireland,” says Kelly. “Cutting them would have made him incapable of kingship.” The bodies served as offerings to the goddess of the land to whom the king was wed in his inauguration ceremony. According to Kelly, both men’s multiple injuries may reflect the belief that the goddess was not only one of the land and fertility, but also of sovereignty, war, and death. “By using a range of methods to kill the victim, the ancient Irish sacrificed to the goddess in all her forms,”.

Irish bog bodies, some recent discoveries | Irish Archaeology
i also personally perceive, that the proto-Celtic culture more closely corresponds, to the Atlantic Bronze Age culture, along the coasts, vs. Hallstatt culture in the core, of the continent. The Urnfield -> Hallstatt culture complex would then be unidentified (Belgae ?? "proto-Czech" ??):
http://images.wikia.com/historyatlas...ope-1300bc.jpg

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Old November 7th, 2013, 12:06 PM   #18

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Originally Posted by Widdekind View Post
The "battle of the bones" occurred in the early 3rd century BC, about the time of the Galatian invasion of the Balkans and Anatolia, seemingly circa summer 270 BC. The site contains a thousand skeletons, and ten-thousand metallic objects (swords, spear-tips, shield-bosses), perhaps implying that many more men fought, then were shamefully displayed, perhaps implying, in turn, that the display was designed to intimidate the defeated survivors. Massive migrations, of Belgae into Gaul, and Galatians into the Balkans, could conceivably be causally correlated & connected.
As I said in a previous post, it has been proved by JL Brunaux that a very large majority of these bodies had not been sacrified. There is a doubt for only several of them.
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Old November 7th, 2013, 05:45 PM   #19

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As I said in a previous post, it has been proved by JL Brunaux that a very large majority of these bodies had not been sacrified. There is a doubt for only several of them.
the documentary did not say "sacrifice" per se, but battle-victims ritually / ceremonially displayed... unambiguously, all 1000+60 skeletons had been beheaded, in characteristic "Celtic" head-hunting trophy-taking, surely suggesting some sort of spiritually symbolic ceremony of some sort... but, battle was clearly the context, not some sort of "sacrificial slaughter of slaves" or some such

(someone made mention of "Ribemont", so i was posting pertaining to that particular point)
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Old November 8th, 2013, 04:44 AM   #20

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I mentioned previously the site of Ribemont as, for some years, it was supposed some human sacrifices had been done on this site. We know today it was very probably not the case.

However, I read again several books and articles published by JL Brunaux who lead the excavations in Ribemont from 1990, so I point out some mistakes in your previous posts :
- JL Brunaux doesn't mention high status chieftains. He only mentions ~ 30 skeletons found inside of the sanctuary, that should have been those of the victors. The great majority of the other skeletons (~700) have been found outside of the sanctuary. They should have belonged to the defeated.
- The great majority of the weapons have not been "bashed in, punctured, bent, and other-wise warped, into non-functionality." (which is not the case in Gournay sur Aronde).
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