Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Battle Horns

Back to basics—meaning archaeology and Celts. The carnyx was the Celts’ battle horn. It had a boar’s head at the top, which stood two meters above the men who held it. Probably emitted an eerie, terrifying sound.

We know about carnyx’s . . . um, carnyxi? ah: carnyces! from impressions on the Gundestrup cauldron, a beautiful embossed bowl made up of many plates with depictions of Celtic mythology. On one plate is an antlered god. On another, a procession of men being dipped into a cauldron—could indicate some underworld death ritual, or magic spell, or hallucinogenic experience.

Those silly Celts neglected to leave us a manual explaining the symbolism.

Anyway, besides the Gundestrup cauldron, some ancient coins depict carnyces. The horns are also mentioned by Roman and Greek writers.

In 2004, a trove of five—FIVE!—bronze carnyces were found buried beneath a temple in Correze, France. Four had boar's head mouthpieces; the fifth had a serpent's head. The horns date to the first century BCE. Below is a picture of archaeologists carefully brushing away debris to reveal the instruments. Note the perfectly preserved Styrofoam cups and a plastic bottle as well.

(the picture is shamelessly copied from this site, which is in French.)
The site—called Tintignac—also yielded nine beautiful war helmets, including one decorated with a swan. Although the news stories do not specifically state this, my assumption is that these items were all offerings to deities, dropped into sacred pits and later buried so that the invading Romans would not find and profane them.
No whole carnyces had been found before, so the site (to me) is more important that all the new mummies that Dr. Hawas has unearthed near the pyramids.

Here is a news story in English on the discovery. Another article puts the dig in Lemovices territory.

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