Gundestrup Cauldron at the National Museum of Ireland

17 Sep

         ERICA NESSES

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          My trip to The National Museum of Ireland was filled with an immediate emersion into ancient and medieval Irish culture. The museum was filled with hundreds of old artifacts relating to the history of Ireland which helped understanding how modern Ireland evolved from its very beginning. One relic that caught my eye was the Gundestrup Cauldron, which dated between 200BC and 300AD during the Roman Iron Age. This particular artifact happened to be a replica of the actual Gundestrup Cauldron, which is located in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. The replica was a great visual representation of the richly decorated silver bowl-like vessel. This work of silver is the largest surviving piece of the Iron Age. Towering 42cm in height and 69cm in length, the cauldron weighs about 9kg. This work is comprised of 5 long plates on the interior, 7 short plates on the exterior, and one round base plate in the middle on the inside.

            The process of creating the art in the panels on the side required skill of many silversmiths. The exterior is heavily embellished with designs of gods and goddesses as well as spiritual activities that were traditionally Celtic deities of Irish mythology. The interior plates show scenes of human sacrifice. The purpose of this basin was to practice religious Celtic Polytheism sacrifices. These sacrifices were ceremonies that were used to connect the Kings to deities in a specific manor; people were suspended on top of the Cauldron and then sacrificed their life. Practicing votive offerings used by the Cauldron was another sacred offering to gain favor with supernatural forces. The Cauldron was found in a peat bog in 1891. Bogs played large roles in the wetlands of Ireland. The bogs served a purpose to bury objects, noblemen, and human sacrifices. The remains of Irish wetlands that were displayed at the museum as well are items that were used by men that worked on the peat bogs who most likely buried bodies and possibly the Cauldron into the bog.

            This piece represents human sacrifice, which similarly relates to the bog bodies that were excavated and preserved. The bodies of people found in bogs were most likely burials or participants of a sacrifice. It made sense to bury the Cauldron with the bodies of those sacrificed. It is believed that the style of the Cauldron suggests a Thracian origin, whereas the actual images appear to be of Celtic descent. A particular controversy over this piece doubts the exact religion that used this because of the mix of two cultures’ values within it’s entirety. This could have been two societies that came together to do sacrifices together or one society that took over another and then went on to complete the Cauldron. This object especially caught my attention because of its controversy and unknown of its exact creators.

 

References:

Grewenig, M. “The Gundestrup Cauldron.” Archaeology in Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. <http://www.archeurope.com/index.php?page=gundestrup-cauldron&gt;.

“The Gundestrup Cauldron – Mythology and Cosmology.” Native Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. <http://www.native-science.net/Gundestrup-Cauldron.htm&gt;.

“Gundestrup Cauldron.” UNC. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

 <http://www.unc.edu/celtic/catalogue/Gundestrup/kauldron.html&gt;.

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