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Talks & Ideas

Rethinking the Celts of the Iron Age

Monday 22 October 2018 17:00-18:00

French Archaeologist and Iron Age expert, Dr Olivier Buchsenschutz, will give a talk on the Celts of the Iron Age. Covering some eight centuries of history, Dr Buchsenschutz will reveal the development of Celtic culture, economies, and civilisation. As the Celts are one of the principal ancestors of modern-day Scottish people, this talk delivered in French is a perfect fit for the Institut français d’Ecosse. Professor Ian Ralston (University of Edinburgh) will give an introduction in English, but if you wish to attend this event, it is recommended that you have a high intermediate to advanced level of French.

The Celts designated, for Greek authors in the 5th century BCE, the tribes and peoples located in and beyond the northwest of the Alps. From the beginning of the Iron Age, in the 8th century BCE, tools, weapons, ornaments, and lifestyles evolved parallel to each other, generation after generation, across a large part of Middle Europe. These populations can be categorised as a coherent grouping, distinct from their neighbours who chose differently.

First, an aristocracy emerged, and elite group which controled trade and other exchanges with the Mediterranean world from its citadels supported by the artisanal economies of the communities outside these strongholds’ walls. Next these agglomerations disappeared and all of society, much less hierarchised, spread out in previously uninhabited rural areas. It is at this time that the Celts stepped into the Mediterranean world as settlers or as mercenaries. They developed an intensive agriculture, crafts based on the manipulation of iron and fire, and art completely liberated from the influence of the classical canons.

The 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE ushered in a new phase as artisans came together once again to form larger communities, developed the use of currency, and widely distributed the goods they produced as well as wine imported from Italy. The landed aristocracy entrenched and facilitated these initiatives by founding large fortified settlements known as oppida, usually on an elevated location. Caesar was thus able to control with ease a land that already had a hierarchised living situation with its cities, villages, and farms, which prefigured the landscapes of historical Europe.

This is how, in eight centuries’ time, the Celtic world evolved so much, yet retained its characteristic elements present in peoples from Bohemia to Brittany. The defining traits of the early Celtic peoples appeared simultaneously, despite geographic distances, as if by the mere turn of a kaleidoscope.

Dr Olivier Buchsenschutz, born in Marseille in 1946, has had a flourishing career as an archaeologist and scholar, distinguishing himself as a specialist on the Iron Age. Upon completing his graduate studies at the Université de Paris 1 in 1972, he became a Director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, continuing archaeological research on cultures and civilisations from antiquity. He held this until 2011, but remains attached to the research centre as a Director Emeritus. The author of a handful of significant books and scholarly articles, Dr Buchsenschutz has also led digs on no fewer than eight sites across France and Europe.

Professor Ian Ralston has been a faculty member of Edinburgh University’s Department of Archaeology since 1985. His main field project in recent years has been in central France and as such he has co-authored publications and participated in digs alongside Dr Buchsenschutz.

This event is delivered as a coproduction with the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, University of Edinburgh and will be followed by a short wine reception offered by the Institut français d’Ecosse

Event details:

Rethinking the Celts of the Iron Age
Monday, 22 October 2018, 5.00 - 6.00pm
With an introduction in ENGLISH by Professor Ian Ralston

Institut français d’Ecosse
West Parliament Square
Edinburgh EH1 1RF

Advanced booking recommended ONLINE via our extranet, at 0131 285 60 30, or at info ifecosse.org.uk

Photo: Agris Helmet
Credit: J. Gomez

In collaboration with:

Institut Français Écosse 2022