Authors: Duncan Garrow and Chris Gosden
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 376 including bibliography and index. Also includes black and white pictures and illustrations.
While Celtic art includes some of the most famous archaeological artefacts in the British Isles, such as the Battersea shield or the gold torcs from Snettisham, it has often been considered from an art historical point of view. Technologies of Enchantment? Exploring Celtic Art attempts to connect Celtic art to its archaeological context, looking at how it was made, used, and deposited. Based on the first comprehensive database of Celtic art, it brings together current theories concerning the links between people and artefacts found in many areas of the social sciences. The authors argue that Celtic art was deliberately complex and ambiguous so that it could be used to negotiate social position and relations in an inherently unstable Iron Age world, especially in developing new forms of identity with the coming of the Romans.
Placing the decorated metalwork of the later Iron Age in a long-term perspective of metal objects from the Bronze Age onwards, the volume pays special attention to the nature of deposition and focuses on settlements, hoards, and burials — including Celtic art objects’ links with other artefact classes, such as iron objects and coins. A unique feature of the book is that it pursues trends beyond the Roman invasion, highlighting stylistic continuities and differences in the nature and use of fine metalwork.
Trying to review this book was very hard. In the end I decided to just compare it with other books on Celtic Art that I have read. Well, this book read more as a dissertation than a book really and the maps and illustrations provided don’t really tell you much. What it does offer is something a little different. It talks about these hoards in context rather than just how they look (though they talk about that too). They try to add some dimension to what you see, and give theories as to why the art they way it is. The period covered here is from 400 BCE to 100 CE and that is enough to give you the continuity of the styles after the Roman invasion. I also found it interesting how they related things to each other like torcs and coins.
Did I love this book…no not really. Would I recommend it to others…depends. Are you the type of person who loves to read about Celtic art and want to learn about huge quantities of it, how it was made and where it was found and open minded enough to listen to the theories put forward by the authors…then go for it. However, if you are just interested in a book more to do with Celtic Art archaeology than anything else then this is not for you.