Broadly speaking, the earliest Celtic arts and crafts appeared in Iron Age Europe with the first migrations of Celts coming from the steppes of Southern Russia, from about 1000 BCE onwards. Any European art, craftwork or architecture before this date derives from earlier Bronze Age societies of the Urnfield culture (1200-750 BCE), or the Tumulus (1600-1200 BCE), Unetice (2300-1600 BCE) or Beaker (2800–1900 BCE) cultures.
What Were the Early Influences on Celtic Arts?
The first Celts brought their own cultural styles, derived from the Caucasian Bronze Age, as well as a knowledge of Mediterranean and Etruscan styles, derived from maritime trading contacts through the Bosporus between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean basin. Settling in the area of the Upper Danube, the Celts duly absorbed motifs of the ancient Danubian tradition.
They also brought with them a knowledge of iron-making, metalwork and jewellery art, possibly developed from the Bronze-making Maikop culture of the Russia Caucasus, or contacts with the Levant. (The later La Tene silver masterpiece, known as the “Gundestrup cauldron” is believed to have been made in the Black Sea region.)
What Was the First Style of Celtic Arts?
The earliest true Celtic idiom in the area of arts and crafts was the Hallstatt culture. This derived from the type-site situated in Salzkammergat (a salt mine region), near the village of Halstaat in Austria, and lasted from roughly 800 to 475 BCE.
Although centred around Austria, the Hallstatt culture spread across central Europe, divided into two zones: an eastern zone encompassing Slovakia, Western Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic; and a western zone which included Southern Germany, Switzerland, Northern Italy, and Eastern France. The Hallstatt culture was founded on its lucrative European-wide trade in salt, and iron implements, and its prosperity was fully reflected in the burial sites of its chieftains and wealthy nobility, which contained huge quantities of finely crafted artifacts, jewellery, pottery, tools and other objects.