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| Nationalmuseet (National Museum) |
[750 x 500 jpg]
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|Description ||The Gundestrup Cauldron. From the museum website: "Silver was virtually unknown in Denmark when this large cauldron of nine kilos arrived in the country in around 100 BC. ... it was produced in the southern Balkans by Thracians, who specialised in the manufacture of luxurious silverware."
Museum in København, Denmark.
| The cauldron was discovered by peat cutters in a small peat-bog called Rævemose, at Gundestrup, on May 28, 1891.|
The Danish government paid a large reward to the finders, who subsequently quarreled bitterly amongst themselves over its division.
The cauldron was found in a dismantled state, with five long rectangular plates, seven short ones, one round plate (normally termed the 'base plate') and two fragments of tubing stacked inside the curved base. Palaeobotanical investigation of the surrounding peat showed that the land had been dry when the cauldron was deposited, and the peat had since gradually grown over it. The manner of stacking suggests an attempt to make the cauldron inconspicuous and well-hidden.
The original ordering of the outer and inner rectangular plates is uncertain, although in two places a sharp object has apparently pierced through both an outer and an inner plate, which can thus be aligned with some certainty. The plates retain traces of solder, but since they seem to have been separated by 2 cm strips of metal (now missing), rather than soldered directly together, these traces do not help in matching adjacent plates.
One of the eight original outer plates is missing. The circular 'base plate' originated as a phalera, or horse's bridle decoration, and it is commonly thought to have resided in the bottom of the bowl as a late addition, soldered in to repair a hole. By an alternative theory, this phalera was not initially part of the bowl, but instead formed part of the decorations of a wooden cover. The cauldron has been repaired, and possibly even dismantled and reassembled, multiple times, and the repair quality is inferior to the original craftmanship.
For many years scholars have interpreted the cauldron's images in terms of the Celtic pantheon. The antlered figure in plate A has been commonly identified as Cernunnos, and the figure holding the broken wheel in plate C is more tentatively thought to be Taranis. There is no consensus regarding other figures. The elephants depicted on plate B have been explained by some Celticists as a reference to Hannibal's crossing of the Alps.
The silverworking techniques used in the cauldron are unknown from the Celtic world, but are consistent with the renowned Thracian sheet-silver tradition; the scenes depicted are not distinctively Thracian, but certain elements of composition, decorative motifs and illustrated items (such as the shoelaces on the "Cernunnos" figure) identify it as Thracian work.
The silver in the cauldron cannot be tracked to an individual mine by lead isotope analysis, since the melted coins such artifacts are normally made of can originate in many mines. The variety of coin used has, however, been determined with some certainty, by careful analysis of weights: a total weight of 9445 grams was reconstructed for the entire cauldron, and 4255 grams for the bowl alone, and these were found to be nearly precise integer multiples of the weight of the Persian siglos, a coin weighing 5.67 grams. By this calculation 1,666 coins were used in total, 750 of them in the bowl. This supports an origin in Thrace, where Persian weights were in common use. The phalera base plate, added to the cauldron at a later date, also originated in Thrace.
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