Celts, Bronze Age weapons, and the ROM's Celtic Family Weekend

Posted: February 29, 2012 - 13:11 , by Robert Mason

Woman holding a metal shield in her hands

Here Kay Sunahara of the ROM's Department of World Cultures places a rare shield from the Middle Bronze Age on its mount.

As a part of the Family Weekends at the ROM we will be putting out some treasures from the vaults, objects for which we presently do not have in the gallery. For the Celtic weekend of March 3 and 4 we have a display of weapons from the Bronze Age of the Celtic World, roughly 2,000 to 700 BC. During this period valuable bronze, a mixture of copper and the rare metal tin, would have been used by the elite of society, and warrior chieftains and heroes would be armed with these beautifully gleaming spears, shields, and swords. Although the ROM has Bronze Age objects from all over Europe, these are from the Atlantic region, the same region that was the site of Megalith constructions like Stonehenge earlier in the Neolithic, and is where we find Celtic-speaking peoples in the Iron Age (after 700 BC). Archaeologists once thought that the Celts spread out from Middle Europe in the Iron Age with the Hallstatt culture, but more recent thinking is that the people had been living on the edges of the Atlantic for much, much longer, and it was just the objects of the culture, the pottery and other artefacts, that spread across Europe with the spread of iron metallurgy. We don’t really know what language was spoken by the people that made and used these artefacts, but genetic evidence supports the view that most of the population of Britain and Ireland are Celts who came from Spain five thousand years ago – with the spread of Megaliths.

But the Celts weren’t just about weaponry, if you come to the Celtic weekend we will have a  lot of music, dance, stories, and other family activities!

Different weapons laying on a table

These are some of the Late Bronze Age swords and daggers that will be displayed. The sword with the curved handle is interesting, it was actually taken during a rebellion in Ireland in the 18th century, which is when the leather handle was added.

Woman holding an axe head

Here Kay is holding a Middle Bronze Age axe which has been (very carefully) fitted with a handle.

Gloved hands holding an axe-head

This axe-head from Galicia (Celtic Spain) is very interesting in that it has never been finished. Under Kay's thumb is the spur that remains from where the molten bronze was poured into the mould to make the axe. This would need to be removed to make the axe-head useable.