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The Celt Head Hunters

Celts are known to be great warriors and defenders of their tribal territories. And as great warriors they capitalize on their victories. There is quite a controversy over the truth or fallacy of Celts as headhunters.

Celts are rumoured to keep the heads of their deceased enemies as a sign of their hard-earned triumph. In celebration of their conquest, the heads become their trophies.

Romans were greatly influenced by the Celts and vice versa. One thing that the Romans may have adopted from the Celts is the warfare of headhunting. Historical researchers believed that headhunting is actually a ritual and not entirely a barbaric practice. It originally derived from the Celts and not from the Romans. The heads are said to have been offered to their gods. There are also hard evidences to prove this claim. Such evidence is located at the Celtic shrine in southern France where an ancient doorway was found embellished with skulls.

The Celts believed that the head of a human is the centre of its life and the symbol for spirituality. This belief is even illustrated in their art and literature. The La Tene carvings, an example of Celtic Art, depict the images of severed heads. Celtic mythology also mentioned how one person can separate from his physical human body, and only with their heads can they possibly communicate with the other world. Such was the story of Green Knight and Sir Gawain. It was said the Green Knight carried his own head after Sir Gawaiin cut it off. A similar story was that of Saint Denis where he similarly brought along his own head at the hill of Montmartre.

A great revelation of the headhunting practices of the Celts began to be more apparent when forensic archaeologists discovered and unearthed a mass grave found in the battleground of the Somme. The battle was believed to be the war between the Armoricans (a Breton tribe) and Ambiens (a Belgic tribe), which are both of Celtic origin. The war might have occurred more than 2,000 years ago. The battle was said to have been won by the Ambiens. The remains found on the site was predicted to men with ages ranging anywhere from 15-40 years old. The researchers found more than 500 people who bear signs of distressing violence. This only proves that the said location was indeed a battlefield. What was even more shocking was that hundreds of the bodies, of both the Ambiens and Armoricans, were nowhere to be found. Archeologists attest that the heads where cut by knives as evident by how their neck vertebras were badly severed.

The enemies' and victors' heads were brought back to the tribe's village that won the battle. There are signs that a ritual ensued after the war. The two types of heads are treated differently. The heads of their enemies were suspended on a wooden frame along with their weapons. They allow the frames to rot along with the bones, and then they crush and burn their enemies' remains. On the other hand, the heroes' bones, or the warriors of the victorious tribe who died in the battle, were organized on top of each other forming some sort of a shrine. The ashes from the burned corpses of the enemy are then placed at the center of the said shrine. Such a ritual shows how the Celts revered the dead. Celts are known to be very religious and show respect for both the heroes of their tribe and the warriors of their enemy.

The image of Celts as ruthless headhunters may as well be just black propaganda. Taking off their enemies' head is believed to be a ritual, a way to respect the valour and dignity of warriors even after their death.

Original Authors: Jennifer Tumanda
Edit Update Authors: RPN
Updated On: 25/01/2007



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