Monday, February 4, 2013

The Celtic Hochdorf burial mound 500BC

Some things come to mind and have to be written down, this time, probably for most people boring history!  Some time ago I watched as people on a forum argued against restoration of stones at Avebury.  Restoration was wrong, reconstructing the past was even more so, well to a point I disagreed with vehemently held views,  all history has been 'discovered' through the ages, at what point do we take history to become 'finished' 

The reconstructed mound

 Well take the Hochdorf burial mound above, this is a reconstruction of the mound that was obliterated by the plough, it stood in a snow covered landscape  giving an example of how it was once.  The stone on the top, may even have been one of these sandstone figures here, acclaiming a strong king or even warrior.
Although the mound had disappeared the burial still lay underneath and was discovered in 1978, the high lord with all his worldly goods, a great chariot, the beautiful couch he was laid out on, gold plates and the great cauldron from which the drink mead was distributed at banquets, also woven cloth and the gold on his slippers and body, including brooches and arm rings. 
All this lay under the great crush of soil, stone and the timbers that had destroyed the burial chamber.  The couch on which he had laid was crushed to pieces, and yet it was patiently restored over the years to its former glory, and this can be seen in the Stuttgart Museum. 
But this is just  the beginning, the archaeological work, the restoration of all the objects took many, many years, but the replica housed in the Celtic Museum at Hochdorf not only points to a great pride in its own prehistory but the fact that the three parishes that made up this council chose to build and fund the reconstruction, and then build a museum to house all the findings.
The couch was made up of large bronze sheets and then hammered into the required shape, the decoration of wagons and sword dancing were all punched in by different tools, the little supporting figurines even had wheels on them for rolling the couch.
As for the chariot, tools at first had to be made for the reconstruction of this iron-clad vehicle, the preserved metal was fitted which took many years and then new iron used to complete the task.  The under frame of the chariot was made of wood, and no part of this had  survived, but other fragments point to the use of ash and maple.  The wheel rims had been formed from a single piece of wood, a great technical achievement.  The body of the chariot was made from elm, with springy poles of elm for the floor.
The appendix at the back of my catalogue pays tribute to all the many people who have worked on this Celtic burial, experimental archaeology has given many answers as to the 'how and why'.
So to my initial question should we reconstruct, the answer in this case was definitely yes, the reconstruction has valuable education for all those schoolchildren who must visit the museum, and of course adults.  For me, it put together lots of answers that had been floating about in my head, to be honest, seeing the Gundestrup Cauldron at the Stuttgart Museum was something I never thought I would see, it's imagery so profound introducing you into a culture, not barbaric as so often as the Celts are seen but a lively introduction into another culture.......

                        The large arch that is the height of the mound, going over the museum


  1. What beautiful treasures.

    So long as original structures are not destroyed, then a certain amount of reconstruction seems very valid. It is the way for both children and adults to begin to understand the lives of long gone people. If it stimulates the imagination and fires further learning then that has to be a good thing?

  2. Hi to you both, yes DW it does seem right that reconstruction can take place so that we become more aware of how history has taken place...