Length: 4.000 cm
Gift of Mrs A.G. Neall
P&EE 1911 12-8 5
Room 50: Britain and Europe
Bronze model of a human head
Iron Age, about 50-20 BC
From Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England
A face from the past
This face is 2000 years old. He is a mature man with hair combed back, clean-shaven except for a well-groomed moustache. Images of prehistoric Britons are very rare and in the Iron Age people were almost never shown as statues or carved as part of the decoration on objects. La Tène art styles were usually abstract and rarely showed images of people, animals or plants. This pattern changed at the very end of the Iron Age in the south east of the England. Here, there are a few pictures of Iron Age men shown on coins or as decorations on wooden buckets.
This is one of three small bronze models of men's faces that were the decoration on a wooden bucket found in a Late Iron Age cremation burial. The grave probably belonged to someone of great importance and wealth, perhaps even a king or queen. The bucket would have looked similar to the one found in another Late Iron Age cremation burial at Aylesford, Kent. This also had men's faces on the handle mounts.
The grave was the burial of a king or queen similar to another royal grave at Welwyn Garden City. The grave also contained two bronze jugs and a bronze pan, similar to examples from the Aylesford burial. There were also two Roman silver cups, five Roman wine amphorae and many pots.
S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
I.M. Stead, Celtic art in Britain before t (London, The British Museum Press, 1987, revised edition 1997)