British Museum, UK

Lost Myth of the Gundestrup Cauldron – Wild Hunt, Sacrifice and Rebirth

In 1891 a precious silver cauldron appeared during peat-digging in the bog Rævemosen, near Gundestrup in Himmerland. The vessel had been deposited in the bog – an immensely valuable sacrifice to the powers above. Before this occurred the cauldron had been taken apart. The rim and the large silver plates, which make up its sides, were taken off and placed in the bottom of the vessel.

Gundestrup Cauldron
Gundestrup Cauldron is composed of internal (A to E) and external silver plates.

The Gundestrup Cauldron’s motifs draw the observer into an alien universe far from that of the people who deposited it in the bog in north Jutland.

Elephants, lions and several unknown gods, represented in a foreign style, indicate that the cauldron originally came from a distant area to the south or southeast. Exactly where it was made is still open to question. Perhaps it was a gift to a great chieftain or could it have been war booty?

Inner Plate E Detail: “Warriors and Cauldron” (embossed silver, gilded, La Tene III) is one of the most interesting and intriguing scenes embossed in the cauldron. It may represent a ceremonial scene with a larger than life god-like figure on the left and three musicians playing and ancient instrument – carnyx, on the right. In front of the god, there is a row of probably dead warriors standing in the underworld. A depicted dog is to symbolize that sphere. They are wearing helmets, spears and shields – so they must have been killed in the fight. Above them, there’s a lying plant with bell-like flowers and roots – maybe the Celtic representation of the Tree of Life. The warriors seem to be waiting for a bath in the cauldron. Can it be just the same on which the scene is depicted? One of the warriors is just caught by the god, hanging upside down held by the leg. The riding horsemen above the tree are apparently the already revived in the afterlife.

Featured image: The Gundestrup cauldron: Plate E: Warriors and Cauldron. Source: “The Gunderstrup Cauldron” (2018) In: British Museum. Accessed on 21st, Jun., 2018.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Image: “The Gunderstrup Cauldron” (2018) In: British Museum. Accessed on 21st, Jun., 2018. Available at <https://bit.ly/2Ic39qN>.
  2.  Video: “The Gunderstrup Cauldron Brought to Life” by National Museum of Denmark posted by Irisharchaeology.ie (2015) on: Facebook. Accessed on 21st, Jun., 2018. Available at <https://bit.ly/2ywqTGx>.
  3. “The Gunderstrup Cauldron” (2018) In: The National Museum of Denmark. Accessed on 21st, Jun., 2018. Available at <https://bit.ly/2tivFCd>.
  4. Image : “The Gunderstrup Cauldron” (2018) In: Archeurope: Prehistoric Archaeology. Accessed on 21st, Jun., 2018. Available at <https://bit.ly/2JVWwhU>.

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