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Unit information: The Origins of the Celts in 2015/16

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Unit name The Origins of the Celts
Unit code ARCH30032
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Heyd
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will focus on the Celts in Continental Europe and Britain (c.1100 BCE - 100 AD). It will acquaint students with the archaeology and early history of different Iron Age societies mostly of the 1st millennium BCE, with special reference to the Celts. Research of the last 30 years and recent fieldwork has altered our views and conception of the origins of the Celts and of many other related topics, such as the emergence of iron technology; Scythians and Sarmatians of the steppes and their impact on farming in Europe; the Late Hallstatt princely cultures and their engagement with Mediterranean Greeks and Etruscans; the emergence of Celtic art; the background of Celtic language; the expansion of the Celts and the Celtic migration to the Mediterranean; the subsequent Oppida civilisation; and finally Germanic pressure, Roman conquest and the afterlife of Celtic populations. The unit will review these developments and discuss and analyse them methodologically in the light of the latest research.


  • To give students a wider overview of the archaeology, history, art history, and basic linguistic background of the Celts, and of the European and British Iron Age, c. 1100 BCE - 100 AD;
  • to explore in a methodical way our key sources, the many graves, hoards and settlements, as well as the social, economic and ritual organisation behind them;
  • to familiarise students with chronologies, distributions, theories, hypotheses and models relevant for the wider Iron Age;
  • to encourage students to widen their understanding and awareness of the relevant archaeological sources and their interpretations.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will have:

1) solid knowledge of a number of Celtic and Iron Age sites in Continental Europe and Britain;

2) a detailed view of the relationship of the Celtic world with Mediterranean civilisations, steppe populations, as well as Germanic tribes and the Romans;

3) an extensive and critically informed view on theoretical questions concerning issues such as social hierarchization and formation of elites; burial customs and hoarding practices; acculturation and transmission of innovations and ideas; mobility and migration; and development of territories and formation of tribes in their practical application to Celtic Europe and Britain.

4) the ability to present structured arguments in writing and verbally, appropriate to Level H.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2hr session to include both formal lectures and seminar discussions.

Assessment Information

All the assessment is summative:

One 15-minute oral presentation (25%), ILOs 1, 2, 4

Exam, 1 hour (25%), ILOs 1, 2

One essay of 3000 words (50%), ILOs 1-4

Reading and References

  • B. Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts (London: Penguin, 1999) & The Celts: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: University Press, 2003)
  • M. Gustin & M. Jevtic (eds.), The Eastern Celts: The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea (2011).
  • K. Kristiansen, Europe before History (Cambridge: University Press, 1998)
  • B.W. Cunliffe & J.T. Koch (eds.), Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language, and Literature. Celtic Studies Publications 15 (Oxford & Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2010)
  • J.T. Koch & B.W. Cunliffe (eds.), Celtic from the West 2: Rethinking the Bronze Age and the arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe. Celtic Studies Publications 16 (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013)
  • P.S. Wells, How Ancient Europeans saw the World: Visions, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times (Princeton, NJ & Oxford: Princeton University Press 2012)