Upon hearing the term ‘Celtic,’ the first things that come to mind are the awe of their intricately patterned jewelry, lively music, and the flowing tunics they wore. These people are also known for being fierce warriors and for their superstitious, nature-centered religion. Celtic customs are still alive and well in places like Ireland and the western reaches of Britain, but within this essay I shall explore their origins and traditions.
To start off, I will address the Tumulus peoples. They were among the growing number of societies whom spoke dialects that branched off of Indo-European; a language originating in, and spread from, the border between the continents of Asia and Europe. The Tumulus, among other groups and tribes, began fanning out into Europe approximately three-thousand years before Christ was born. Archeologists labeled this particular group as Tumulus for their tendency to construct impressive burial mounds, or barrows, for their dead kings (Hogain, 2). Just north of the Alps is where their remnants have been found.
Farther north above these people lived the group nicknamed Urnfield. They are called as such for their burial traditions as well; storing cremated bones in urns and burying them in ‘flat cemeteries.’
These two groups, the Tumulus and the Urnfield, met in the Danube basin, which is the area in southeastern Europe that includes what we know as Romania and several Slavic countries. At approximately 1000BC they merged together to become one society. Through this mixing of their people, this combined group formed a new Indo-European dialect; new handle: pro-Celtic. The name Celt is believed to originate from the Indo-European root –kel which means ‘to strike.’ A Greek writer, Pausonius, stated that, “Originally they were called Celtoi, both by themselves and by all other peoples.” The warriors used the term ‘Celts’ for themselves to boast their growing prowess and sharpen the edge of their intimidation toward other cultures.
From the very beginning the pro-Celts established that their society was that of warriors, spending much of their time warring with other groups and taking territories. They gained an advantage in their warfare and trade alike once horses became commonly used in Celtic society. The increased mobility put them a notch above the rest; helping the Celts in their invasions and defense. In the 7th and 8th centuries BC, their boundaries kept pushing into lands which today would be called Germany and France. Sizeable hilltop forts were built to maintain the people whom the Celts took power over.
As time went on and lands were conquered, typical burial procedures morphed. Because of having such a war-centered life, they began burying the dead with their swords to commemorate them for the gritty effort they contributed to their people. Supplies such as wagons, good pottery, and food were also stowed away with the bodies in order for them to have a well-prepared afterlife. Chiefs, in particular,...