Hallstatt: bronze sword scabbard

The bronze sword scabbard from the Hallstatt cemetery is an anomaly within the corpus of La Tène art. It is figural and, perhaps, narrative. Several rectangular fields of various dimensions contain human figures and horses. A triangular field at the tip of the scabbard is filled with an enigmatic scene in which a human figure appears juxtaposed with a curling Celtic ornament. The long scene, including mounted cavalry, foot-soldiers and a fallen warrior, has been much studied, as have the smaller fields in which two men hold a wheel between two circular motifs. The triangular field, the ornamental band, and the cast and incised figures at the tip, on the other hand, are rarely depicted or studied. In addition, although Celtic aspects of the clothing, the faces, and the extremely stylized horses are generally acknowledged, the overall compositional scheme, the relationship of the figures to the picture plane, the questions of illusionism and narrative remain to be analyzed. As the only extant early La Tène multi-figured composition, it deserves a more in-depth examination.

scabbard tip (?)

2 men holding wheel

3 soldiers

4 horsemen & fallen soldier

2 men holding wheel

Detail, 3 soldiers.


Prähistorische Abteilung, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Vienna).