Celtic Hero from Bohemia

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The Celtic Hero from Bohemia

The Celtic Hero from Bohemia is a male sculpted head found at the oppidum site in Mšecké Žehrovice, about 65 km north-west of Prague, Czech Republic. Dubbed by the media the Celtic Hero or in Britain jokingly Sir Mortimer, the simulacra is possibly the best known Celtic artifact from Iron Age Europe. Ever since its discovery in 1943, the sculpture became one of the most photographed, reproduced and published La Tène (cc. 450-50 B.C.) objects ever.[1] The sculpture now resides in the Prague National Museum as inventory No. 111938.


The stone head, sculpted from local cretaceous limestone has a maximum height of 234mm and width of 174mm. The sculpture was broken into at least five pieces sometime in antiquity.[2] Four pieces have been found in fairly good condition. However, the missing fragment or possibly fragments, a right-hand side of the head including upper part of the ear, have not yet been found. The heavily stylized facial features are projected on an almost flat surface surrounded by a braid-like shaped hair. The most prominent are the bulging oval eyes, contoured by a curvilinear eyebrow matching a similarly imposing curvilinear moustache. The mouth is suggested by a mere downward bending line.[3] The ears are not naturalistic but rather represented as lotus buds, a stylistic form representative of La Téne art.[4] The neck is formed in a shape of a torc, a traditional Celtic necklace. A similar torc can be seen on the second century B.C. sculpture of a Dying Gaul from Pergamon.


The visual imagery of La Tène period was characterized by a ubiquitous appearance of an anthropomorphic head symbol typical of Central and Western Celtic Europe [5] These images were skillfully entwined in ornaments, handles, jewelry and reliefs fashioned mostly of metals. Anthropomorphic sculpture itself was extraordinarily rare and few examples survive till today. The Celtic Hero was found during a course of 1943 excavation of oppidum Mšecké Žehrovice in central Bohemia, Czech Republic. The sculpture was buried in a pit on a southwest corner of a square enclosure located within the oppidum. Other artifacts found in the pit include burned animal bones that date the feature to late La Tène period LT C2-D1(approx. 150-50 B.C.), pottery sherds, pieces of saprolite and a piece of iron wire. The dating of the pit is further supported by the typology of the pottery sherds which also place the interment of the sculpture to approx. mid 2nd to mid 1st century B.C.[6]

In conclusion[edit]

With its iconic moustache, owl-like eyes, torque ornament and unique hairstyle, the marlstone head became an international mascot of 'barbarian' Europe, embellishing covers of many scientific as well as populist publications concentrating on Iron Age Europe related issues.


  1. ^ Megaw and Megaw, Venclová, N., ed. The Stone Head . In Mšecké Žehrovice in Bohemia. Archaeological Background to a Celtic Hero (Kronos B.Y. editions, 1998:281)
  2. ^ Jansová, L. Mšecké Žehrovice und die Frage der Viereckschanzen in Böhmen. (Archaeologické Rozhledy, 1968, 20:470-489)
  3. ^ Venclová, N.,The Venerable Bede, druidic tonsure and archaeology, (Antiquity, 2002, 76:458-71)
  4. ^ Jacobstahl, P. Early Celtic Art, (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1944)
  5. ^ Megaw and Megaw, Celtic Art. From its Beginning to the Book of Kells, (New York, NY 1989, Thames and Hudson)
  6. ^ Natalie Venclová, "Mšecké Žehrovice in Bohemia. Archaeological Background to a Celtic Hero", (Kronos B.Y. Editions, 1998:31)