July 4, 2020

Seven unique Celtiberian helmets return to Spain | Culture

At the end of the eighties of the last century, in an undetermined place of the municipality of Aranda de Moncayo (Zaragoza), the archaeological spoilers made a sad full: They found at least 18 well preserved and dated Celtiberian bronze helmets between the fourth and second centuries BC. C. They sold them quickly abroad through intermediaries and antique dealers. Then, they put them up for auction to the highest bidder. Tomorrow, after almost 30 years of having committed the theft, the pieces will return to Spain in an act to be held at the Spanish Embassy at the headquarters of Unesco, in Paris.

The pieces stolen in Aranda are unique, since in Spain this type of military material has never been found so well preserved, beyond some fragmented or very damaged specimens. The Celtiberian helmets were broadly composed of cheeks, to avoid cuts on the sides of the face, as well as protections on the neck and nose. Those of the nobles were made of bronze and those of the rest of the warriors, with leather. The interior was filled with plant or textile materials to fit the skull. They could wear a top finish (metallic or feather) that expressed the social or military importance of its owner.

Helmet with Celtiberian wings found in Aranda de Moncayo.

Helmet with Celtiberian wings found in Aranda de Moncayo.

The intermediaries of the scouts of Aranda removed the pieces from the country illegally. They were sent to the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Some of these helms were offered in 2008 to Römisch-Germanisches-Zentralmuseum, from Mainz (Germany), who rejected them. What those responsible did, after receiving the tempting offer, was to call Interpol directly. But Spain did not react. Two of the helmets were then bought by a collector from London, who resold one of the pieces in Hong Kong.

The rest went on auction also in London (Christie's) in 2008 – where a lot of three pieces was awarded for 90,000 euros – and in Germany (Historical Hermann, Munich) in the years 2009 and 2010. There were another eight morrions sold with prices around 75,000 euros per piece. A part of the collection, after multiple avatars, ended up in the Guttmann Museums (Berlin) and of Classic Art of Mougins (France). This last institution – chaired by Christian Levett – is precisely the one that has decided to donate the pieces by checking their illegal origin.

Celtiberian warrior helmet that was part of the pillaged collection in Aranda de Moncayo.

Celtiberian warrior helmet that was part of the pillaged collection in Aranda de Moncayo.

The Spanish Ministry of Culture has not made public, for the moment, the negotiations that will allow the return of the historical pieces. The Government of Aragon admits, for its part, that it has not participated in them. Predictably, the collection will be exhibited at the Zaragoza Museum. "We think it is the place where they should be," say sources from the Aragonese Executive, who admit "last fringes are not yet closed." The ambassador of Spain is expected to attend the delivery of the pieces in the Unesco, Andrés Perelló, and predictably the president of the Government of Aragon, Javier Lambán.

The researchers are not sure where the set of metal protections was found, although they suspect it could come from a reservoir detected on the left bank of the Aranda River. Some reports indicate that the pillagers found the pieces hidden in a crack in a rock formation near the disappeared Celtic city of Aratis.

The importance of the set lies in the large number of pieces that compose it, something completely unusual in the Spanish celtíberos burials: they are barely found exemplary in the tombs of the warriors and, in addition, they are very deteriorated. In the case of Aranda, the storage of these helmets could indicate the existence of a military arsenal, since, in addition, of the helmets the thieves – there was a detainee – put on sale various types of weapons of the time. Another possibility is that, instead of a deposit, the Celtiberians kept the helmets as offerings of a sanctuary.

In the Celtiberian world, as in the Iberian, The metal helmet represented a prestigious defense. The head was considered the most important part of the body and where the warrior's value was concentrated. Therefore, when they defeated their enemies, they cut them, pierced them with a nail and inserted them into the doors of their houses.

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