Polden Hills, Somerset, first century AD

Horses played a major part in early Celtic society, so it is not surprising that archaelogists have unearthed a wide variety of objects associated with riding and chariots.  Along with harness fittings like these, the finds include bits, terrets (chariot rings, through which the reins were passed) and most beautiful of all, a bronze pony-cap with relief modelling.  The items illustrated here come from the Polden Hills' hoard, discovered during ploughing in 1803.  The enamelling involved cutting away a pattern in the metal and inlaying it with coloured enamel.  The latter was applied in powdered form and fused into place when the metal was heated. Red was the preferred colour. The mounts contain several of the motifs most favoured by Celtic smiths - lyre scrolls, trumpets, commas and peltas (shield-shaped ornaments) - along with a hint of their taste for zoomorphic decoration. Note, for example, how the semicircular side-pieces of one of the mounts display the so-called 'Cheshire cat' faces, which only take on shape if viewed from the correct angle.

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