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Vehicles for Culture

New insights in Celtic history in Europe

A major initiative sponsored by Italy's car giant the Fiat Group has coincided with exciting recent archaeological discoveries to shed significant new light on Celtic culture and society in Europe between 500 BC and AD 1000.

The centrepiece of the Fiat effort is the exhibition entitled 'The Celts: the first Europe', at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. So far, over 300,000 people have visited the exhibition which opened in the spring and continues until December. Over 2,000 artefacts from museums in twenty-four European countries have been loaned for the exhibition, whose aim, according to one of the organisers, Professor Barry Raftery of University College Dublin, is to stress the cultural unity of a racial group that dominated the centre of Europe in the last five centuries of the pre-Christian era.

Some of the most impressive exhibits have come from Great Britain and the Irish Republic – including the so-called 'Battersea shield' (probably a votive offering) found in the river Thames, a bronze trumpet found at Antrim in Country Down and the Cork horns – originally worn on a leather cap as ceremonial headgear.

This substantial survey of Celtic culture through artefacts from the period is integrated with graphic panels, film and other audiovisual aids, highlighting the impact of Celtic culture on other ethnic groups in Europe and its survival and adaptation into the present day.

The educational element of this Celtic initiative has been strongly underpinned by the series of Europe-wide seminars and conferences that Fiat have organised in conjunction with the exhibition, the most recent of which was held in Dublin.

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