Bronze Age pot of the proto-Celtic Urnfield culture, sporting ritualistic symbols and mathematical markings.

Urnfield Vase Reveals 3,300 Year Old Lunar and Metaphysical Encoding

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A vase dating back to Bronze Age Europe has strange symbols and abstract markings. Examination of the pottery has revealed a prehistoric mathematical approach to sacred numbers, as well as a moon veneration central to the beliefs of the proto-Celtic Urnfield culture. Was this ancient encoding used as a metaphysical tool?

The remarkably significant ancient vase was purchased in April 2015 from Hixenbaugh Ancient Art in New York by Lewis Hales, owner of the Celtic Collection Program, Inc., a non-profit historical corporation located in Georgia, America.  According to archaeologist Randall Hixenbaugh, owner and curator of the business, the vase’s origin comes from the Late Bronze Age, proto-Celtic Urnfield Civilization (1300 BC -700 BC) and was used for food preparation purposes.

Made by one of the earliest European ancestors, the vase was likely excavated in Germany. It was first located in a private German collection during the 1960s then bought from the Munich based Herman-Historia auction by Mr. Hixenbaugh on April 25, 2005.

The “Urnfield culture emerged as the dominant society of central Europe,” states historian Agnus Konstam. “These people were seen as the predecessors of the Celts and their society has therefore been described as proto-Celtic. The only difference between these people and the Celts of the Hallstatt era is that the later developed the ability to produce iron.” The society got their name because their dead were cremated then placed in Urns at designated non-mound sites, according to Konstam.

When the vase arrived in May, it was immediately placed on exhibition at the Thomaston-Upson Archives, Thomaston, Georgia, where it was viewed for two months.  According to Penny Cliff, then archives director, “It was an incredible opportunity to have the Celtic vase on display at the Archives.  Having this vase with its ancient symbolism for the public to view was a definite asset to the Archives and enjoyed by all of the visitors who came to the Archives, many who came especially to see the display.” After the exhibition, the vase was taken to several specialists for evaluation.

Photograph taken by Lewis Hales May, 2015, at the Thomaston-Upson Archives of former Archives Director Penny Cliff inspects the vase.

Photograph taken by Lewis Hales May, 2015, at the Thomaston-Upson Archives of former Archives Director Penny Cliff inspects the vase.

The vase weighs two pounds and 10 ounces (one kilogram) and is 6 3/8 inches (16 centimeters) high and nine inches (22.8 centimeters) wide  There are 13 fingerprint indentures around the handles different from the design shapes.

Jim Weber, a pottery craftsman and instructor who has been making pottery for 45 years, examined the vase and stated it had been coil built and pit fired.  Due to the small and delicate thumb and fingernail indentures around its handles on both the inside and outside of the vase, it is likely that “a woman with middle level pottery skills” made it.  The vase was intended to be “a functioning pot to be proud to have.”

Sacred Numbers and Lunar Symbolism

Perhaps the vase’s most important attributes are the two sets of designs that surround its shoulder, body and base.  The primary design consists of 339 shapes that strongly resemble lunar images in various phases, including Full Moon, Waxing Crescent, Waxing Gibbous, First Quarter and Waning Crescent. These images are in the form of five and a half separate interconnected lines that circle around the body to the base. The half-circle features several barely visible Full Moon-type symbols forming a crescent pattern around half the base.

Phases of the moon as depicted on the Bronze Age vessel.

Phases of the moon as depicted on the Bronze Age vessel. © Lewis Hales

A significant factor is that the design is not the clay pushed to the side of the indentures, but the indentures themselves. 

The first five rings are comparable to how the astronomical images are arranged around the four gold hat artifacts , and the Eberswalde Hoard ornate bowls of Berlin from the same timeline and culture. There are no wheels or X images, which are commonly associated with ancient Celtic sun symbolism.

The secondary design consists of five enhanced or abstract oblong shapes around the vase’s shoulder.  The number five had special meaning in ancient Celtic symbolism. I have found this numerical encoding on many an artifact, and have evaluated and observed it on ancient structures, such as Stonehenge’s five trilithons.

A trilithon in Stonehenge.

A trilithon in Stonehenge. (Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Five was an enhanced version of three, which was regarded as the most sacred of all numbers by the Urnfield society. It was a simple mathematical approach to showcasing three as the central number from both sides of any five-set. Placing five abstract circles around the shoulder of the vase identified the overall design as sacred and was a veneration of the moon and its journey, which was a central spiritual belief throughout the culture.

Comments

Justbod's picture

Very interesting. I’d never thought of the possibility of this type of ‘decoration’ on pottery being symbolic representation. I wonder if there are any similar pots that could be compared?

Thanks for the article!

 

 

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

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