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Among the most ingenious bronze equestrian groups were those made by the Celtiberians in the form of bronze fibulae, which were introduced in the 6th century B.C. and continued to be produced for several centuries. Derived from bronze work of northern Italy and a typical motif for many Celtiberian bronzes, concentric circles decorate the bodies of this fibula’s horse protomes. Forming the bow of the fibula, the foreparts of two horses facing in opposite directions are joined at mid-body. The neck of the first horse is marked with five incised horizontal lines and its front hooves curve upward at one side to form the catchplate for the fibula’s spring pin. The front hooves of the second horse are pierced with a hole for the insertion of the pin, part of which is intact at the point of attachment to the fibula. Such zoomorphic fibulae with symmetrical horse protomes are similar in form to the distinctive Celtiberian bronze signa equitum (standards with horse finials) found at Numancia and now in the Museo Numantino, Soria.
The Celtiberians were a Celtic-speaking people inhabiting the central and northern region of the Iberian Peninsula (north-central Spain) at the end of the first millenium B.C. The name Celtiberi appears in accounts by Diodorus Siculus and other ancient writers commenting on intermarriage between Celts and Iberians after a period of continuous warfare. The horse was essential to the Celts, both in peace and war. Undoubtedly by the Late Bronze Age in central Europe horses were used for traction and agricultural purposes, harnessed in yokes with bridles and mouthpieces of leather, and with sidepieces of wood or bone. By the end of the 7th century B.C. fighting from horseback was a significant element of Celtic life, as the increase in finds of bronze horse trappings make clear. As with Bronze Age and other Iron Age civilizations, to the Celtiberians the horse became a prestigious status symbol of wealth as well as strategically important in warfare, and therefore a significant decorative motif for works of art in bronze. This bronze fibula with its equine theme provides a testimony to the importance of this animal for the history and culture of Europe in the later part of the first millenium B.C.
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