Archaeology is one of the most intriguing fields of research. This is certainly justified, as excavations and archaeological finds form a direct and touchable link with our past. Archaeology itself consists of many different currents and on this page we will further set forth the archaeological activities of Celtic Britain.
Since 2013 Celtic Britain helps with performing archaeological excavations. At the moment that this text was written, our archaeological research had just started. We strive for more involvement in the future and we also hope to outsource volunteers for co-operation with archaeological excavations. However, archaeology is much more than just excavations.
Museums & research
We owe many thanks to the thousands of people who work in museums all over the world. Without these collections and the possibility provided by the governments to see them for real, we would have never been able to perform our work the way we do now. Museum collections are essential for us and we possess a database of more than 100.000 pictures of museum collections worldwide. A large part of our research is based on this database and it is expanded yearly. Because of the width of our assortment the whole time span between the Bronze Age and the 17th century is studied.
If a customer wishes to have an object developed, but has a lack of historical knowledge, or considers different models, we use the database. It also enables us to quickly link many different objects from different collections to each other and compare them. An excavated object often shows from which other objects it is an development and into which it will later develop itself. It is important to be aware of trends like this.
Siege of Malta project
In 2012-2013 CelticWebMerchant has worked on a project, commissioned by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna (the Maltese Heritage Foundation), to reconstruct a group of ten soldiers from the period of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. This project is unique in Europe and extraordinary because the Knight Templars of Malta were the best equipped army in their era. For this project CelticWebMerchant has analysed at least 300 suits of armour from fifteen different collection from all over the world.
Several suits of armour that were used during the siege and which were the base for the design of the replicas, are exhibited at the Palace Armoury in Malta. The armours are however not the only ones of their kind, as is the case for most historical armour. As a result it was essential to compare them with the trends and techniques of other suits of armour from their era.
Besides their technical construction, the armour was also researched from an art historical point of view. The design was an essential issue in the project. The style of the infantry armour is mostly stressed by the snail shell shaped decorations of the tassets and the pauldrons.
The next challenge was reconstructing the armour in a way that it could be worn comfortably by fulltime soldiers. Each connection between the different armour parts has been calculated accurately. This also made historical research essential. The differences between suits of armour from between the 14th and 17th century are enormous. Armour locks and fastenings are therefore very diverse.
The Maltese cavalry armours, reconstructed after the pieces worn by heavy cavalrymen and officers during the siege, are possibly the highlight of this project. These armours are made in such a way, that they can be worn both in battle and in tournament. They have suspension points to fasten the armour supplement to. For the construction of the armour supplements, we studied all different types of supplements and fastenings, so that the armour can be worn with and without supplement, without the suspension points affecting the wearability.
In feudal Europe knights, bishops and members of the aristocracy (also women) were buried with a luxurious grave marker like a tombstone or a tomb. These often show a large amount of information on clothing, weapons and armour from the period when the grave marker was made. The development in grave markers can be discovered by sorting them chronologically. Grave markers are especially essential for research after 14th and 15th century plate armour.
The last few years we mainly conducted research after and specialised ourselves in the tombstones of the Scottish Westcoast and the Irish Eastcoast. These stones provide us with a large amount of information on the Hiberno-Norse culture of the Irish Sea, the Gall gael. From approx the 8th century on, after Ogham stones, large stone crosses and standing stones were erected in Ireland and Scotland, presumably tombstones, decorated with these motives. It appears that the Vikings followed the British trend of making stone monuments. Scandinavian art styles on stones can be seen on i.a. Iona and the Isle of Man from the 9th century on. Information on who has erected the stone and the reason why can be read from runes written on the stones. Even later, during the Middle Ages, a lot of stones occur with knot motives in the Iona art style, swords (usually typical for this region), ships (developed from the Viking ships) and warriors (gall óglaig). This tradition provides us with a lot of information on the region.
Grave markers were not always directly made after the death of the deceased. Sometimes they were erected after twenty to fifty years after the date of death. This should always be kept in mind when dating weapons and armour. The question is always whether the lord is depicted in his own armour and if yes, whether this armour was new or had already been used for several years. Armour that was modern when the grave marker was erected and not the armour of the deceased was usually depicted.
Besides, grave markers often depict things better and more beautiful than they were in reality. For instance, some ships from grave markers from the Scottish Westcoast are depicted with extra oar holes. They make the ship appear larger because the size was expressed in the number of oars. The same exaggeration is the case for plate armour depicted on stones of lower feudal nobility.
Desk research: medieval London
Besides our large photo database there are also large amounts of archaeological, historical and linguistic reports of great importance for our research. The books that are daily used are naturally placed in our office library. For objects we need on a less regular base, we make short reports that can serve as a reference to books that cannot be found in our library but for instance in several university libraries.
An example is a recently completed research after the archaeology of medieval London from the Saxon period until approx. 1350. Some interesting facts originated from this research, for example that Dutch brewers mainly settled in Southwark to avoid high taxes. Or that so much dirt was dumped in the Thames that ship transport was hindered. Information like this cannot be used directly for developing replicas, but it provides us with a context of the society that used the originals of these reconstructions.