Thursday, June 2, 2016

Is this Image of Cernunnos Fake?

I found this artifact on a couple of blogs this week.. It's a gold disk, 5.7 cm (2.2 inches) in diameter, recently sold for 6,000 Euros by a Belgian antiquities dealer. If it is real it is an amazing thing, one of less than a dozen clear representations of the Celtic horned god.

But is it real? I've never seen it, of course, so I won't venture a firm opinion. It's just that I have been studying Celtic paganism for about 35 years now, and I've never seen any picture of it before. I have on my shelves a good 25 illustrated books about the ancient Celts or ancient European paganism, and none of them show it. In fact it is traditional to begin your discussion of the horned god by lamenting how bad the evidence is for anything about him, including how few depictions there are.

Check out, for example, this web site, which discusses six depictions of Cernunnos, only one of which (the one from the Gundestrup Cauldron, above) is as good as the one I am wondering about.

Plus, it was sold on EBay. Plus, the seller is named Nazzi. Ok, that wasn't fair. But EBay – is that where we would expect to see a major historical artifact, a crucial piece of evidence for ancient paganism? The only provenance given at the seller's web site is "ex private collection." It seems to me that if this were real, national museums would bid hundreds of thousands for it.

Until I see more, I'm leaving it out of my lectures.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Well Occam would have us choose the explanation that makes the least assumptions, so ought we not consider the notion that the seller was simply ignorant of the true value of the piece?

The wonders of technology - using the street view function of Google maps, I took a virtual look at the gallery which sold this piece. It's a small little place nestled next to a hole-in-the-wall Greek taverna, and their sign explains their focus - "Contemporary Art".

Surely it's conceivable that the "private collection" it was in previously was just simple ownership by a random layperson who stumbled across it somewhere? And then it found its way to this little gallery which focuses on modern art, possibly even run by a single person, and they lacked the knowledge necessary to truly appreciate what it was?

Being an antiquarian doesn't automatically mean having an understanding of the greater archeological and historical context of the item - I think it's quite feasible a private gallery owner might be more than competant enough to identify the depiction as being of the Horned God and estimate the age of the piece, yet still remain ignorant of the fact that such depictions are historically sparse. One should also consider the fact that the influence of Wiccan revivalism clouds the issue - many people are familiar with Cernunnos through the filter of this modern movement, and not through any sort of study of original artifacts.