This exhibition has now closed.

#Celts

The idea of a shared Celtic heritage across ancient Europe retains a powerful hold over the popular imagination. But many common ideas about the people known as ‘Celts’ are in fact more recent re-imaginings, revived and reinvented over the centuries.

This major exhibition, organised in partnership with the British Museum, unravelled the complex story of the different groups who have used or been given the name ‘Celts’ through the extraordinary art objects they made and used.

Spanning more than 2,500 years, the exhibition explored history through these powerful decorated objects and examined how art styles have changed considerably over time, often flourishing during periods when different cultures came into contact.

  • Iron Age gold torc, found in Blair Drummond as part of a hoard comprising four torcs.

    Iron Age gold torc, found in Blair Drummond as part of a hoard comprising four torcs.
  • Massive armlet of bronze from Belhelvie, Aberdeenshire, 200-300 AD.

    Massive armlet of bronze from Belhelvie, Aberdeenshire, 200-300 AD.
  • Sculpture of the goddess Brigantia depicting a native goddess from northern Britain in the guise of Minerva, from Birrens, Dumfriesshire.

    Sculpture of the goddess Brigantia depicting a native goddess from northern Britain in the guise of Minerva, from Birrens, Dumfriesshire.
  • Comb made of bone, probably used to comb a beard or moustache, from Langbank Crannog, Renfrewshire, AD 1-200.

    Comb made of bone, probably used to comb a beard or moustache, from Langbank Crannog, Renfrewshire, AD 1-200.
  • 8th century brooch-pin from Westness, Rousay, Orkney.

    8th century brooch-pin from Westness, Rousay, Orkney.
  • Reconstruction of the Deskford carnyx (80 - 200 AD), in bronze and brass, made by Dr John Purser and John Creed.

    Reconstruction of the Deskford carnyx (80 - 200 AD), in bronze and brass, made by Dr John Purser and John Creed.
  • Bronze pony cap found in a moss at Torrs, Kelton, Kirkcudbrightshire, 300–100 BC.

    Bronze pony cap found in a moss at Torrs, Kelton, Kirkcudbrightshire, 300–100 BC.
  • Slab of grey sandstone with a cross on one side. From Monifieth, Angus, Scotland, c. AD 700–800.

    Slab of grey sandstone with a cross on one side. From Monifieth, Angus, Scotland, c. AD 700–800.
  • Double-faced horned Iron Age statue, perhaps representing a god. Holzgerlingen, Germany, 4th–2nd century BC. © P Frankenstein/H Zwietasch, Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.

    Double-faced horned Iron Age statue, perhaps representing a god. Holzgerlingen, Germany, 4th–2nd century BC. © P Frankenstein/H Zwietasch, Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.
  • The Battersea shield. Iron Age, c. 350–50 BC. Found in the River Thames, London, England. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

    The Battersea shield. Iron Age, c. 350–50 BC. Found in the River Thames, London, England. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
  • The Gundestrup cauldron. Iron Age, c. 100 BC–AD 1. Found in Gundestrup, northern Jutland, Denmark. © The National Museum of Denmark.

    The Gundestrup cauldron. Iron Age, c. 100 BC–AD 1. Found in Gundestrup, northern Jutland, Denmark. © The National Museum of Denmark.
  • Bull-headed torc from southern Germany. © P. Frankenstein / H. Zwietasch; Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart

    Bull-headed torc from southern Germany. © P. Frankenstein / H. Zwietasch; Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart
  • The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe (1890) by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

    The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe (1890) by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.


The exhibition displayed magnificent Iron Age treasures adorned with intricate patterns and fantastic animals, rich with hidden meanings, which were used for feasting, religious ceremonies, adornment and warfare. It also explored how these distinctive art styles were transformed and took on new influences in response to the expanding Roman world and the spread of Christianity, and examined how the decorative arts of the late 19th century were inspired by different ideas about Europe’s past, and played a key role in defining what it meant to be Irish, Welsh, Scottish and British.

Featuring more than 300 treasured objects from across the UK and Europe, assembled together in Scotland for the first time, the exhibition provided a unique opportunity to explore the idea of ‘Celts’ as one of the fundamental building blocks of European history.

To complement the exhibition the British Museum and National Museums Scotland are lending two unique Iron Age mirrors to five partner museums across the UK in 2015-16. You can find out more about the Reflections on Celts tour here.

Celts: Visitors share their experiences 

"It's inspiring to see the beauty of the work from such a period, absolutely amazing"

We asked visitors to Celts to share their experience of the exhibition with us. Listen to what they said about visiting this major exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland. 

 

Celts family and schools trails

Families and schools can join Blewog the boar on a special tour of the exhibition. Track him down in ten places and complete his challenges to discover some of our favourite object stories. You can pick up a trail at the ticket desk or download the family and schools trails here. A Gaelic version is available here.

Behind the scenes at the exhibition

Ever wondered what an ancient Celtic war horn sounds like? Or how to wear an Iron Age torc that weighs over 1kg? Exhibition curators Julia Farley and Fraser Hunter introduce some key objects from the exhibition in this Periscope film.

Photography policy

The Celts exhibition includes many significant loans from 28 institutions across Europe and the UK, for some of which it is a condition of loan that photography by exhibition visitors is not allowed. As these loans are spread throughout the gallery, we are unable to allow photography in this space and ask visitors to respect this in order to ensure these fantastic objects are available for all to enjoy when visiting the exhibition.   

Sponsored by

Baillie Gifford

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Celtic gifts

From £11.50
Our Celtic collection includes silver jewellery, hand-crafted scarves and our indispensable pewter sporran flask.
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Celts: Art and Identity

£25
This book, accompanying the exhibitions Celts at The British Museum (2015) and National Museum of Scotland (2016), explores these questions, reveals new insights and brings intriguing and beautiful objects from both museums together for the first time.
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Glenmorangie Research Project into Early Medieval Scotland

The Early Medieval period (around AD 300 – 900) is a very important part of Scotland’s past. Coming just after the Romans left Britain and before the arrival of the Vikings, it was a time of great creativity in Scotland.
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Exhibition information

When

10 Mar - 25 Sep 2016

Where

Exhibition Gallery 1, Level 3

How much

Adult £10
Concession £8*
Child (12-15) £6.50
Under 12s Free

Members go free!

All tickets include a discretionary donation. If you do not wish to make a charitable donation the admission prices are as follows: Adult £9, Concession £7.20, Child £5.85.

Booking information

Book tickets online,  in person at the Museum, or by calling 0300 123 6789.

Please be aware that the film at the beginning of the exhibition contains fast moving images which may not be suitable for visitors with photosensitive epilepsy.

Book tickets