Unique Celtic kettle, which may depict the stars over Brno, goes on display in Moravian capital

Maloměřice kettle

Fragments of the co-called Maloměřice kettle, a masterpiece of Celtic art, is currently on display at the Dietrichstein Palace in Brno. The kettle, which was probably used as a ritual object in Celtic ceremonies, was found more than 80 years ago on the outskirts of the city at one of the largest excavated Celtic burial sites in Moravia.

The archaeological discovery of the Celtic burial site, dated to between 380 and 250 BC took place in 1941 in Maloměřice during the construction of a train station. The find indicates the existence of a settlement on the territory of present-day Brno long before the establishment of the medieval city.

Archaeologists documented around a hundred graves, but what made the discovery really unique was the set of 18 bronze items, including fragments of a richly-ornamented kettle. Jana Čižmářová is the exhibition’s curator:

“The objects include a lid with an ornament in the form of a circle, which is interpreted as a coiled snake. Then there is an ornamented spout which clearly identifies the object as a kettle, with an animal mask in the form of a bull’s head.

There are also ornaments on the sides of the kettle, a mesh of  snake or dragon bodies, with human open eyes. The kettle also has an ornamented base with two human faces.”

According to Mrs Čižmářová, the kettle represents the essence of Celtic art, containing all the motifs they considered essential to their world, including plants, people and animals.

“A number of Celtic or La Téne kettles were discovered in the past, usually metal ones inspired by Etruscan vessels, and a few wooden objects have also been found, but none of them are so elegant and beautiful, and made with such artistic skill as this kettle.”

One of the theories, presented by Czech-French historian and archaeologist Václav Kruta, suggests that the ornaments on the sides of the kettle may represent the starry sky above Brno. Jana Čižmářová again:

“His idea was that stars were often described as “the eyes of the night”. So he contacted an astronomer, asking her to assess whether the placement of the eyes in the net correspond to stars in the sky.

“She discovered that the arrangement of the eyes does correspond to the constellations visible over Brno, or the Northern Hemisphere in general. It is the constellation of Taurus on one side and the Summer Triangle on the other.”

The exhibition at the Dietrichstein palace, which runs until early July, showcases not only the original bronze fragments of the kettle but also its artistic reconstruction.