The Celts were the first European people north of the Alps to make their appearance in recorded history. Hecateus of Miletus (c. 500-476 BC) and Herodotus of Halicarnassus (c.490-425 BC) were the first to commit to paper the existence of the “Keltoi” and their “place of origin” was noted as the headwaters of the Danube, the Rhine and the Rhone, which archeological evidence confirms.
Evidence of Celtic existence can also be found in Ireland and Britain, Turkey, Belgium, the Iberian peninsula and Italy, among many other countries. The Celtic culture had been developing since the beginning of the first millennium BC.
Their weaponry was highly advanced, as they learned the art of smelting iron, which enabled them to produce large billhooks, axes and other tools. These tools were not only used as weapons, but were used quite effectively to open up roadways through previously impenetrable northern European forests.
The Celts spread out in all directions and eventually they were granted lands in central Asia Minor, establishing the Celtic state of Galatia, which later became the first Celtic peoples to be converted to Christianity. The Celtic civilization has been represented as proud, ignorant, illiterate, fierce and savage and this image remains with us to this day.
These inaccurate and biased representations of the Celts are far from the truth. The Celts were primarily an agricultural and pastoral people, living within a well-structured tribal society as farmers. There is no doubt that they were fierce in battle, however they were not the mindless group of blood-thirsty barbarians wandering through Europe as many writers would have us believe.
One of the great skills developed by the Celts, as confirmed by archeological discoveries, is the building of roads. As mentioned above, they were able to access once inaccessible territories by building road ways which enabled the widespread expansion of their civilization.
Archeological findings have demonstrated the very rich culture that the Celts developed; excelling in poetry, art, jewelry, pottery, enamel work and advanced metalwork. The Celts used local materials, which consisted mostly of wood but in some places they used stone, showing great architectural skill.
There are many of these impressive stone structures in Britain, which survived from the fourth to the second centuries, BC. Celtic society was tribal and they had a highly cultivated law systems, which were handed down orally. One such example would be the provision of curative medical treatment, sick maintenance and the establishment of hospitals.
The Celts, as evidenced by archeological discoveries, were a sophisticated and highly developed culture which developed many fascinating concepts about not only themselves but about the world in which they lived.