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A case has been made for artistic continuity in Europe from the Bronze Age, and indeed the preceding Neolithic age; however archaeologists generally use "Celtic" to refer to the culture of the European Iron Age from around 1000 BC onwards, until the conquest by the Roman Empire of most of the territory concerned, and art historians typically begin to talk about "Celtic art" only from the La Tène period (broadly 5th to 1st centuries BC) onwards.The Early Medieval art of Britain and Ireland, which produced the Book of Kells and other masterpieces, and is what "Celtic art" evokes for much of the general public in the English-speaking world, is called Insular art in art history.Also covered by the term is the visual art of the Celtic Revival (on the whole more notable for literature) from the 18th century to the modern era, which began as a conscious effort by Modern Celts, mostly in the British Isles, to express self-identification and nationalism, and became popular well beyond the Celtic nations, and whose style is still current in various popular forms, from Celtic cross funerary monuments to interlace tattoos.Coinciding with the beginnings of a coherent archaeological understanding of the earlier periods, the style self-consciously used motifs closely copied from works of the earlier periods, more often the Insular than the Iron Age.Among the most spectacular objects are "cult wagons" in bronze, which are large wheeled trolleys containing crowded groups of standing figures, sometimes with a large bowl mounted on a shaft at the centre of the platform, probably for offerings to gods; a few examples have been found in graves.The figures are relatively simply modelled, without much success in detailed anatomical naturalism compared to cultures further south, but often achieving an impressive effect.
The work of the German émigré to Oxford, Paul Jacobsthal, remains the foundation of the study of the art of the period, especially his Early Celtic Art of 1944.
Other centres such as Brittany are also in areas that remain defined as Celtic today.
Other correspondences are between the gold lunulas and large collars of Bronze Age Ireland and Europe and the torcs of Iron Age Celts, all elaborate ornaments worn round the neck.
Celtic art is associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic languages.
Celtic art is a difficult term to define, covering a huge expanse of time, geography and cultures.