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The heART of Ritual


Ritual Headdresses in Celtic Europe

Antler headdress. Early Mesolithic, about 9000 BC. Photo: British Museum

Wearing deer antlers as part of ritual has ancient roots in Celtic Europe – this antler frontlet was made 11,000 years ago probably for use by a shaman, and shows that animals were important to the spiritual lives of Mesolithic communities.

This headdress was excavated at Star Carr, five miles south of Scarborough in North Yorkshire, on the north east coast of England . It is made from the skull of a large red deer stag – the skull was scraped smooth using flint tools, the antlers were trimmed down to reduce the weight, and the two holes at the back were probably made for threading with leather so the antlers could be tied to the head.

Similar headdresses are still used in the Abbots Bromley ‘horn’ dance which is performed every year in Staffordshire, in central England, using ancient antlers that are otherwise kept in the local church.

Read more about the antler headdress here. Find out more about animals and depictions of animals in this collection on the British Museum website.


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