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‘Drinking the Feast’: Alcohol and the Legitimation of Power in Celtic Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2009

Bettina Arnold
Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA


Drinking and feasting were an integral part of life in Iron Age Europe and the British Isles. The distribution of food and especially drink in prescribed fashion played a key role in establishing and maintaining social relationships. Alcoholic beverages were important consumable status items in prehistoric Europe, serving as a social lubricant as well as a social barrier. The metal, ceramic and wooden vessels required for the preparation, distribution and consumption of these beverages were a vehicle for inter- and intragroup competition, and underwent considerable change, both symbolic and material, through time. This article will attempt a cognitive analysis of the material culture of Iron Age drinking and feasting by integrating archaeological and documentary evidence. The impact of contact with the Mediterranean world, gender configurations, and the ideology of power and patronage will be discussed in relation to changing material culture assemblages.

Copyright © The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 1999

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