The first Celts appeared in Prague territory at the dawn of history, about 500 years before Christ. Some Czechs assert to be their descendants. This is, however, quite a romantic opinion as we can see from the archaeological discoveries. It is also just a legend that there used to be a Celtic oppidum where the Prague Castle now stands. There are no historical proofs for this.
The fact is that Celts used to live in Prague’s vicinity and that the settlements were densely populated. Celts came to Bohemia between 5th and 4th century B.C. and one of their tribes, the Boii, gave it the name (Bohemia).This tribe also dwelt in Bavaria which means that the Celtic settlements stretched from Prague to France. There are some theories about Czechs being their descendants. It appears that Celts didn’t come here thanks to their wars and attacks that are described in Roman historical books; there was a gradual development from previous cultures.
This is proved by the archaeological discoveries of the Bylany culture settlements on Prague territory and in the other parts of Czech which are even older than the first written historical allusions to Celts. From these findings we can see that these people were similar to Celts in their use of iron for making many useful tools. These people may have been the Celts’ ancestors. However, let’s leave theories alone. Judging from the Celts burial-grounds the territory of Prague was densely populated. Burial-grounds were found in Veleslavín, Ruzyně, Záběhlice, Sedlec, Liben, Stodůlky, Bohnice etc. Many other burial-grounds are still being discovered for example during big building projects. Line B construction disclosed a big burial-ground in Nove Butovice. The metro station construction in 1985 brought the discovery of one of the biggest Celt burial-grounds in the Czech Republic, 56 graves were found there. Another big burial-ground was researched by the Prague Museum archaeologists in 1982 in Ruzyn - 48 graves were found during the flood pool construction.
What the Celts left to us
The Celts were well familiar with iron working and were good craftsmen. Furnace remains, found in Jinonice, served for extracting iron from iron ore, which was mined there. The Celts made scythes, sickles, ploughshares and other instruments out of it and used it also for weapons and jewellery, which were of very high standard. It is some historians’ opinion that the Celtic culture was of such an advanced standard that it wasn’t reached in Bohemia until many centuries later, in late medieval time.
The evidence proving that the Celts lived in Prague can be found primarily in Prague Museum. However, this is by no means the only exhibition. Interest in Celtic culture is big and there are many other places outside of Prague informing its visitors about Celts’ traditions, craft and celebrations.
In Czech, as well as in many other European countries, jewellery was produced from švartna (mineral sapropelit, called black slate).There are several sites in Prague Dejvice (close to Kladno), where švartna was found. This mineral is used by several Celtic historic groups in Czech which engage in Celt crafts. There is also an Information Centre of Celt Culture at a chateau in Křivoklátska highlands (UNESCO biosphere reservation), where many events take place. Celtic villages are also recreated in some parts of the Czech Republic. They remind us of the Celtic history on our territory and it is possible to purchase many replicas of historical products which used to be part of Celts’ daily life.
The most unique Celtic find is the Celt warrior head which was found in Mšecke Žehrovice not far from Prague in 1943. It is deposited (together with other Celt finds) in Prague National Museum.