Celt (tool)

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Three Olmec celts. The one in the foreground is incised with an image of an Olmec supernatural.
Celts from Transylvania.

In archaeology, a celt /ˈsɛlt/ is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, hoe, or axe.

A shoe-last celt was a polished stone tool used during the early European Neolithic for felling trees and woodworking.


The term "celt" seems to have come about from a copyist's error in many medieval manuscript copies of Job 19:24 in the Latin Vulgate Bible, which became enshrined in the authoritative Sixto-Clementine printed edition of 1592. Where all earlier versions[1] (the Codex Amiatinus, for example) have "vel certe" (the Latin for "but surely"), the Sixto-Clementine has "vel celte." The Hebrew has לעד at this point, which means "forever." The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary "[incline] to the belief that celtis was a phantom word,"[2] simply a misspelling of "certe." However, some scholars over the years have treated celtis as a real Latin word.[2][3]

From the context of Job 19:24 ("Oh, that my words were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!"), the Latin word "celte" was assumed to be some kind of ancient chisel. Eighteenth-century antiquarians, such as Lorenz Beger [de; fr], adopted the word for the stone and bronze tools they were finding at prehistoric sites; the OED suggests that a "fancied etymological connexion"[3] with the prehistoric Celts assisted its passage into common use.

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  1. ^ Edgar C. S. Gibson (1899). Walter Lock (ed.). The Book of Job (Westminster Commentaries). London: Methuen & Co. Retrieved 2020-09-27.
  2. ^ a b M. L. W. Laistner (1925-01-01). "Floscvli Philoxenei [Flosculi Philoxenei]". The Classical Quarterly. 19 (3/4): 192–195. doi:10.1017/S0009838800015846. JSTOR 636281.
  3. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary entry for "CELT (2)," quoted in Martin Burns. "Re: the word Celt". CELTIC-L, The Celtic Culture List. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17.

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