n Celtic art, the motif of two interlocking commas that appear to swirl is a recurrent one which can be traced back to the late 5th century BC. With a view to the much later Chinese symbol, art historians of the La Tène culture refer anachronistically to these clinging pairs as “yin yang”.
Early Celtic yin yangs are typically not treated for themselves alone, but appear as part of larger floral or animal ornament, such as revolving leaves at the bottom of a palmette or stylized tails of seahorses. In the 3rd century BC, a more geometrical style develops in which the yin yang now figures as a principal ornamental motif. It is not clear whether the Celts attributed any symbolic value to the emblem, but in those cases where it is placed prominently, such as on the upper end of a scabbard, its use seems to have been apotropaic.
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