Category: Archaeology


Zid intor.

 

 

 

 

The importance of birds in Celtic culture and religion is well attested to by their frequent appearance on artifacts and coins, with birds by far the most commonly depicted creatures in Celtic art. For example, of the more than 500 Celtic brooches with representational decoration now known, from Bulgaria in the east to Spain in the west, more than half depict birds (Megaw 2001: 87).

 

 

 

sc.c mon. dag dec.

A = Reverse of a Scordisci tetradrachm depicting a bird behind the riders right shoulder (Serbia II c. BC) (see ‘Catubodua’ article)

B = Detail of a Celtic dagger decorated with mirrored bird symbols from a Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria (late II/early I c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this context, particularly interesting are recently discovered hoards of Celtic jewelry among the Scordisci in Serbia which contain a large number of silver ornithomorphic beads/pendants (Ruševljan, Jevtić 2006; Popovic 2011). The first of these hoards came from the village of Hrtkovci in the Syrmia District (Vojvodina province) of Serbia. The Hrtkovci hoard contained, in addition to a large amount of Celtic fibulae and other items, 6 silver ornithomorphic beads/ pendants. The heads are triangular in shape and sheaves of slanting, ribbed channels are used to decorate the short tail while the rather broad neck is denoted by two concentric ribs. The lower segment of the birds are funnel-shaped and also decorated with sheaves of narrow channels arranged in a herringbone pattern. On top and bottom of the birds are openings for them to be laced through a cord/chain  (Ruševljan, Jevtić op. cit).

 

 

 

Hrtkovici brds f.

Silver Scordisci bird bead/pendants from Hrtkovci
(Length of the beads 22-32 mm.; width 12-17 mm.; weight range = 3.43 g. – 1.68 g.)

 

 

 

 

hrt. fib

Silver La Têne fibulae from the Hrtkovci hoard

 

 

 

Hrtkovici gld fib

Gilded Silver Hinged Type Fibula from the Hrtkovci hoard

 

 

 

The finds from Hrtkovci (with the exception of the gilded hinged fibula which is earlier) date to the late La Têne period (2/1 c. BC), and the latest discoveries of Celtic jewelry from this area of Serbia confirm the existence of a local Celtic workshop connected to the Scordisci settlement in Sremska Mitrovica (loc cit; on recent Celtic finds from Sremska Mitrovica see also:  http://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-warrior-and-his-wife-a-scordisci-burial-from-serbia/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also dating to the late La Têne period are a number of exquisite Scordisci silver bird pendants discovered in the Celtic hillfort at Zidovar near Vršac (Banat region), also in the Voivodina province of Serbia. In 2001 during the systematic archaeological excavations on the Celtic hillfort at Zidovar near Vrsac a rich hoard of silver jewelry and amber was discovered, dating to the first half of the 1st c. BC (Popovic 2011; on the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar see also Todorović 1974: 50, 181; Brukner, Jovanović, Tasić 1974).

The spectacular Scordisci hoard from Zidovar consisted of 163 silver items, 134 amber beads, two brass rings and two pendants from Brown Bear teeth. Also among the items in the hoard were 22 bird shaped silver pendants.

 

 

zidovar brds 3

Zidovar 2

Silver Scordisci bird pendants from the Zidovar hoard

 

 

 

 

As in the case of the Hrtkovci ‘beads’ the Zidovar bird pendants ranged significantly in dimensions and weight (length = 34 – 25.5 mm.; width 9-20 mm.; weight 1.98-1.08 g.). Interesting also is the fact that, unlike the majority of Celtic ornithomorphic depictions where birds of prey are generally represented, the Scordisci beads/pendants from Hrtkovci and Zidovar both portray smaller birds (sparrows?), indicating that these were items of Celtic female jewelry.

 

 

 

 

Zidovar 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On birds in Celtic art and religion see: http://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/catubodua-queen-of-death/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Brukner B., Jovanović B., Tasić N. (1974) Praistorija Vojvodine, Institut za izučavanje istorije Vojvodine, Savezarheoloških društava Jugoslavije, Novi Sad

Megaw V., Megaw R. (2001) Celtic Art from its Beginnings to the Book of Kells. London

 
Popovic I. (2011) The Zidovar treasure and roman jewellery from the Balkan provinces of the empire. In: The eastern Celts : the communities between the Alps and the Black Sea, p. 179-188. Koper-Beograd: Univerzitet u Beogradu, 2011. (Annales Mediterranei)

 
Ruševljan V.D., Jevtić M. (2006) Silver Jewelry of Hellenistic and Celtic Type from Hrtkovci in Srem. In: Starinar LVI/2006. P. 291-307

 
Todorović, J. (1974) Skordisci: istorija i kultura, Institut za izučavanje istorije Vojvodine, Savezarheoloških društava Jugoslavije, Novi Sad, Beograd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neu bo

 

 

 

The special significance of the wild boar in Iron age European society and religion is well attested to by numerous depictions of the animal in Celtic works of art from across the continent.

 

 

 

lictt - cluj

Celtic bronze boar figurines from (left) the Gutenberg Votive Deposit, Lichtenstein (2-1 c. BC), and (right) Luncani (Cluj), Romania (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boars occur everywhere in Celtic Europe – as figurines, helmet crests, on war trumpets (carnyxs), and on coins, confirming their particular association with power and warfare.

 

 

 

gund houn

Bronze boar attachments from Celtic helmets from Hounslow, England (left), and (right) warrrior helmet with boar attachment depicted on the Gundestrup cauldron (both late 2nd/early 1st c. BC).

 

 

Obverse of a Celtic silver coin from Esztergom, Hungary (early 1st c. BC)

Celtic helmet with boar attachment depicted on the obverse of a Celtic silver coin from Esztergom, Hungary (early 1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

On that most distinctive of Celtic musical instruments, the Carnyx (war trumpet), it is once again the boar that is the most frequently portrayed animal (see ‘The Boar Headed Carnyx’ article). Also particularly impressive are a number of life-sized bronze statues of boars discovered in Celtic burial contexts and sanctuaries such as that from the Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Bulgaria, or those found at the sanctuary at Neuvy-en-Sullias (Loiret) France.

 

 

Neu bo

Bronze boar statue from the Celtic sanctuary at Neuvy-en-Sullias (1st c. BC)

 

 

mezek j

Bronze boar statue from the Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

While the pig is the most common animal placed in Iron Age burials as food for the afterlife, the remains of boars are rarely found in such contexts, indicating that the wild boar, as opposed to domestic pigs, was not viewed solely as a food source. The religious significance of the animal is confirmed by its portrayal on artifacts such as the Celtiberian cult-vehicle from Mérida (Spain), or the ‘Boar Warrior’ statue from Euffigneix, (Haute-Marne) France, the latter probably a representation of the Celtic boar god Moccos.

 

 

 

 

 

br war.

Limestone pillar statue from Euffigneix, (Haute-Marne) France (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

Boar cent

‘The Boar Hunt’ – Bronze Celtiberian cult-vehicle from Mérida (Spain), 1st c. BC

 

 

 

 

 

 
The fact that the wild boar is, besides birds of prey (see Catubodua article), the most frequently depicted animal in Celtic art, logically indicates that it had a special significance in society. The available archaeological and numismatic evidence also strongly suggests that boar hunts may have played an important role in Iron Age warrior initiations, forming part of the ‘rite of passage’ rituals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BALKANCELTS IMAGE GALLERY:

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/Balkancelts/photos_stream

 

 

 

im im ag 1

 

 

plan anklet

 

 

 

 

 

The most distinctive of personal ornaments, the hohlbuckelringe (bronze anklets) worn by Celtic women are also one of the most significant archaeological markers of Celtic expansion into eastern Europe and Asia-Minor in the 3rd c. BC.

 

 

 

 

Celtic jewellery ( 3rd century BC ) from female grave 16, Manching Hundsrucken.

Hohlbuckelringe from female grave 16, at Manching Hundsrucken, Germany (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

Such anklets first appear among the Celtic tribes in the early 3rd c. BC, and include both plain and richly decorated examples. The hohlbuckelringe first emerge in the area of today’s southern Germany and the historically identified territory of the Boii tribe – roughly the area of the present-day Czech Republic (Schaff 1972, Megaw 2004).

 

 

 

plan anklet

Detail of a bronze hohlbucklering from Plaňany (Kolín District), Czech Republic (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 
With the eastwards movement of Celtic tribes the area of distribution of such anklets logically expands greatly and numerous examples from the 3rd c. BC have been recorded in Hungary and Romania (see below).

 

 

 

Celtic ankle ring ( 3rd century BC ) from Tiszalúc, Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén - hungary

Part of a Celtic hohlbuckelring from Tiszalúc, (Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén) – Hungary (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

In Thrace hohlbuckelringe have been found at sites such as Helis (Sboryanovo archaeological reserve) in northeastern Bulgaria where, as at Seuthopolis further to the south (see Mac Gonagle 2013), a large Thraco-Macedonian polis had been established at the end of the 4th c. BC. From a chronological perspective the Celtic finds from Helis are of particular significance as they come from a well defined archaeological context. The first example from the site was discovered in 1987 in a building near the south gate of the fortress (Mihaylova 1992), while another Celtic anklet was discovered 11 years later some 5 meters from the first (Megaw 2004). The Helis site was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in circa 250 BC (Stoyanov/Mihaylova 1996, Stoyanov 1998), which therefore dates the anklets and other Celtic artifacts from the site (Celtic ceramic etc.,  see also Mac Gonagle 2014) to the early 3rd c. BC, and thus to the first phase of Celtic expansion into the eastern Balkans.

 

 

 

 

???????????????????????????????

Fragments of Celtic hohlbuckelringe from Helis/Sboryanovo, northeastern Bulgaria. (Early 3rd c. BC)
(after Megaw 2004)

 

 

 

 

 

ne map

(After Anastassov et al 2013; see https://www.academia.edu/4118437/Mediolana_and_the_Zaravetz_Culture)

 

 

 

 

 

Further to the south-east an example from Finike in southwestern Turkey testifies to the Celtic expansion into Asia-Minor from 277 BC onwards. The hohlbucklering from Finike is classic La Têne B2 in its relief decoration which can be compared with several examples from southern Germany (Schaff 1972, Megaw 2004). The discovery of a pair of plain Celtic ankle rings at Corinth is further archaeological evidence of the Celtic presence in Greece at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC and has been linked to the forces of Brennos (Megaw 2004).

 

 

 

 

Bronze ankle rings, hollow cast, with ornament knobs, 3rd century BC, from Aholming ( Vilshofen - Bavaria ).

Hollow cast bronze ankle ring (3rd century BC), from Aholming (Vilshofen – Bavaria)

 

 

Piscolt

Hohlbuckelring from a Celtic female burial at Pişcolt (Satu Mare), Romania (3rd c. BC)
Other examples from this part of Romania include hohlbuckleringe from the Celtic cemetery at Ciumeşti (Grave 1; Zirra 1967:16).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download Pdf. version of this article:

https://www.academia.edu/7212191/On_Hohlbuckelringe_as_a_Marker_of_Celtic_Eastwards_Expansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Literature Cited

 

Anastassov J., Megaw V., Megaw R., Mircheva E. (2013) Walt Disney Comes to Bulgaria. In: L’âge du Fer en Europe: mélanges offerts à Olivier Buchsenschutz. Bordeaux : Ausonius, 2013, p. 551-56
Krämer W. (1961) Keltische Hohlbuckelringe vom Isthmus von Korinth. In: Germania 19, 1961. p. 32-42

 

Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings

 

Mac Gonagle B. (2014) https://www.academia.edu/5992553/Late_La_Tene_Ceramic_from_Bulgaria

 
Megaw V. (2004) In the footsteps of Brennos? Further archaeological evidence for Celts in the Balkans. – In: Hänsel B., Studenikova E., (eds.) Zwischen Karpaten und Ägäis. Neolithikum und ältere Bronzezeit. Gedenkschrift für Viera Nemejcova-Pavukova. Rahden / Westf. 93-107.

 
Mihaylova Z. (1992) Metal finds from the Thracian fortified settlement near the water-supply station in Sboryanovo in Helis II: Sboryanovo. Studies and prospects. Proceedings of the Conference in Isperih, 8 December 1988, Sofia (Sofia, Isperih 1992) p. 88-93

 
Schaff U. (1972) Ein keltischer Hohlbuckelringe aus Kleinasiens. In: Germania 50, 1972. P. 94-97

 
Stoyanov T., Mihaylova Z. (1996) Metalworking in the Getic city in Sboryanovo locality near Isperih, NE Bulgaria (Preliminary report). In: Ephemeris Napocensis 6, 1996, p. 55-77

 
Stoyanov T. (1998) New light on the relations between NE Thrace and Macedonia in the early Hellenistic times. In: Ancient Macedonia. Sixth International Symposium (Thessaloniki) 2 (1998) p. 1076-1089

 
Zirra V. (1967) Un cimitir celtic în nord-verstu României (Baie Mare n.d (1967)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mian illust

 

 

 

 

The village of Szabadi (Somogy county) is situated on the Kapos river in southern Hungary, circa 2.5 km. from the Iron Age oppidum at Szalacska. South of the village a Celtic burial site, used from the end of the 4th – early 2nd c. BC, yielded 12 cremation burials including 3 female graves and 5 warrior burials (# 1,4,5,11 and 12).

 

 

 

s map f.

Location of the site

 

 

 

 

During rescue excavations at the site in 1981 a wealth of archaeological material was uncovered, including ceramic, bronze and iron fibulae, decorated iron, bronze and glass bracelets, ankle rings and weaponry. The most significant find at the site came from grave # 11, where a double warrior burial dating to the late 3rd/early 2nd c. BC was discovered. Material from the burial included 3 swords in their sheaths, 3 spearheads, 2 sword belts, 2 shield umbos, bracelets (iron and glass), and fibulae (Horváth, Németh 2011).

 

 

 

 

umb illust

Shield umbo from warrior burial #11 at Szabadi

(after Horváth, Németh 2011)

 

 

Hun. swo styl illust

One of the decorated scabbards from burial #11. Although badly corroded, at the opening of the sheath a simple symmetrical carved decoration can be observed, composed of tendrils and two drops, known as the Hungarian Sword Style (phase 2, after Szabó, Petres 1992; illustration after Horváth, Németh 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

PARTING GIFTS

 

In the south-west and south-eastern parts of the grave meat (chicken and pork) for the afterlife had been placed in bowls. A further notable find in the warrior burial was a small glass bracelet, much smaller than the iron bracelets of the warriors. Such glass bracelets are characteristic for Celtic female burials of this period; a significant marker of Celtic eastwards expansion, they have been found in 3rd c. BC contexts as far east as Celtic sites such as Arkovna, Kalnovo, Sevtopolis and Zaravetz in e. Bulgaria. It is believed that the bracelet in burial #11 at Szabadi was a present to one of the warriors from his girlfriend or wife, which he also carried with him into the afterlife (loc cit).

 

 

 

Glass b. h

Glass bracelets from various Celtic female burials in Hungary (late 4th – early 2nd c. BC)

(after Tanko 2006)

 

 

 

 

The double burials in grave #11 at Szabadi were performed at the same time, and it has thus been assumed that the warriors fell in battle (Horváth, Németh 2011). Although the nature of the cremation process makes forensic confirmation impossible, this indeed appears the most plausible explanation for such a phenomenon. Finally, it is noteworthy that similar burial assemblages to those at Szabadi are common in the territory of the Scordisci (loc cit), logically indicating a close relationship between the Celts of the Kapos Valley and those in Serbia and n. Bulgaria.

 

 

 

mian illust

Full inventory of warrior burial #11

(after Horváth, Németh 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Celtic Multiple Burials see also:

https://www.academia.edu/5275216/Multiple_Burials_And_The_Question_of_Celtic_Suttee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Horváth L., Németh P. (2011) Celtic warriors from Szabadi (Somogy County, Hungary) In:The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea. Koper–Beograd 2011. p. 20-30.

Szabó M., Petres É. F. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Tène Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin. Inventaria Praehistorica Hungariae 5, Budapest.

Tankó K. (2006) Celtic Glass Bracelets in East-Hungary. In: Thracians and Celts. Proceedings of the International Colloquium from Bistriţa, 18-20 May 2006. p. 253-263
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gc 1

 

“And while the attention of our men is engaged with this surrender, in another part Adcantuannus, who held the chief command, appeared with 600 devoted followers whom they call soldurii; the conditions of whose association are these, – that they enjoy all the conveniences of life with those to whose friendship they have devoted themselves: if any thing calamitous happen to them, either they endure the same destiny together with them, or commit suicide”.

 
(Caesar, Bellum Gallicum III:22)

 

 

 

 

 

The most mysterious archaeological discovery from late Iron Age Europe occurred in 2002 with the discovery of the Celtic cavalry burials in the vicinity of the oppidum of the Averni tribe at Gondole (Puy-de-Dôme), France. While the burial of Celtic warriors in the mid and late Iron Age together with their horses is unusual, this phenomenon is not unknown (isolated examples of such Celtic burials have been found as far east as Kalnovo in eastern Bulgaria). However, the Gondole burials are undoubtedly among the most bizarre in European archaeology.

 

 

The mass burial at Gondole, situated 300 meters from the rampart of the oppidum, consisted of 8 men and their horses, lined up four by four in two rows, who had been buried together in a rectangular grave. Each warrior was lying on his right side, head to the south, facing east. Seven of them were adults and the eighth an adolescent. Apart from the boy, whose hand was placed near his face, all the warriors had their left arm extended, placed on the previous skeleton.

 

 

 

 

gc 2

Archaeo-zoological analysis has confirmed that the horses in the burial were Gallic horses (small horses 1.20 high)

 

 

 

 

Initial explanations of this unique archaeological phenomenon logically linked the burial to Celtic warriors killed in battle with Caesar’s forces during this turbulent period. However, the fact that no weapons, no personal belongings, no offerings, and no elements of harnessing were found with the bodies further indicated that this was no ordinary mass warrior burial. Furthermore, the theory that the men had fallen in battle with the Romans also collapsed when anthropological analysis revealed no trace of trauma on the skeletons of the warriors which would be compatible with combat, and therefore no logical scientific explanation for their deaths.

 

 

 

gc 3

 

 

 

Thus, while theories abound concerning the circumstances of their deaths and the enigmatic burial rites to be observed at the site, the ‘Ghost Cavalry of Gondole’ remains one of the greatest mysteries of Celtic Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PUPPETRIDERS

 

 

 

puppt intro

 

 

 

 

The most fascinating and enigmatic of late Iron Age European coinage, the Celtic Puppetrider tetradrachms were produced from the early 3rd c. BC onwards by the Pannonian Celtic tribes. The coinage itself features a male laureate head on the obverse, the subjects eye being represented on a number of issues by an arrowhead.

 

 

 

 

PR eyear

Obverse of Celtic tetradrachm of the Puppetrider/Triskele type (Hungary, late 3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

The reverse depicts a horseman with left arm raised, of whom only the upper part of the body is represented. Behind the riders head and in front of the horse is a Celtic inscription while below the horse, on the majority of such coins, is a triskelion/triskele, a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic coins and other artifacts. The triskele variants date from the mid 3rd c. BC onwards, while rarer issues which feature a monogram from the coinage of the Paeonian king Audoleon, from which the Celtic puppetrider types are believed to have evolved, date to a slightly earlier period.

 

 

 

tri and mono

Puppetrider tetradrachm with triskele, and the earlier type with Audoleon monogram

(both from the Zichyújfalu hoard; see below)

 

 

 

 

 

PUPPETRIDER/TRISKELE

 

 

As mentioned, the vast majority of puppetrider coins are of the aforementioned triskele type. Based on the recorded finds of such, the epicentre of production and distribution lay in the area of today’s central Hungary where, besides numerous single finds, two major hoards of such have been found in close proximity – those from Zichyújfalu, which included 268 Celtic coins, 262 of the triskele type, and Dunaújváros (also in Fejér county) (Kerényi 1960; Göbl 1972: 51-52) which included a similar, slightly larger, hoard of such coinage (see map 1 below).

 

 

 

 

 

zichy ho

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from the Zichyújfalu hoard

(after Torbágyi 2012)

 

 

 

 

 

A second concentration of puppetrider/triskele coinage has been identified around the villages of Sióagárd/Baranyamágócs, slightly to the south. These coins, however, are artistically and technically inferior to the aforementioned issues, and should therefore be seen as contemporary Celtic imitations of the latter.

 

 

 

sig tds

 

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from Sióagárd

(after Torbágyi 2012)

 

 

 

 

Although Celtic coinage of the Puppetrider/Triskele types circulated chiefly in the aforementioned area of Central Hungary, finds such as those from Diex in southern Austria, Batina in eastern Croatia, Bač in northern Serbia, as well as Bratislava and Görgő in Slovakia, and Ungvár in western Ukraine (loc cit), indicate that this type of coinage circulated widely among the Celtic tribes of Eastern Europe during the period in question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

mppp

Distribution of recorded finds of Celtic Puppetrider/Triskele type coinage (3rd/2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Göbl R. (1972) Neue technische Forschungsmethoden in der keltischen Numismatik. Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 109/1972: 49-63.

Kerényi A. (1960) Sztálinvárosi kelta éremlelet. (Trouvaille de médailles celtiques à Sztalinváros /Intercisa/) Numizmatikai Közlöny 58-59/1959-1960: 3-6, 83.
Torbágyi M. (2008) Der „Zichyújfalu” Typ mit Audoleon Monogramm. Festschrift für Günther
Dembski zum 65. Geburtstag. NZ 116-117/2008: 87-93.

Torbágyi M. (2012)Der Münzfund von Zichyújfalu 1873, In: VAMZ, 3. s., XLV (2012) p. 537-552

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

desa d.

 

“Part of this region (Thrace) was inhabited by the Scordisci … a people formerly cruel and savage…”.
(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the village of Desa (Dolj county) southwestern Romania have yielded 2 Iron age warrior burials, a discovery which has greatly supplemented our knowledge of the Celtic Scordisci tribes which inhabited large areas of Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania in the middle/late Iron Age.

 
The village of Desa is situated on the Danube and although a large amount of Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials have been recorded south of the river, especially in western Serbia and northwestern Bulgaria, such discoveries in this part of Romania have hitherto been relatively sparse. Thus the Desa burials are of particular significance.

 

 

 

desa s

Round shield umbo from the Scordisci warrior burials at Desa (2nd c. BC)
(Illustrations from the excavations provided by the Desa Archaeological Site)

 

 

 

 

 

mon

Material from a Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)
(See :https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria)

 

 

 

The Celtic burials at Desa discovered during the 2013 excavations yielded a wealth of archaeological material which included, besides the cremated remains of the warriors, spearheads, an iron cleaver, shield umbos, nails, buttons/clasps, etc. A H-shaped horse bit discovered beside a round shield umbo, similar to examples found in Scordisci burials at Montana and Pavolche in nearby northwestern Bulgaria, logically indicates that, as in the latter cases, the Desa warriors were Celtic cavalry officers.

 

 

 

desa um. bt

Round shield umbo and H-shaped horse bit from the Desa burials (2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

dal . u.

Round Celtic shield umbo from Dalgopol, northeastern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A further interesting discovery from the Desa burials (dated 200-150 BC) was a button fashioned in the form of a miniature shield umbo, also discovered among the warriors remains.

 

 

 

 

desa min.

Button in the form of a miniature shield umbo, cremated bone and a nail from the shield umbo found in the Celtic burials

 

 

 

 

desa d.

Weapons and other artifacts in situ at the Desa burials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ba x

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the finest examples of Iron Age metalwork are to be found on the anthropomorphic hilts of swords which appear in the 2nd c. BC, and are to be found among the pan-Celtic tribes across Europe. In late Iron Age artistic compositions human heads become increasingly frequent and realistic, and appear to have had talismanic significance. The hilts of middle to late La Têne swords become truly anthropomorphic, with the figures body as sword grip and the arms and legs as cross bars. 

 

 

 

 

switzer 1

switzer 2

Celtic sword from Switzerland and detail of hilt (Iron blade, copper alloy hilt and scabbard)

(c. 60 BC)

 

 

 

 

Ga 2

Bronze sword hilt from Châtillon-sur-Indre, Gaul
(c. 30-20 BC)

 

 

 

 

 

???????????????????????????????

Bronze hilt of iron sword from Salon, Gaul

(2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 
Such anthropomorphic representations are not confined to swords, but are also to be found on a number of Celtic daggers from this period. The more realistic depiction of the human head in the late La Têne period, possibly under Roman influence, is also to be observed on other artifacts, notably eastern Celtic helmets of the Novo Mesto type.

 

 

 

Hun dagg hilt g.

Hilt of a Celtic dagger from Zalaegerszeg, Hungary.
(2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

Sava hel heads

Human heads from the front and rear of the Novo Mesto type Sava helmet from Slovenia

(1st c. BC)

(see: https://www.academia.edu/5463297/The_Power_of_3_-_Some_Observations_On_Eastern_Celtic_Helmets)

 

 

 

Celtic swords (and daggers) with anthropomorphic hilts were produced during the La Têne C/D period (2nd c. BC – early 1st c. AD), and have been found across the continent stretching from northwestern Ireland to the Balkans, indicating that they gained popularity among all the pan-Celtic European tribes during this period.

 

 

 

ba x

Bronze Celtic sword hilt from Ballyshannon Bay (Co. Donegal) northwestern Ireland

 

(1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bast intr

 

 

 

 

‘…the Bastarnæ, the bravest nation of all’.

 
(Appianus, Mithridatic Wars 10:69)

 

 

 

 

 

The most enigmatic ‘barbarian’ people to appear in southeastern Europe in the late Iron Age are undoubtedly the Bastarnae (Βαστάρναι / Βαστέρναι).

 

While archaeological/numismatic evidence indicates that the Bastarnae tribes had reached the Danube Delta as early as the second half of the 4th c. BC, they first appear in historical sources in connection with the events of 179 BC as allies of Philip V of Macedonia in his war with Rome (Livy 40:5, 57-58), and remain a constant factor in the history of southeastern Europe for over 500 years. Due to the fact that archaeologists have failed to associate a particular archaeological culture with the Bastarnae, the ethnic origin of this people has hitherto remained shrouded in mystery, with a lack of clarity on whether they were initially of Scythian, Germanic or Celtic origin. However, as illustrated below, a chronological analysis of the ancient sources relating to the Bastarnae in general, and archaeological, numismatic and linguistic evidence from the territory of the Bastarnae Peucini tribe in particular, enables us to finally shed some light on this question.

 

 

 

 

 

pel

Bastarnae ‘Huşi-Vovrieşti type’ tetradrachms from the Celtic settlement at Pelczyska, Poland (2nd c. BC)
(see Balkancelts ‘The Celts in Poland’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SOURCES

 

 

Later authors such as Dio Cassius (3rd c. AD – Dio LI.23.3, 24.2) and Zosimus (late 5th/early 6th c. AD – Zosimus I.34) define the Bastarnae as ‘Scythians’, and to a great extent this is true. By the late Roman period the Bastarnae tribes had been living in the region vaguely referred to as ‘Scythia’ for over half a millennium, and mixing with the local tribes (‘mixed marriages are giving them to some extent the vile appearance of the Sarmatians’ – Tac. Ger. 46). Thus, they were by this stage indeed Scythians, in the same way, for example, the Celtic Scordisci in Thrace are referred to in Roman sources as ‘Thracians’, having inhabited the region of Thrace for a number of centuries. However, as with the latter case, geographical situation by no means indicates ethnic origin.

 

 

 

 

pel wom

Facial Reconstruction of a Bastarnae woman found in Burial # 9 at the Celtic settlement in Pelczyska, Poland

 
(see Balkancelts ‘Face of a Stranger’ article’)

 

 

 

 

 

While sources such as Strabo (early 1st c. AD – see below), and Tacitus (circa 100 AD; Tac. Ger. 43), are often cited to support the view that the Bastarnae were of Germanic origin, in fact, a closer analysis of the testimony of both these sources reveals that neither is in fact certain about who the Bastarnae were. While Strabo informs us that the Bastarnae lived mixed with the Thracian and Celtic tribes in Thrace, both north and south of the river, he also admits, ‘I know neither the Bastarnae, nor the Sarmatae nor, in a word, any of the peoples who dwell above the Pontus’ (Strabo VII, 2:4). Tacitus states the following:

 
Peucini, quos quidam Bastarnas, vocunt sermon cultu, sede ac domiciliis ut Germani agunt’ (Tac. op cit.)

 
i.e. – he informs us, not that the Bastarnae were Germani, but that they were ‘similar to the Germani’. In this case one should bear in mind that many of the Celts who migrated into southeastern Europe and Asia-Minor from the end of the 4th c. BC onwards originated from the Belgae group of Celtic tribes (see also ‘Galatia’ article), who are described in ancient sources as being most like the Germani.

 

The other ancient authors are clear on the ethnic origin of the Bastarnae. The earliest source, Polybius (200-118 BC; XXIV 9,13) refers to them as Celtic (Galatians), while Livy (59 BC – 17 AD) tells us that they had the same customs and spoke the same language as the Celtic Scordisci, and also mentions close military and political ties between the Bastarnae and Scordisci (Livy 40:57). Plutarch (46 – 120 AD; Aem. 9.6) refers to them as ‘Gauls on the Danube who are called Bastarnae’.

 

 

 

 

 

THE BASTARNAE IN THRACE

 

 

It was in the wake of the aforementioned events of 179 BC that the Peucini, the southern branch of the Bastarnae, were drawn south of the Danube into Thrace. They were at this stage a powerful military and political force in southeastern Europe, which is illustrated by the enthusiasm that Philip V of Macedonia showed at the prospect of being allied to them:

 ‘The envoys whom he had sent to the Bastarnae to summon assistance had returned and brought back with them some young nobles, amongst them some of royal blood. One of these promised to give his sister in marriage to Philip’s son, and the king was quite elated at the prospect of an alliance with that nation’ (Livy 40:5).

 Although Philip’s sudden death meant that the joint attack on Rome by the Macedonians and Bastarnae came to nothing, by this time a large group of the (Peucini) Bastarnae had already migrated into Thrace, and a group of 30,000 of them subsequently settled in Dardania; another larger group of Bastarnae returned eastwards and settled in the area of today’s eastern Bulgaria (Livy 40:58), where Bastarnae kingdoms were established in the Dobruja area. At the beginning of the 1st c. AD Strabo (VII, 3:2) mentions that the ethnic make-up of this area consisted of a complex mix of Thracians, Scythians, Celts and Bastarnae:

the Bastarnae tribes are mingled with the Thracians, more indeed with those beyond the Ister (Danube), but also with those this side. And mingled with them are also the Celtic tribes…”.

 
A thriving ‘barbarian’ culture emerged in this area (southeastern Romania/northeastern Bulgaria) during the 2nd/ 1st c. BC, based on a symbiotic relationship between these various groups and the Greek Black Sea colonies – a culture which was brought to a brutal end in the mid 1st c. BC by the destructive rampage of the Getic leader Burebista, which also paved the way for the Roman conquest of the Dobruja.

 

 

 

 

 

 

aelis

Bronze issue of the (Peucini) Bastarnae king Aelis (s. Dobruja region, Bulgaria – c. 180-150 BC).
- Jugate heads of the Dioskouroi right, in wreathed caps / jugate horse heads right; monogram & ΠΕ (for Peucini) below

 

(see also ‘Balkancelts ‘Peucini’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

In summary, an analysis of the ancient sources would appear to indicate that the Bastarnae tribes were initially of Celtic (Belgic) origin. This is confirmed by numismatic, archaeological, and linguistic evidence from the territory of the Bastarnae Peucini tribe in n.e. Bulgaria, s.e. Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. One should also note that the first archaeological/numismatic evidence of the presence of the Bastarnae in s.e. Europe (2nd half of the 4th c. BC) corresponds chronologically with the Celtic migration into the region.

 It would therefore appear, based on the available scientific data, that the elusive Bastarnae tribes were not some mysterious Germanic people who appeared in southeastern Europe during this period, but that they, like the Galatians, were tribes of the Belgae group who migrated into the area during the Celtic expansion at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. Scientific evidence from the Dobruja region (loc cit) further indicates that the original Celto-Germanic (Belgic) nature of this culture subsequently underwent a fundamental metamorphosis due to prolonged contact and co-existence with the Hellenistic and Scythian cultures, the resulting fusion of Celtic, Hellenistic and Scythian cultural elements culminating in a unique and distinct Bastarnae ethnicity by the Roman period.

 

 

 

In the later Roman period the policy of ethnic engineering further strengthened the Bastarnae presence south of the Danube. Under the Emperor Probus (276-82) 100,000 of them were settled in Thrace (Historia Augusta Probus 18), and shortly afterwards Emperor Diocletian (284-305) carried out another ‘massive’ transfer of the Bastarnae population to the south of the Danube (Eutropius IX.25; see Balkancelts ‘Ethnic Engineering’ article). Thus, the Bastarnae presence on the territory of today’s Bulgaria, already well established since the 2nd c. BC, was further reinforced by the policies of both Probus and Diocletian.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Bastarnae in Thrace see also:

https://www.academia.edu/4118437/Mediolana_and_the_Zaravetz_Culture

on the Bastarnae in Ukraine/Crimea: https://www.academia.edu/4835555/Gallo-Scythians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 194 other followers