Category: Archaeology


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cows intro

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/6502181/Illyrian_Coinage_From_Thrace

 

 

 

doddel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boar Headed Carnyx

g car 1

 

 

 

 

“For there were among them such innumerable horns and trumpets, which were being blown at the same time from all parts of their army, and their cries were so loud and piercing, that the noise seemed to come not from human voices and trumpets, but from the whole countryside at once”.

 

(Polybius, Histories, II, 29)

 

 

The most unique and distinct of barbarian musical instruments was the Celtic carnyx – a type of elongated war trumpet which was usually (but not exclusively) shaped as a boar’s head. The term “carnyx” is derived from the Gaulish root, “carn-” or “cern-” meaning “antler” or “horn,” the same root as in the name of the Celtic god Cernunnos (Delmarre X. (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Paris. p. 106-107). The instruments themselves were of bronze and played upright, as illustrated by their depiction on the Gundestrup cauldron.

tin n gun

Carnyx from the Gaulish sanctuary of Tintignac (Corrèze, Gaul), and examples depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron

tin recon

Reconstruction of a Carnyx found at Tintignac. The carnyx was 1.80m. long, and one of 7 found at the site (6 representing a boars head, and one a serpent)

 

(after Gilbert J., Brasseur E., Dalmont J.P., Maniquet C.  Acoustical Evaluation of the Carnyx of Tintignac. In: Proceedings of the acoustics conference, Nantes 2012. p. 3956-3959)

 

 

 

Besides depictions on coins and other artifacts from the period, archaeological evidence of the carnyx has been found at Celtic sites throughout Europe, stretching from the British Isles to the Balkans, illustrating that it was common to the pan-Celtic tribes across the continent.

caes st

Celtic carnyx depicted on a Roman gold stater from 48 BC

Ser

Serpent headed carnyx from Tintignac

scot car

Boar headed carnyx from Deskford, Scotland (mid 1st c. AD)

 

 

 

“Their trumpets again are of a peculiar barbarian kind; they blow into them and produce a harsh sound which suits the tumult of war”

 

(Diod. Sic. V,30)

 

 

 

Scientific reconstructions of these strange instruments, based on archaeological finds (Gilbert et al 2012), confirm that the carnyx produced a distinctive eerie sound, unlike any other ancient or modern musical instrument, and was therefore ideally suited to the atmosphere of battle, for which it was created.

g car 1

Carnyx discovered in a ritual pit at the Gaulish sanctuary at Tintignac

 

 

Neg 1

 

 

 

 

 

In the year 1811, a most spectacular discovery was made in an orchard at the village of Negau (today Ženjak) in Slovenia. The Negau Hoard, consisting of 26 bronze Etruscan helmets, many bearing inscriptions in a Celtic script, represents one of the most important archaeological finds in this part of Europe.

 

 The helmets are of an Etruscan design from circa 500-450 BC called the Vetulonic or Negau type, which are of bronze with a comb-shaped ridge across the skull, and a protruding rim with a groove right above the rim. However, the inscriptions on the helmets are believed to have been added at a much later date (2nd c. BC), and the deposition has been dated to circa 50 BC – i.e. shortly before the Roman conquest of the area.

Neg B

The Negau B Helmet

 


 

As mentioned, the deposition of the Negau Hoard has been dated to circa 50 BC, when such helmets had long been obsolete, having been replaced by more modern equipment such as the Novo Mesto type helmets (below). It appears that after becoming redundant the Negau helmets took on a ceremonial / religious function, as attested to by the Celtic inscriptions on the helmets, which bear the names of priests/druids (see Markey T. (2001) A Tale of Two Helmets: The Negau A and B Inscriptions. In: The Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 29, 2001; Must G. (1957) The Problem of the Inscription on Helmet B of Negau. In: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology Vol. 62, (1957), pp. 51-59).

 

 

 

 

 

Nov mes

Celtic Novo Mesto type helmet discovered in the river Sava, Croatia (1st c. BC)

(see: https://www.academia.edu/5463297/The_Power_of_3__Some_Observations_On_Eastern_Celtic_Helmets)

Increasing evidence of the use of a Celtic script on the Balkans, based on the Etruscan alphabet, has come to light in recent years, and  indicates that this alphabet continued to be used throughout the Roman period (see Celtic Graffiti article with relevant lit.).

c-et insc 2

Inscriptions in the Celtic script from Grad (A) and Posočje (B), Slovenia

 

(see Celtic Graffiti article, with cited lit.)

neg. ins.

The inscription on the Negau B helmet

 

 

 

 

 

 

The majority of the Celtic inscriptions on the Negau helmets are structured: name + ‘the diviner’, name + ‘astral priest of the troop’, while an inscription on one of the helmets – the so-called Negau B helmet, has attracted particular attention. According to linguistic analysis, it contains the Germanic name *Harigasti(z), which consists of two parts: hari = army, host (found in Old Norse herjan – to make war, to plunder, hernað – warfare; or in German Heer – army) and gasti(z) = guest. The second part of the inscription has been interpreted as *teiwa(z) = god. Thus the inscription would read: “Harigasti, [the priest of] the god” (Markey 2001). If such analysis is correct, this would represent the earliest recorded Germanic inscription.

How a Germanic priest came to be living among the local Celtic population during this period is another question…

strtri in

 

Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:

https://www.academia.edu/6355583/Celtic_Strymon_Trident_Coinage

 

 

 

3 map Fin.

 

 

 

 

 

scab int

 

 

 

 

 

The nature of burial rituals practiced by the Iron Age European population makes the task of archaeologists an especially complex one. In particular, the Celtic burial process, which generally included the deliberate ‘killing’ of the artifacts, i.e. the bending, breaking or otherwise deformation of weapons and other objects before being placed on the funeral pyre, and subsequent cremation of the articles along with the body of the deceased, has meant that material from Celtic burials is often rendered unrecognizable to the naked eye.

  A good example of this phenomenon is the recently published middle La Têne warrior burial (LT C1/C2) from the Auersperg Palace in Ljubljana (Slovenia), which yielded the cremated bones of the individual along with a rich burial inventory. However, while initial excavation of the burial revealed only an unrecognizable melted conglomerate of iron, bone and ceramic material, subsequent analysis showed that the ‘lump’ actually contained, among other objects, a ritually ‘killed’ middle La Tène sword and shield boss, a shaft-hole axe, as well as human and animal bones.

 Particularly interesting is the fact that the human bones included a fragment of the cranial part of the skull with an unfused suture, which belonged to a person under 20 years of age. Thus, it appears that in death, due to nature of the burial rites observed, and subsequent environmental factors, this ‘boy warrior’ literally fused with his weapons.

Melted 1 - ir. l

Auersperg Palace. The conglomerate of the distorted weapons

(Illustrations after Štrajhar M., Gaspari A., Ostanki Dveh Srednjelatehskih Bojevniških Grobov Iz Turjaške Palače v Ljubljani, Pril. Inst. Arheol. Zagrebu, 30/2013, str. 27-43)

Melted 1 - scan

A scanned image of the conglomerate

Melted 1 - pot

Auersperg Palace. The upper half of a larger vessel from the layer

 

 

 

 

 A further fascinating find from the same deposit / layer, but originating from another (slightly earlier) grave unit, is a ritually ‘killed’ scabbard, typical for the Celtic LT C1b phase. The scabbard is decorated with a unique composite motif of a dragon pair and a snake, combined with vegetative ornamentation. A similar combination of ornaments is most often found on scabbards from the southern border area of the Pannonian Plain, which are discovered in burials from the later part of the LT C1 phase. The complexity of the decoration, which is typical for the latest phase of the Celtic ‘dragon pair’ depictions, thus dates the manufacture of the Auersperg Palace scabbard in the late 3rd century BC (Štrajhar, Gaspari, op cit).

scabb 1

Melted 1 - scabb

The Auersperg Palace scabbard and detail of decoration

Mac Congail

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