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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.



























”These men also he sent back, calling them friends, and ranking them as allies, only adding the remark that the Celts were braggarts”.

(Arrianus. The Anabasis of Alexander (4)






While many attributes have been associated with the Ancient Celts, modesty is certainly not one of them. From their very first appearance in recorded history classical authors note their tendency for exaggeration and boasting. In 335 BC a Celtic delegation met with Alexander the Great on the Danube during armistice and alliance negotiations. Of this encounter we are informed – ‘And Ptolemaeus, the son of Lagus, says that on this expedition the Celti who lived about the Adriatic joined Alexander for the sake of establishing friendship and hospitality, and that the king received them kindly and asked them when drinking what it was that they most feared, thinking they would say himself, but that they replied they feared no one, unless it were that Heaven might fall on them’ (Strabo vii, 3,8; see also Arrianus Anab. I, 4, 6-8).


This supreme self-confidence is duly reflected in Celtic personal and tribal names, which tend to be particularly descriptive. Compare, for example, names such as Esumaro meaning ‘He Who Is Great As (the God) Esus’ (Ellis Evans (1967) = GPN – p. 449-450), Atepomarus - ‘He Who Has A Very Great Horse’ (GPN 52-53), Branogeni – ‘He Who Is Born of the Raven’ (McManus/1991:105), Cunorix = ‘The Hound-King’ (Wright/Jackson 1968), Sumeli (f.) – ‘Sweet as Honey’ (GPN:114-116; Matasovic 2009 = EDPC:163) or Catumarus (EDPC:195), whose name means ‘He Who Is Great in Battle’.






The CUNORIX inscription from Wroxeter, (Shropshire) England (CISP = WRXTR/1)


Translation: Cunorix (PN) son of Maqui Coline (PN)
= Hound-King, son of The Son of the Holly (Wright/Jackson 1968)

(The inscription is partly-Latinized Primitive Irish. The name Cunorix preserves the final x, which makes it unlikely that the inscription can be later than the loss of certain final consonants, including x, which is an early aspect of the loss or shortening of some final syllables about 500 (loc cit).





An analysis of Celtic personal names, and our increasing understanding of their meaning, strongly indicates that these names were not given at birth, but that the individuals received them later in life, probably as part of a ceremony to mark their passage to adulthood. Compare, for example, names such as Curmi-Sagius whose name literally means ‘He Who Seeks Beer’ (Meid 2005; see Balkancelts Κσρμιληνός article), Nertomarus = ‘He Whose Strength Is Great’ (GPN 223-228; see also EDPC 289), and Caromarus (f) = ‘Great Lover’ (GPN 61-62). A particularly descriptive personal name is the case of a Celt called Bussumaros, which is interpreted as ‘He Who Has A Great Penis’ (EDPC:84).






royal raven

The Morvah Inscription from Cornwall, England

(CISP MADR1/1 – The stone is now in a field on a moor about 3km from Morvah – dated mid 6th c.)



Rialobrani (*Rigalo-branos ) son of Cunovali (*Cuno-ualos)
= Royal Raven, son of Valiant Hound


(Readings: Okasha, E. 1985, Thomas/1994:283 (Fig 17.5)











Probably the most common Celtic name element was Bitu- meaning ‘World’ (GOlD: OIr. bith [u m], W: OW bid [m], MW byd [m], BRET: OBret. bit, bet; CO: OCo. bit gl. mundus, bys; GAUL: Bitu-; Matasovic EDPC) which occurs in a multitude of personal and tribal names across Celtic Europe: Cf. – from Britain - Bitu[cus] (Catterick, N. Yorkshire – RIB II 2501.107); Bitilus (Bath, 175-275 AD – TS 78.1, 2); Bitupr[…] (Chesters, Northumberland – RIB II 2501.105); Bitucus (Cirencester, Gloucestershire – RIB I 108 = Duo Nomina – Fl[au]ius Biticus); Bitudacus (Leicester, dated AD 45-65 – RIB II 2501.108); Bitu[…] (York – RIB II 2494.111), etc. It also appears in the name of Bituitus, a King of the Averni tribe who fought against C. Fabius Maximus in Gaul (Bituitus – Livy (per. LXI. Eutrop. 4, 22 [from which Hieronym. chron. a. Abr. 1891 Vituitus); Βιτύιτος as Genetiv – Poseidonios, Athen. IV 162 d = FHG III 260, Strabon IV 194 – Βιτσίτοσ, Appian. Celt. 12 – Βιτοῖτος), and in Celtic names such as Bitugentus (Dunaujaros, – RIU 05 1220) and Bitumarus (Alsoszentivan, – CIL 6 112) from Hungary.




In Dacia the element is also found, for example, in a Celtic inscription from Potaissa (Cluj, Romania – CIL, III, 917): D. M. Aia Nandonis vixit annis LXXX, Andrada Bi[t]uvantis vix. anis LXXX, Bricena vixit anis XL… (Felecan 2010:69), while over 300 examples have been recorded in Thrace, dating from the 3rd c. BC onwards (Detschew 1957:66, Georgiev 1977:68, Duridanov 1997: 131; 370 according to Felecan 2010:61; see Mac Gonagle 2013). Particularly interesting are triple component names such as Вρειζενις Βειθσος from the Pizos site in Thrace (Detschew 1957:88) meaning ‘High Born of the World’. Also among the eastern Celts, a Celtic officer - Bituitus (App. Mith. 16, 3), is recorded in the personal bodyguard of Mithridates VI (see Mac Gonagle 2014). A Galatian Chieftain in 63 BC also carried the name Bitoitos (Livy. Per CII).


In the territory of the Leuci tribe in Gaul, a 2nd century inscription (CIL XIII, 4661; RG 4828) reads:
Apollini et Sironae Biturix Iulli f(ilius) d(onavit)
- ‘To Apollo and Sirona, Biturix, son of Jullus offered (this altar)’.



The Biturix inscription from Tranqueville-Graux. (Musée d’Epinal (Vosges)



The personal name Biturix, composed of bitu- ‘world’, and –rix/-rig, ‘king’ (*rig- ‘king’ [Noun], GOlD: OIr. ri [g m], Ogam VOTECO-RIGAS, W: OW ri, MW ri [m] (GPC rhi), Gaul.-rix, Celtib. in Teiuo-reikis [PN] (K.6.1) from PIE: *(H)reg- ‘king’ (IEW: 855); Matasovic EDPC) is a common Celtic personal name literally meaning ‘King of the World’ (Delamarre 2003: pp. 76-77, 259-260). The latter element also forms the second component in Celtic tribal names such as the Caturiges, a Gaulish tribe in the Alpes Maritimae (Caesar, Bell. Gall. I 10,4). The name of the Caturiges tribe thus means literally ‘The Kings of Battle’ (Matasovic EDPC 8, GPN 243-249), -riges also forming the second component of tribal names such as the Gaulish Bituriges Cubi, and Bituriges Vivisci (DAG 148/153, GPN 248), who lived in the areas around Bourges/Berry, and Burdigala (Bordeaux) respectively.



One of the leaders of the Bituriges, Ambicatus, is mentioned in the founding legend of Mediolanum (Milan) by Livy, whose source is Timagenes. Ambicatus ruled in the days of Tarquinius Priscus (5th century BC). He sent his sister’s sons, Bellovesus and Segovesus, with many followers drawn from numerous tribes, to found new colonies in the Hercynian forest and in northern Italy, Bellovesus subsequently founding Mediolanum (Livius 5.34).

Particularly interesting in this context is an ogham inscription from the Isle of Man (CISP = ANDRS/1) dating from the 5th c. which also bears the name Ambicatus – ‘He Who Gives Battle All Around’ -  indicating a remarkable continuity in Celtic given names.





The Ambicatus ogham inscription from Castle Rushen, Isle of Man (5th c.)


Translation: Ambicatos (PN) son of Rocatos (PN)

(Reading = Jackson/1953, McManus/1991)


Ambicatos suggests British influence on the name in vocalism of the first syllable (AM for IM – *Imbicatos being the Primitive Irish form). This influence has not extended to the -mb- which had become -mm- in British (McManus/1991, 114; Ambi- = Proto-Celtic *ambi- ‘around’ [Prep], GOlD: Olr. imb, imm [Aspirating, +Acc.], W: OW im, MWam, BRET: MBret. am, em, GAUL: ambi-)







bituriges map

Territory of the Bituriges as marked on the Tabula Peutingeriana


Composed of the aforementioned elements bitu- = ‘world’, and –rix/-rig = ‘king’, the names of the Bituriges tribes therefore literally mean ‘The Kings of the World’, continuing the tradition of ‘modesty’ in Celtic personal and tribal names.







Thus, it would appear that in his brief meeting with them on the Danube in 335 BC the Macedonian king had little to offer the Celts. For what does one offer those who have no need for emperors or titles, a people who feared only that ‘the sky would fall on their heads’, and where each (at least in his own mind) was already ‘King of the World’ ?






























Carney J. (1975) The Invention of the Ogam Cipher. In: ‘Ériu’ 22, pp. 62–63

Delamarre X. (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue Gauloise. Paris

Detschew D. (1957) Die thrakischen Sprachreste. ÖAW, Phil.- hist. Kl. Schriften der Balkankomission, Linguist. Abteilung XV. Wien

Ellis Evans D. (1967) Gaulish Personal Names. A study of some Continental Celtic formations. Oxford 1967 = GPN

Felecan O. (2010) A Diachronic Excursion into the Anthroponymy of Eastern Romania. Philologica Jassyensia”, An VI, Nr. 1 (11), 2010, p. 57–80

Георгиев Вл. (1977) Траките и техният език. София

Jackson K. H. (1953) Language and History in Early Britain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.



Mac Gonagle B. (2013) –


Mac Gonagle B. (2014) –

MacNeill E. (1931) Archaisms in the Ogham Inscriptions. In: ‘Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy’ 39, pp. 33–53, Dublin

Matasovic R. (2009) An Etymological Lexicon of Proto-Celtic. University of Leiden = EDPC

McManus, D. (1991) A Guide to Ogam Maynooth Monographs 4. Maynooth: An Sagart

Meid W. (2005) Keltische Personennamen in Pannonien, Archaeolingua, Budapest

Okasha, E. (1993) Corpus of Early Christian Inscribed Stones of South-west Britain. Leicester: Leicester University Press

Thomas, A. C. (1994) And Shall These Mute Stones Speak? Post-Roman Inscriptions in Western Britain. Cardiff: University of Wales Press

Wright R.P., Jackson, K.H. (1968) `A Late Inscription from Wroxeter’, The Antiquaries Journal 48, part 2: 296–300














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






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)




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:








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)


Mac Gonagle B. (2014)

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)








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:














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.


























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)









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.








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)







Material from a Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)
(See :




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)





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.







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










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’.









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.








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:

on the Bastarnae in Ukraine/Crimea:






















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