Tag Archive: Celtic burial


CELTIC DEATH

De

 

 

 

According to your [the druids’] authority, the shadows do not strive for the silent abodes of the underworld and for the pale realm of the deep sovereign of the dead: The same spirit directs the limbs in a different region (orbe alio). If you sing an approved truth, death is the centre of a long life.

 

Lucanus (Bellum Civile 1.454–458)

 

 

 

After centuries of archaeological research, life and death among the Iron Age European population remains shrouded in mystery. However, recent anthropological analysis of burials sites in Eastern Europe is gradually shedding light on many aspects of everyday life and the enigmatic death rituals of Europe’s ‘barbarian’ population. 

 Although a significant number of inhumation burials are also found at Celtic burial complexes, particularly in the initial phase of eastern expansion, the dominant burial rite here, as in other parts of Europe during this period, was cremation. It also appears probable that many of the inhumation burials in a Celtic context may be explained by the burial of individuals from outside the local Celtic population living within the community, as is the case, for example, with the burial of a Thracian female at Remetea Mare in Romania.

 

Rm Thrac.

Female Inhumation Burial (#3) from the Celtic cemetery at Remetea Mare, Romania

Both the funerary rite (inhumation rather than cremation – unique at the cemetery) and inventory illustrate that the woman came from a community markedly different from the one in which she died, in this case probably from a Thracian group (Triballi?) south of the Danube, and reached the Celtic community at Remetea Mare following a matrimonial alliance established between the Celts and the Thracians, sometime in the first half of the 3rd century BC. (see Barbarian Brides).

 

 

 

 

 

 

CREMATION

 

Recent anthropological analysis at various sites has allowed us to at least partly reconstruct the complex ritual associated with Celtic cremation burials during this period. According to the degree of burning at different anatomical elements it has been possible to conclude that the corpse was laid on the funeral pyre on their back (Hincak, Guštin 2011). Logically, cremations were usually of individuals although there are a number of cases of multiple cremation burials such as the double burial of a male and female (burial No. 5), or a triple burial of a man, woman and child (burial no. 10) at the Celtic burial complex at Dobova in Slovenia (loc cit). A double cremation burial has also recently been recorded at Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia (Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović  2011; see ‘The Warrior and his Wife’ article).

 

 

 

3D reconstruction of a Celtic cremation and burial procession:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwjGJmO4-vY&feature=youtu.be

 

 

 

SM burial

Reconstruction of the Celtic (Scordisci) Cremation Burial from Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011)

 

 

 

At Ludas in Hungary, 8 double burials have been recorded. In two cases the cremated remains of two adults (burials 711, 1009), in five cases an adult and a child (burials 686, 699, 725, 1051, 1267), and in one case a newborn and a child (burial 1139) were placed in the grave together. The case of burial 1139 at that site is a further example of the mysteries that continue to surround such Celtic burials, especially those of children. In this burial the remains of a new born child and those of an older child (Infans I) were found. The two children could have been cremated together, however, the missing skel­etal elements of the older child raises issues for which there are no satisfactory answers. Furthermore, in some child burials at this site the total absence of skull bones can be observed. In burial 1267, among the remains of an adult female, cremated skeletal bones of a child were detected, but the infant’s skull fragments were not pre­sent at all. From burial 1051, among skeletal bones of a child aged around 1 year old, skull fragments of an adult were documented. In this case the mixed remains of the two individuals imply cremation on the same pyre. There is no explanation so far why the skeletal elements of the adult and the skull bones of the child were missing from the grave (loc cit).

 

 

Lud 1

 

Position of cremated human remains in grave 711 at Ludas

(after Tankó & Tankó 2012 )

 

 

In burial 711, near to the cremated remains of an adult female aged around 24, bone fragments of another adult female were documented around bracelet no. 5. However, in this case the bone fragments of the two individuals show signs of exposure to different temperatures which implies that they were cremated on separate pyres.

 

 

 

BD pyre

Remains of the Funeral Pyre from the Central Celtic Burial (#10) at Karakochovata Tumulus (Bratya Daskalovi), south-central Bulgaria

(after Tonkova et al 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

ANIMAL BONES

 

 

One of the features which marks late Iron Age cremation burials throughout Eastern Europe is the presence of animal bones, both burnt and unburnt, intermingled among the human remains. This phenomenon has been recorded throughout the area settled by the Eastern Celts, at sites such as Gordion in Galatia (Selinsky 2012), Kalnovo in Bulgaria (see ‘Kalnovo’ article), Dubovo and Brežice in Slovenia (Hincak, Guštin 2011), Ludas in Hungary (Tankó & Tankó 2012 ), etc.

 

 

 

Brez 1

 

 

 

Brez 2

Brežice, Slovenia grave 56: Human and animal remains and bronze fibula and finger-ring decorated with the pseudo-filigree technique

(after Jovanović  A. 2011)

 

 

Grave 56 at Brežice was discovered at a depth of 0.95m. has a simple interred oval pit shape of 0.95 x 0.60 m in size and 0.15 m in depth. The grave is typical in terms of shape, size and spatial organization at the cemetery. The grave goods were found in the central part of the burial pit together with a small heap of burnt bones. At the bottom of the pit were a small spindle whorl, an iron ring, other iron items and an iron sickle, next to which lay the iron chain and pieces of bronze. The pieces of bronze belonged to a fragment of a bronze anklet and bracelet with a knobbed protrusion, while a hollow bracelet  and a buckle (dress pin) of the Brežice type  were identified among the group of iron objects besides the bronze anklet and bracelet. Fragments of a plaited belt chain  lay most likely in the group of iron objects with the sickle. Above this group was a larger concentration of bones, atop which was placed a bronze fibula with a bronze finger-ring, a fragment of iron, and a spindle whorl.

 Based on the results of anthropological analyses conducted, a female of approximately 35-40 years of age was buried in grave 56. Through the analysis of osteological remains bone and teeth remains of pig were determined, most probably wild boar (Sus scrofa ferus L.), a year and a half or 2 years old. The colour of all the fragments is grey to grey-white, suggesting that the bones were burnt at a high temperature and that the pig was brought to the pyre in the beginning or during the cremation of the body  (Jovanović op cit).

 

 

 

 

Animal Graph

Proportion of cremated animal remains from the Brežice site

 

(after Hincak, Guštin 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAGS OF BONES

 

Following cremation, the bones of the deceased were generally collected and placed in vessels which functioned as funerary jars. 

 

 

 

Br dask urn

Ceramic vessel of the ‘Zepino Type’ used as a funerary vessel at the Celtic female (No. 10) burial at Karakochovata Tumulus, Bratya Daskalovi, Bulgaria

(after Tonkova et al 2011; see ‘Killing the Objects’ and ‘Heart of Thrace’ articles)

 

 

 

 

However, recent evidence from both eastern and western Europe also indicates that the bones were frequently collected in containers of a perishable nature. An analysis of  the various forms of cremated bone depositions in the La Calotterie cemetery in Belgium dating to the middle La Téne period revealed that the remains deposited in circles were originally put into perishable containers, i.e.  pouches made of leather or textile (enveloppe souple by French terminology). There are also examples for rectangular and scattered deposition of ashes (Le Goff Et Al. 2009, 116–123). Analogues for perishable containers were documented in the cemetery of Ludas in Hungary as well. Examination of the material has shown that the positions of certain bones imply the use of rectangular containers in graves (Méniel 2006, 345–366; Tankó & Tankó 2012 with cited lit.).

At Ludas, ashes deposited in circular heaps were most possibly placed in circular containers - wooden buck­ets, wicker baskets, leather or textile pouches. In some cases, on top of the heaps of cremated remains, unburnt metal ornaments, chiefly fibulae were recorded (e.g. 962, 1050, 1057, 1157). Since no sign of heat exposure was detected on the fibulae, these objects were unlikely parts of the garment worn during the crema­tion process. This phenomenon raises the possibility that the remains were placed into textile pouches held together by fibulae. Rectangular depositions of ashes – similarly to the rectangular deposition of ani­mal bones – were presumably put in wooden containers, e.g. wooden tray, wicker basket, etc. (Tankó & Tankó 2012). A similar use of perishable (fabric/leather) containers has been recorded at the Dobova and Brežice sites in Slovenia (Hincak, Guštin 2011).

 

 

 

lud 2

Unburned bronze fibula on cremated human remains in grave 962 at Ludas

(after Tankó & Tankó 2012)

 

 

 

 

lud 3 dep

Examples of deposition of cremated human remains and its hypothetical interpretations.

(after Tankó & Tankó 2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

BURIAL GOODS

 

The grave inventory of Celtic burials varies greatly depending on regional factors, and are covered in separate articles, as is the pan-European practice of ‘Killing the Objects’. The question of why only certain objects in burials were ritually deformed remains one of the great mysteries associated with Celtic ritual and religion (see ‘Killing the Objects’).

 

 

Szabadadi - Grave 11

Recently discovered burial goods from Grave 11 at Szabadi (Hungary) containing both killed and intact items.

(After Tušek, Kavur 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

LIFE EXPECTANCY

 

Anthropological data indicates that life in Celtic society varied greatly from that in the Graeco-Roman world. For example, at the Celtic (Galatian) settlement at Gordion (see ‘Galatia’ article), the first comprehensive bioarchaeological approach to these population groups from central Turkey, data drawn from 47 individuals excavated from the Lower Town area of the site: 21 Later Hellenistic/Celtic (late 3rd to 2nd centuries BC) and 26 Roman (1st to 2nd centuries AD), showed that the two sub-samples have markedly different paleodemographic profiles. The composition of the Celtic group is unusual, with very few infants (5%) and primarily young or middle aged adults (52%), whereas the Roman sample has many infant burials (27%) and less than half young or middle aged adults (35%) (Selinsky 2012).

 A similar demographic picture as to be observed from anthropological analysis of Celtic graves from the burial complexes at Brežice and Dobova in Slovenia. At Brežice the curve for female and male samples shows a high probability of death in adultus 1 (20 – 29 years) and adultus 2 groups (30-39 years). A similar picture is to be observed at the Dobova site.

 

 

 

 

 

LE 1

 

The distribution of population according to age and sex at Brežice

 

 

 

 

Dobova

 

 

 

 

brezice age

Distribution of dead by age category at Brežice

 

 

 

 

 

LE 2

Distribution of the population according to age and sex at the Brežice site

(Graphs after Hincak, Guštin 2011)

 

 

 

 

The mortality rate for women is highest in the juvenilis phase (15-19) (12%), and Adultus 1 phase (20-30) (18%). This statistic is much higher than for males in the same group and indicates a high mortality rate in childbirth. Average life expectancy for males was higher than for females in all groups. Thus, females in the juvenilis group (14 – 19 years) were expected to live, on average, for only 16 years, while a male lived for a further 21.5 years.

  Most striking is the fact that only 6 individuals were recorded from the Maturus stage (over 40 years of age) – 5 from the Maturus 1 phase (40 – 49 years) and only one male individual over the age of 50.  No individuals over the age of 60 were found. Based on the above statistics, the average life expectancy at the Celtic settlements did not exceed 40 years of age, which undoubtedly had a significant impact on their perception of life and death – a perception which varied greatly from that of modern society.

 

 

 

  Extensive anthropological research at other Celtic sites across Europe is required to further elucidate our understanding of Iron Age European society. However, the studies outlined above allow a glimpse into the lives and deaths of a people that lived not only in a different time from us but, in many respects, in a different reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITERATURE CITED

 

Hincak Z., Guštin M. (2011) Anthropological analysis of Celtic graves from Brežice and Dobova (Slovenia) In: The Eastern Celts. The Communities Between The Alps and the Black Sea. Koper-Beograd 2011. p. 241-254

 

Jovanović  A. (2011)  Middle La Tène Female Grave 56 from Brežice, Slovenia. In: The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea. Koper–Beograd 2011. p. 51 – 64

Selinsky, P. (2012), Celtic Ritual Activity at Gordion, Turkey: Evidence from Mortuary Contexts and Skeletal Analysis. Int. J. Osteoarchaeol.. doi: 10.1002/oa.2279

Tankó É., Tankó K. (2012) Cremation and Deposition in the Late Iron Age Cemetery at Ludas. In: Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Proceedings of the International Colloquium from Târgu Mureș, 7-9 October 2011. Târgu Mureș 2012. P. 249 – 259.

Tapavički-Ilić M., Filipović V. (2011) A Late Iron Age Grave Find from Syrmia. In:  Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Proceedings of the International Colloquium from Târgu Mureş, 7–9 October 2011. 453-559

Tušek M., Kavur B. (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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excellent reconstruction of the burial procession and cremation of a Celtic Chieftain. The same rituals are to be observed in many Celtic burials on the Balkans such as those from Scordisci territory, and Plovdiv and Chirpan in central Bulgaria (see ‘The Warrior and his wife’, ‘Killing the Objects’ and ‘Heart of Thrace’ articles):

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwjGJmO4-vY&feature=youtu.be

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace’.

 

Words of the Celtic Chieftain Calgacus

(Agricola (30)

 

 

 

 

 

In the year 1971 an extraordinary archaeological discovery was made at the locality of Slana Voda (Salty Water), near the village of Krajčinovići, in southwestern Serbia. A mass burial containing 25 partially burnt skeletons was found, along with a wealth of archaeological material, including pottery, bronze dishes, jewelry, 60 iron swords, and other weaponry (Zotović R. Social and Cultural Aspects of the Burial Krajčinovići –Slana Voda (South-West of Serbia, Middle of II c. BC. In: Acta Terrae Septemcastrensis, VI, 1, 2007. Pp. 199-205).

 

 

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 Slana Voda b.

 The Mass Grave from Slana Voda

(after Zotović 2007)

 

 

 

 

The site is remarkable for a number of reasons, foremost among them the fact that it had previously been thought that his part of western Serbia was uninhabited in the late Iron Age, i.e. this was the first archaeological material to be found in the area dating between the 5th c. BC and the Roman period (loc cit.). Therefore, the site provided the first confirmation that western Serbia was indeed inhabited in the pre-Roman period.

 

 The material from the burials is also particularly noteworthy, consisting of mostly Celtic material (with older Illyrian influences to be observed in some of the pottery), and imported Hellenistic pottery and jewelry, which illustrates trade contacts between the Celtic population in this area and the Hellenistic world. Two further Celtic burials across the border in modern Bosnia Herzegovina were excavated in the 20th c. at Mahrevići by Čajniče (Truhelka,  Ć. 1909. Gromila latenske dobe u Mahrevićima kod  Čajniča,  Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu XXI, p. 425-442) and Vir by Posušje (Marić, Z. 1962. Vir kod Posušja, Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Sarajevu N.S. XVII, p. 63-72). At both of these sites the burial rituals (positioning of the bodies etc.) and archaeological material uncovered were similar to the Slana Voda burial.

 

 

 

 

Sl. We

Weaponry from the Slana Voda Burial

(after Zotović 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

Till Death Do Us Part

 

 

  The positioning of the bodies, burial ritual, and accompanying archaeological material at Slana Voda indicate that this a war burial carried out at the middle of the 2nd c. BC (Zotović op. cit.), which coincides chronologically with the first historical accounts of conflict between the Roman Empire and the Balkan Celtic tribes (see ‘Scordisci Wars’ article). From a human perspective, perhaps most noteworthy about the Slana Voda burial (as is the case with the mass graves at Mahrevići and Vir) is the fact that the bodies are of male and female ‘warriors’, i.e. of both men and women, arranged together with their weapons.

 

 

 

Sl. j.

 

Jewelry from the Slana Voda Burial

(after Zotović 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

The archaeological evidence from Slana Voda illustrates that the burial was carried out under conflict conditions, yet time was taken to give the dead an ordered burial, and no distinction was made between the men and women, who had apparently died together. Chronologically, this burial coincides with the first phases of Roman expansion in the region, and the mass grave at Slana Voda would appear to mark the arrival of ‘Pax Romana’ in this part of the Balkans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

A recently published Celtic warrior burial from Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia has shed new light on the Scordisci tribes who inhabited large areas of today’s Serbia and northern/western Bulgaria in the late Iron Age. The burial, which was disturbed by a local farmer, was found in the Syrmia region, most probably close to the modern town of modern Sremska Mitrovica (Tapavički-Ilić M., Filipović V., A Late Iron Age Grave Find from Syrmia. In:  Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Poceedings of the International Colloquium from Târgu Mureş, 7–9 October 2011. 453-559).

 

 

 

 

 

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The cremation burial was accompanied by a bronze ‘kettle’, a bronze simpulum, a pair of iron snaffle-bits, a bronze fibula, an iron knife, a belt buckle of the Laminici type, a scabbard decorated with geometric ornaments, and two spears (one ritually killed). A sword from the grave had been removed, and presumably sold, before the material was presented to archaeologists. There is no information about the sword itself, so one cannot tell whether it was a long one, typical of the Late Iron Age, or a shorter one, developed during the last decades of the 1st century BC by the Balkan Celts under the influence of the Roman gladii. Examples of the latter have been found at sites in Serbia and in Bulgaria, such as the Taja site in the Balkan mountains where burials contained examples of both types of late Iron Age Celtic swords (see ‘Killing the Objects’ article).

 

 

A number of interesting features are to be noted in the Sremska Mitrovica burial. All of the finds have close parallels with material from Balkan Celtic burials from the same period (late 2nd / 1st c. BC) like Židovar, Gomolava, Ajmana-Konopište and Mala Vrbica in Serbia, and sites in Bulgaria such as Panagurischte Kolonii, Pavolche, Altimir, Chiren, Galatin, Galiche, Dobruscha, Komarevo, Krivodol, Kruschovitza, Mezdra, etc. (see ‘Sacrificial Daggers, Swords, and Settlements’ article).

 Two iron spurs with button-shaped endings, which belong to the first variant of the La Tène spur type 1 in Serbia, chronologically belong to the 1st century BC. What makes this find of spurs special is that so far in the Central Balkans only one more pair of Celtic spurs have discovered as grave goods – from a Celtic burial at Popica in Bulgaria. Usually, only a single spur is encountered (Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović op cit.). The bronze kettle discovered has analogies in Scordisci territory along the Danube in Serbia and in examples from Romania (Tigănesti, Bobaia, Vedea, Costești and Pescari), all dated to the 1st century BC.

An iron knife with a straight blade is also noteworthy. This knife is in contrast to the typical Celtic/Scordisci fighting knives (daggers), which possess a massive bent blade and a short handle (loc cit.; on Balkan Celtic curved daggers see ‘Sacrificial Daggers, Swords, and Settlements’ article). Thus, the type of knife found at Sremska Mitrovica was not a fighting knife/dagger, and the bronze earring-like ornament on its handle indicates that it belonged to a female (see below).

 

  Also noteworthy in this burial is the deliberate bending/deformation of the spearhead before being placed in the grave – once again confirming that the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ was a common religious practice among the Balkan Celts in the late Iron Age (see ‘Killing the Objects’ article).

 

 

 

 

Ritually ‘Killed’ Spearhead from the Sremska Mitrovica burial

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011)

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Celtic burial under discussion is the presence of female articles in the grave. Objects such as the knife, ‘Laminci’ belt buckle, and fibula belong to a woman, in contrast to the weapons and spurs which are obviously from a male burial. This has led the archaeologists to conclude that we are actually dealing with a double cremation burial of a warrior accompanied by his wife. The circumstances which led to such a double burial, which dates to the period of the Scordisci Wars, can only be guessed at.

 

 

 

Reconstruction of the Scordisci Burial from Sremska Mitrovica

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MEZEK SYNDROME

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

The Celtic chariot burial from the Mal Tepe tomb at Mezek in the Haskovo region of southern Bulgaria is one of the most significant Celtic finds from the Balkans, in terms of the artifacts themselves, and the nature and chronology of the burial.

 

 

 

Interior of the Mal Tepe Tomb near Mezek, Haskovo region, Southern Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

Sadly, Mezek has also become a symbol of the ‘Mezek Syndrome’ – the political manipulation of archaeological evidence in Bulgaria during and since the communist period (on this manipulation see ‘Behind the Golden Mask’, ‘The Pizos System’ and ‘The Absence of Truth’ articles on this site). The initial solution to the Mezek ‘problem’ in Bulgaria was, as with many other Celtic artifacts, to simply re-label it as ‘Thracian’. More recently, the chariot fittings and other Celtic material from Mezek have been repeatedly published without any reference to the general archaeological context in the region, leading to an array of absurd conclusions about its origin. This tradition has been kept up in the latest publication by the Thracologist Juli Emilov, and Vincent ‘Disney’ Megaw, who has worked closely with ‘Thracologists’ in Bulgaria since the communist period (Emilov J., Megaw J.V.S. Celts in Thrace?  A Re-Examination of the Tomb of Mal Tepe, Mezek with Particular Reference to the  La Tène Chariot Fittings. In: Archaeologia Bulgarica XVI, 1 (2012), 1-32).

 

 

 

 

MEZEK

 

 

 

The Mezek tomb was first excavated by local villagers during the Czarist period at the beginning of the 20th century, and subsequently recorded by the Bulgarian archaeologist, Filov, in 1937 (Филов, Б. Куполните гробници при Мезек. Известия на Българския археологически институт ІІ, София, 1937, 1-107; See also: Велков, И. Разкопки около Мезек и гара Свиленград през 1932-33 година. – Известия на Българския археологически институт ІІ, София, 1937, 117-170; Filov, B. The Beehive Tombs of Mezek – Antiquity XI, Oxford 1937, 300-305).

 

 

 

 

Celtic bronze boar from the Mezek site (Istanbul Archaeological Museum)

 

 

 

 

A few years later the significance of the finds from Mezek were first realized by international experts (Jacobsthal 1941, 1969, 151-152; see also Duval 1977 p. 113-115, fig. 103 – 104, 106; Hoddinott 1981, 100, 126-127; Archibald 1998, 126, 287; Megaw 2004; Bouzek 2005, 105) who identified a Celtic chariot burial from the artifacts executed in the distinctive Celtic ‘plastic’ style. Artifacts associated from the Celtic burial at the site include bronze bridle rings (NAIM Sofia inv. no. 6411-6412), a bronze rosette on a stalk (NAIM 6413 no. 6413), a bronze forked ornament featuring mirrored birds of prey (NAIM no. 6418), as well as two sets of gold beads from a harness, and an impressive bronze boar statue (Jacobsthal 1941).

 

 

(After Emilov/Megaw 2012)

(After Emilov/Megaw 2012)

 

 

 

 

Another attachment from a Celtic chariot, similar in style and function to that from Mezek has recently been found at the Bobata fortress, north of Osmar village in the Shumen region of northestern Bulgaria. This bronze Celtic chariot fitting (Atanassov 2005: 126, 130, fig. 3) is similar in function to the chariot decorations from Mezek. Two snake-like figures flank an abstract human face in high relief on the bronze plate of the fitting. The findspot of the application is in the territory of a fortified settlement, and dated to the end of the 4th – the 2nd century BC.

 

 

 

 

Bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata fortress, Schumen region

 

 

 

 

   Also interesting, from an artistic perspective, is a gold ‘Janus head’ pendant executed in a repossé technique and decorated filigreé and granulation, also found in the Shumen region, and dated to the same period. Executed in the same ‘plastic style’ as the Mezek artifacts, from a morphological and stylistic perspective the closest analogies are the Celtic ‘bead heads’ found among the Celts of central and eastern Europe, examples of which come from sites such as Mangalia, Piscolt and Vác (Rustoiu 2008), as well as from sites in Bulgaria such as Appolonia Pontica (Sozopol), Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region), Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region), Burgas, Kavarna (Dobruja region), etc. (See ‘Little Glass Men’ article with relevant lit.).

 

 

 

 

Gold Celtic ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, northeastern Bulgaria (after Rustoiu A. 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

 Celtic ‘Face Bead’ from Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region, Bulgaria)

 

 

 

 

The Celtic cult of the head is well documented (see discussion in ‘The Letnitza Treasure’ article) and ‘Janus heads’ are also one of the central motifs on Celtic coinage and other artifacts from the Balkans during this period.

 

 

 

Celtic Silver ‘Janus head’ Tetradrachma, Central Balkans (2nd c. BC)

(See Numismatics section 3)

 

 

 

 

 

THE MEZEK SYNDROME 

 

 

In fact, the secondary burial of Celtic aristocrats in the 3rd / 2nd c. BC in earlier Thraco-Macedonian tombs is part of a pattern common in Thrace during this period. This phenomenon is to be observed, for example, in the so-called ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ (see in particular ‘Behind the Golden Mask’ article). These burials, along with the other archaeological and numismatic material from the region of sub-Balkan Thrace, as well as evidence from sites such as Pisteros and Krakra where the destruction of the Thraco-Macedonian fortresses are recorded at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC, provide indisputable proof that the arrival of the Celts marked the end of the period of Thraco-Macedonian cultural and political dominance in the Thracian interior, and the transition to the Thraco-Celtic period which followed it (On the latest evidence of Celtic settlement in sub-Balkan Thrace see ‘The Heart of Thrace’ article).

As mentioned, the subjective presentation of the Mezek chariot burial without reference to the general geo-political and archaeological context in this part of Thrace in the late Iron Age has led to a number of absurd conclusions about its origin, a phenomenon rooted in the ‘Thracology’ which has dominated Bulgarian archaeology since the early 1970’s. Thus, even in recent articles (latest Emilov/Megaw 2012) the extensive archaeological and numismatic evidence of Celtic settlement in sub-Balkan Bulgaria during this period, such as that found at the recent large-scale excavations in the Chirpan Heights area, continues to be ignored.

  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Literature Cited

Antonova V. (1995) Šumen i Šumenskata krepost. Šumen.

Atanassov G. (1992). S’or’ženija ot III-II v. pr. n. e. ot okolnostite na s. K’lnovo, Šumensko. – Izvestija na Istoričeskija Muzej – Šumen, 7, 5-39.

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