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In the tide of nationalism and revisionism which has marked the last century, our common European Celtic heritage has been systematically deconstructed, manipulated and denied. To balance this phenomenon, the BALKANCELTS organization presents the archaeological, numismatic, linguistic and historical facts pertaining to the Celts in Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor, within the context of the pan-European Celtic culture – a heritage which belongs to no nation, yet is common to all.






Býčí skála intro illust


Probably the most enigmatic and mysterious archaeological site in Europe, the Býči Skála/Bull Rock cave in the Křtiny Valley (Czech Republic), was first investigated in 1867 by a local doctor, Jindřich Wankel, who initially discovered traces of a Paleolithic settlement.


x - Entrance Býčí Skála, translated from Czech to Bull Rock cave enterance

The Entrance to Bull Rock Cave



Two years later, interest in the site intensified when two young brothers discovered a bronze Celtic bull statue, dated to ca. 560 BC, in the entrance hall of the cave.


Býčí Skála, translated from Czech to Bull Rock cave Clay jar 6th c. BC

The Bronze Bull discovered in the entrance hall of Bull Rock Cave (ca. 560 BC)



Subsequent investigation has established that the cave was occupied, for short periods, during the Palaeolithic, Eneolithic, Hallstatt, La Têne, and Medieval periods. However, the most spectacular discoveries at the site, dating to the 6th c. BC, came during a 2-month amateur excavation in 1872.

During the course of this campaign, under a layer of stones and burned limestone, locals discovered a fireplace with pieces of pottery, tools, bronze and gold ornaments, jewelry, swords, armour and glass beads. A number of jars that still contained flour, millet and meat were also found; at the back of the entrance a Celtic Iron Age metal workshop and tools were discovered.




The “Chieftain’s Burial”


Most spectacular was the scene in the entrance hall where about 40 human bodies, some of them missing their head, hands and feet, were found; one of the skulls had been placed in a bucket. On a stone altar, adorned with stalks of grain, lay two arms with bracelets and gold rings, next to which was a skull that was spliced in half. Deeper in the cave, the remains of a chariot with bronze fittings and the skeleton of a man were discovered. Based on the artifacts, Dr. Wankel concluded that he had found the grave of a Celtic chieftain, buried with his jewelry, weapons, food, sacrificed horses and young maidens.


 AlTAR - Býčí Skála - Bull Rock Cave - 6 th c. BC - crowned skull - 40 bodies Altar

The stone altar on which was displayed severed arms with bronze bracelets and gold rings


Býčí Skála - Bull Rock Cave - 6 th c. BC - crowned skull - 40 bodies 3

Skull and decorated bronze headband/crown discovered in 1872 inside the Býčí Skála (Bull Rock) Cave



the local doctor’s rather ‘romantic’ view of the archaeological evidence has not borne up to scientific scrutiny. More recent investigation has illustrated that the funeral chariot in which the supposed chieftain lay buried was actually not one, but three different chariots. Furthermore, the human remains were not all female as initially thought, and subsequent analysis has indicated that most were men and women aged between 30 and 45 years old, while the remains of children were also identified.  



Chariot 1

Chariot 2

Chariot 3

Chariot and detail of decoration from Bull Rock Cave (Reconstruction by the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna)

See also:




 The nature of the ‘massacre’ in the cave has also remained unclear, with subsequent examination of the bones providing more questions than answers. For example, anthropologists have hitherto failed to establish whether the individuals were sacrificed or murdered, and while some of the wounds discovered appear to be fatal, inflicted upon living persons, others have proved to have been inflicted after death.

Archaeological research at the site has also been complicated by the fact that, although the skulls have been preserved, the rest of the human remains from the 19th century ‘excavations’ were buried in an unknown location, and have never been recovered. Furthermore, during World War II the German army planned to use Bull Rock cave as a weapons factory, and the entrance hall was paved, thereby burying all remaining evidence under a thick layer of concrete.



Thus, although many theories have been advanced as to the function of Bull Rock cave during this period, and the dramatic events that occurred in the mid 6th century BC, the full truth about this enigmatic site will probably never be known…













On ‘Human Sacrifice’among the Celts see also:


External links for further reading on Bull Rock Cave: (in German)






Mac Congail






















S-T hoards dist map



Overal Map









Detail of the tetraskelion (swastika) decorative elements on horse bits in the Celtic chariot burial from Wetwang (East Yorkshire), England




Streatley West Berkshire - 2












brno fix





One of the most interesting Celtic artifacts to have recently ‘wandered’ into the Varna Museum in northeastern Bulgaria is a bronze zoomorphic head, executed in the Celtic ‘Plastic Metamorphosis’ style common across Europe in the La Têne B1 – C2 period*.




Var 1




The head is a fragment of a bronze mount, in all probability cast by the cire perdue method. Triangular in form, the face, probably of a bull judging by the fragment of a horn on the left side, consists of two almond-shaped eyes and a muzzle of 2 spirals. The patina, quite well preserved, indicates that the bronze head had been preserved in an enclosed atmosphere, i.e. a Celtic tomb, prior to being plundered by local ‘treasure hunters’.

 Var 2

The Bronze Celtic Zoomorphic head from Varna


 (After Anastassov J., Megaw V., Megaw R., Mircheva E. Walt Disney Comes to Bulgaria. In: L’âge du Fer en Europe: mélanges offerts à Olivier Buchsenschutz. Bordeaux : Ausonius, 2013, p. 551-565)






The plastic metamorphosis style in Celtic art is characterized by the blending of human, animal, plant, and abstract forms; complex compositions incorporating various forms of symmetry, resulting in stylized, often grotesque, images.


Bronze Bird of Prey heads (with traces of red enamel) from the linch-pins of a Celtic chariot at Manching, Germany.  2 c. BC Celtic Plastic Metamorphosis style.

Bronze Bird of Prey heads (with traces of red enamel) from the linch-pins of a Celtic chariot at Manching, Germany. Executed in the Plastic Metamorphosis style

 (2nd century BC)





The forms appear more three-dimensional than earlier incised works and illustrate the ability of the Celtic artisan to sculpt high relief decorative objects.  A highpoint of this “plastic” style is marked by numerous höhlbuckelringe / anklets found in flat graves ranging from Bavaria and Moravia to the Balkans and Asia-Minor. All of the anklets are dated to the third century BC.


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

Detail of a bronze Celtic hohlbuckelring executed in the ‘plastic’ style – from Plaňany (Kolín District), Czech Republic (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. They 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, and spread eastwards during the Celtic expansion of this period.




Among the Balkan Celts, one of the largest groups of objects executed in the ‘Plastic Metamorphosis’ style are the chariot fittings discovered in a Celtic chieftains burial at the tholos tomb of Mal Tepe, Mezek (Haskovo  reg.) in southern Bulgaria. Other notable examples of this Celtic art style come from sites such as Roissy-en-France (France), Manching (Germany) and Brno (Czech Republic).


Mezek plastic 3 c. BC chariot

Bronze terret /rein-ring, executed in the ‘plastic’ style – from a Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Southern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)


Bronze disc executed in the Plastic Metamorphosis style  3 c. BC From a Celtic chariot burial at Roissy-en-France (Val-d’Oise), France

Bronze disc executed in the Plastic Metamorphosis style (3 c. BC). From a Celtic chariot burial at Roissy-en-France (Val-d’Oise), France




brno fix 2

Bronze open-work mount from a wooden pitcher found at Brno-Malomerice, Czech Republic (3rd c. BC)













*While the publication of the bronze mount from Varna is an important step forward, a large number of Celtic artifacts still remain unpublished in Varna museum. These include a Celtic chariot mount whose spiral ornamentation and domed form have parallels in decorative roundels on shields and spears dated to the La Têne B2 and found in warrior graves in France and the Czech Republic, and examples of Celtic artifacts executed in the so-called ‘false filigree technique’ which have parallels among the Celts of Central Europe, particularly from Bohemia to Hungary. Also in the Varna museum, again unpublished, is a Celtic zoomorphic brooch with a foot in the form of a curved-beaked monster, a specifically Hungarian form of the La Têne B1 Münsingen-Duchov horizon (Megaw et al, op cit). Publication of these, and hundreds of other Celtic artifacts gathering dust in museums across the country, will undoubtedly shed further light on the significant Celtic presence on the territory of modern Bulgaria.










Mac Congail














Ram intor



In contrast to other creatures, depictions of the ram in Celtic art are comparatively rare. For example, on fibulae with zoomorphic decoration less than 2% feature the ram, and in the vast majority of cases where the animal is represented it is most often the head alone, naturalistic or schematically, which is portrayed (see: Cluytens M. (2009) Réflexions sur la symbolique du bélier chez les Celtes protohistoriques à travers les représentations figurées, Lunula. Archaeologia protohistorica 17, 201-206).


Fibule ajourée en bronze et corail découverte dans la sépulture d'une princesse gauloise à Orainville (Aisne), datée des années 300-275 DOUBLE V.

Fibula from the burial of a Celtic woman at Orainville (Aisne), France (bronze/coral) decorated with ram head motif (300-275 BC)


Pernik Ram

Zoomorphic/ram head attachment from a Celtic (Scordisci) firepot from Boznik (Pernik region), Bulgaria (late 2nd / early 1st century BC)



Danubian kantharos with ram heads from Csobaj, Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén - grave of a woman discovered at Csobaj

Danubian kantharos with ram head handles from the burial of a Celtic woman at Csobaj, (Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén), Hungary

(3rd c. BC)





The head of the creature is also frequently present in anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations of hybrid ‘monsters’, most notably the ram-horned serpent which is a well-attested cult image throughout Celtic Europe both before and during the Roman period and which appears, for example, three times on the Gundestrup Cauldron.


The antlered deity of the Gundestrup cauldron, commonly identified with Cernunnos, holding a ram-horned serpent and a torc.

The antlered deity of the Gundestrup cauldron, identified with Cernunnos, holding a ram-horned serpent and torc.



As in the Gundestrup case, this enigmatic creature is often associated with the horned or antlered god Cernunnos, in whose company it is regularly depicted. This pairing is found as early as the fourth century BC, for example in Northern Italy, where a huge antlered figure with torcs and a serpent was carved on the rocks in Val Camonica. Other examples include a carving at the curative sanctuary at Mavilly (Cote d’Ôr), carvings at Beauvais (Oise) and Néris-les-Bains (Allier) in Gaul, or on an altar at Lypiatt (Gloucestershire), England (Green M. (2002) Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. Routledge). Perhaps the best known example of this hybrid creature is the ram-horned serpent represented on the cheek-piece of the Agris Helmet (dated to the 4th century BC), which was discovered in 1981 during archaeological excavations in Perrats Cave (Agris, southwestern France).


Detail of the Ram-Horned Serpent on the Cheek-piece of the Agris Helmetated from the 4th century BC. which was found in 1981 during archaeological excavations in Perrats Cave

Detail of the Ram-Headed serpent on the Agris Helmet


rinovantes & Catuvellauni. Cunobelin. Circa AD 10-43. AE Unit (2.01 g). Struck ca AD 10-15. Coiled serpent with ram’s head obverse

Coiled serpent with ram’s head on the obverse of a Celtic bronze issue (Trinovantes or Catuvellauni) from southern England (struck AD 10-15)


Sliven RAm Good

Horned serpent attachment from a Celtic firepot discovered at Sliven, Bulgaria (1st c. BC)




Other such images include those from a bronze statuette from Étang-sur-Arroux (Saône-et-Loire; below) and a stone sculpture at Sommerécourt (Haute-Marne; both in France) which depicts Cernunnos’ body encircled by two horned snakes that feed from bowls of fruit and corn-mash in the god’s lap, while at Cirencester in Gloucestershire (England)  two snakes, eating fruit or corn, rear up on each side of the deity.


Cernunnos comes from Cirencester, England. This find shows a man grasping two horned serpents by the neck

Depiction of Cernunnos, grasping two horned serpents, from Cirencester



Another such relief, from Vendoeuvres (Indre, France) depicts Cernunnos wearing a sagum; he holds between his legs a large round object, and has two antlers on his head, the tines are held by two putti standing on either side above large serpents.



stone - Cernunus with putti  serpents. Gallo-Roman Stone. Vendoeuvres, Indres. France.

The Cernunnos relief from Vendoeuvres (2nd c. AD)





Despite being described by most commentators as a ‘monster’, in fact in most iconography the ram-headed serpent is depicted as a beneficent beast, evocative of plenty and fertility  – representing a dualistic scheme illustrating the interdependence of life and death, and encapsulating the theme of regeneration intrinsic in Celtic religious belief. 






A bronze image at Étang-sur-Arroux - Cernunnos

Bronze statue of Cernunnos from Etang-sur-Arroux (cavities at the top of his head indicate that the statue was horned). The deity is depicted with torcs at the neck and on the chest, and two ram-headed serpents encircle him at the waist.







Ram-Headed serpent and other fantastic beasts depicted on interior plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron
















Mac Congail
















warrior b


A small selection of Celtic warrior burials from Eastern Europe (5 – 1 century BC). This post will be updated periodically, as further discoveries/publications come to light.








Stupava (Malacky District), Slovakia

(Late 5th c. BC)


a - stup





a - sred

Srednica (Ptuj/ancient Poetovio), Slovenia

(late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)




Csepel Island (Budapest), Hungary

(Late 4th – 3rd c. BC)



Ciumeşti (Satu Mare), Romania

(mid 3rd c. BC)


a - cium



Lychnidos/Ohrid, FYR Macedonia

(mid 3rd c. BC)



Ljubljana, Slovenia

(late 3rd c. BC)



Szabadi (Somogy County), Hungary

(Late 3rd/early 2nd c. BC)


a - hun





Kalnovo (Schumen Region), Bulgaria

(Early 2nd c. BC)



Zvonimirovo (Podravina province), Croatia

(2nd c. BC)


a - cro



Slana Voda (Zlatibor district), southwestern Serbia

(mid 2 c. BC)



Desa (Dolj County), Romania

(Late 2nd c. BC)

a - rom



Koynare (Pleven Region), Bulgaria

(Late 2nd/1st c. BC)




Sremska Mitrovica (Syrmia), Serbia

(Late 2nd/ early 1st c. BC)

a - serb




















Mac Congail















bol slov

















The use of rattles in folk dances and rituals is recorded in cultures throughout the world, either hand-held or attached to ceremonial costumes to dictate the rhythm of ritual dances, and to summon or repel supernatural beings or demons.




irish rattles g

Globular or pear-shaped rattles from Dowris (Co. Offaly), Ireland  (c. 850 BC)

These three rattles, or ‘crotals’, were part of a large find of bronze metalwork made in Dowris bog in the mid-nineteenth century, which included weapons, tools and elaborate sheet metal vessels.
(See Eogan E. (1983), The hoards of the Irish Later Bronze Age (Dublin)




In Celtic Europe rattles appear in the Bronze Age, and by the La Têne period are recorded at sites throughout the continent. Logically, regional variations are to be observed in decoration and form, and rattles of both ceramic and metal have been discovered.



Decorated ceramic rattle from a Celtic (Vaccean) burial at the necropolis of Las Ruedas (Pintia), north-central Spain (2 c. BC).

Celtic rattles discovered in the Vaccean environment from the northern Iberian plateau have been dated between the end of the 3rd century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD.

(see: Sanz Minguez C., Romero Carnicero F., De Pablo Martinez, R., Górriz Gañán C., Vaccean
Rattles. Toys or Magic Protectors?, in Jiménez Pasalodos Raquel, Till R., Howell M. (eds.),
Music and Ritual: Bridging Material and Living Cultures, Berlin, p. 257–283)




With eastern expansion, from the 4th century BC onwards, rattles also begin to appear at Celtic sites across eastern Europe. Examples include those from Bucsu in Hungary, Hanska-Toloacă in the Republic of Moldova, Buneşti-Avereşti in eastern Romania, Novo Mesto in Slovenia, Zvonimirovo in Croatia, and Kabyle in Bulgaria (Rustoiu A., Berecki S. (2015). A further example of such has recently been published from a Celtic burial at Fântânele – Dâmbu Popii in Romania, dating to the 3rd c. BC.




rattle fan romania

The egg-shaped ceramic rattle from a Celtic burial at Fântânele

(After: Rustoiu A., Berecki S. (2015) The Magic of Sounds. A Ceramic Rattle from the La Tène Grave No. 1 at Fântânele – Dambu Popii and Its Functional and Symbolic Significance. In: Representations, Signs and Symbols. Proceedings of the Symposium on Religion and magic. Cluj-Napoca 2015. p. 259-274)





Rattles have been discovered in the burials of both Celtic adults and also in funerary contexts belonging to children or youngsters, logically indicating that they were regarded as having a protective and preventive function, regardless of the gender or age of the entombed.

An example of the manner in which such metal rattles were used in Celtic music and dance is provided by the modern custom of “Căluş” or “Căluşari” from Romania, which is a male dance related to pre-Christian solar cults. In this case, the rattles are strapped to the legs of the dancers and dictate the dance rhythm (op cit). Metal rattles quite similar to those used in today’s folk costumes have been discovered in Balkan Celtic funerary inventories, for example in Celtic warrior burials # 4 and 12 from Zvonimirovo in Croatia in which the rattles were, as in modern Romanian and Bulgarian folk dances, attached to the garment or the belt.



zvonimirovo rattle and romania g

Metal rattle strapped on the leg of a modern “Căluşar” dancer from Romania, and a similar rattle discovered in a warrior burial (# 4) from the Celtic cemetery at Zvonimirovo, Croatia (2 c. BC)


( On the Celtic burials from Zvonimirovo see: )











Mac Congail













srednice 3 good




The area of the modern city of Ptuj (ancient Poetovio) in eastern Slovenia has yielded a massive amount of material pertaining to the Celtic culture, uncovered at multiple sites around the city. While the majority of this archaeological material has hitherto tended to relate to the immediate pre-Roman and Roman periods, recent discoveries have also furnished fascinating information regarding the earlier phases of Celtic settlement in this part of Europe.





ptuj map

( after Lubšina Tušek M., Kavur B. 2009 = )





Relief of the Celtic Matres from Ptuj/Poetovio (LIMC, vol. 6.2, p. 620, n°4)
(see: )




The Brogdos Pot from Poetovio

The most extraordinary Celtic inscription to be found at Poetovio is undoubtedly that found on a beaker at the site. Dated to the 2nd/3rd c. AD, and written in a Celto-Etruscan script, this inscription reads ARTEBUDZ BROGDUI which has been translated as ‘Artebudz for Brogdos’. Both names are Celtic, and the vessel was a votive offering to Brogdos – a deity guarding the border between the world of the living and the after-world.











In 2007 four Early La Tène (LT B2) graves were discovered in Srednica on the outskirts of Ptuj, three female burials and that of a warrior. The most interesting of these burials (#9) was that of the Celtic warrior, dating to the late 4th/ early 3rd c. BC, which was accompanied by ceramic vessels, a Middle La Téne iron fibula, socketed spearhead, knife and a Hatvan-Boldog/Münsingen type sword.



srednice grave 9 warrior cremation late 4th - early 3rd c. BC

Celtic Warrior Burial (#9) from Srednica




The most spectacular discovery in the burial is undoubtedly the sword/scabbard, richly decorated with tendrils, s-scrolls and triskele motifs, combining many Celtic stylistic elements of this period.




srednice 1 x

Upper plate of the Srednica scabbard



srednice 3 good

Suspension loop of the Srednica scabbard


(After Kavur B. (2014) =


(The sword is 69 cm long with the blade measuring 56 and the handle 13 cm. The scabbard is up to 4.4 cm broad. The clamps of the scabbard reinforcement are 5.3 cm broad and 1.8 cm long. The discs on the frontal reinforcement are 1.5 cm broad. The suspension loop is 7.4 cm long. The loop plates are 2.6 and the arch is 1.5 cm broad. The chape is 10.3 cm long and 5.9 cm wide)







From a wider perspective, the Srednica burials represent the first phase of Celtic migration into this part of Europe. In the initial phase only a few inhumation burials are known, such as burials 63 and 111 at Karaburma /Belgrade from Scordisci territory, to which we may add one of the female burials from Srednica, indicating that by the late 4th century BC eastern Slovenia was already settled by Celtic populations (Lubšina Tušek, Kavur 2009). While it has traditionally been thought that the initial Celtic settlement in the Central Balkans was connected with the ‘Brennos Invasion’ of 280/279 BC, it is becoming increasingly clear that this campaign was only the culmination of an ongoing migration which had begun decades earlier.












(On the initial phase of Celtic expansion on the Balkans see also: )










Mac Congail















Intro illustr



Alton (A) Hoard - 50 gold staters of the Celtic chieftains Commios, Tincomarus and Epillus of the Atrebates tribe - discovered at Alton (Hampshire), England buried earlyy 1 c. AD


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