UD: December 2016





An extremely rare artifact connected with the production of ancient coins has recently been published from the Russe/Rousse area of northeastern Bulgaria. The bronze matrix has a cone-shaped end, while the the other is cylindrical. Its is 32 mm. long, and on the circular base of the cylindrical section, that has a 22 mm diameter, the stylized (Celticized) head of Zeus, right, is presented (Fig.1).




The Mother-Matrix for the production of Celtic “Sattelkopfpferd” type tetradrachms from Russe, northeastern Bulgaria (late 2nd / early 1st c. BC)

(After Draganov D. (2007)  A Matrix for Producing Obverse Coin Dies for Imitations of the ‘Sattelkopfpferd’ (Virteju-Bukuresti) Type. In: Proceedings of the conference “The world of Getae” (20-21 September 2007, Ruse)




The same image is found on the obverse of a type of Celtic silver imitations of the popular tetradrachms of Philip II of the type “Head of Zeus/ horseman”, known as the “Sattelkopfpferd” type (Fig. 2), which have been securely dated to the end of 2nd – first decades of the 1st c. BC. This type of Celtic coin is among the most widespread in the Lower Danube region, and thousands of examples are known from hoards and single finds. The coins were struck of low standard silver alloy. They are 21-23 mm in diameter and weigh between 6 and 8 grams, and are referenced as tetradrachms or didrachms.

Most of the hoards (ca. 20) of these Celtic coins have been found in Romania and therefore it was previously considered that they had been struck there. The number of hoards in the line of Giurgiu – Bucurest- Carpathians is especially numerous (Draganov op. cit).

Celtic material from this stretch of the Bulgarian Danube, such as the Celtic ceramic production complex at Krivina, and hoards of Celtic coins from the villages of Ostritza, Sredna Kula, Mechka, Russe, Pirgovo, Nikolovo, and Slivo Pole in the Rousse region where the mother-matrix was found, on this short stretch of the Danube clearly indicate that this was an important centre of trade for the Celtic culture which inhabited the area of northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age. Particularly interesting are large hoards of Celtic coins (Philip II and Philip III models) and associated ceramic found at the village of Pirgovo in 1910, 1938, 1978, and 1995 (Draganov op cit.), which also included Celtic silver tetradrachmas of the Sattelkopfpferd type (Fig. 2). The modern village of Pirgovo is on the location of the Celtic settlement of Mediolana (Not. Dign., XL, 21 (Mediolana); Falileyev 2009: 282).




Celtic tetradrachms of the Sattelkopfpferd type from Pirgovo/Mediolana, Russe Region (from the 1978 hoard), Northeastern Bulgaria





All of the finds of this particular type of Sattelkopfpferd Celtic coin in Bulgaria have been located in the north-east of the country: from Russe (1939), Slivo Pole (1967), Nikolovo (1955), Sredna Kula (1965), Pirgovo/Mediolana – 4 hoards: 1910, 1938 (a large hoard of 87 specimens), 1978 (another large hoard of 395 specimens) and the latest find in 1995, as well as from Hursovo in the Razgrad region (1966), and the fact that the matrix (fig. 1) was also found in that region, indicates that this type of Celtic coin was produced not only in the region of Virteju-Bucuresti of Romania, as was previously thought, but also south of the Danube by the Celts in the Russe region.




The 1939 Hoard from Rousse City Centre








The ‘matrix’ itself is particularly fascinating because of the fact that its image is positive, i.e. protuberant. This means that it could not be used for striking coins, because the obverse image would appear in negative. Therefore, it had another, more special application. This is actually the mother-coin used to produce casting-moulds, i.e. this is, in effect, a ‘matrix for matrixes’.  Such a specimen would have been used to produce the necessary number of (probably clay) casting- moulds to be used for the production of thousands of coins of this type, which explains the massive amount of this type of Celtic coins found in Bulgaria (on the technical aspect of this process see comment 1 below).


The fact that this mother-coin was used for the making of casting-moulds (and not coins) ranks it among the rarest numismatic finds ever discovered in this part of Europe.










See also:














Mac Congail