One of the most interesting Celtic artifacts to have ‘wandered’ into the Varna Museum in northeastern Bulgaria is a bronze zoomorphic head. Recently published by Vincent ‘Disney’ Megaw and the Thracologists Mircheva and Anasstassov, this bronze mount is executed in the Celtic ‘Plastic Metamorphosis’ style common across Europe in the La Têne B1 – C2 period. 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.
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’.
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)
Also among the Balkan Celts, one of the largest groups of objects executed in the ‘Plastic Metamorphosis’ style are the chariot fittings discovered at the Celtic burial at the tholos tomb of Mal Tepe, Mezek (Haskovo reg.) in southern Bulgaria (See ‘The Mezek Syndrome’ article). Other notable examples of this Celtic art style come from sites such as Manching (Germany) and Brno (Czech republic).
(On the Celtic Chariot Burial at Mezek, see ‘The Mezek Syndrome’ article, with cited lit.)
Celtic Bronze frontlet from Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region) Bulgaria, executed in the ‘Plastic Metamorphosis’ style
(4th – 3rd c. BC)
(See ‘Shields’ article)
The Varna mount belongs to a growing body of over 300 objects (as of 2010 – Megaw et al, op cit) from the early Celtic period in Thrace (La Têne B1-C1) which have been recorded in Bulgaria, including brooches, arm- and foot rings, torcs, weapons, glass and ceramic artifacts etc., which notably include the gold torc from Gorni Tsibar (Montana reg., n.w. Bulgaria) dating to the late 4th c. BC. (Megaw et al, op cit).
The Gold Celtic Torc from Gorni Tsibar, Montana reg., Bulgaria (Late 4th c. BC)
(see ’The Danube Torc’ article)
In northeastern Bulgaria especially high concentrations of artifacts from the early Celtic period (4th – 3rd c. BC) have been found at the late Iron Age settlements at Sboryanovo /ancient Helis (Razgrad region), Seuthopolis/The Valley of the Thracian Kings, and the Celtic Hillforts at Arkovna (Varna region) and Zaravetz (Veliko Tarnovo region), as well as at sites such as Banovo (Varna reg.), Branichovo (Schumen reg.), Kalnovo (Schumen reg.) and Madara (Schumen reg.) (see especially ‘New Material’, ‘Behind The Golden Mask’, and ‘Mediolana and the Zaravetz Culture’ articles).
Celtic Chariot Fitting from Bobata (Schumen region), Bulgaria
(see ‘Mediolana and the Zaravetz Culture’ article)
Concentrations of early Celtic Material in northeastern Bulgaria (La Têne B2 – C1) as of 2010 *
(After Megaw et al 2013)
*For more recent finds and later Celtic material from this area (LT C2/LT D) see ‘New Material’ and ‘Mediolana and the Zaravetz Culture’ articles.
Intense concentrations of Celtic artifacts and coinage from the later period (La Têne C2 – D) have also recently been recorded in Northwestern, North-central, Northeastern, Southwestern, and South-central Bulgaria (see Archaeology section).
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 Bulgaria will undoubtedly shed further light on the significant Celtic presence in Thrace in the late Iron Age.