UD: Jan. 2020
“…the mechanism of dreams where things have floating contours and pass into other things”.
The Celtic helmet from Silivaş (Transylvania) was first published in 1925 as part of the inventory of a warrior burial which also included two spearheads, a sword, dagger, brooch and a ‘sickle’ (actually a curved dagger), all of which had previously been in the private collection of Count Teleki Dromokos of Transylvania.
Inventory of the Celtic Burial from ‘Silivaş’, after Róska 1925*
The helmet itself is of a type with neck-guard (eisenhelme mit angesetztem Nackenschutz) common among the Celts at the end of the 4th/beginning of the 3rd c. BC (LT B2). Finds of such helmets are concentrated in the alpine region of western Austria and northern Italy, from where they circulated to the east and west (Rustoiu 2013). The most spectacular examples of such helmets include those from Agris and Amfreville in France, decorated with gold and coral.
The Agris Helmet and detail of decoration
Detail of the Ram-Horned Serpent on the cheek-piece of the Agris Helmet
The Amfreville Helmet
Detail of the decoration on the Amfreville helmet
VEGETAL / WALDALGESHEIM STYLE
The helmet from “Silivaş”* is ornamented on the neck-guard with vegetal elements specific to the so-called Waldalgesheim or Vegetal Style.
The Waldalgesheim Style is named after a princely burial in the middle Rhine, and displays an independence of interpretation and conﬁdence in execution that marks the culmination of achievement of the early La Tène period (Jacobsthal 1944). The descriptive term ‘Vegetal’ has been proposed in place of Jacobsthal’s type-site to denote the new style, reﬂecting in particular its use of plant-derived tendril motifs, although the style is not characterized exclusively by vegetal motifs, nor are vegetal motifs exclusive to it (Harding 2007:70). The Vegetal Style is often regarded as the high point of La Tène curvilinear ornament because it is in this style that derivative classical motifs are deconstructed and re-emerge with the ‘assured irrationality’ of a vibrant and independent Celtic creation (Harding 265).
The vegetal decorative details on the neck-guard of the helmet from Silivaş belong to the late phase of the aforementioned style, similar to the ornamentation of the helmets from Förker Laas Riegel, in Carinthia, discovered in 1989 (Schaaff 1990).
The neck-guard of the Silivaş helmet. Detail of decoration
A further fine example of the vegetal style decoration on the Balkans is to be observed on the Celtic gold torc from Gorni Tsibar (Montana region) in north-western Bulgaria, which dates from the same period as the Silivaş helmet.
Celtic gold torc decorated in the Vegetal Style, from Gorni Tsibar, northwestern Bulgaria
(late 4th/ early 3rd c. BC)
Celtic bronze torc, beautifully decorated in the Vegetal Style, from the Laon area (Picardy) of France (3 c. BC)
*In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that the most recent research on the Silivaş burial has indicated that the helmet and associated material did not in fact originate from Silivaş, but was most probably discovered in a Celtic burial in the Turda area, also in Transylvania, while the brooch and curved dagger came from a Celtic burial either in another part of Transylvania, or from the Scordisci area in today’s northern Bulgaria (for discussion see Rustoiu 2013).
On Eastern Celtic helmets of the Novo Mesto type see:
On Celtic helmets of the Montefortino type in Eastern Europe see:
Harding D.W. (2007) The Archaeology of Celtic Art. Routledge.
Jacobsthal P.F. (1944) Early Celtic Art. Oxford.
Roska M. (1925) Keltisches Grab aus Siebenbürgen. In: PZ, 16, 1925, p. 210-211.
Rustoiu A. (2013) Wandering Warriors. The Celtic Grave from “Silivaş” (Transylvania) and Its History. In: Terra Sebus. Acta Musei Sabesiensis, 5, 2013, p. 211-226
Schaaff U. (1990) Keltische Waffen. Mainz.