PUPPETRIDERS – Celtic Coinage of the “Zichyújfalu” types

UD: April 2019


puppt intro


The most fascinating and enigmatic of late Iron Age European coinage, the Celtic Puppetrider tetradrachms were produced from the early 3rd c. BC onwards by the Pannonian Celtic tribes. The coinage itself features a male laureate head on the obverse, the subjects eye being represented on a number of issues by an arrowhead.


PR eyear

Obverse of Celtic tetradrachm of the Puppetrider/Triskele type (Hungary, late 3rd c. BC)


The reverse depicts a horseman with left arm raised, of whom only the upper part of the body is represented. Behind the riders head and in front of the horse is a Celtic inscription while below the horse, on the majority of such coins, is a triskelion/triskele, a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic coins and other artifacts. The triskele variants date from the mid 3rd c. BC onwards, while rarer issues which feature a monogram from the coinage of the Paeonian king Audoleon, from which the Celtic puppetrider types are believed to have evolved, date to a slightly earlier period.


tri and mono

Puppetrider tetradrachm with triskele, and the earlier type with Audoleon monogram

(both from the Zichyújfalu hoard; see below)





As mentioned, the vast majority of puppetrider coins are of the aforementioned triskele type. Based on the recorded finds of such, the epicentre of production and distribution lay in the area of today’s central Hungary where, besides numerous single finds, two major hoards of such have been found in close proximity – those from Zichyújfalu, which included 268 Celtic coins, 262 of the triskele type, and Dunaújváros (also in Fejér county) (Kerényi 1960; Göbl 1972: 51-52) which included a similar, slightly larger, hoard of such coinage (see map 1 below).




zichy ho

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from the Zichyújfalu hoard

(after Torbágyi 2012)


A second concentration of puppetrider/triskele coinage has been identified around the villages of Sióagárd/Baranyamágócs, slightly to the south. These coins, however, are artistically and technically inferior to the aforementioned issues, and should therefore be seen as contemporary Celtic imitations of the latter.


sig tds


Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from Sióagárd

(after Torbágyi 2012)


Although Celtic coinage of the Puppetrider/Triskele types circulated chiefly in the aforementioned area of Central Hungary, finds such as those from Diex in southern Austria, Batina in eastern Croatia, Bač in northern Serbia, as well as Bratislava and Görgő in Slovakia, and Ungvár in western Ukraine (loc cit), indicate that this type of coinage circulated widely among the Celtic tribes of Eastern Europe during the period in question.



Distribution of recorded finds of Celtic Puppetrider/Triskele type coinage (3rd/2nd c. BC)





Literature Cited


Göbl R. (1972) Neue technische Forschungsmethoden in der keltischen Numismatik. Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 109/1972: 49-63.

Kerényi A. (1960) Sztálinvárosi kelta éremlelet. (Trouvaille de médailles celtiques à Sztalinváros /Intercisa/) Numizmatikai Közlöny 58-59/1959-1960: 3-6, 83.
Torbágyi M. (2008) Der „Zichyújfalu” Typ mit Audoleon Monogramm. Festschrift für Günther
Dembski zum 65. Geburtstag. NZ 116-117/2008: 87-93.

Torbágyi M. (2012)Der Münzfund von Zichyújfalu 1873, In: VAMZ, 3. s., XLV (2012) p. 537-552









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6 thoughts on “PUPPETRIDERS – Celtic Coinage of the “Zichyújfalu” types

  1. I always wondered if the ‘puppet-rider’ might even be a female riding side-saddle, hence the legs not visible on the side of the horse. The appearance of more definitely female riders in an apparent side-saddle position is not unknown on 1stC BC – 1stC CE Celtic coins from further west in Europe… I think there was a Tusciovanus coin with this image? Others too…
    Of course, the ‘puppet’ rider may be a figurative symbolism of a directing force, for an otherwise riderless ‘wild’ beast, or a soul just along for the ride to the Otherworld. I am intrigued how the female warrior’s appearance on coins relates to periods of warfare – something of a Boudicca character or martial goddess?

      1. The tribes of NW Gaul (ie – modern Brittany) seemed to be using the image of the mounted warrior female before Julius Caesar and friends subjugated them… I like your link with Ireland’s Badbh Catha 🙂 In the reflected Otherworld, I guess men could see themselves as women! Continuity-through-warfare?

  2. Of course, the other interpretation is that the ‘legless’ rider might be a representation of a crippled underworld god – related to the somewhat Gothic Weland/Volundr tradition, which itself might have some bearing on the Balto-Slavic god Veles or Velnias… I believe Greek Hephaistos had the same ‘crippled’ attributes as Weland, and might even link to the Roman ‘Vulcan’ (Etruscan ‘Sethlans’), possibly through the Cretan ‘Zeus-Velchanos’. Personally, I am starting to get the feeling that these might be somehow identifiable with the fiery Celtic god Belenos… The ?Belgic ‘Centaur’ coins seem to share a similar meaning to the ‘puppetrider’ designs, as well…

  3. Getting back to my previous remark on star-groupings, that certainly looks like Ursus Major behind the rider’s head (this is not, of course, to say that between the horse’s mouth and foreleg that is just HALF of Cassiopeia, nor that there, between the forelegs that is the Constellation ‘Oxo’; nor that beneath the horse’s belly that is a spiral galaxy … ) 🙂

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