Silver Serpent-Head Bracelet from the Čurug Hoard

 

Silver Serpent-Head Bracelet decorated with solar symbols, from the Balkan Celtic treasure discovered at Čurug in northern Serbia (late 4th / early 3rd century BC)

 

Čurug sikver braclet

 

Full information and more images of the Čurug Treasure:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/curug-a-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-vojvodina-northern-serbia/

 

CELTIC GLASS “FACE BEADS”

It has long been noted that the cult of the head “constitutes a persistent theme throughout all aspects of Celtic life spiritual and temporal, and the symbol of the severed head may be regarded as the most typical and universal of their religious attitudes” (Ross A. Pagan Celtic Britain. London 1967:163).

Strabo informs us that ‘when they depart from the battle they hang the heads of their enemies from the necks of their horses, and when they have brought them home, nail the spectacle to the entrance of their houses…’ (Strabo IV, 4,5). Amongst the Celts the human head ‘was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of  the emotions, as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world’ (Jacobstahl P. Early Celtic Art. Oxford. 1944; see also Mac Congail 2010: 173-175). The severed head is also one of the main core symbols on Celtic artifacts and coins from the Balkans in the 4th – 1st c. BC.

In this context, one of the most interesting types of glasswork produced by the Celts, apparently from Phoenician prototypes, were ‘Face/Head Beads’. These have been found at a number of Celtic burials and other sites from central (Germany, Switzerland etc.) and eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria etc.).

Hung

Celtic glass ‘Janus’ Face Bead from Mezönyarad (Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén), Hungary (3rd c. BC)

Moravia 3 c. BC

Celtic face bead from Moravia, Czech Republic (3 c. BC)

 

A wonderful example of this type of face bead from Bulgaria comes from the Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region), which has direct parallels in examples discovered at Celtic sites in the Czech Republic and Romania. Similar artifacts have been unearthed in recent years during excavations at other sites in Bulgaria such as Appolonia Pontica/Sozopol, Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region), Burgas, Kavarna, etc.

Bulg 1

Face Bead from Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region, Bulgaria)

Bulg 2

Glass bead and ‘face bead’ from Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region, Bulgaria)

 

Also interesting, from an artistic perspective, is a gold ‘Janus head’ pendant executed in a repossé technique and decorated filigreé and granulation, discovered in the Shumen region of northeastern Bulgaria, and dated to the same period. From a morphological and stylistic perspective the closest analogies are the Celtic face beads found among the Celts of central and eastern Europe, examples of which come from sites such as Mangalia, Piscolt and Vác, as well as the aforementioned sites in Bulgaria (Rustoiu 2008).

 

Jan head

Gold Celtic ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, northeastern Bulgaria (4th/3rd c. BC)

 

As with many aspects of Celtic art, the tradition of producing face beads continues much later in the Insular sphere, as attested to by many wonderful examples of glass face beads dating to the late Iron Age discovered in Ireland.

Late Iron Age glass 'face bead' from Antrim, Ireland. Such Celtic beads emerged in the early Iron Age, apparently based on Phoenician prototypes. 

Late Iron Age glass face bead from Antrim, Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

Alphabet of the Druids ? – Evidence for the use of a Celto-Etruscan script among the Balkan Celts

A fascinating series of inscriptions discovered in the ‘Roman’ cemetery at Poetovio in Pannonia (Ptuj, e. Slovenia) have provided sensational evidence on Celtic society and religion during the Roman period in this part of Europe, and the use of a Celto-Etruscan script on the Balkans.

Among the graffiti on ceramic vessels found at the western cemetery at Poetovio, a number of Celtic inscriptions have been identified which may be divided into 2 main groups:

The first group of inscriptions includes a number of vessels, which date from the 1st / 3rd c. AD, inscribed with Celtic names. Example of such include the names TOCIES – written on a jug dating to the late 1st/ 2nd c., and M. BITTIV, inscribed on the body of another jug, Bittius/Bitus being one of the most common Celtic personal names, recorded in numerous inscriptions across Europe from the British Isles to Galatia (Egri 2007; see also mac Gonagle 2012).

Bituis - Tocies

The TOCIES and BITTIV inscriptions

(after Egri 2007)

 

While the aforementioned inscriptions give us valuable information on the ethnic composition of this region during the period, most interesting from the Poetovio site are two religious inscriptions, which provide fascinating evidence on Celtic (Romano-Celtic) religion and the use of a Celto-Etruscan script in this region.

 

THE NUTRICES

The first of these inscriptions – MATERIA – (written on a jar in cursive letters) is particularly interesting because it is further evidence of a phenomenon already identified by archaeological data from the area – the worship of the Celtic Mother Goddess, in the form of the Nursing Matres or Nutrices.

 

mat

(after Bόnis 1942)

 

The Nursing Matres or Nutrices was a cult widespread in the Celtic world, and particularly significant around Poetovio where 2 sanctuaries and numerous depictions, often with inscriptions, have been discovered. 

mat. gl

Five statuettes in white terracotta of nursing Matres discovered in a well in Auxerre (Yonne).

(Deyts, 1998, n° 30, p. 68)

 

At Poetovio the Nutrices are always venerated in the plural form, often portrayed as 3 women, one of them holding and breastfeeding a baby. A significant number of dedicators to the Nutrices at the site also have Celtic names indicating that the cult of the Nursing Matres were brought here by a Celtic group which had settled the region with other Celtic tribes when they occupied the later Regnum Noricum  (Šašel Kos 1999).

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/to-the-3-almighty-mothers-on-the-celtic-cult-of-the-nutrices-nursing-mothers/

 

 

“Alphabet of the Druids”

 

The most sensational Celtic inscription to be found at Poetovio is undoubtedly that found on a ceramic beaker at the site. Dated to the 2nd/3rd c. AD, and written in a Celto-Etruscan script, the inscription reads:

ARTEBUDZ BROGDU

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 (Eichner et al 1994:137; Egri 2007).

 

brogdos p

The Brogdos Inscription

(after Istenič 2000)

 

The use of scripts based on the Etruscan alphabet by the Celtic tribes is well documented in other parts of Europe, with recent discoveries providing important new information which indicates that the use of such was much more extensive than previously thought.  

1 - TARANIS incs.

Fragment of bone with inscription to the Thunder God Taranis in a Celto-Etruscan script, from Tesero di Sottopendonda (Trente) Italy (4/3 c. BC)

 

Inscribed glass bead from a Celtic burial at Münsingen-Rain (Bern), Switzerland. The inscription (in Etruscan characters from right to left) is a proper name - Anthine. 3-2 c bc 2

Inscribed glass bead from a Celtic burial at Münsingen-Rain (Bern), Switzerland. The inscription (in Etruscan characters from right to left) is a proper name – Anthine.

(3-2 c. BC)

Mathay-Mandeure sanctuary the seven engraved beads Doubs, France Lepontic or Insubro-Lepontic script 2-1 c bc

 

7 glass beads from a Celtic sanctuary at Mathay-Mandeure (Doubs) in eastern France. Discovered in the 19th century, it has only recently been established that the beads are engraved with inscriptions in a Celto-Etruscan (Lepontic / Insubro-Lepontic) script. A growing number of Celtic artifacts bearing inscriptions in a similar script, apparently of a religious nature, have been discovered at a number of Celtic sites across Europe.

(2/1 c. BC)

 

Recorded in other parts of Europe, the use of such a Celtic-Etruscan script on the Balkans has also been known from a series of pre-Roman inscriptions discovered prior to the First World War, in the 1950’s and a handful of recent publications from sites such as Grad near Reka (a cremation urn), the situla fragment from the site in Posočje, as well as the bronze plaque fragment from Gradič above Kobarid (Turk et al 2009), and on a number of Celtic coins (particularly of the Paeonian model) and other artifacts.

Probably the best known examples are the Negau Inscriptions. Discovered  in an orchard at the village of Negau (today Ženjak) in Slovenia, the Negau Hoard consisted of 26 bronze Etruscan helmets, many bearing inscriptions in a Celto-Etruscan script. The helmets are of an Etruscan design from circa 500-450 BC called the Vetulonic or Negau type, which are of bronze with a comb-shaped ridge across the skull, and a protruding rim with a groove right above the rim. However, the inscriptions on the helmets are believed to have been added at a much later date (2nd c. BC), and the deposition has been dated to circa 50 BC – i.e. shortly before the Roman conquest of the area.

The Negau B Helmet and inscription

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-negau-inscriptions/

 

Slo plaq

Silver votive plaque from Vrh Gradu (Šentviška Gora), eastern Slovenia with Celto-Etruscan inscription (2-1 c. BC)

 

1 - GRAD a-b

The Grad (A) and Posočje (B) inscriptions

(After Turk et al 2009)

 

 

However, until now all archaeological evidence of the use of this script on the Balkans has been confined to the pre-Roman period. Thus, the significance of the BROGDOS inscription from Poetovio cannot be overstated, as it represents not only a further example of this alphabet, but provides conclusive archaeological evidence that this writing system was still known and used in certain parts of the Balkans throughout the Roman period. It is also interesting to note that in each case the script appears to be used in religious contexts, suggesting that the alphabet was strictly controlled and used only by Celtic priests/druids, while the Greek and Latin alphabets were used for more mundane purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Bόnis E. (1942) Die kaiserzeitliche Keramik von Pannonien. Dissertationes Pannonicae 2.20. Budapest.

Egri M. (2007) Graffiti on Ceramic Vessels from the Western Cemetery at Poetovio. In: Funerary Offerings and Votive Depositions in Europe’s 1st Millennium AD. Cluj-Napoca 2007. P. 37 – 48.

Eichner H., Istenič J., Lovenjak M. (1994) Ein römerzeitliches Keramikgefäss aus Ptuj (Pettau, Poetovio) in Slowenien mit Inschrift in unekanntem Alphabet und epichorischer (vermutlich kelticher) Sprache. In: Arheološki Vestnik 45, 1994, 131-142.

Istenič  J. (2000) Poetovio, the western cemeteries II. Ljubljana.

Mac Gonagle B. (2012) https://www.academia.edu/3292310/The_Thracian_Myth_-_Celtic_Personal_Names_in_Thrace

Šašel Kos (1999) Pre-Roman Divinities of the Eastern Alps and Adriatic – Situla 38, Ljubljana.

Turk P., Božič D., Istenič J., Osmuk N., Šmit Ž. (2009)New Pre-Roman Inscriptions from Western Slovenia : The Archaeological Evidence. In: Protohistoire Européenne II, 2009. Éditions monique mergoil Montagnac. p. 47–64.

 

 

 

Mac Congail

THE CELTIC BUDDHA – Stucco Portrait of an “Enlightened” Celt from the Greco-Buddhist Monastic Complex at Hadda in eastern Afghanistan

 

Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations”.

 

 

The long and winding road from Kabul to the Khyber Pass follows the River Kabul through a rich and fertile valley with Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan as its centre, and there, for centuries around the beginning of the first millennium, lived large communities of Buddhist monks. Hadda was one of the most sacred sites of the Buddhist world dating from the early part of the first millenium AD to the 7th Century. Countless pilgrims came from every corner of the earth to worship at its many holy temples, maintained by thousands of monks and priests living in large monastery complexes.

Hadda Blown B

The Larger Bamiyan Buddha at Hadda, before and after demolition by the Taliban in March 2001. The Gandharan period saw the earliest figural depictions of the Buddha.

 

Almost entirely destroyed by religious extremists during the recent civil wars, throughout the period of Buddhism’s great flourishing, from the Kushans (1st–3rd century AD) into the 7th century AD, Hadda was a popular pilgrimage destination where, according to the accounts of famous Chinese pilgrims such as Faxian and Xuanzang, various relics of the Buddha’s body and belongings were preserved, each of them enshrined in a stūpa (a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing relics typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns that is used as a place of meditation) – a bone of the Buddha’s skull and uṣṇīṣa (cranial protuberance), an eyeball, the monastic robe and the ascetic staff.

Archaeological exploration of the site in the modern era began in 1834 with Charles Masson of the British East India company, who discovered Graeco-Bactrian, Indo-Scythian, Hunnic, Roman and Byzantine coins inside 14 stūpas in different sacred areas. The most important of these, Tapa Kalan, also yielded fragments of stone and stucco sculptures. Further minor investigations followed, until J. Barthoux of the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA) carried out extensive excavations on various sites from 1926 to 1929.

 

Hadda Budd 1

Detail, central section of arcade on façade. Hadda. Monastery of Bagh-Gai. Painted stucco. Barthoux Expedition 1927-1928. 

 

From a 21st century perspective the plundering of such an important archaeological site by the British and French during the imperial period may be frowned upon. However, in light of its recent destruction by Afghan forces the fact that many of the treasures had already been transported to the west means that much of the archaeological evidence from Hadda has survived, thus providing invaluable information on the exchange of cultural and spiritual ideas during this period in history.

Hadda Monk

Monk. Hadda. Monastery of Tapa-Kalan

(Barthoux expedition 1927)

Over 23,000 Greco-Buddhist sculptures, combining elements of Buddhism and Hellenism, have been excavated at the site. Although the style of the artifacts is typical of the late Hellenistic 2nd or 1st century BC, the Hadda sculptures are usually dated to the 1st century AD or later, which is explained by the preservation of late Hellenistic styles for a few centuries in this part of the world. However, it is highly possible that many of the artifacts were actually produced in the late Hellenistic period.

Hadda Buddha loc

Buddha Shakyamuni. Hadda. Monastery of Tapa-Kalan

 

 

THE CELTIC BUDDHA

 

In the present context, one of the most significant artifacts to be discovered at Hadda was found during the French mission led by Jules Barthoux in 1926-1927. Among the ca. 15,000 artifacts recorded by Barthoux was the stucco head of a Celt (“Gaulois”) found at the Tapa-Kalan monastery. 

Hadda authen - Louvre

Head of the ‘Barbarian Gaul’ from Hadda.

(Stucco – Height 0.1 m. Length 0.06 m; Depth 0.069 m.)

 

 

It is perhaps not surprising that an individual of Celtic origin may have found his way to such a famous place of spiritual learning; countless pilgrims came from every corner of the earth to worship at its many holy temples, maintained by thousand of monks and priests living in large monastery complexes. The fact that eastern philosophies had spread into Europe by this stage is also testified to by many ancient authors. For example, in the 2nd century AD the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (Stromata), recognizing Bactrian Buddhists (Sramanas) and Indian Gymnosophists for their influence on Greek thought, writes:

Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets of the Egyptians; and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians; and the Druids among the Gauls; and the Sramanas among the Bactrians (“Σαρμαναίοι Βάκτρων”); and the philosophers of the Celts…”.

Indeed, also in the 2nd century AD, Origen in his Commentary on Ezekiel states that the teachings of The Buddha had spread as far west as the British Isles, and that Buddhists co-existed with Druids in pre-Christian Britain:

“The island (Britain) has long been predisposed to it (Christianity) through the doctrines of the Druids and Buddhists, who had already inculcated the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead”.

 

However, actual archaeological confirmation of this phenomenon has hitherto been very sparse, rendering the evidence from Hadda even more important. Notable about the portrayal of the “Hadda Celt” is that he is depicted in a naturalistic fashion, indicting that we are most likely dealing with a portrait of an actual person of Celtic origin who lived and studied at Hadda during the period in question. Perhaps most remarkable is that the man is depicted with elongated earlobes, which are of particular significance.

On both ancient and modern statues of The Buddha in all cultures the ear lobes are depicted in such a fashion, a powerful symbol in Budhist religious belief, and an intrinsic part of the portrayal of Siddartha Gautama as The Buddha, or “Enlightened One.” The fact that the Celt from Hadda is also depicted in such a fashion would therefore appear to indicate that, in the eyes of the monastic community, this man, as the Buddha himself, was perceived to have reached spiritual enlightenment.

Haḍḍa 1 is a Greco-Buddhist archeological - Bigger -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

VOICES OF THE DISAPPEARED (2) – A Celtic Seal Ring with Wild Boar Motif from Northern France

The popular phenomenon of metal detecting / treasure hunting in recent years and the increasingly industrial nature of this activity has resulted in the systematic destruction of many unique ancient sites across Europe. As mentioned in previous articles, this activity, while uncovering spectacular artifacts, destroys the archaeological context of such sites, and thus the scientific knowledge which may be gained from them is lost forever.

A further recent example of this phenomenon is the discovery of a bronze Celtic seal ring with wild boar motif, looted from a Celtic burial in northern France, advertised on the internet and subsequently sold (for 77 Euros !) to a private collector.

Iron Age Celtic Era Bronze Seal Ring with Beast. catawiki.se 1 c bc

The Wild Boar Seal Ring

D: 17mm / L: 22mm; 4.5g

 

Due to the lack of archaeological context, the cultural and chronological framework of such artifacts are generally impossible to attribute with any degree of certainty. However, in this specific case the artistic composition and iconography on the ring is clearly to be placed within the context of similar artistic compositions to be found on potin coinage from northern Gaul, specifically those of the Gallo-Belgic tribes of the region in question, which allows us to identify the general area from which this unique Celtic ring originates, and date it to the first half of the 1st century BC.

 

Potin of the Leuci tribe (early 1 c. BC)

 

Резултат с изображение за potin sanglier

Potin – Lingones tribe (1 c. BC)

Suessions - Potin au sanglier (60-30 av. J.-C.)

Potin – Suessiones tribe (mid 1 c. BC)

see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2019/11/24/the-mystery-matrix-on-the-significance-of-a-gallo-belgic-die-matrix-from-southern-england/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail 

TWISTED BEAUTY – Gold Ribbon Torcs in Bronze Age and Celtic Europe

Bronze Age and Celtic Ribbon Torcs

 

Representing some of the finest examples of European jewelry of the Bronze Age and Celtic period, gold ribbon torcs first appear during the middle Bronze Age in the British Isles. The torcs were created by beating an gold ingot into a flat band that was then twisted.

Carrowdore bog, Co. Down. It dates from the middle Bronze Age (c. 1400-1000 BC)

Middle Bronze Age ribbon torc discovered in Carrowdore Bog in County Down, Ireland

1857 Law Farm Hoard 1 of 36 in Moray, Scotland. Pitt Rivers Museum - Ribbon Torc

Ribbon torc (middle Bronze Age), 1 of 36 discovered in 1857 in a hoard at Law Farm in Moray, Scotland.  Some examples from this and other hoards are smaller in dimension, and may have been worn as bracelets.

 

From the Bronze Age such torcs have been discovered almost exclusively in Ireland and Scotland, the only examples from southern Britain being those from Heyope in Powys, Wales (again dating to the middle Bronze Age).

Gold ribbon torcs discovered at Heyope in Powys, Wales. Dating to the middle Bronze Age

The Heyope Torcs

 

Moving into the Iron Age, perhaps the finest example is a wonderfully elaborate ribbon torc discovered at Saint-Marc-le-Blanc in Brittany, dated to the 6th century BC. Notable examples from the later Iron Age are again largely confined to the Insular Celtic sphere, specifically Ireland and Scotland, and include beautiful examples such as those from Belfast in northern Ireland and Stirlingshire in Scotland.

Saint-Marc-le-Blanc Brittany 6 c. BC

The wonderful layered ribbon torc from Saint-Marc-le-Blanc in Brittany (6 c. BC)

Gold 'ribbon torcs' discovered at Blair Drummond (Stirlingshire), Scotland. 4 Celtic torcs were discovered in the hoard, 2 of which displayed Mediterranean influences.

Ribbon torc from Blair Drummond (Stirlingshire), Scotland. 4 Celtic torcs were discovered in the hoard, 2 of which displayed Mediterranean influences. (3/2 century BC)

Celtic gold ribbon torc discovered near Belfast, Ireland 3 c. BC

The Belfast Torc (3rd century BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOICES OF THE DISAPPEARED (1) – A (looted) Balkan Celtic Warrior Burial from Bačka Palanka (Vojvodina) in Serbia

From an archaeological perspective the last 30 years in Eastern Europe (i.e. since the introduction of “Democracy”) have been marked by a massive growth in the trafficking of antiquities, and the resulting destruction of ancient cultural sites across the region. On the Balkans this phenomenon has reached catastrophic proportions over the last decade, with the looting of archaeological sites on an industrial scale, often with the passive or active collusion of the local authorities.

These artifacts are then illegally transported to the west, primarily to dealers in Germany, where they are laundered – i.e. provided with false documents by ‘experts’ indicating that they come from ‘old private collections’, thus legalizing their sale on the open market. 

A recent example of this phenomenon is the material from a Balkan Celtic warrior burial discovered at Bačka Palanka (Vojvodina) on the Danube in northwestern Serbia. The material from the burial represents the complete inventory of a Celtic (Scordisci) warrior, dating to the 3rd / early 2nd century BC, and includes an iron sword in its scabbard, knife and socketed spearhead, all ritually killed / bent according to Celtic ritual.  Further material from the burial included a shield umbo, forged kettle chain and sword chain. 

Plankenburg sword

Plankenburg sword 2

Plankenburg sword 3

Ritually killed iron sword in its scabbard from the Bačka Palanka burial

Plankenburg shield boss

Shield umbo from the burial

 

The material from the Bačka Palanka burial represents just one example of the massive amount of Balkan Celtic material, particularly from Serbia and Bulgaria, which has been looted and illegally exported over the past few years, thus irreversibly distorting and destroying our understanding of the historical and cultural heritage of this part of Europe. 

 

 

 

1. Bačka Palanka -Plankenburg. Landkreis Vojvodina, sword socketed sphead swordbelt knife Danube

 

 

Mac Congail

 

THE MYSTERY MATRIX – On the Significance of a Gallo-Belgic Die Matrix from Southern England

The surprise discovery of a matrix die for the minting of “Ear-Boar type” potins (type of coin; usually a mixture of copper, tin and lead), associated with the Gallo-Belgic Suessiones tribe of northern France, in the Hampshire region of southern England has thrown new light on the nature and development of the first coinage in Britain.

 

The expansion of Gallo-Belgic tribes across the English Channel into the southern part of the Island of Britain during the later Iron Age had a significant cultural and economic impact, as reflected in a large amount of archaeological evidence recorded over the past century.

Aylesford

Celtic ceremonial vessel from Aylesford in Kent, England.  The area of distribution of such buckets coincides with the territory of the Gallo-Belgic tribes, and the regions of southern Britain into which they expanded. (see link below)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/celtic-ceremonial-buckets-and-belgic-expansion/

 

This is particularly true in the case of discoveries of numismatic material from the area of southern England, which clearly indicate that the continental Celtic tribes in question introduced the first coinage and monetary system into Britain during this period. This phenomenon has hitherto been attested to by numerous finds of Gallo-Belgic coinage and hoards thereof in the region, as well as matrices / coin dies which testify to the production of such in southern England from the late 2nd century BC onwards.

Gallo-Belgic A type stater produced in northern France or Belgium, and discovered bytreasure hunters at Fenny Stratford near Milton Ke

Gallo-Belgic “A type” stater produced in northern France or Belgium. Discovered by treasure hunters at Fenny Stratford near Milton KeynesEngland – thought to be the first typof coin ever to circulate in Britain (mid 2. c. BC)

 

Coin die (punch) for the production of Gallo-Belgic A staters discovered by treasure hunters atBredgar (Kent), England. (Late 2

Coin die for the production of “Gallo-Belgic A” staters discovered by treasure hunters at Bredgar (Kent), England. (Late 2nd c. BC)

Die for a Gallo-Belgic B quarter stater discovered by treasure hunters at Alton(Hampshire) England. (late 2 c. BC

Die for a Gallo-Belgic B quarter stater discovered by treasure hunters at Alton (Hampshire) England. (late 2nd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.word-british-currency-and-m press.com/2017/02/07/the-firstonetary-system/

 

Of particular interest in this context is the recent discovery of a bronze die matrix used to create casting moulds for the production of Soissons “Eye Boar type” potins, which are usually identified as a Continental / Belgic import type originating from the Soissons region of Northern France.

 

SUR08FD05a

The “Boar Eye type” die matrix

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/949108

 

Thus the discovery of such a die matrix at Steventon in Hampshire, England is particularly significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the fact that the die is of a very specific type associated with the Suessiones tribe logically indicates that these were one of the main continental Celtic tribes involved in the Gallo-Belgic expansion into southern Britain during this period.

 

Pot 1

Celtic “Boar Eye type” potin discovered at Berrick Salome in Oxfordshire

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/892734

Pot 2

Celtic “Boar Eye type” potin discovered at Welyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/516937

 

 

Most importantly, the Steventon die matrix, as well as numerous finds of such potins in southern England, logically indicates that Celtic tribes in this area were producing not only high value coinage minted in precious metals, which would have circulated mainly among the wealthier classes / tribal elites, but also coinage with a lower intrinsic value for use by the wider  population; thus providing clear evidence that a highly sophisticated coinage / monetary system had already been developed by the native Celtic population in southern Britain in the immediate pre-Roman period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

A ‘Taranis’ Belt Buckle and Anthropomorphic Figurine from the Balkan Celtic settlement at Dalj (Eastern Croatia)

November 2019

 

The area around the village of Dalj (Osijek-Baranja County) near the confluence of the Drava and Danube rivers in eastern Croatia, has yielded a wealth of archaeological material indicating that Dalj was an important area of Celtic settlement in the middle-late Iron Age. 

 

Dalj loc

Archaeologically confirmed fortified Celtic settlements in eastern Croatia. (1. Ilok – 2. Sotin – 3. Vukovar – 4. DALJ – 5. Sarvaš – 6. Osijek – 7. Markušica – 8. Stari Mikanovci – 9. Vinkovci – 10. Privlaka – 11. Orolik – 12. Cerna – 13. Donja Bebrina).

 

Dalj Ck tts

Bronze anthropomorphic figurine with penis and breasts, from the Celtic settlement at Dalj (4th – 3rd c. BC). An almost identical figurine, but portrayed with a torc, has been discovered at Prašník (Trnava reg.) in western Slovakia

 

In 1906 a pair of Celtic (Scordisci) belt buckles were found at the site of a destroyed Celtic necropolis at the Busija site in Dalj. Dating to the 1st c. BC, the buckles are of a specific kind called the Laminci type, the main characteristic of which is their construction, consisting of an iron plate with a button hook on the front side, on which a punctuated bronze sheet was attached with pins (Drnić 2009).

This buckle type was worn by Celtic females, and examples have been found over a wide area among the Celtic and Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) tribes from Southern Pannonia and Romania to Ukraine (Drnić 2009), as well as Slovenia (Knez 1992:62, T. 65: 1–5), Hungary (Kovacs 1982:145-146), Serbia (Drnić op cit) and Bulgaria (Babeş 1983:207).

The decoration on such buckles generally includes different combinations of double or triple garlands, horizontal and vertical lines, concentric circles, fishbone motives, and spherical bulges. The ornament on the first Dalj buckle fits into this pattern, being decorated with two triple garlands and three spherical ornaments within the circles.

Dalj buck 1

The decoration on the second buckle from Dalj is a unique composition based around a core central symbol. In the corners of the buckle four triple garlands were placed with smaller concentric circles in between (two circles between the central motive and the lower side of the buckle remain visible).

Dalj Buck

The central decorative composition on the second Dalj buckle is particularly interesting. Consisting of a ‘cross within a circle’, the symbol is in fact a ‘Taranis Wheel’ which, while not hitherto found on other buckles of the Laminci type, is a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic artifacts, and is to be found, for example, on numerous Scordisci coin issues from Serbia and Croatia dating from the same period (2nd/ 1st c. BC).

 

Dalj coin

Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. (Serbia late 2nd / 1st c. BC)
(Laureate head (of Zeus?) right / Horse trotting left. Taranis Wheel above)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Chariots and Chariot Elements from Wales

 

 

The past few decades have witnessed the discovery of a large number of Iron Age Celtic chariots across Europe, including a number of examples from the island of Britain.

Celtic chariot from Newbridge (Edinburgh), Scotland. (5th century BC)

Cast bronze enameled terret with multi-colored glass inlay, from Suffolk, England (1 c. BC / 1 c. AD)
.
.
Of particular interest are a large number of Celtic chariot elements uncovered on the territory of modern Wales. Mostly dating from the late period (1st c. BC / 1 c. AD), these artifacts, decorated in the distinctive La Tène style, represent wonderful examples of late Insular Celtic art.
pentyrch terret
Chariot terret of fine bronze with striking red enamel inlay, executed in classic late La Tène style – discovered at Lesser Garth (near Pentyrch), Wales. (1 c. BC)
Bronze enamel - Alltwen, Pontardawe 2
Cast bronze harness fitting (strap union; bronze/enamel), decorated in the La Tène style – from a Celtic chariot (1 c. AD) discovered at Pen yr Alltwen in the Swansea Valley of Wales
Nant-y-cafn, 1 Seven Sisters c adNant-y-cafn, Seven Sisters c ad 2
Bronze strap union from Nant-y-cafn in southern Wales (mid 1st century AD). The replica illustrates the original appearance of the strap union, and the colours of the enamels used.
Bronze harness 1fitting, 60-120 CE. Decorated with red and yellow glass in the Celtic La Tène styleMaindy Camp, Rhondda Cynon Taff
Bronze harness fitting, decorated with red and yellow enamel in the La Tène style (late 1st / early 2nd century AD), from Maindy Camp Hillfort, near Aberdare
.
.
Particularly fascinating is the recent discovery of a Celtic chariot burial uncovered by a ‘treasure hunter’ at a (still undisclosed) site in the south Pembrokeshire area of Wales. While individual elements of Celtic chariots have previously been uncovered in western Britain, this discovery represents the first example of a complete Celtic chariot to be found on the territory of today’s Wales.
Terret decorated with red enamel, from the recently discovered Celtic chariot burial in south Pembrokeshire

Bridle fitting from the south Pembrokeshire chariot

.

Despite initial media reports dating the chariot burial to the 6th century BC (!!!), the decorative compositions and distinctive use of red enamel clearly date this chariot to the same period as similar discoveries from southern Britain, i.e. 1st century BC – 1st century AD.

 

Bronze element from the Pembrokeshire chariot, lavishly decorated with red enamel

.

Although a systematic archaeological excavation of the burial has not yet been carried out, and is planned for later this year, initial research has revealed a number of interesting facts. The use of ground penetrating radar in the area has indicated a pattern of buried ditches and walls, indicating an important Celtic settlement in the area.

Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that a trial excavation has revealed that the chariot was buried in an upright position, a rare phenomenon in Britain, but one which has been observed in continental Celtic chariot burials in Gaul and on the Balkans, most recently the discovery at Sboryanovo in Bulgaria.

 

 

 

 

 

.

.

.

Mac Congail