Category: Archaeology


“One must have evidence, because knowledge is not mere true belief”.
(Butcharov. The Concept of Knowledge)
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THE MATERIAL EVIDENCE
A number of factors should be borne in mind when dealing with the coin collections from Bulgarian museums. Since the early 1990‟s attempts have been made by a number of Bulgarian and international experts to get access to information on the coin collections in the various museums around Bulgaria, and publish a comprehensive account of the information contained within…
FULL ARTICLE:
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As with all major conflicts, the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s was accompanied by large scale theft and looting of cultural treasures. A fascinating example of this phenomenon is a Balkan Celtic golden face mask now in the Burgmuseum in Deutschlandsberg, Austria.

 

Such life size golden masks of gold and bronze were created across Europe in the 1st millennium BC; the practice of placing funeral masks on the deceased’s face being particularly common in ancient Macedonia of the sixth and fifth centuries BC. As a constituent part of the grave furnishings, funerary face-masks or golden foliage covering the eyes and mouth have long been known in great numbers from sites such as Trebenište near Ohrid, Beranci near Prilep, Sindos near Thessalonica, and other sites in Macedonia and Halkidiki.

 

 

Golden funeral masks from Trebenište near the ancient city of Lychnidos / Λύχνιδος (modern Ohrid) on the shores of Lake Ohrid in today’s (FYR) Macedonia (6/5 c. BC)

The history of the discovery of royal golden masks from the necropolis near the villages of Trebenište and Gorenci (10 miles north of Ohrid) has a long tradition. In this necropolis five funerary masks have been found on three separate occasions over the last century. The first two masks were found by accident in the spring of 1918 by Bulgarian soldiers during the occupation of this part of Macedonia. At the height of the military occupation, excavations were carried out by the Bulgarians which revealed seven royal tombs from which the material was removed from Macedonia and taken to the Archeological Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria, where it is still located today.

 In 1919, Macedonia was occupied by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (Kingdom of S.H.S.), when part of the lake Ohrid shore with 22 Macedonian villages were transferred to Albania. In 1930-1934, Serbian archaeologist H.Vulić revealed six other royal graves in the same cemetery, and discovered 2 further golden masks, all of which were taken to the Serbian National Museum in Belgrade.

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/lychnidos-golden-masks-and-mercenaries/

 

 

A 680 g. golden mask discovered in August 2004 in a burial in the Svetitsa tumulus near Kazanlak, Bulgaria (4th c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/behind-the-golden-mask-seuthopolis-and-the-valley-of-the-thracian-kings/

 

 

Numerous examples of such human masks have also been found across western Europe. Mostly these are geographically, chronologically and contextually isolated finds of metal masks, such as the bronze masks from Tarbes in the Pyrenees, Blicquy in the Belgian province of Hainaut and Vieil-Evreux; two silver masks from Notre-Dame-d’Allençon, two bronze masks from the Compiègne forest, Garancières-en-Beauce, as well as a tin example from Bath, all belonging to the period of the 4th – 1st c. BC La Tène civilization.

The Deutschlandsberg mask is 14.7cm high and 11.3cm wide, and made from carefully cut, beaten and filed gold sheet metal. The face has round eyes with accentuated eyelids, a long, well-defined nose and tightly closed lips under which is a strongly defined chin. The arched eyebrows are marked out by numerous cuts running from the middle to the sides; the top of the mask is ornamented by small locks of hair.

 

 

The Balkan Celtic Golden Mask

(after Guštin 2009)

 

This mask was first published in 1998 in the exhibition catalogue of the Gebrüder Steffan Fund (Kelten 1998, 36) with the subtitle Ostkeltische Totenmaske aus Goldblech, and presented in the well-known exhibition dedicated to Celtic culture and heritage in Castello di Gorizia – published in its exhibition catalogue (Echi della Terra 2002, 87, fig. 86; see Guštin 2009).

 

 

The mask has holes which indicate that it was originally affixed to another object perhaps an organic or metal surface, for cult purposes – a practice known from the western Celtic sphere. In terms of artistic execution, it differs considerably from the earlier Balkan examples, and the style is similar to that to be observed on the Gundestrup Cauldron and other Celtic artifacts from the later Iron Age (Guštin, loc cit). Thus, it would appear that this is the last representative of a long Balkan tradition, and the use of such masks in funeral and cult practice in southeastern Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye, it also includes the inner pictures of the soul ”

(Edvard Munch)

 

 

 

With the defeat of Antigonus Monopthalmus and Demetrius Poliorcetes at Ipsus, vast territories were divided among the three victors…

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/32535241/METAMORPHOSIS_IN_GOLD_-_On_Posthumous_and_Celto-Scythian_Staters_of_the_Lysimachus_type_in_Crimea_and_the_Pontus_Region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Gauls, who had been left behind by their general Brennus, when he marched into Greece, to defend the borders of their country, armed fifteen thousand foot and three thousand horse (that they alone might not seem idle), and routed the forces of the Getae and Triballi…”.

(Justinus, Prol. XXV,1)

 

 

In the Sboryanovo Archaeological Reserve in northeastern Bulgaria are situated the remains of an ancient city which became the political and religious center of the powerful Thracian Getae tribe during the 4th century BC. The most spectacular of a number of ancient tombs at the site, which has been identified by Bulgarian archaeologists as “Dausdava” – The City of Wolves….

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/32172303/FALL_OF_THE_CITY_OF_WOLVES_A_Celtic_Chariot_Burial_from_Sboryanovo_in_n.e._Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four footed animals”.

Diodorus Siculus (on Celtic helmets) (History V.30.2)

 

 

 

While horned helmets among the Celtic tribes are well documented in artwork and coins from the period, actual archaeological confirmation of the existence of this particular type of helmet has been rare. Indeed, until now it was thought that the only known example from Iron Age Europe was the Waterloo Helmet found in the River Thames in London, which is ceremonial in nature and differs greatly from Celtic horned helmets depicted elsewhere.

 

Bronze ceremonial horned helmet with repoussé decoration in the La Tène style, discovered in the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge, London

(ca. 100 BC)

 

Bronze statue of a naked Celtic warrior with horned helmet and torc. Originally from northern Italy, and presently in the Antikensammlung (SMPK), Berlin

(3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

However, despite the belief that the Waterloo Helmet was the only example of such from Iron Age Europe, a further example is to be found in the bronze horned helmet discovered near the modern village of Bryastovets (Burgas region) in eastern Bulgaria.

 

The Bryastovetz Horned Helmet from Eastern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)

 (After Fol A., Fol V. (2008) The Thracians. Sofia; Fol, a former Communist minister, member of the Secret Police, and founder of the Institute of Thracology, incorrectly places the village of Bryastovets in the Targovischte region of northern Bulgaria (!) ) *

 

Location of  Bryastovetz

 

 

 

 

In the Balkan context Celtic warriors wearing such horned helmets also appear on two panels of the Gundestrup cauldron, which is believed to have been produced in northwestern Thrace in the late 2nd c. BC by the Scordisci tribes:

 

Scenes from the Gundestrup cauldron (plates C and E) depicting Celtic warriors wearing horned helmets

See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/the-gundestrup-ghosts-hidden-images-in-the-gundestrup-cauldron/

 

 

 The area of today’s eastern Bulgaria where the Bryastovetz helmet originates was located within the territory of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in the 3rd c. BC, and is rich in Celtic numismatic and archaeological material from this period. Celtic tribes are also recorded in this area of s-e Thrace in the 2nd century BC (Appianus, Syriaca 6.22), and it appears likely that the helmet originated from a Celtic warrior burial in the area, most probably an aristocratic burial associated with the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state of the 3rd c. BC.

 

 

Sadly, as with many Celtic artifacts from Bulgaria, although illustrations of this helmet have been published in a number of popular books on ‘Thracian Treasures’, it is not on display to the public, nor has it been made available for wider academic study. Officially, this unique Celtic treasure is now in the National Museum in Sofia under inv. # 3454. One can only hope that this is indeed the case…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*On Alexander Fol and ‘Thracology’ see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/legacy-of-lies-communism-nationalism-and-pseudoarchaeology-in-romania-and-bulgaria/

 

On the Celtic Tyle State see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/the-tyle-experiment/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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gaul-geno

 

 

“In numerous traditional accounts there has been a tendency to see the Romanisation of the Western provinces as ‘the light of civilisation’ reaching passive and previously barbarous indigenous societies. The emphasis was been on the supposedly positive aspects of the Roman conquest: the introduction of Latin, the spread of writing, the progressive expansion of stone architecture, the construction of villas with mosaics, and the erection of large-scale public works such as aqueducts or amphitheatres.

In fact, the subjugation of Gaul was an act of imperialist violence that brought about the death and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of people. Partial genocides like that of the Eburones, the tens of thousands who fell in battle, the massive sales of slaves through the southern markets, and the looting of numerous sanctuaries were acknowledged by the conquerors in their own accounts. Archaeological evidence now supports their testimony”.

 

 

Full Article, by Professor Nico Roymans of the Vrije University of Amsterdam, and Dr Manuel Fernández-Götz, University of Edinburgh.

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/12866878/Fire_and_Sword._The_archaeology_of_Caesar_s_Gallic_War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ba-danub

 

The Roman Limes on the Lower Danube – a sophisticated and highly developed defensive and communication network which bears testimony to the magnificent planning and organizational skills of Imperial Rome.

 

Or was it?

 

In fact, recent archaeological research in the Lower Danubian region (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania) clearly indicates that this system was not developed by Rome, but adopted from a previously established Iron Age network…

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/31354293/THE_BARBARIAN_DANUBE_-_On_Celtic_Settlements_and_Fortifications_on_the_Lower_Danube

 

 

conf-e-croatia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

brit-ill

While the first European (non-classical) coinage appears in southeastern Europe in the late 4th century BC with the development and evolution of Celtic issues based on Hellenistic prototypes, it is not until relatively late –  mid. 2nd c. BC – that the first coinage emerges in Britain. The earliest coins recorded in southern England are known as the Gallo-Belgic A type, and the first examples were actually minted in the area of today’s Belgium or northern Gaul, crossing the channel via trade between the Celtic tribes in this area and those in southern England….
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FULL ARTICLE:
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gall-ill
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coin-ill

 

Discovered by accident on a rocky ridge on the southern slopes of the Ruy mountain near the village of Turokovski (Tran area, Pernik region), in western Bulgaria, the Turokovski Hoard represents the latest in a large number of ancient Plunder hoards discovered on the territory of today’s Bulgaria, relating to raids by the Celtic Scordisci federation and allied Free Thracian tribes on Roman territory during the late 2nd and 1st century BC.

 

turok

The Turokovski area where the hoard was discovered

 

The Turokovski treasure consisted of a large hoard ofMacedonian” tetradrachms produced by the Romans after the region fell under Roman rule, specifically First Region /Meris/ (ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ / ΠΡΟΤΗΣ) coinage, depicting a Macedonian shield ornamented with stars in double crescents & grouped dots between; draped bust of Artemis right, / MAKEΔONΩN ΠΡΩTHΣ above & below horizontal club, all in oak wreath, thunderbolt outside wreath to left.  

mak-coin-hoard

                           Tetradrachms from the Turokovski Hoard

After: Пayнов E., Прокопов  И. (2006) Едно разпиляно монетно съкровище от Трънско – опит за реконструк-ция и датиране. In: Известия на Регионален исторически музей Перник ІІ(5-и регионални археологически четения, Перник’ февруари 2006)

 

When discovered, the hoard was split into two parts, totaling 199 coins, placed in two similar gray pottery jugs, and deposited close to each other; the vessels contained respectively 89 and 110 tetradrachms. Unfortunately, as with so many such ancient hoards in Bulgaria, the majority of the coins were stolen and dispersed shortly after discovery*. 71 examples were subsequently rescued and recorded, allowing the Turokovtsi hoard to be dated to ca. 120/119 BC.

The aforementioned dating of the hoard, and its discovery in an area of Thrace which at this time was controlled by the Celtic Scordisci and the Free Thracian Tribes (notably the Dantheleti and Maedi), has also enabled experts to conclude that this, as with many other such hoards of Roman coinage discovered in Thrace dating to this period, reached the region as a result of barbarian raids on Roman Macedonia (Prokopov, Paunov, op. cit.).

Celtic presence in the Pernik region during this period, which should be attributed to the Serdi branch of the Scordisci, has been confirmed by the identification of Celtic settlements such as Magaris, Magimias and Loukonanta (the Valley of Lugh), all in the Tran district where Turokovtsi is situated, as well as extensive archaeological data (Duridanov 1997:135; Mac Congail 2008:39; Falilevev 2009:281).

 

ram

Celtic zoomorphic Ram figurine/attachment from a cult fire-pot – Breznik, (Pernik region) (2/1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/serdiserdica/

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/aes-mac.jpg?w=640

Roman First Macedonian Region and Aesillas issues from the numismatic collection of the Kyustendil Regional Museum, Western Bulgaria 

(After Filipova S., Ilya Prokopov I., Paunov E. The Numismatic Collection of the Regional Historical Museum at Kyustendil (Ancient Ulpia Pautalia) Part 1: Greek, Thracian, Macedonian, Roman Republican and Roman Provincial Coins. (CCCHBulg) Volume II. Sofia 2009)

 

In the area of Bulgaria in question further such Plunder Hoards, notably those issued by the Roman quaestor Aesillas, include examples found in the villages of Zhabokrut and Krumovo (Kyustendil region, Western Bulgaria), and near the village of Chepino, Pernik region (IGCH 646). Tetradrachm hoards of the First Macedonian Region have been found in the village of Skrino, Kyustendil region, in the village of Kralev Dol, Pernik region (IGCH 894), in the village of Studena, Pernik region as well as that from the village of Turokovtsi outlined above.

 

 

Analysis of the coinage from the Turokovtsi hoard indicates that the tetradrachms had been minted only a short time before being looted by the Celts, and transferred to Thrace where they were subsequently buried. This would logically relate the treasure to raids on Roman territory by the Scordisci who by 119 BC had advanced all the way to the Aegean coast where the governor Pompeius was killed during an attack on Argos, before the Celts were finally repelled by a Roman force commanded by Quaestor Marcus Annius, who also succeeded in repulsing an further attack soon afterwards by the Scordisci, in alliance with the Thracian Maedi tribe (SIG 700 Sherk 1 48 R.K. Sherk Rome and the Greek East to the Death of Agustus (1993); CAH 9’32 = Cambridge Ancient History 2nd Edition 1984 -1989).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*On the systematic theft of Ancient Coins from Bulgaria see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/little-metal-men-a-statistical-analysis-of-cultural-vandalism/

On Celtic “Plunder Hoards” from Thrace see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/the-currency-of-plunder/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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b-claw-warrior

 

 

“…the Gauls on the Danube who are called Bastarnae, an equestrian host and warlike”.

(Plut. Aem. 9.6)

 

 

 

Discovered by locals in 2011 near the village of Mana (Orhei district) in Moldova, and subsequently investigated by archaeologists, the Mana III burial represents a unique archaeological find from this part of Moldova and provides invaluable information on the Celtic/Celto-Scythian population which inhabited this part of Europe in the immediate pre-Roman period.

 

location

Location of Mana

 

 

 

The cremated remains of the deceased had been placed in a bronze vessel, and subsequent forensic analysis of the remains from the burial pit (58×63 cm; depth 78 cm) established that the body was that of a boy warrior, aged between 14-16 years old. During the cremation process the body had been subjected to temperatures reaching 900 degrees C.

 

burning

(Illustrations after Tentiuc I., Bubulici V., Simalcsik A. (2015) A cremation burial of a horseman near the village of Mana (the Orhei district) (Un mormânt de incineraţie al unui călăreţ războinic descoperit lângă satul Mana (Orhei). In: Tyragetia. Archeologie Istorie Antică, Vol. IX [XXIV] nr. , pp. 221-248. Chişnău 2015)

 

 

 

“… to the Maeotic Lake on the east, where it bordered on Pontic Scythia, and that from that point on Gauls and Scythians were mingled”.

(Plut. Marius: 11: 4—5)

 

 

Besides the aforementioned bronze situla in which the cremated remains were placed, burial goods in the pit included a ceramic bowl of a type specific to the so-called Poieneşti-Lucaşeuca culture associated with the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae tribes, an iron spiral bracelet and military equipment consisting of a La Tène iron sword/scabbard, spearhead, shield umbo and spurs. Noteworthy is the fact that the La Tène weapons were all ritually ‘killed’, i.e. bent or otherwise deliberately deformed in the well documented Celtic fashion, indicating that although the Bastarnae tribes had become a complex mix of Celtic and Scythian cultures by the late Iron Age, their material culture and religious rites remained strongly Celtic in nature (Tentiuc et al 2015).

 

spearh

Ritually killed spearhead from the Mana III burial

 

sword

Iron Sword from the Mana III Burial

 

 

 

 

The Bear Claw Cloak

 

According to forensic evidence, the boy warrior had been dressed in a bear hide worn as a cloak which was also incinerated during the subsequent cremation process. This was confirmed by the presence of ten bones among the remains which have been identified, taxonomically and anatomically, as distal/terminal phalanges (corresponding to claw) of a mature bear – Ursus arctos. The presence of only two claws indicates that the bear hide had been used as a cloak (loc cit).

 

bear

Cremated remains of the Bear Claws from the Mana Burial

 

 

 

 

‘…the Bastarnæ, the bravest nation of all’.
(Appianus, Mithridatic Wars 10:69)

 

Although the exact circumstances in which the boy warrior from Mana met his fate will probably never be known, the chronological context in which he was buried (first half of the first century BC) suggests a number of possibilities. During the Mithridatic Wars the Balkan Celts and Bastarnae supported the Pontic leader against Rome (App. Mith.: 69, 111; Justin. 38: 3, Memn. 27: 7; McGing 1986: 61; see Choref, Mac Gonagle 2015). At the Battle of Chalcedon, for example, the Bastarnae dealt a severe blow to the Romans – “In the land battle the Bastarnae routed the Italians, and slaughtered them” (App. Mith. 71; Memn. 27:7), and the Celto-Scythian tribes remained loyal to Mithridates until his final defeat in 63 BC.

Even after the end of the Mithridatic Wars, the Balkan Celts and Bastarnae continued to resist Roman expansion on the Lower Danube and Pontic region. In 61 BC a “barbarian” coalition, led by the Bastarnae, dealt a spectacular defeat to the Roman army of Gaius Antonius Hybrida (“the Monster”) at the Battle of Histria (Choref, Mac Gonagle op cit.). Besides the conflict with Rome, there exists the possibility that the Mana warrior fell defending his people against the Thracian Getae tribe who, under their leader Burebista, launched a genocidal campaign against their neighbors (Celtic, Greek and Bastarnae) towards the mid 1st century BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Bastarnae see also Choref/Mac Gonagle 2015:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/celto-scythians-and-celticization-in-ukraine-and-the-north-pontic-region/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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