Category: Archaeology


 

csepel-1

 

Fascinating study by Attila Horváth of the Budapest History Museum on the question of the transition period in Celtic burial rites, based on data from the complex at Csepel Island, Budapest:

 

https://www.academia.edu/30399043/HORV%C3%81TH_M._A._Problems_about_the_Change_of_Periods_and_Rites_in_the_La_T%C3%A8ne_Cemetery_on_Csepel_Island_Budapest_._In_S._Berecki_ed._Iron_Age_chronology_in_the_Carpathian_Basin._Proceedings_of_the_international_colloquium_from_T%C3%A2rgu_Mure%C5%9F_8-10._October_2015._Cluj-Napoca_2016_141-163

 

 

csepel-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

fb-zar-illust

 

“Who can I recite my work to here, but yellow-haired Coralli, and the other tribes of the barbarous Danube?” 
 
(Ovid, Ex Ponto. Book EIV.II To Cornelius Severus: A Fellow Poet)
.
The Hill of Zaravets (Tsaravets) overlooks the town of Veliko Tarnovo in today‟s northeastern Bulgaria. Situated on the strategically important Jantra river which links it to the Danube, Zaravetz is best known…
.
FULL ARTICLE:

 

map-m-z

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

new-bridge-chariot

 

The first Celtic chariot burial to be found in Scotland…

 

FULL ARTICLE  by Carter, Hunter et al in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society:

https://www.academia.edu/30029581/A_5th_century_BC_Iron_Age_chariot_burial_from_Newbridge_Edinburgh

 

new-1

 

charge

 

“The cruelest of all the Thracians were the Scordisci…”.

(Florus, Epitome XXXVIIII (The Thracian War) III. 4)

 

 

 

Towards the end of the 2nd century BC relentless attacks from the north by the Celtic Scordisci and the Free Thracian tribes, notably the Maidi (the tribe of Spartacus) and Denteletes, threatened to overrun the Roman province of Macedonia. By 115 BC the situation had become so chronic that Quintus Fabius Maximus Eburnus, who had been consul in 116 BC, was sent to Macedonia. Eburnus was renowned as a strict authoritarian figure who had sentenced his own son to death for ‘immorality’, and it appears that it was he who drew up the plans for the eradication of the ‘barbarian’ threat and the Roman conquest of Thrace (Valerius Maximus 6.1.5–6; Pseudo-Quintilian, Decl. 3.17; Orosius 5.16.8).

As part of this strategy a Roman fortress was established at the old Hellenistic settlement of Heraclea Sintica (at today’s Rupite near Petritch in s.w. Bulgaria) under a commander called Lucullus. This garrison was situated in the strategic Struma river valley, the only practical route for a large military force to move into western Thrace. The culmination of the Roman strategy was the invasion of Thrace in 114 BC by a Roman army led by the Consul Gaius Porcius Cato.

 

 

denarius-of-the-consul-gaius-porcius-cato-who-led-the-first-major-roman-invasion-of-thrace-in-114-bc

Silver denarius of the consul Gaius Porcius Cato, who led the first major Roman invasion of Thrace in 114 BC.

 

rup-location

Location of Heraclea Sintica/Rupite

 

terracotta-mask-a-fragment-of-a-terracotta-figurine

Roman Terracotta mask from Heraclea Sintica

 

 

The events of 114 BC were to prove catastrophic for Rome. As mentioned, a Roman fortress had been established on the upper Struma River at Heraclea Sintica, and two cohorts of Roman soldiers were stationed there under a commander called Lucullus (Front. Strat. 3,10,7). This fortress was on the border of, or even possibly within, the territory of the Celtic tribes in Thrace, and appears to have been intended as a staging post for further Roman expansion northwards.

 

ruins-wide

 

ruins

Ruins of the Roman Settlement at Heraclea Sintica

 

missile

Roman stone projectile, (7.5 kg in weight), discovered at Heraclea Sintica

 

 

 

In 114 BC the army of Gaius Porcius Cato marched along the Struma river valley into Thrace (Liv. Per. 63′a; Flor. 1.39, 1-4; Dio Cass fr. 88’1; Eutrop. 4.24.1; Amm. Marc. 27.4.4). The purpose of Cato’s campaign appears to have been twofold – to eradicate the threat of the Celtic and Free Thracian tribes to Roman Macedonia, and to expand the empires power into the territory of today’s western/southern Bulgaria.

 

 

rhodope

The western Rhodope mountains

 

 

This heavily afforested and mountainous area of the western Rhodope mountains is ill suited for the conventional military tactics of a Roman army, but perfect terrain for the surprise attacks and ambush tactics used by the Balkan Celts in this period. It would appear that the Roman consul completely underestimated the situation both in terms of the terrain, and the military potential of his enemy. Instead of expanding Roman power into the central Balkans, the invading Roman army was wiped out, and the Celts counterattacked.

 

 

montana

Material from the burial of a Scordisci Cavalry Officer at Montana (N.W. Bulgaria)

(RGZM – Inv. # 0.42301/01-08; late 2nd / 1st c. BC)

 

https://www.academia.edu/26277623/A_CELTIC_SCORDISCI_CAVALRY_OFFICER_FROM_MONTANA_BULGARIA_

 

 

 

 

THE BATTLE OF HERACLEA SINTICA

 

After the destruction of Cato’s army the Scordisci advanced along the Struma river towards the Roman garrison at Heraclea Sintica. In light of the fact that a large Roman army had just invaded Thrace, it appears that the last thing the garrison was expecting was a Celtic attack. The subsequent events are described by the Roman historian Frontinius (40 – 103 AD) in his work Strategemata (3,19,7):

“Scordisci equites, cum Heracleae diversarum partium praesidio praepositus esset Lucullus, pecora abigere simulantes provocaverunt eruptionem; fugam deinde mentiti sequentem Lucullum in insidias deduxerunt et octingentos cum eo milites occiderunt”.

Thus, the attack on the Roman fortress at Heraclea was marked, not by the headlong barbarian charge often associated with the Celts, but by a much more subtle and successful tactic. A small group of Celtic horsemen were first dispatched and, pretending to drive off the livestock, provoked Lucullus into a fatal error. No sooner had the Roman force emerged from their defenses to hunt down the ‘barbarians’, than the main body of the Celtic cavalry charged out of the forest. What followed was less a battle than a massacre, in the aftermath of which the Roman commander and 800 of his soldiers lay dead.

 

In a series of devastating attacks, the Thracian Celts had brought Roman expansion on the Balkans to a brutal halt…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/nutirces-toulon-sur-allier-auvergne-mould-gallo-roman-period.jpg?w=775&h=657

 

In a world where the average woman was not expected to live beyond her 20’s, and death in childbirth was common, it is little wonder that one of the most widespread cults in the Celtic (and Romano-Celtic) world was that of the Nutrices – the protectors of maternity and motherhood.

 

In Britannia and Gaul the Nutrices/Matres are often represented in a triad on votive reliefs such as those from Circencester (Gloucestershire) where the central Goddess is holding the baby in her arms, or Vertault (Côte d’Or) where 3 nursing Goddesses are depicted.

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/gorresb.jpg?w=640

The Aufanian Matronae (detail) from the Gallo-Roman temple site at Görresburg, Nettersheim

(Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn)

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/circen-vertault.jpg?w=640

Above Left: Terracotta relief of the Matres from the Gallo-Roman settlement of Vertillum (Vertault, Côte d’Or).

(Museum of Châtillon-sur-Seine)

Above Right: Depiction of the Nursing Mother Goddesses from Cirencester, England. (Corinium Museum, Cirencester)

 

mothers

Hoard of silver jewelry from Backworth (Tyne & Wear), England ( 1-2 c. AD). The silver pan, which was probably the container for most of the objects, has a  decorated handle with a gold-inlaid inscription in Latin MATR.FAB DVBIT – a gift from Fabius Dubitatus to the Celtic Matres

 

 

 

Other depictions of the Nutrices are found on white terracotta figurines discovered across Europe, depicting seated Matres wearing a diadem and long garments, feeding 1 or 2 infants at their breast. The Celtic Nutrices should also be related to the Roman Dea Nutrix, who was venerated especially in North Africa, either alone, or together with Saturnus, and is also represented breast-feeding babies, or as protector of children.

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/auxr.jpg?w=640

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

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/a-statuettes-of-the-matres-morlanwelz-hainaut-belgium.jpg?w=640

Statuettes of the Matres from Morlanwelz (Hainaut), Belgium

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/nutirces-toulon-sur-allier-auvergne-mould-gallo-roman-period.jpg?w=775&h=657

Mould for the production of statuettes of the Matres from Toulon-sur-Allier (Auvergne), France

 

 

 

On the Balkans, the largest center dedicated to the Nutrices was that at Poetovio in Pannonia (Ptuj, eastern Slovenia), where 2 sanctuaries and numerous inscriptions have been discovered. In Poetovio the Nutrices are always venerated in the plural form and, as in the case of sites such as Cirencester (Britannia) and Vertault (Gaul), are often portrayed as a triad.

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/ptv.jpg?w=640

Representation of the Nutrices from Poetovio

(LIMC, vol. 6.2, p. 620, n°4)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/between-birth-and-death-celtic-graffiti/

 

 

Noteworthy is the fact that, although dating to the Roman period, a significant number of dedicators to the Nutrices/Matres at Poetovio and other such sites still bear Celtic names (Šašel Kos 1999). This fact, and the use of a separate Celtic alphabet/script in this region as late as the 3rd c. AD, indicates a remarkable continuity of native religious and cultural tradition throughout the Roman period.

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/roman-period-altar-dedicated-to-the-celtic-matres-from-duratc3b3n-segovia-spain-1st-2nd-century-the-invocation-matribus-termegiste-to-the-three-almighty-mothers-alludes-to-the-typica.jpg?w=640

TO THE 3 ALMIGHTY MOTHERS

Roman period altar dedicated to the Celtic Matres from Duratón (Segovia), Spain (1st-2nd century). The invocation Matribus Termegiste (To the Three Almighty Mothers) alludes to the typical Celtic trinity concept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tur

 

“……He was their god, the wizened Bent One with many glooms;

the people who believed in him over every harbour, the eternal Kingdom shall not be theirs.

For him ingloriously they slew their wretched firstborn with much weeping

and distress, to pour out their blood around the Bent One of the hill”.

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

 

https://www.academia.edu/29430953/SAMHAIN_Some_Reflections_on_the_Celtic_Origins_of_Halloween

 

 

 

 

kilclug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

horn-cap-details-detail-x-colchester-essex

 

The enigmatic bronze objects known as ‘Horn Caps’ were produced exclusively by the Celtic tribes in England and Wales during the mid-late Iron Age (ca. 300 – 43 BC). Despite various theories defining them as ceremonial staff-heads, a finial for ceremonial seats or chariot elements (although no examples have ever been discovered in chariot burials), the exact purpose of such objects remains unclear…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/29157809/OF_SWANS_AND_SWASTIKAS_A_Celtic_Horn_Cap_with_Zoomorphic_Swastika_Decoration_from_Essex_England

 

 

 

wandsworth

 

 

 

 

thasos-x

 

“For many years it was considered that Thasian imitations were a product of the Thracian tribes… In my opinion, the Thasian imitations coinage and its use are closely associated with a population who arrived and settled later within the Balkan territory. In fact, the east Celts had played a significant role in the regional history since the 270s BC. There are good reasons to believe that the imitations of Thasos tetradrachms had an ‘international’ nature and featured interactions and activities of a culture dominated by the east Celts”…

 

FULL ARTICLE by Dr. Ilya Pokopov,  President of the Bulgarian Museum Association and Bulgarian Numismatic Association:

 

https://www.academia.edu/1287658/The_imitations_of_Late_Thasian_Tetradrachms_Chronology_classification_and_dating

 

 

 

thasos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Once again brings into focus the question of Celtic ethnic presence in Thrace during the last three centuries of the first millennium BC”.

 

FULL ARTICLE: by Dr. Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/28526681/Late_La_Tene_Pottery_Kiln

 

 

kiln-illust-x-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

mai-illust-new

 

 

 

 

Some of the finest examples of Iron Age European art are to be found on Celtic scabbards of the middle/late La Têne period – fantastic compositions born of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and geometric motifs, or a combination thereof.

 

 

scabb-2

Detail of scabbard with Triskele decoration, from a Celtic burial at Novajidrány-Sárvár, Hungary. The triskele is a particularly common motif on Celtic scabbards and other protective military equipment.

(3rd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/11899946/An_Tr%C3%ADbh%C3%ADs_Mh%C3%B2r_-_On_The_Triskelion_in_Iron_Age_Celtic_Culture

 

 

srednica-n

Scabbard with Triskele decoration from a Celtic warrior burial at Srednica (Ptuj), Slovenia

(Late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/a-celtic-warrior-burial-from-srednica-northeastern-slovenia/

 

fork-edited-good

Geometric and Anthropomorphic decoration on scabbards from a Celtic hoard discovered at Förker Laas Riegel (Carinthia), Austria.

(3rd c. BC)

 

bronze-front-plate-of-scabbard-antrimskerrylisnacroghera-bog-c-250-bc-incised-symmetrical-curvilinear-decoration-representing-the-later-stages-of-irish-sword-styleantrim-scabb

Bronze front plate of a Celtic scabbard with incised symmetrical curvilinear decoration, discovered in Lisnacroghera Bog (Antrim), Ireland

(ca. 250 BC)

 

 

 

Celtic art draws its inspiration from all aspects of the natural world, and the artistic compositions on middle-late La Têne scabbards are no exception, with creatures of all kinds, both real and imaginary, appearing in the decoration of such scabbards.

 

a-frg-1

a-frg-2

Fantastic aquatic/serpentine creatures depicted in the decorative composition of a Celtic scabbard from Cernon-sur-Coole (Marne), France

(ca. 280 BC)

 

 

 

Beasts portrayed on Celtic scabbards range from highly stylized examples, such as those which appear on Dragon-Pair scabbards, to comparatively naturalistic portrayals.

 

 

chens-sur-leman-haute-savoie-lt-4th-early-3rd-c-bc-scabbard-detail

Celtic scabbard with dragon-pair motif from a Celtic warrior burial at Chens-sur-Léman in eastern France

(Late 4th/early 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/brotherhood-of-the-dragon-celtic-dragon-pair-scabbards/

 

 

fork-scabbard-4-c-bc

Geometric/zoomorphic composition on a Celtic scabbard from the Förker Laas Riegel hoard

 

 

 

 

 

A particularly interesting example of the diversity of creatures used to decorate Celtic scabbards of this period is a bronze sword scabbard mount discovered in Lincolnshire, England, the zoomorphic decoration on which bears a striking resemblance to a horse-fly complete with large protruding eyes and proboscis…

 

 

horse-fly-3

horse-fly-1

The Lincolnshire bronze scabbard mount (3 c. BC)

(Illustrations thanks to Adam and Lisa Grace)

 

horse-fly

Head of a Horse-Fly (Tabanus Atratus)

 

 

 

 

Postcards From The Past…

 

Celtic art functions on a number of levels (often simultaneously), merging reality, the subconscious and the absurd. While the modern mind may never fully comprehend the exact messages being conveyed, the artistic symphonies portrayed on Celtic scabbards provide a unique glimpse into the framework of religious and cultural values which motivated the Iron Age European population.

 

 

iron-la-tene-2-c-bc

Trio of dancing deer in the artistic composition on a Celtic scabbard from La Tène, Switzerland

(2 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail