Fascinating article by Andrej Gaspari, University of Ljubljana, on the ritual deposition of Celtic weapons in the Ljubljanica River:
Fascinating article by Andrej Gaspari, University of Ljubljana, on the ritual deposition of Celtic weapons in the Ljubljanica River:
Discovered in Perthshire, Scotland in the 19th century the magnificent Breadalbane Brooch is an intricately designed, silver-gilt dress fastener that is closely related to a select group of brooches that were produced during the ‘golden age’ of late Celtic art…
From the beginning of the 3rd century BC the territory of modern Ukraine, previously defined by the Scythians of the North Pontic steppes and Hellenistic influences from the Black Sea zone, was supplemented by the Celtic culture from the west. The influence of the latter in western Ukraine is testified to by extensive archaeological evidence which indicates the classic pattern of Celtic migration/settlement….
FULL ARTICLE :
One of the most fascinating aspects of Iron Age European society is the deposition of weapons and other artifacts in various ritual contexts. This is particularly true of spearheads which have been found in Celtic burials and religious sites across the continent. In fact, such ritual deposition can be traced back to the European Bronze Age, with numerous examples recorded from across the continent.
Socketed spearhead with rapier-shaped blade deposited in the River Thames at Taplow (Buckinghamshire), England. (Dated ca. 1,200 BC)
(See also Gibson G. (2013) Beakers Into Bronze: Tracing Connections Between Western Iberia And The British Isles 2800-800. In: Celtic From The West 2. Oxford 2013. pp. 71-100)
Celtic spearheads discovered in the River Sava between Slavonski Šamac, Croatia and Šamac, Republika Srpska/Bosnia and Herzegovina (2/1 c. BC)
On Celtic material from the Sava River see also:
Another phenomenon frequently associated with such deposition is the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ – the deliberate breaking or bending of objects before deposition. While this custom is to be observed throughout the European Bronze and Iron Ages, its exact significance remains unclear, as does the question of why some objects are ‘killed’ while others in the same context are deposited intact.
Ritually ‘killed’ spearhead and other artifacts from the burial of a Celtic (Scordisci) cavalry officer at Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia (1 c. BC)
Ritually deformed iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain (5/4 c. BC)
On ‘Killing The Objects’:
In terms of weaponry, although all manner of Celtic military equipment is found in such ritual contexts most common are spearheads registered in numerous Iron Age Celtic warrior burials across Europe.
Ritually ‘killed’ sword/scabbard and spearheads in a Celtic warrior burial (LT 96) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)
A fascinating phenomenon to be observed among the Balkan Celts in the later Iron Age, i.e. the period of the Scordisci Wars against Rome, is the custom of ‘stabbing’ spears into the warrior burials. The main assault weapon of the Balkan Celtic warrior, numerous cases of spears being stabbed into burials in this distinctive fashion have been recorded throughout the region, particularly among the Scordisci tribes in eastern Croatia, southwestern Romania, Serbia and northern Bulgaria.
Spearhead ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (LT 48) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)
Celtic spear ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (#11) at Karaburma (Belgrade), Serbia (1st c. BC)
The spear treated in this fashion from burial #11 at Karaburma is of a very specific Balkan Celtic type (Drnić type 3), dating to the 1st century BC, with two grooves on both sides of the blade. Examples of such have been discovered in Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials stretching from Slavonski Šamac and Otok near Vinkovci in eastern Croatia (Map #1,2), through Serbia and southwestern Romania to Borovan and Tarnava in northwestern Bulgaria (Map # 11,12)*.
Distribution of recorded finds of Balkan Celtic Type 3 spearheads in eastern Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria (1st century BC)
On Celtic weapons from northwestern Bulgaria see also:
*Celtic / La Têne material within the modern borders of Bulgaria and Romania is still attributed by many Thracologists to the ‘Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii group’ – a pseudo-culture invented by communist scientists in the 1970’s as part of the Protochronism process.
While the production of glass jewelry had been a feature of Celtic culture since the Bronze Age, from a technological and artistic perspective the middle La Tène period, specifically from the 3rd century BC onwards, marked a revolution in European glass production. High quality glass jewelry, particularly bracelets, which has been found at all the better investigated Celtic sites of the middle and late La Tène period, displays a wide typological variety hitherto unseen in Europe.
Archaeological evidence clearly indicates that during this period Celtic glassmakers mastered to perfection not only the skill of creating ready-made products, but also how to control the chemical composition of the raw material in order to achieve the optimum quality, transparency and colour (Karwowski 2012).
Fragments of glass bracelets from the Celtic settlement at Erkelenz-Westfalen (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Germany (3-1 century BC)
(After Karwowski 2012)
While evidence of glass production has been discovered at a large number of sites, it is interesting to note that the vast majority of these are not oppida, but large settlements of an open character dating to the middle La Tène period, i.e. date to the period before the oppida emerged. Notable examples of such include Nìmèice in Moravia (Venclová 2006, Venclová et al 2009), Etzersdorf in Lower Austria (Karwowski 2004, 46), Egglfing in Bavaria (Uenze 2000, 17–20), the settlement complex at Dürrnberg in Salzburg (Brand 2002, 110–113), and the open settlement on the site where the oppidum at Manching in Bavaria later emerged (Gebhard 1989).
Bracelets of light green glass from Celtic burials at Palárikovo and Maòa, Slovakia (3/2 c. BC)
(After Karwowski 2012)
Fragments of glass bracelets from the Celtic settlement at Pelczyska, southern Poland (2-1 c. BC)
Probably the most exquisite example of such Middle La Tène arm rings are the “Érsekújvár” type, produced by the Eastern Celts. Such bracelets are of high quality blue glass with white opaque glass used to further highlight the relief; the composition, based on triangular/rhomboid forms with zig-zag/spiral decoration, thus creating the impression of human eyes.
Érsekújvár type bracelet from Komját/Komjatice (Nitra Region), Slovakia
(after Karwowski M., Prohászka P. 2014)
Bracelets of the Érsekújvár type were popular among all the eastern Celtic tribes. Besides Hungary and Slovakia, where the most intense concentration of such arm rings has been registered, examples have been found in Celtic settlements and burials in eastern Austria, the Czech Republic and southern Poland, as well as among the Balkan Celts, notably the Scordisci. The easternmost example yet recorded was discovered during excavations at the Greek colony of Tyras – today’s Bilhorod-Dnistrowskyj in the Odessa region of Ukraine (Karwowski, Prohászka 2014).
Érsekújvár type bracelet from an unspecified location in Hungary (Hungarian National Museum)
(After Karwowski M., Prohászka P. (2014)
Mac Congail / Krusseva
Brand C. (2002) Graphitton und Glas: Studien zur keltischen Keramik- und Armringproduktion vor dem Hintergrund Dürrnberger Siedlungsfunde. In: Claus Dobiat/Susanne Sievers/Thomas Stöllner (Hrsg.), Dürrnberg und Manching. Wirtschaftsarchäologie im ostkeltischen Raum. Kolloquien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte 7 (Bonn 2002) 107–116.
Gebhard R. (1989) Der Glasschmuck aus dem Oppidum von Manching. Ausgr. Manching 11 (Stuttgart 1989).
Karwowski M. (2012) Die Glastechnik und ihre Entwicklung in der Latène-Kultur – fremder Einfluss oder eigene Kreativität?. In: Technologieentwicklung und –transfer in der Hallstatt- und Latènezeit. Beiträge zur Internationalen Tagung der AG Eisenzeit und des Naturhistorischen Museums Wien, Prähistorische Abteilung – Hallstatt 2009. pp. 243 – 252
Karwowski M., Prohászka P. (2014). Der mittellatènezeitliche Glasarmring von Komjatice/Komját. BemerkunGen zu Den Keltischen armringen Der Form „Érsekújvár” AAC 49: 231–248.
Uenze H. P. (2000) Die jüngerlatènezeitliche Siedlung von Egglfing. Bayerische Vorgeschichtsbl. 65, 2000, 1–38.
Venclová N. (2006) Le verre celtique de Nemcice nad Hanou. In: V. Kruta (Hrsg.), Les Celtes en Bohême, en Moravie et dans le nord de la Gaule. Dossiers d’Arch. 313, 2006, 50–55.
Venclová et al. (2008) Venclová N., Drda P., Michálek J., Vokolek V., Výrobní areály a activity. In: N. Venclová (Hrsg.), Archeologie pravìkých Èech 7 – Doba laténská (Praha 2008) 53–82.
The Kale (Turkish for fortification) at Krševica near Bujanovac in southern Serbia is situated at a strategic location where the slopes of the Rujen mountain descend towards the Vranje basin and Južna Morava valley. This exceptional strategic position had been used in the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages, but the Hellenistic settlement with acropolis was established at the turn of the 5/4 century BC. Finds of coins of Philip II, Alexander III, Cassander, and Demetrios Poliorketes correspond in general to the chronological span of the Hellenistic settlement which was the northernmost Ancient Macedonian city, and has been identified with the ancient city of Damastium, mentioned in classical sources (Popović P. 2006).
Location of Krševica
The Acropolis at Krševica – Central plateau with complex of buildings
(Illustrations after Popović 2006 = Popović P. (2006) Central Balkans Between the Greek and Celtic World: Case Study Kale-Krševica. In: In Homage to Milutin Garašanin. SASA Special Editions. Belgrade 2006. P 523-536)
Extensive archaeological excavations at the Krševica site have revealed a unique site in the Južna Morava valley where the significant remains of two civilizations – Greek and Celtic – have been encountered. The most massive layers with buildings, ramparts and other structures, as well as abundant finds of imported and local pottery made after Greek prototypes, date from the 4th and early 3rd century BC.
Suburbium, platform with ramparts and buildings at Krševica
Hellenistic Ceramic from Krševica – 4th / early 3rd century BC
With the Celtic expansion into the central Balkans during the late 4th /early 3rd century BC, and the resulting collapse of the Macedonian state, the settlement at Krševica fell under Celtic control (Popović 2006, Mac Gonagle 2015). Archaeological evidence from the site indicates that this transition was a relatively peaceful one, and no significant economic or social disruption is to be observed.
On the Celtic Conquest of the Central and Eastern Balkans see:
La Tène Ceramic from the Celtic/Scordisci layers at Krševica (2/1 century BC)
A considerable amount of the ceramic consists of vessels characteristic of the late La Tène production from the territory of the Celtic Scordisci tribes. Besides standard forms, like ‘S’ shaped bowls, pseudo-kantharoi etc., excavations also uncovered vessels traditionally referred to by Bulgarian and Romanian archaeologists as ‘Thracian-Dacian types of cups’ (bottom left above), which are actually Celtic lamps (Vagalinski 2011:204).
Excavation of one of the Celtic ritual pits at Krševica
La Tène ceramic from one of the ‘ritual’ pits at Krševica
The pits were of cult character and according to the main characteristics of the finds they date from the final decades of the second and the beginning of the first century BC.
With the gradual Roman expansion into this region during the late 2nd / 1st century BC, and the resulting war of resistance by the local tribes, Krševica became of particular strategic importance. During this brutal conflict, the fortress was used by the Scordisci Federation, in conjunction with other members of the ‘barbarian coalition’, including the Free Thracian tribes and Dardanians, as a staging-post for frequent attacks/raids on Roman occupied territory to the south. This final phase ended with the defeat of the anti-Roman coalition led by the Scordisci towards the end of the 1st century BC, and the subsequent consolidation of Rome’s control in the area.
On the Scordisci Wars see also:
Feasting played a central role in Iron Age European society, as attested to in numerous classical sources, and by extensive archaeological evidence. Such tribal feasts appear to have had a socio-religious significance but, in true Celtic fashion, often developed into quite ‘energetic ’ affairs:
“And it is their custom, even during the course of the meal, to seize upon any trivial matter as an occasion for keen disputation and then to challenge one another to single combat, without any regard for their lives; for the belief of Pythagoras prevails among them, that the souls of men are immortal and that after a prescribed number of years they commence upon a new life, the soul entering into another body”.
(Diodorus V.28:5-6; see also Poseidonius (cited in Ath. 4:36)
Probably the most iconic objects associated with these feasts are lavishly decorated ceremonial ‘buckets’, which were used to serve alcoholic beverages in large quantities. Many of these vessels are exquisite works of art in themselves, indicating that they represented objects of high social prestige within the tribe.
Lavishly decorated yew stave ‘bucket’ from Goeblingen-Nospelt, Luxembourg (1st century BC)
Goeblingen-Nospelt grave B produced the sheet bronze coverings for 2 four-footed wooden stave buckets. One bears a geometric design while the other has a typically late Celtic curvilinear pattern (see Megaw M.R. and J.V.S. (2001) Celtic Art from its Beginnings to the Book of Kells. Thames and Hudson. pp. 184-187, fig. 315).
The most spectacular examples of such buckets come from the area of northern Gaul, coinciding chronologically and geographically with the area of circulation of Gallo-Belgic type coinage.
Restored bucket from the Celtic settlement at Acy-Romance in the Champagne-Ardennes region of northern France (2nd century BC)
The bronze bands are decorated with fantastic creatures, s-scrolls and solar wheels – elements which are also typical of the artistic compositions of Gallo-Belgic coinage of this period.
Gallo-Belgic A gold stater minted by the Ambiani tribe in northern Gaul (2nd century BC)
Gallo-Belgic A type stater produced in northern France or Belgium, and recently discovered by ‘treasure hunters’ at Fenny Stratford near Milton Keynes, England (mid 2nd c. BC)
(After Mac Gonagle B. (2015)
During the 2/1 century BC such Celtic ceremonial buckets, as with Gallo-Belgic coinage, also appear in the area of today’s southern England. The first of these was discovered in 1807 in a Celtic cremation burial at St. Margaret’s Mead, Marlborough in Wiltshire – an import from northern Gaul (Megaw op cit), and two three-footed buckets were recorded in 1967 in another Celtic burial at Baldock in Hertfordshire. The best known of these vessels is the Aylesford bucket, excavated in 1886 by Arthur Evans in a Celtic (Belgic) cremation burial at Aylesford in Kent, which also included imported Italian bronze drinking vessels.
The Aylesford bucket contained cremated human bones, and was found with a pan and bronze jug for preparing wine, 3 bronze brooches and ceramic vessels. (See: Cunliffe B. (2005) Iron Age Communities in Britain. 4th edition. London: Routlege, pp.152-9)
The fact that the area of distribution of such buckets corresponds chronologically and geographically with the distribution of Gallo-Belgic coinage is certainly no coincidence and is logically to be associated with the well recorded migration of Celtic tribes of the Belgic group into this area during the period in question, and the resulting Belgic cultural influence in southern England.
Die for a Gallo-Belgic B quarter stater discovered by ‘treasure hunters’ at Alton (Hampshire) England. (late 2nd c. BC)
(After Mac Gonagle 2015)
Bronze mount for wooden stave bucket from Marlborough (Wiltshire), England
(1c. BC/ 1 c. AD)
Download article in Pdf. form:
“To you alone ’tis given the heavenly gods
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote”.
(Pharsalia Book 1:453-456)
Recently published material from the Celtic settlement at Roseldorf, situated on the Sandberg in the western Weinviertel in Lower Austria, has furnished a wealth of new archaeological material pertaining to the Iron Age inhabitants of this area in particular, and pan-Celtic cult/religious practices in general.
Excavations at Roseldorf, the largest La Tène settlement in Austria, have uncovered a Celtic settlement of supra-regional economic and cultural importance, as attested to by the discovery of coins of the Vindelici Manchinger type and Buschl-quinars from Lower Bavaria, as well as coinage produced by Gaulish and Balkan Celtic tribes. Furthermore, many small zoomorphic figurines from Roseldorf have parallels especially in the northeast, in the Celtic settlements at Nowa Cerekwia in Poland and Němčice in Moravia (Holzer 2014).
In the present context, of particular interest at Roseldorf are 3 cult districts with seven sanctuaries which played a major role in the functional orientation of the complex. Although evidence of human sacrifice has not been identified at the site, evidence of post-mortem manipulation of the bodies has been established, consistent with the Celtic practice of exhumation.
Carved and pierced deer-antler, believed to have been attached to a statue of the Celtic God Cernunnos
(After Holzer V. (2014) Roseldorf – An Enclosed Central Settlement of the Early and Middle La Tène Period in Lower Austria. In: Paths of Complexity. Centralization and Urbanization in Iron Age Europe. Oxford/Philadelphia 2014. p. 122-131)
From the first sanctuary area (object 1), the antler shows signs of complex artificial treatment. The natural coronet has been removed and a new one cut to extend the pedicle in order to fix it more easily with an iron nail or pin. It is believed to have formed part of the statue of a deity, probably Cernunnos.
Fragments of human skulls found at the second large sanctuary (object 30) at Roseldorf.
(On Celtic Excarnation see:
Remains of horse sacrifices in the second large sanctuary at Roseldorf
The numerous horse harnesses, horse skeletons and chariot parts etc. discovered in this area have led archaeologists to interpret it as a sanctuary to the Celtic horse-goddess Epona
On the Celtic Horse Goddess:
THE DRUID CROWN
Perhaps the most interesting artifact to come from the site is an iron ‘Druid’s Crown’ discovered in the first large sanctuary at Roseldorf. The crown has been ritually ‘killed’ before deposition – i.e. deliberately bent/deformed, according to Celtic religious ritual.
Ceramic, antler, bone, weapons and other artifacts from the sanctuary area of the Celtic settlement at Roseldorf
The Roseldorf Druid Crown
(after Holzer 2014)
The Roseldorf Druid Crown corresponds to Parfitt’s type I, with an encircling headband and two bands crossed at the apex (Holzer 2009b: 175–177, 182; Parfitt 1995: 72–82; see Holzer 2014). The best example of such a crown was discovered in the burial of a Celtic ‘warrior-priest’ at Mill Hill Cemetery in Deal (Kent), England. Dating to the early 2nd century BC, the Deal Crown was found on the head of a warrior buried with his sword and shield, and consisted of two sheets of bronze, decorated in La Tène style, held together with rivets. The metal was worn directly on the head (i.e. not padded or strengthened with leather); when discovered impressions of human hair remained in the corrosion on the inner surface.
Burial of the Deal Priest-Warrior with weapons and Druid Crown
Also found in the grave were: an iron sword with bronze scabbard fittings and suspension rings for holding the sword on a belt; bronze parts from a wooden shield, and a bronze brooch decorated with applied coral studs.
Although not as elaborate as the Deal Crown, and incomplete, the Roseldorf example is particularly significant as it represents the first such found in an archaeological context in mainland Europe, and the oldest Druid Crown yet discovered.
The Deal Crown
The Celtic eastwards expansion of the 4th / early 3rd century BC, and resulting clash with military forces of the Hellenistic world, has logically left substantial archaeological traces, which include Hellenistic military equipment discovered in Balkan Celtic warrior burials. Notable examples of such are the Hellenistic greaves from the burial of a Celtic chieftain at Ciumeşti (Satu Mare) in Transylvania, or Greek helmets discovered in Celtic warrior burials at Seuthopolis/Sevtopolis and Kalnovo in south-central and eastern Bulgaria (Getov 1962; Megaw 2004, Mac Gonagle 2014, 2015).
Bronze greaves from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Ciumeşti
Greek helmet from a Celtic warrior burial at Sevtopolis* (after Getov 1962)
*Repeated requests to Kazanlak museum for academic access to the extensive Celtic material from the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ have been denied. It has also come to our attention that some of this material has recently ‘disappeared’ from the museum.
While the aforementioned cases are clearly to be explained as trophies taken by victorious Celtic armies after the defeat of Macedonian forces, or evidence of the well documented Celtic mercenary activity during this period (Mac Gonagle 2013, 2015), more problematic are a number of Hellenistic helmets discovered in western Celtic burials which date to a much earlier period. Examples of such include the recently published Corinthian helmet discovered in a Celtic burial at Baux-de-Provence (Provence), in southern France, which was actually found in 1813, but only recently ‘rediscovered’ (Jourdan 1897, Garcia 2013). The typology of the helmet dates it to the 6th century BC (Garcia op cit), and 2 further examples of this kind of helmet have been discovered in the Lyon area in east-central France (Boucher 1970, Vial 2003).
Corinthian helmet from Baux-de-Provence (mid 6th c. BC)
Whether these Corinthian helmets, and other examples such as the Etruscan Negau type helmets, dating to the 5th century BC, from Ženjak in Slovenia or Agde (Hérault) in south-eastern France (Feugère, Freises 1994-1995) were imports into the Celtic sphere, or represent evidence of Celtic mercenary activity prior to such being recorded in ancient sources, remains unclear.
Negau type helmet from Ženjak, Slovenia
These 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, 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.
Boucher St. (1970) Bronzes grecs, hellénistique et étrusques des Musées de Lyon. Lyon, Audin et de Boccard.
Getov 1962 = Гетов Л. (1962) Нови данни за въоръжението у нас през латенската епоха.Археология 3, 41-43
Garcia D. (2013) Le casque corinthien des Baux-de-Provence. In: L’Occident grec de Marseille à Mégara Hyblaea. Hommages à Henri Tréziny Bibliothèque d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne et Africaine 13 pp. 85-90
Feugère M., Freises A. (1994-1995) Casque de type Negau découvert près d’Agde (Hérault). RAN, 27-28, 1994-1995, p. 1-7.
Jourdan A. (1897) Guide du visiteur dans l’antique ville des Baux. Avignon, Aubanel.
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) The Kingmakers – Celtic Mercenaries:
Mac Gonagle B. (2014) The Celtic Burials from Kalnovo (Eastern Bulgaria):
Mac Gonagle B. (2015) On The Celtic Conquest of Thrace (180/279 BC):
Megaw V. (2004) In the footsteps of Brennos? Further archaeological evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Hänsel B., Studenikova E., (eds.) Zwischen Karpaten und Ägäis. Neolithikum und ältere Bronzezeit. Gedenkschrift für Viera Nemejcova-Pavukova. Rahden /Westf. 93-107
Vial J. (2003) Carte archéologique de la Gaule, 34/3. Le Montpelliérais. Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.
Probably the most enigmatic and mysterious archaeological site in Europe, the Býči Skála/Bull Rock cave in the Křtiny Valley (Czech Republic), was first investigated in 1867 by a local doctor, Jindřich Wankel, who initially discovered traces of a Paleolithic settlement.
The Entrance to Bull Rock Cave
Two years later, interest in the site intensified when two young brothers discovered a bronze Celtic bull statue, dated to ca. 560 BC, in the entrance hall of the cave.
The Bronze Bull discovered in the entrance hall of Bull Rock Cave (ca. 560 BC)
Subsequent investigation has established that the cave was occupied, for short periods, during the Palaeolithic, Eneolithic, Hallstatt, La Têne, and Medieval periods. However, the most spectacular discoveries at the site, dating to the 6th c. BC, came during a 2-month amateur excavation in 1872.
During the course of this campaign, under a layer of stones and burned limestone, locals discovered a fireplace with pieces of pottery, tools, bronze and gold ornaments, jewelry, swords, armour and glass beads. A number of jars that still contained flour, millet and meat were also found; at the back of the entrance a Celtic Iron Age metal workshop and tools were discovered.
The “Chieftain’s Burial”
Most spectacular was the scene in the entrance hall where about 40 human bodies, some of them missing their head, hands and feet, were found; one of the skulls had been placed in a bucket. On a stone altar, adorned with stalks of grain, lay two arms with bracelets and gold rings, next to which was a skull that was spliced in half. Deeper in the cave, the remains of a chariot with bronze fittings and the skeleton of a man were discovered. Based on the artifacts, Dr. Wankel concluded that he had found the grave of a Celtic chieftain, buried with his jewelry, weapons, food, sacrificed horses and young maidens.
The stone altar on which was displayed severed arms with bronze bracelets and gold rings
Skull and decorated bronze headband/crown discovered in 1872 inside the Býčí Skála (Bull Rock) Cave
However, the local doctor’s rather ‘romantic’ view of the archaeological evidence has not borne up to scientific scrutiny. More recent investigation has illustrated that the funeral chariot in which the supposed chieftain lay buried was actually not one, but three different chariots. Furthermore, the human remains were not all female as initially thought, and subsequent analysis has indicated that most were men and women aged between 30 and 45 years old, while the remains of children were also identified.
Chariot and detail of decoration from Bull Rock Cave (Reconstruction by the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna)
The nature of the ‘massacre’ in the cave has also remained unclear, with subsequent examination of the bones providing more questions than answers. For example, anthropologists have hitherto failed to establish whether the individuals were sacrificed or murdered, and while some of the wounds discovered appear to be fatal, inflicted upon living persons, others have proved to have been inflicted after death.
Archaeological research at the site has also been complicated by the fact that, although the skulls have been preserved, the rest of the human remains from the 19th century ‘excavations’ were buried in an unknown location, and have never been recovered. Furthermore, during World War II the German army planned to use Bull Rock cave as a weapons factory, and the entrance hall was paved, thereby burying all remaining evidence under a thick layer of concrete.
Thus, although many theories have been advanced as to the function of Bull Rock cave during this period, and the dramatic events that occurred in the mid 6th century BC, the full truth about this enigmatic site will probably never be known…
On ‘Human Sacrifice’among the Celts see also:
External links for further reading on Bull Rock Cave: