Some of the most spectacular Celtic archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar (Banat region) in north-eastern Serbia, which has yielded a vast array of artifacts of various materials, mostly dating to the 2/1 centuries BC.
The hill at Zidovar – site of an important Celtic (Scordisci) hillfort from 3-1 century BC
Silver finger rings, brown bear tooth talisman, and silver bird pendants from the Zidovar hillfort (2/1 c. BC)
(See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/celtic-scordisci-bird-pendants/)
Among the most exquisite artifacts from Zidovar are 2 lavishly decorated silver jewelry boxes, and the lid of a third such box decorated with 4 spokes, thus constituting a solar/Taranis wheel.
Silver lid of a jewelry box from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)
Silver jewelry box from Zidovar
Construction of the complete jewelry box from Zidovar
All 3 jewelry boxes have a high percent of silver (average values over 95 wt%). Copper is the main alloying element (average values from 1.5–4 wt%). Lead contributes less then 1 wt%, and tin was not detected in the metal of any of the boxes.
(after Živković J., Rehren T., Radivojević M., Miloš Jevtić M. and Jovanović D. (2014) XRF characterisation of Celtic silver from the Židovar treasure (Serbia). In: UNDER THE VOLCANO. Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Metallurgy of the European Iron Age (SMEIA) held in Mannheim, Germany, 20–22 April 2010. p. 157-174)
The chain used on the jewelry box is also noteworthy. These are of the ‘Foxtail’ type, similar examples of which are to be found in a number of necklaces from Zidovar and other Balkan Celtic sites.
Scordisci ‘Foxtail’ necklaces from Zidovar
(see also: https://www.academia.edu/7915664/Celtic_Foxtail_Necklaces )
Such chains are believed to have developed from Hellenistic prototypes, and the merging of Hellenistic and Celtic artistic models and influences on the Balkans from the late 4th century BC onwards resulted in a spectacular fusion of forms culminating in unique compositions in glass, ceramic and metal.
Celtic kantharos of the ‘Danubian Type’ with anthropomorphic decoration from Blandiana, Alba County, Romania (3rd c. BC). Such kantharoi were developed by the Balkan Celts from Hellenistic prototypes.
Celtic gold ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)
Full view of the Celtic jewelry box with ‘Foxtail’ chain from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)
The sheer amount and diversity of artifacts discovered at Zidovar logically indicates that this area was one of the key centers for the production of Balkan Celtic jewelry in the late Iron Age. From a wider perspective, the level of technical accomplishment and craftsmanship to be observed on these and other recently discovered Balkan Celtic works of art is on a par with anything produced by ‘classical’ cultures, and the treasures from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar once again testify to the artistic and material sophistication which had been achieved by European Celtic society prior to its systematic destruction by Rome.
Some of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Bronze and Iron Age site at Cliffs End Farm on the Isle of Thanet (Kent), in south-eastern England. Of the wealth of material uncovered at the site most enigmatic is pit #3666, which tells a tale of bizarre ritual practices and human sacrifice.
Sharp weapon trauma to the skull of an elderly female from pit 3666 at Cliffs End (see below)
A large number of cases of human sacrifice among the late Bronze and Iron Age European population have been revealed in the past decades at sites ranging from the Celtic (Galatian) settlement of Gordion in today’s Turkey to the Bog Bodies of Northern Europe. In many of these cases evidence indicates that sacrifice was accompanied by complex rituals including manipulation of body parts and excarnation.
Remains of two women ‘ritually sacrificed’ at the Celtic settlement at Gordion (Turkey). The uppermost of the women had suffered blows to the head and a broken neck; large grinding stones had been placed on top of the lower woman (2nd c. BC)
(After Dandoy et al 2002; see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/galatia/)
Two bodies found together in a bog at Drenthe in The Netherlands. Initially their intimate pose led to speculation that they were a man and woman buried in a romantic embrace. Subsequent analysis showed that in fact both were men, one of whom had had his stomach sliced open. (1st c. BC)
Body of a young man (in his early 20’s) found in a bog at Clonycavan (Meath), Ireland (and facial reconstruction).
The man had been ritually sacrificed – disemboweled and struck three times across the head with an axe and once across the body. He also had his nipples cut off. (4/3 c. B C)
Among the other numerous examples of such is the late Iron Age shaft discovered at Holzhausen in Bavaria with a post at the bottom used for impaling victims (the pole when analyzed had traces of human flesh and blood). A similar example comes from Garton Slack in East Yorkshire (England), where a young man and a woman of about thirty were found huddled together in a shaft – a wooden stake between them pinning their arms together. The woman was apparently pregnant, since a fetal skeleton was found beneath her pelvis (Green 1992: 183-84 – Green, M.. J. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. New York).
The aforementioned site at Cliffs End in Kent has once again provided more questions than answers concerning these enigmatic rituals. The first remarkable fact at the site is the distorted demographic structure which includes a disproportionate number of teenagers, the complete absence of children under the age of 6 and, most strikingly, an abnormal male/female ratio, i.e. many more women than men are represented in the burials – the proportion being an inexplicable 71/29 % in the early Iron Age. All 4 ‘elderly’ people (over 45 years of age) were also females.
The mortuary rites at Cliffs End, including manipulation, curation and excarnation of bodies, have their roots in the late Bronze Age, and continue into the Iron Age. The most fascinating example from the former period is pit #3666, in which the orchestrated burial group focused on the body of an old woman who had been slain by multiple sword blows to the back of the head. The woman was subsequently laid out with a piece of white chalk up to her face, her index finger positioned in a pointing position. Two lambs were placed in her lap.
Detail of the elderly female buried in pit #3666
In the same pit, in association with the woman’s body, were placed 2 children and a teenage girl, the teenager’s head and upper body placed over the head and neck of a cow (!). The manipulated body parts of an adult male were also discovered.
View of pit #3666 from the north
(Cliffs End illustrations after McKinley, Jacqueline I., Jörn Schuster, and Andrew Millard, “Dead-Sea connections: a Bronze Age and Iron Age ritual site on the Isle of Thanet”, in: Koch, John T., and Barry Cunliffe (eds), Celtic from the West 2: rethinking the Bronze Age and the arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe, Celtic Studies Publications 16, Oxford, Oakville, CT. 2013. 157–183).
Manipulated body parts of the adult male from pit #3666
The violent death of the elderly woman in pit #3666 is the latest in a long series to be explained by ‘ritual sacrifice’. In fact, this may be only part of the story in such cases, for the extremely brutal nature of many of the slayings clearly suggests an aspect of deliberate cruelty/punishment not consistent with mere sacrifice.
In the late Iron Age the Roman general Caesar (DBG 6:16) claims that those chosen for such fates were those who had “participated in theft or brigandage or other crimes”, i.e. most of those sacrificed by the Celts were criminals, because those are “more pleasing to the immortal gods” (loc cit). While the testimony of classical authors concerning the European ‘barbarian’ population has often tended to be highly inaccurate, this combination of sacrifice/execution would at least partly explain the brutality to be observed in many of these cases, as well as the apparent contradiction between the cruelty inflicted on the victims and the lavish burial rites accorded them, i.e. as a criminal the individual was punished according to the severity of their crime(s), and as a sacrifice to the gods their remains subsequently treated with the utmost respect.
Thus, it appears likely that many of the “human sacrifices” practiced by the European population of this period differ from those carried out by modern societies only in their method of execution…
On the Question of Human Sacrifice among the Celts see also:
One of the most iconic symbols on Celtic coinage, the oval shield appears either alone or as a central element in the artistic composition on Celtic coins (and other artifacts) across Europe and Asia-Minor in the 3-1 century BC period, as well as being represented on numerous Greek and Roman images depicting Celtic military equipment.
Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros I (c. 62-40 BC) AE. Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Large monogram and Celtic oval shield
Mounted warrior with oval shield on the reverse of a silver issue of Tasciovanus – King of the Catuvellauni tribe in southern England (25-10 BC)
Celtic military equipment, including oval shield and carnyx, represented on the reverse of a Roman gold stater (c. 48 BC)
The fact that oval shields are depicted with such frequency by both the Celts themselves and their enemies, in such a broad spatial and temporal context, logically indicates that they had a political and cultural significance that went beyond their purely military function, i.e. also served as a symbol of political authority and power.
Mounted Goddess with oval shield depicted on the reverse of a Celtic gold stater from the Rennes Region, Brittany (2nd century BC)
Among the Balkan Celts oval shields first appear on coinage of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria in the mid 3rd century BC, and are to be found on both tetradrachms and bronze issues of the Celtic kings of Thrace during this period.
Bronze issue of the Celtic king Cavaros with oval shield on the reverse – minted at Arkovna (Varna reg.), Bulgaria (2nd half of the 3rd c. BC)
(On whom see: Mac Gonagle B. (2013)
Reverse of a tetradrachm of Kersebaul, one of the Celtic kings of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria (mid 3rd c. BC)
Also noteworthy in this context are the Celtic shield coins minted by the Greek city of Mesembria (modern Nesebar) on the Black Sea coast during this period. These coins, which feature a helmet on the obverse and a Celtic oval shield on the reverse (viewed from within; Price 1991, Karaytov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013) illustrate the influence of the Celtic state on the Greek Black Sea colonies during the 3rd c. BC – a phenomenon also testified to by archaeological evidence, and confirmed in ancient sources (Lazarov 2010, Manov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013).
Bronze Mesembria Celtic Shield Issue (last quarter of the 3rd c. BC)
(After Karaytov 2000)
Also connected to the Tyle state are the Apros Celtic shield coins minted in today’s European Turkey in the second half of the 3rd century BC, which provide further archaeological evidence, again confirmed in ancient sources, that the area of south-eastern Thrace, including the immediate environs of Byzantium, was under Celtic control during this period (Manov 2010, Lazarov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013). Exactly which tribe minted the Apros coins remains unclear, but one possibility is that that they were produced by the Aegosages tribe prior to their migration into Asia-Minor in the summer of 218 BC.
Bronze Celtic shield coins minted at Apros (After Draganov 2001)
(Apros was located either at present-day Kestridge or further west near present-day Kermian, both in European Turkey above the Thracian Chersones and on the route of the later Via Egnatia)
On the Aegosages tribe see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/death-of-a-dream-the-aegosages-massacre/
Dimitrov K. (2010) Celts, Greeks and Thracians in Thrace During the Third Century BC. Interactions in History and Culture. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 51- 66
Draganov D. (2001) Coins of the Unknown Mint of Apros in Thrace. НСФ 8, 1-2, 25-31.
Kарайтов И. (1996) Месамбрия и келтският цар Кавар. In: More 4, 9-10, 10-14; Kарайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владитетелите на крайбрежна Тракия (според нумизматични данни) – INMB 3, 66-81
Карайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владетилите на крайбрежна тракия според нумизтични данни. Известия на Народния Музий Бургас. Том 3, 2000. 66- 82
Lazarov L. (2010) The Celtic State In the Time of Cavaros. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 97-113
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT
Manov M. (2010) In Search of Tyle (Tylis). Problems of Localization. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 89 – 96
Price M. J. (1991) The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arhideus. A British Museum Catalog, vol. 1, Zurich-London.
Topalov S. (2001) Contributions to the Study of the Coinage and History In the Lands of Eastern Thrace from the end of the 4th c. BC to the end of the 3rd c. BC. Sofia 2001
As all animals, the bear held a special significance in Iron Age European society, encapsulating the qualities of strength and potency, and portrayed in numerous works of Celtic art and attested to in inscriptions from across the continent.
Group of 3 sandstone bear statues found at Armagh, Ireland (the smallest now missing)
(pre-christian period, i.e. pre-5th c.)
The Celtic word for bear – *artos (OIr. Art, MW arth , OBret. Ard-, Arth-, MoBret. Arzh; Masasovic ELPC) is reflected in numerous Celtic personal names – in simple names such as Artos, Artus (Delamarre 2007:27; CIL XIII 10008,7: Artus Dercomogni (from Maar, near Trier), derivatives such as patronyms, e.g. Galatian Artiknos, and hypocoristica of the type Artillus, Artilla. A fine example of the latter has been found in Trier (CIL XIII/1.1, no. 3909):
HIC QUIESCIT IN PACE URSULA . . . ARTULA MATER TIT(ULUM) POSUIT
In this case mother and daughter have the same name, the mother still in Celtic, the daughter already in the Roman tongue. This is typical for the language switch implied in Romanization throughout the empire.
‘Bear’ is also found in Celtic nominal compounds, cf. Comartio-rix ‘king of [men] comparable to bears’, or Artebudz (Ptuj, Slovenia), which appears to be a late form of *Arto-buððos ‘having a bear’s penis’ (according to Eichner et al. 1994; see also Zimmer 2009).
In the insular sphere a number of names continue the Old Celtic formations. Cf.:
Old Irish Artbe = Old Welsh Artbeu = Old Breton Arthbiu, all < Old Celtic *Arto-biu̯o- = ‘quick as a bear’;
Old Irish Artgal = Old Welsh Arthgal, Middle Welsh Arthal, < *Arto-galno- = vigorous like a bear’ (see Zimmer op cit).
The Brogdos Inscription from Poetovio
(after Istenič 2000; see https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/between-birth-and-death-celtic-graffiti/)
The most extraordinary Celtic inscription to be discovered at Poetovio, Slovenia was found on a beaker at the site. Dated to the 2nd/3rd c. AD, and written in a Celto-Etruscan script, the inscription reads ARTEBUDZ BROGDUI 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).
Other artifacts from south-eastern Europe, such as a ceramic bowl decorated with a zoomorphic/bear handle from the pre-Roman layers at Viminacium or brown bear teeth used as pendants/talismans from the Celtic hillfort at Zidovar (both Serbia), indicate that the bear was particularly revered by the Balkan Celtic tribes.
Celtic (Scordisci) zoomorphic bowl from Viminacium, Serbia (1 c. BC)
Brown bear teeth talismans from Zidovar, Serbia (2/1 c. BC)
In Celtic culture the bear was associated with the Bear Goddess Artio – attested to in inscriptions such as those from Daun (CIL 4203), Stockstadt (CIL XIII 11789), Heddernheim (CIL 13, 7375) (all Germany), as well as Weilerbach (Luxembourg) (CIL XIII 4113) and Muri (near Bern) in Switzerland (CIL 13, 05160). The latter inscription comes from a bronze sculpture which depicts a large bear facing a woman seated in a chair, with a small tree behind the bear. The woman seems to hold fruit in her lap, apparently feeding the bear.
The goddess Artio from the Muri statuette group, a noted collection of Gallo-Roman bronze figures found in Muri bei Bern, Switzerland in 1832
The Muri sculpture bears the inscription Deae Artioni / Licinia Sabinilla = To the Goddess Artio (or Artionis), from Licinia Sabinilla, and is valuable evidence that the cult of the Celtic Bear Goddess survived into the Roman period.
Delamarre, X. (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. 2ème éd. Paris: Errance.
Delamarre, X. (2007) Noms de personnes celtiques dans l’épigraphie classique. Paris: Errance.
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., Janka, I., Milan, L. (1994) Ein römerzeitliches Keramikgefäß aus Ptuj (Pettau, Poetovio) in Slovenien mit Inschrift in unbekanntem Alphabet und epichorischer (vermutlich keltischer) Sprache. Arheoloski Zbornik 45, 131–42.
Istenič J. (2000) Poetovio, the western cemeteries II. Ljubljana.
Matasovic R. (2009) An Etymological Lexicon of Proto-Celtic. University of Leiden = ELPC
Šašel Kos (1999) Pre-Roman Divinities of the Eastern Alps and Adriatic – Situla 38, Ljubljana.
Zimmer S. (2009) The Name of Arthur – A New Etymology. JCeltL, 13 (2009), 131–6
On animals in Celtic culture see also:
On Celtic personal names see:
The town of Supava (Malacky district) is situated in the Záhorie lowland, under the Little Carpathians, around 15 km (9 m.) north of the Slovakian capital Bratislava. In 1929 industrial work in the area uncovered an Iron Age necropolis, which has provided invaluable information on the early phases of Celtic settlement in this area of Europe.
Location of Stupava, and main early La Têne settlements and finds in southwestern Slovakia (LT A – LT B1; after Čambal 2012).
Among the 10 graves discovered at the Celtic necropolis, which dates to the La Têne A – Lt A2/B1 period, the most outstanding was the male inhumation burial (dated to c. 400 BC) located at the highest point of the cemetery. The situation of the burial, and the grave inventory – which included a sword, lance, iron knife, bronze armlet, stamped pottery decorated with bull horns, and a bronze belt-plaque with human mask – clearly indicate that the individual was of high standing in the community, i.e. a tribal leader/chieftain.
Metal finds from the Stupava Chieftain’s burial
(c. 400 BC)
Stamped ceramic bowl decorated with bull horns from the Stupava burial
Another fascinating find associated with the burial is a decorated bronze belt-plate with human mask. The Stupava belt-plate is a highly decorated type of a general class with rectangular plate which extend from the Middle Rhine to Slovakia during this period (Megaw/Megaw/Neugebauer 1989; Frey 1996:202, 203, abb. 5, 6; Pieta 2007:307, abb. 10), and is an important example of the development of early La Têne art in this part of Europe.
Bronze Belt-Plate from the Celtic Chieftain’s Burial at Stupava
Čambal R. (2010) Keltské nálezy zo Stupavy. Stupava 7, 2010 – 2011, 3 – 7
Čambal R. (2012) Frühlatènezeitlihes gräberfeld in Stupava. ausgrabungen in Jahr 1929, Zbor. SNM 106. arh. 22, 2012, p. 87 – 119
Eisner J. (1930) Raně latènské památky na Slovensku a v Podkarpatské Rusi. Zvláštní otisk z ČSPSČ 38, Praha 1930, 1-8
Megaw J.V.S. (2010) A world turned upside down: the bronze plaque from Stupava, okr. Malacky. in: J. Šuteková et al. (eds.): Panta Rhei. Studies in chronology and cultural development of Southeastern and central europe in earlier prehistory. Stud. arch. et Med. 11. Bratislava 2010, 607 – 622
Pieta K. (2007) Der frühlatènezeitlihe Burgwall in Horné Orešany, westslowakei.Vorbericht. Slov. arh. 55, 2007, 295 – 310
“The other order is that of the knights. These, when there is occasion and any war occurs …, are all engaged in war. And those of them most distinguished by birth and resources have the greatest number of vassals and dependents about them”.
(Caesar. Gallic War. 6.15)
One of the genuinely pan-European elements in early La Tène art is the dragon-pair motif, which is found on the upper end of the front-plate of Celtic scabbards from south-eastern Britain to the Balkans, with further examples from south of the Alps and Iberia (Stead, 1984, Megaw 2004, Megaw and Megaw 1989, Ginoux 1995). Comprising a pair of opposed S-shapes with zoomorphic heads facing inwards, the beasts represented are highly schematic, and have sometimes been thought of as griffons rather than dragons.
Dragon-pair decoration on a Celtic iron scabbard discovered in the nineteenth century in the river Thames at Battersea and Hammersmith, London (Stead:1984). A further example was also found in the Thames, and a derivative of the dragon-pair motif at Fovant (Wiltshire), also in England (Jope 2000:278).
Although earlier studies (Jacobsthal (1944:46, De Navarro 1972:229) saw these motifs as evidence of orientalizing influences in early Celtic art, or even as a direct Scythian introduction into eastern Central Europe, subsequent discoveries in the west have now rendered this view obsolete. The earliest incidence of a dragon-pair has conventionally been the example from an old and never fully published burial from Saint Jean-sur-Tourbe in the Marne, which should belong to an early La Tène phase (Harding 2007).
(after Landry, Blaizot 2011)
Dating to the late 4th/3rd century, dragon-pair scabbards are also well represented in Eastern Europe, in association with the Hungarian scabbard style, as at Halimba, Jutas 3, Kosd, and Szob (Harding 2007). Other examples have been registered at Celtic warrior burials in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and Pisçolt in Romania (Megaw 2004, Szabó and Petres, 1992, Pl. 96). Interestingly, a variant of the ‘Dragon Pair’ motif is also to be found on a bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata Fortress (Schumen region) in north-eastern Bulgaria, also dating to the 3rd c. BC.
Bronze chariot fitting with ‘dragon-pair’ motif from Bobata fortress (Schumen), Bulgaria
The pan-tribal nature of the dragon-pair scabbards, a unique phenomenon in Celtic Europe, logically raises the question of whether this motif had a significance beyond simply an artistic device. That a distinct warrior class/elite existed in Celtic society is a well documented fact, and the possibility exists that the dragon-pair insignia, which cross geographical and tribal borders, represented a special group within this warrior class, i.e. a pan-European order of elite warriors.
On the ‘Warrior Elite’ in Celtic society see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/the-warrior-elite/
de Navarro, J. M. (1972) The Finds from the Site of La Tène, Vol. 1, Scabbards and the Swords Found in Them, London, British Academy, Oxford University Press.
Ginoux, N. (1995) ‘Lyres et dragons, nouvelles données pour l’analyse d’un des principaux
thèmes ornementaux des fourreax latèniens’, in J. J. Charpy (ed.) (1995): 405–12.
Harding D.W. (2007) The Archaeology of Celtic Art. Routledge
Jacobsthal, P. (1944) Early Celtic Art, 2 vols, Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Jope, E. M. (2000) Early Celtic Art in the British Isles, Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Landry C., Blaizot F. (2011) Une Sépulture De Guerrier Celte À Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie). In: Revue Archéologique de l’Est, t. 60-2011, p. 147-171
Megaw, R. and Megaw, J. V. S. (1989) ‘The Italian Job: Some Implications of Recent Finds of Celtic Scabbards Decorated with Dragon-pairs’, Mediterranean Archaeology, 2: 85–100.
Megaw J.V.S (2004) In The Footsteps of Brennos? Further Archaeological Evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Zwischen Karpaten und Agais. Rahden /Westf. p. 93-107
Stead, I. M. (1984) ‘Celtic Dragons from the River Thames’, AntJ, 64: 269–79.
Szabó, M. and Petres, É. F. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Tène Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin, Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum.
Kujawy is a historical region in north-central Poland, situated on the left bank of the Vistula, and east of the Noteć river and Lake Goplo. Archaeological research over the past decade has revealed a wealth of new information about the Celtic presence in this area of Poland in the pre-Roman era.
One of the most interesting recent discoveries from the Kujawy region is a small bronze Celtic pendant/amulet in the shape of a dog discovered at the Gąski site (loc cit). The bronze amulet features the animal with an elongated body (5.2 cm long), a delicate snout, accentuated ears (the endings of the ears are broken), and a long, curved tail. The animal bears a striking resemblance to a modern Dachshund/Sausage Dog, and the amulet has a large ring for hanging on a chain.
(After Andrałojć M. (2014) fig. 11; On the Celts in Poland see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/the-celts-in-poland/)
Confirmation of the religious significance of the dog in Celtic culture is provided by extensive archaeological evidence. Dogs as amulets in Celtic cremation graves, dated to Late La Tène period, have been found in Hessen, Germany. The ten small sculptures are made of clay, bronze, glass or jet, and all found in the burials of women or girls (Polenz 1975). A number of Celtic dog amulets are also known from eastern Europe – e.g. finds from eastern Hungary, the oppidum at Stradonice, the sites at Belušske Slatiny, Nimnica, Esztergom, and the Celtic oppidum at Stare Hradisko (Veres 2009:231‑237, 234, Filip 1956, Pl.125:9; Pieta 2008, F.32:4, F.31:4, F.31:1). Bronze dog figurines have also recently been found among the votive offerings at the Celtic settlement at Nĕmčice-Vícemĕřice (Czech Republic).
(after Cizmar et al 2008)
Dogs appear frequently in Celtic artwork and in Celtic myths and legends as the companions of kings and warriors, and representatives of the Gods (Green 2004:16,175). The animal possessed both mundane value and spiritual importance in Celtic culture. Hunting and herding were mainstays of early economies in the Celtic world and these economic activities made dogs highly valued, being closely connected with both the spiritual and practical aspects of healing, hunting and death.
One of the most important sacred aspects of dogs in Celtic culture was its close association with healing. In the area inhabited by the Celts, representations of dogs often appear together with gods providing fertility and good harvest (e.g. female deities depicted with pomegranate fruit or cornucopias). Similarly, Celtic goddesses of hunting (Abnoba and Arduinna) were shown in the company of a dog (Andralojc 1993:102-104).
The Celtic goddess Nehalennia has a relationship with dogs that is similar to that of the goddess Epona with horses. Nehalennia was a goddess worshipped as a provider of prosperity and healing, and was usually portrayed with a dog and a basket of fruit. The healing aspects of dogs are also present in the iconography associated with the British god Nodens, who may be a British representation of the Irish god Nuadu (Green 2004:16; on the Celtic Horse Goddess Epona see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/epona-the-celtic-horse-goddess-in-thrace/).
The importance of the dog in Celtic culture is also emphasized by the frequency with which the Celtic term for Dog/Hound is found in Celtic personal names.
CVNORIX | MACVSM/A | QVICO[L]I[N]E
= Hound-King, son of The Son of the Holly (Wright/Jackson 1968)
Andrałojć M (1993) Rola psa w obrzędowości pradziejowych ludow Europy Środkowej [w:] Wierzenia przedchrześcijańskie na ziemiach polskich, (red.) M. Kwapiński, H. Paner. Gdańsk
Andrałojć M. and Andrałojć M. (2014) The unknown face of the Lugian Federation– Celtic coinage in the Polish lands Inowrocław–Poznań 2014
Filip J. (1956) Keltove ve středni Evrope. Monumenta Archaeologica 5, Prague.
H. Polenz (1975) ‘Latènezeitliche Hundeplastiken aus Süd- und Rheinhessen’, Fundberichte aus Hessen 14, 1974 (pr. 1975), 255-307.
Green M. (2004) The Gods of the Celts. Sutton.
Pieta K. (2008) Keltske osidlenie Slovenska. Mladša doba latenska, Archaeologica Slovaca
Veres J. (2009) The depiction of a carnyx-player from the Carpathian Basin. A study of two Celtic bronze statuettes from eastern Hungary, Archaologisches Korrespondenzblatt, Bd. 39, H. 2, S. 231‑248.
Cizmar V.M., Eva Kolníková E., Noeske H. (2008) Nĕmčice-Vícemĕřice – ein neues Handels- und Industriezentrum der Latènezeit in Mähren. Vorbericht. In: GERMANIA 86, 2008
In the year 1906 a pair of Celtic (Scordisci) belt buckles were found at the site of a destroyed Celtic necropolis at the Busija site in Dalj, eastern Croatia. 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.
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).
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).
In the late Iron Age the multi-spoked Solar Wheel, associated with the Thunder God Taranis, is gradually replaced by a simplified 4 spoke version, depicted on numerous Celtic works of art from this period. It also appears likely that this simplified Taranis Wheel forms the basis for the ‘Celtic Cross’ in later Early Christian art.
Lead amulet with Taranis Wheels from Ratiaria (modern Archar) northwestern Bulgaria.
(See also https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/taranis-the-thunder-god/).
Babeş M. (1983) – Paftalele Latène târzii din sud-estul Europei. Zusammenfassung: Die spätlatènezeitlichen plattengürtelhaken südeuropas. SCIVA, 34/1983,3, p.: 196–221
Drnić I. (2009) Dvije pojasne kopče tipa Laminci iz Dalja, VAMZ, 3.s., XLII 305–319
Kos P., Mirnik I. (1999) The Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia). In: The Numismatic Chronicle 159,1999
Knez, T. (1992) Novo mesto II, keltsko-rimsko grobiste Beletov vrt. Novo mesto II, keltisch-römisches Gräberfeld Beletov vrt. Novo Mesto, 1992
Kovacs, T. (1982) Latènezeitliches Gürtelblech Südlicher Herkunft in Ungaren. Savaria, 16/1982:145–159
One of the greatest contradictions in ancient numismatics is the case of barbarous tetradrachms of the Thasos type produced in Thrace in the late 1st c. BC – previously attributed variously to the Roman puppet kings Cotys IV, VI and, most recently, to Cotys III (von Sallet 1876:242-24, Добруски 1897:629, Youroukova 1976:43-45; Юрукова 1992:177-178, de Callataÿ 2012:307–322; Paunov 2013, with relevant lit.).
In fact, the numismatic/archaeological context and execution of these coins, which bear the legend – ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP, meaning the ‘die, stamp’ of Cotys (see Paunov, op cit.), raises a number of fundamental questions about their attribution to the Roman puppet kings in Thrace.
Tetradrachm bearing the legend ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP (16.76 g., 29×31 mm (ex Dr. Haralanov collection, now in Shumen Museum, no. 73.1.1)
(After Paunov 2013)
The first problem with the attribution of this coinage to the Thracian ‘King’ Cotys III is obviously the nature of the coins themselves. Unlike the barbarian Thasos type tetradrachms, coinage of the Roman puppet kings in Thrace of the late 1st c. BC/early 1st c. AD are almost exclusively bronze issues, and are unmistakably Roman in nature.
Examples of coinage of the Thracian puppet/client Kings (late 1st c. BC/ early 1st c. AD):
As illustrated, the coinage of the Thracian Sapean Dynasty in Thrace is clearly Roman in nature. Conversely, the artistic execution of the ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP coins conforms to the Celtic ‘Thasos Type’ coinage produced in Thrace in the 1st c. BC, and ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP coins have been discovered exclusively in hoards in association with this type of Celtic coinage (see below).
Celtic silver ‘Thasos type’ tetradrachm found in a hoard at Maluk Chardak, Plovdiv region, Bulgaria (late 1st c. BC) (after Prokopov, Paunov 2011; See: https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria)
While a difference of opinion still remains in academic circles concerning which ethnic group produced the early Thasos copies which remained close to the Hellenistic prototype, there is now general agreement that the ‘barbarized’ Thasos coinage of the 1st c. BC was produced by the Balkan Celts, i.e. “the imitations of Thasos tetradrachms had an international nature and featured interactions and activities of a culture dominated by the east Celts” (Prokopov 2011: 339; See also Mac Gonagle 2013).
Tetradrachm with legend ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP (16.36 g. (ex Triton VII, Jan.2004, no. 182)
The attribution of these ‘barbarous’ imitations to the Thracian ruler Cotys III would therefore appear to be made solely on the assumption that Cotys is a purely Thracian name – which is clearly not the case. In fact, extensive evidence has illustrated that Cotys (and variations) is also a well documented Celtic proper name, appearing in numerous Celtic single and double element names such as Cotus, Cottus (Holder, AC I:858, Detschew, 1957:235; Duridanov 1997:139-140), Essandecottus (Gallo-Etruscan; Lambert 72) etc., leading linguists to conclude that the name is common to both the Thracian and Celtic cultures (Detschew 1957:235; See also Duridanov 1997:139-140).
In this context, one should also note the name of the Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) leader – Cotto, mentioned by Livy in relation to the events of 179 BC, when the Bastarnae formed an alliance with Philip V of Macedonia against Rome – ‘For a few days later the tribe of the Bastarnae, after long solicitation, left their homes and with a great number of infantry and cavalry crossed the Hister. Thence Antigonus and Cotto came on in advance to bring the word to the king: Cotto was a nobleman among the Bastarnae, Antigonus one of Philip’s courtiers who had often been sent with Cotto himself to stir up the Bastarnae’ (Livy XL.57).
Besides the artistic and linguistic data, an analysis of the context in which coins of the ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP type have been discovered reveals further interesting information. Two examples each come from ‘dispersed’ hoards in the area of Kazanlak (near ancient Sevtopolis, Stara Zagora region) and another from the Asparuchovo quarter of Varna, of which the other contents of the hoards are again ‘unknown’. The aforementioned finds therefore provide no information concerning the archaeological context or ethnic group which produced this coinage. However, the other two hoards containing ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP coinage from Bulgaria provide important evidence on this issue. The Obzor 1935 hoard from Varna region, in which 4 ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP coins were recorded, was constituted exclusively of barbarian Thasos ‘imitation’ tetradrachms, while the Silvarovo hoard from Burgas region, containing 2 ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP coins, was also constituted exclusively of Celtic Thasos type tetradrachms (Paunov 2013).
ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP tetradrachm from the Slivarovo hoard (16.51 g.) (Archaeological Museum Burgas, no. A-270)
Thus, the available archaeological, artistic, numismatic, and linguistic facts strongly suggest that the late Iron Age tetradrachms bearing the inscription ΚΟΤΥΟC XAPAKTHP, clearly non-Roman in nature, and found exclusively associated with other Celtic Thasos imitations, were produced not by the Roman puppet kings but, as with other ‘barbarian’ tetradrachms of this type, by a Thraco-Celtic (or Bastarnae?) chieftain.
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Detschew D. (1957) Die thrakischen Sprachreste. Österreichischte Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Kl. Schriften der Balkankomission, Linguist. Abteilung XV. Wien.
Duridanov I. (1997) Keltische Sprachspuren in Thrakien und Mösien, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, Band 49-50, 136.
Holder A. (1896-1907) Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz. Bd. I-III. (Nachdruck Graz, 1961-1962)
Lambert, P.Y. (1995) La Langue Gauloise. Editions Errance, Paris.
Paunov E. (2013) From Koine To Romanitas: The Numismatic Evidence For Roman Expansion And Settlement In Bulgaria In Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC – AD 98/117) Phd. Thesis. School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Cardiff University. 2013)
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria
Prokopov I. (2011) The Imitations of Late Thasian Tetradrachms: Chronology, Classification and Dating. In: N. Holmes (ed.), Proceedings of the XIVth International Numismatic Congress, Glasgow, 31 August – 4 September 2009. London: Spink, 2011, 337 – 349