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.
The Turokovski area where the hoard was discovered
The Turokovski treasure consisted of a large hoard of “Macedonian” 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.
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).
Celtic zoomorphic Ram figurine/attachment from a cult fire-pot – Breznik, (Pernik region) (2/1 c. BC)
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).
*On the systematic theft of Ancient Coins from Bulgaria see:
On Celtic “Plunder Hoards” from Thrace see:
One of the most sensational discoveries of the Viking Age, the ship burial uncovered in a tumulus or haugr at Oseberg farm, Norway at the beginning of the 20th century consisted of an astonishingly well-preserved Viking ship containing the remains of two women along with a wide variety of associated burial goods….
Discovered in 2005 at Petrijanec near the city of Varaždin in northern Croatia, the Petrijanec hoard consisted of 27,735 silver-plated bronze coins and three silver plates. The treasure represents the largest hoard of Roman coinage from the territory of modern Croatia and one of the largest third century hoards in the world. Based on the coinage the hoard has been dated to the year 294 AD.
Roman coinage from the Petrijanec Hoard
Petrijanec images after ŠIŠA-VIVEK M.,LELEKOVIĆ T., KALAFATIĆ H. OSTAVA RIMSKOG NOVCA I SREBRNOG POSUĐA IZ PETRIJANCA. In: OPVSC. ARCHÆOL. VOL. 29. ZAGREB 2005. pp. 231 – 246
As stated, the hoard also included three silver plates, the smaller of which, decorated with a figural image of the Celtic Horse Goddess Epona, is of most interest in the present context.
Silver Plates from the Petrijanec Hoard
Epigraphic dedications and images of Epona indicate her immense popularity within the Celtic world, being venerated particularly in the east of Gaul and the Rhineland, but also across the continent from Britain to the Balkans. As the Roman Empire expanded, at first she was worshipped solely among populations who came from Celtic regions, i.e. among individuals and groups of Celtic ethnicity. However, her cult rapidly became popular also among the general Roman population, especially those whose lives were connected to horses and equestrianism, and she gradually became part of the Roman pantheon, becoming the patron of horses and everything connected with horses – stables, carriages, tasks or people associated with horses, mules and donkeys.
Epona (2/3 century AD) from Contern, Luxembourg
Relief of Epona from Thessaloniki, Greece. (4th century AD)
In the case of the silver plate from Petrijanec, the middle of the plate contains a decoration in the form of a standard circular medallion with a diameter of 93mm. bearing the image of a female on horseback. At first glance it would appear that the goddess is riding side-saddle, but in fact she is seated in the direction opposite to the horse’s movement, with legs unusually outspread for horseback riding. Even though the horse is depicted moving in a trot, indicated by the uplifted left leg and raised tail, the woman’s pose makes it apparent that the horse has the function of a throne, which is a frequent motif in depictions of the Celtic Horse Goddess.
The silver “Epona Plate” from Petrijanec (Diameter 230 mm, height 25 mm, 482 g.)
As may be noted, the proportions in the image are not balanced. The horse is smaller than the woman, which is a consequence of iconographic perspective, typical of depictions of goddesses. Epona holds a cornucopia in her left hand, and a patera in her right hand, and is dressed in a robe (pallium), with her right shoulder bared. The medallion is encircled by a border 8 mm. wide, made of a series of beads and stylised palmettes. The inscription EPONA (barely visable) is engraved on the undecorated surface around the medallion, and the letters filled with niello, which is customary for silver dishes of this period. The closest analogy to the Epona plate from Petrijanec is to be found in silver dishware from Rudnik, in Serbia, where a Roman hoard with 26 silver dishes included a similar plate bearing the inscription EPONA.
The first Celtic chariot burial to be found in Scotland…
FULL ARTICLE by Carter, Hunter et al in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society:
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.
The Aufanian Matronae (detail) from the Gallo-Roman temple site at Görresburg, Nettersheim
(Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn)
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)
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.
Five statuettes in white terracotta of nursing Matres discovered in a well in Auxerre (Yonne).
Statuettes of the Matres from Morlanwelz (Hainaut), Belgium
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.
Representation of the Nutrices from Poetovio
(LIMC, vol. 6.2, p. 620, n°4)
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.
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.
“……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”.
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…
“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:
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.
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)
Scabbard with Triskele decoration from a Celtic warrior burial at Srednica (Ptuj), Slovenia
(Late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)
Geometric and Anthropomorphic decoration on scabbards from a Celtic hoard discovered at Förker Laas Riegel (Carinthia), Austria.
(3rd c. BC)
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.
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.
Celtic scabbard with dragon-pair motif from a Celtic warrior burial at Chens-sur-Léman in eastern France
(Late 4th/early 3rd 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…
The Lincolnshire bronze scabbard mount (3 c. BC)
(Illustrations thanks to Adam and Lisa Grace)
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.
Trio of dancing deer in the artistic composition on a Celtic scabbard from La Tène, Switzerland
(2 c. BC)