THE GLORY OF CELTIC EUROPE – The Case of the Rich Burial of a Celtic Princess with Horse Armour at Bettelbühl (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

 

The first decades of the 21st century in European archaeology have been marked by a massive amount of new discoveries relating to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, significantly altering our perception of the Celtic peoples who populated Iron Age Europe. One of the most spectacular discoveries in this context was unearthed at the Bettelbühl necropolis, situated just over two kilometres from the well known Celtic settlement on the Heuneburg in the Sigmaringen area of BadenWürttemberg in southern Germany.

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3D Reconstruction of the Celtic settlement on the Heuneburg

 

In the central tumulus at the Bettelbühl site an incredibly rich burial of a Celtic lady and a child was discovered; revealing some of the most spectacular burial goods yet unearthed from this period in European history. The woman, who died aged 30-40, in ca. 583 BC, was accompanied in her journey into the afterlife by a wealth of  wonderfully crafted jewelry of gold, bronze, amber, glass and other materials. 

goldene Fibeln,Perlen, ein Nadelkopf,ein Ohrring und Bettelbühl 583 BC

Gold jewelry from the Bettelbühl burial

Bernsteinanhänger, needle heads - beads Bettelbühl

Amber jewelry from the burial

 

Besides the aforementioned material, perhaps the most fascinating discovery in the burial was an excellently preserved example of horse armour, in the form of a lavishly decorated bronze mask. The tremendous wealth and workmanship to be observed in this and other early Celtic aristocratic burials of the period have provided a valuable insight into the high level of material and cultural sophistication which had developed among the European population by the early stages of the Iron Age.

Horse mask 1

Horse mask 2 - Beautiful bronze horse mask discovered in 2010 in the burial of a Celtic lady at the Heuneburg (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

Bronze horse mask from the Bettelbühl burial, and reconstruction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mac Congail

 

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SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS ? – Human Sacrifice and Execution in Iron Age Europe

UD: October 2018

 

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…

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/33313713/SLAUGHTER_OF_THE_INNOCENTS_Some_Observations_on_Human_Sacrifice_in_Iron_Age_Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PUPPETRIDERS

 

 

 

puppt intro

 

 

 

 

The most fascinating and enigmatic of late Iron Age European coinage, the Celtic Puppetrider tetradrachms were produced from the early 3rd c. BC onwards by the Pannonian Celtic tribes. The coinage itself features a male laureate head on the obverse, the subjects eye being represented on a number of issues by an arrowhead.

 

 

 

 

PR eyear

Obverse of Celtic tetradrachm of the Puppetrider/Triskele type (Hungary, late 3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

The reverse depicts a horseman with left arm raised, of whom only the upper part of the body is represented. Behind the riders head and in front of the horse is a Celtic inscription while below the horse, on the majority of such coins, is a triskelion/triskele, a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic coins and other artifacts. The triskele variants date from the mid 3rd c. BC onwards, while rarer issues which feature a monogram from the coinage of the Paeonian king Audoleon, from which the Celtic puppetrider types are believed to have evolved, date to a slightly earlier period.

 

 

 

tri and mono

Puppetrider tetradrachm with triskele, and the earlier type with Audoleon monogram

(both from the Zichyújfalu hoard; see below)

 

 

 

 

 

PUPPETRIDER/TRISKELE

 

 

As mentioned, the vast majority of puppetrider coins are of the aforementioned triskele type. Based on the recorded finds of such, the epicentre of production and distribution lay in the area of today’s central Hungary where, besides numerous single finds, two major hoards of such have been found in close proximity – those from Zichyújfalu, which included 268 Celtic coins, 262 of the triskele type, and Dunaújváros (also in Fejér county) (Kerényi 1960; Göbl 1972: 51-52) which included a similar, slightly larger, hoard of such coinage (see map 1 below).

 

 

 

 

 

zichy ho

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from the Zichyújfalu hoard

(after Torbágyi 2012)

 

 

 

 

 

A second concentration of puppetrider/triskele coinage has been identified around the villages of Sióagárd/Baranyamágócs, slightly to the south. These coins, however, are artistically and technically inferior to the aforementioned issues, and should therefore be seen as contemporary Celtic imitations of the latter.

 

 

 

sig tds

 

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from Sióagárd

(after Torbágyi 2012)

 

 

 

 

Although Celtic coinage of the Puppetrider/Triskele types circulated chiefly in the aforementioned area of Central Hungary, finds such as those from Diex in southern Austria, Batina in eastern Croatia, Bač in northern Serbia, as well as Bratislava and Görgő in Slovakia, and Ungvár in western Ukraine (loc cit), indicate that this type of coinage circulated widely among the Celtic tribes of Eastern Europe during the period in question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

mppp

Distribution of recorded finds of Celtic Puppetrider/Triskele type coinage (3rd/2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Göbl R. (1972) Neue technische Forschungsmethoden in der keltischen Numismatik. Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 109/1972: 49-63.

Kerényi A. (1960) Sztálinvárosi kelta éremlelet. (Trouvaille de médailles celtiques à Sztalinváros /Intercisa/) Numizmatikai Közlöny 58-59/1959-1960: 3-6, 83.
Torbágyi M. (2008) Der „Zichyújfalu” Typ mit Audoleon Monogramm. Festschrift für Günther
Dembski zum 65. Geburtstag. NZ 116-117/2008: 87-93.

Torbágyi M. (2012)Der Münzfund von Zichyújfalu 1873, In: VAMZ, 3. s., XLV (2012) p. 537-552

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic ‘Thasos Type’ Coinage from Bulgaria

 

The most enigmatic and artistically varied of Iron Age European coinage, the barbarian issues based on the Thasos prototype became a de facto common currency among the tribes of the central and eastern Balkans in the immediate pre-Roman period…

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria

 

 

 

Tha 1 bl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Revenge Of Camma

Cb

Pessinus (Πεσσινούς), Asia-Minor – 2nd century BC

 

 

One of the most powerful and beautiful women of her day, the life of the Gallo-Greek Princess Camma is an extraordinary tale of obsessive love, murder and ultimate justice.

 Born a princess of the Celtic Tolistoboii tribe in Galatia (today’s central Turkey), Camma was renowned for her form and beauty, but even more admired for her virtues. She was also quick-witted and high-minded, and unusually dear to her inferiors by reason of her kindness and benevolence(Plutarch, On The Bravery of Woman. XX Camma*). These attributes appear to have been accompanied by good fortune, for the princess fell in love with, and married, one of the most powerful men in Galatia – a tetrarch called Sinatus. In addition, she was elevated to High Priestess of the Mother Goddess (Cybele-Artemis) at Pessinus – the highest position that could be attained by a woman at that time. It appeared that Camma was truly blessed by the Gods.

 

However, in true Celtic fashion, what began as a fairy tale soon descended into nightmare.

Sk. b

From afar, the priestess was being observed by her husband’s cousin, another chieftain called Sinorix, whose obsession with her grew until it left the bounds of reason. Seeing Camma’s husband as the obstacle to his desire, Sinorix secretly formulated a plan which culminated in the brutal murder of his rival.

 With her husband now disposed of, Sinorix lost no time in consoling the widow and, while wooing her, exerting influence on her family to facilitate a marriage between them. As time passed, it seemed that Sinorix’ sinister strategy had borne fruit for, under intense pressure from her relatives, Camma finally agreed to the union. A marriage, to be held in the temple of the Mother Goddess, was hastily arranged.

temp

                                     The temple at Pessinus (3D reconstruction)

The ceremony was a lavish affair, as befitted two of the highest ranking members of Galatian society, and a union that would cement the political bonds between the clans of Camma and Sinorix. As the celebrations progressed before the sacred alter of Artemis, Camma filled a golden chalice with milk and honey, a traditional drink on such occasions. Drinking deeply and smiling, the priestess passed the chalice to Sinorix, who enthusiastically drained the goblet.

  And then, as he watched his new bride collapse on the temple floor, the look on the chieftain’s face turned first to confusion and then to horror. Convulsions began to wrack his body, and through his agony he heard his wife’s cry of joy:

‘I call you to witness, Goddess most revered, that for the sake of this day I have lived on after the murder of Sinatus, and during all that time I have derived no comfort from life save only the hope of justice’.

Turning to Sinorix, she added, ‘As for you, wickedest of all men, let your relatives make ready a tomb instead of a bridal chamber’.

moC

       The poisoning of Camma and Sinorix in the temple  (Charles Poerson, 17th century)

The poison was slow working, bringing unbearable pain. Through the night Camma suffered, yet held grimly to life until, with dawns light, came word that Sinorix had died in agony. Thereupon the priestess, smiling, followed him into the afterlife…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The life of Camma is also recorded by Plutarch in Moralia (768 b), and Polyaenus (Strategemata, viii. 39)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TYLE EXPERIMENT

UD: November 2016

 

 

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/goldh-s.jpg?w=820

 

 

One would imagine that an invasion by hundreds of thousands of barbarians would have a catastrophic effect on the economy of a region. However, this presumption has been challenged in recent years by the archaeological and numismatic data emerging from the territory which fell under the control of the ‘barbarian’ Tyle state in eastern Thrace during the 3rd c. BC.

 

The traditional description of the Celtic tribes who arrived in this area has been one of ‘thirsty savages’ or ‘gangs of mercenaries’ (latest Emilov 2007, 2010), and we have been repeatedly informed that ‘their aim was not to settle, but money and booty which could be acquired in different ways … by attacking wealthy cities, and by ravaging the countryside’ (Nixon 1977, cited by Mitchell 1993; Emilov 2010). However, repeating a simplistic stereotype does not make it true, particularly when the depiction of a culture entirely contradicts all the available archaeological and historical evidence. In this case the facts tell a rather surprising tale – a barbarian invasion that brought political stability and economic prosperity in its wake…

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT

 

S.E. Thrace map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CATUBODUA – Metempsychosis and the Queen of Death

UD: October 2018

 

                       mo god gund

    

‘In dama huair ann ba rigan roisclethan ro alainn;

           Ocus in uair aill… na baidb biraigh banghalis’.

 

(At one moment she was a broad-eyed, most beautiful queen,

And another time a beaked, white-grey badb)

(Harleian manuscript 4.22)

 

 

The central tenet of Celtic religion was metempsychosis – the transmigration of the soul and its reincarnation after death (Caesar J. De Bello Gallica, Book VI, XIV). This belief is probably best summed up by the Roman poet Lucanus (1st c. AD):

 

While you, ye Druids, when the war was done,
To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned:
To you alone ’tis given the heavenly gods
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote.
If  what ye sing be true, the shades of men
Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus
Or death’s pale kingdoms; but the breath of life
Still rules these bodies in another age-
Life on this hand and that, and death between.
Happy the peoples ‘neath the Northern Star
In this their false belief; for them no fear
Of that which frights all others: they with hands
And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe
And scorn to spare the life that shall return.

(Pharsalia Book 1:453-456)

 

A similar account of the Celtic belief system is provided by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (V.28:5-6; 1st century BC):

“…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”.

 

In the transportation of the soul from one world to the next Birds of Prey played a central role:

‘to these men death in battle is glorious;

And they consider it a crime to bury the body of such a warrior;

For they believe that the soul goes up to the gods in heaven,

If the body is exposed on the field to be devoured by the birds of prey’.

(Silius Italicus (2nd c. AD) Punica 3 340-343)

 

‘…those who laid down their lives in war they regard as noble, heroic and full of valor,

And them cast to the vultures believing this bird to be sacred’.

(Claudius Aelianus. De Natur. Anim. X. 22)

 

Fig. 1 Boii

The removal of flesh from corpses, which is well documented in the Celtic world, had a mortuary significance that differed greatly from the Greco-Roman practices (Soprena Genzor  1995: 198 ff.). The last 25 years of research have revealed how interments were the culmination of previous very complex rituals. The removal of flesh before interment is clearly attested at Celtic sanctuaries like Ribemont (Brunaux  2004: 103-24), but the enormous deficit of interments, especially in the late La Têne period, can be partially explained by the exposure of corpses with the consequent destruction of most of the skeleton. This exposure ritual was a genuine self-sacrifice, as the enemy who had taken the life of the warrior, just as the bird of prey who devoured him, was merely the hand of the god (Soprena 1995; Brunaux 2004: 118-24).

 

Recent excavations, such as those at Ham Hill in Somerset (England), have provided further evidence of the Celtic practice of excarnation – the ritual exposure of corpses to the elements and scavengers.

Ham Hill

The finds at Ham Hill include ritualistic burials – arrangements of human skulls as well as bodies tossed into a pit, left exposed and gnawed by animals and Birds of Prey. At the site “hundreds, if not thousands of bodies”, dated from the 1st or 2nd century AD, have been found treated in this fashion.

(See: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/excarnation/)

Ribem.

The Ribemont-Sur-Ancre ‘Tower of Silence’

This shrine/sanctuary was erected on the site of the Battle at Ribemont (northern France), where around 1,000 Celtic warriors are believed to have died. The victorious Belgae erected this shrine to celebrate the great battle, decapitated the bodies of the defeated warriors taking the heads home with them as trophies. The headless corpses and thousands of weapons collected from the battle field were hung from a large wooden platform (‘Tower of Silence’). 

 Evidence of weathering and dismemberment of the dead at the site, and others such as Ham Hill, is consistent with the well documented Celtic religious practice of exposing corpses after death to be devoured by Birds of Prey and carnivores  (Soprena Genzor 1995: 198 ff.).

 

 

Fascinating narrative scene on a gold diadem from Ribadeo, in Galicia, Spain (in the territory of the Celtic/Celticized Castro culture). The narrative features the themes of rebirth and the transformation of men into birds – a common theme in Celtic art. (4/3 c. BC)
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Bird goddess portrayed on the obverse of a half stater of the Eburovices tribe

(Normandy/2/1 c. BC)

Detail of deity with Bird of Prey “crown” on a golden torc from the burial of a Celtic princess at Reinheim (Saarland), Germany (ca. 400 BC)
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On the Balkans, the same ritual is described by Pausanias (X, 21, 3) in connection with the Celtic migration into the Balkans at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC. Celtic warriors who fell in battle during the invasion of Greece were likewise left exposed to be devoured by birds of prey, consistent with the religious practice outlined above (Churchin 1995; Mac Congail 2010: 57).

In light of the significance given to birds of prey in Celtic culture it is interesting to note the ‘name’ of the leader of the Celtic offensive on Greece at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC, the same as that of the chieftain who led the Celtic tribes who sacked Rome a century earlier – Brennos. It is unlikely that this is coincidence, and it appears that Brennos was not a personal name, but a military title given to the overall commander of a Celtic army drawn from different tribes. The term comes from the Proto-Celtic *brano- (Matasović R. 2009; Mac Congail 2010: 54-59), and means literally The Raven.

 

bird-god-lysimachus

Portrait of the Bird Goddess/Catubodua on the obverse of a Celto-Scythian gold stater (1st c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/metamorphosis-in-gold/

 

The importance of the raven, and birds of prey in general, in Celtic culture and religion is archaeologically confirmed by their frequent appearance on Celtic artifacts and coins. For example, of the more than 500 Celtic brooches with representational decoration now known, from Bulgaria in the east to Spain in the west, more than half depict birds (Megaw 2001: 87). On the Balkans, birds of prey also appear on artifacts such as the Celtic helmet from Ciumesti (Romania), similar examples of which are depicted on the Gundestrup cauldron, produced by the Scordisci in northwestern Bulgaria. Depictions of Birds of Prey are also found on the Celtic chariot fittings from Mezek in southern Bulgaria, and Balkan Celtic sacrificial daggers.

Bronze Celtic fibula from Ingelfingen-Criesbach in southern Germany, depicting a human head crowned by a bird of prey

(5-4 c. BC)

Gund.

Detail from the Gundestrup Cauldron

a - a- a- Cium

Celtic Chieftain’s Helmet from Ciumeşti (Romania) with Bird of Prey attachment

(see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/prince-of-transylvania/)

 

 

BADHBH CHATHA

 

 The Celtic Mother Goddess – the Morrígan / Morrígu, was a triple goddess, appearing as a trinity consisting of Macha, Anann and the Badb.  The Celts believed that the Badb/war-goddess, or more accurately the mother goddess in her war mien, appeared to warriors slain in battle in the form of a bird of prey, most often a crow or raven (O h’Ogain 2002: 22; Mackillop 2004:30; Mac Congail 2010: 72-76). Her presence was not only a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of battle. Most often she did this by appearing as a crow/raven flying overhead, and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors, or, in rare cases, join in the battle herself.

This aspect of the goddess was known as the Catubodua (battle-raveness) which survived in later Celtic tradition as the Cathbhadhbh or Badhbh Chatha (loc cit).

 From Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary originate Celtic coins (of both the Philip II (fig. 4/5) and Paeonia models (fig. 6/7) on which a Bird of Prey is depicted behind the left shoulder of the horseman, accompanying him into battle. The presence of the triskele on the Paeonia model coins in particular confirms the religious nature of the images. On the vogelreiter type (fig. 7), from the 3rd – 2nd c. BC, the horseman himself is portrayed as a skeleton, the ‘deathrider’ again accompanied by a Bird of Prey.

scor coin 1

scor coin 2

paeon. c

rom phal

Celtic gilded silver phalera from Surcea (Covasna county), Romania. Note the Bird of Prey behind the left shoulder of the warrior (late 2nd/ early 1st c. BC)

 

Depiction of the Mother Goddess with torcs and birds of prey on a Celto-Thracian harness appliqué from Galiche (Vratza reg.) in northeastern Bulgaria

(2-1 c. BC)

 

 

This theme is also represented on other Celtic coins from the Balkans, with depictions of the mother goddess – the Morrígan (Great Queen) in her personification as the Badhbh Chatha / Battle Raven. Such is the case, for example, with her portrayal on Celtic ‘Thasos model’ coins from Bulgaria (fig. 8), as well as some of the Paeonian ‘imitations’ (fig. 9).

 

tha 1

Fig. 8 – Depiction of the Goddess on the Reverse of a Celtic Thasos type issue from Bulgaria

(after Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010)

 

In fig. 9 the obverse portrays the central theme of transformation of the goddess, while the reverse is packed with religious symbolism, including  the triskele symbol and Celtic inscription. The central image again portrays the mother-goddess in her personification as the war raven  – Badhbh Chatha.

pae. mo.

(Gobl 436; BMC 131)

 

THE THREE REALMS – Reverse of a Celtic tetradrachm from southern Hungary (2nd c. BC), depicting a horseman, child and bird of prey; representing the 3 phases of life in Celtic belief – childhood, adulthood and death/transition. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Modern) Sources Cited

 

Brunaux J.L. (2004) Guerre et religion en Gaule. Essai d’anthropologie celtique. Paris: Errance.

Churchin L.A. (1995) The Unburied Dead at Thermopylae (279 BC) In: The Ancient History Bulletin 9: 68-71

Soprena Genzor G. (1995) Ética y ritual. Aproximación al estudio de la religiosidad de los pueblos celtibéricos. Zaragosa.

Mac Congail B., Krusseva B.  (2010) The Men Who Became the Sun – Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv. (In Bulgarian)

Mackillop, James (2004) A dictionary of Celtic mythology. Oxford University Press

Marco Simón F.  (2008) Images of Transition. The Ways of Death in Celtic Hispania. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 74, 2008. Pp. 53-68.

Matasović R. (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leiden and Boston

Megaw V., Megaw R. (2001) Celtic Art from its Beginnings to the Book of Kells. London.

Ó hÓgáin D. (2002) The Celts – A Chronological History. Cork.

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 Mac Congail