VOICES OF THE DISAPPEARED (1) – A (looted) Balkan Celtic Warrior Burial from Bačka Palanka (Vojvodina) in Serbia

From an archaeological perspective the last 30 years in Eastern Europe (i.e. since the introduction of “Democracy”) have been marked by a massive growth in the trafficking of antiquities, and the resulting destruction of ancient cultural sites across the region. On the Balkans this phenomenon has reached catastrophic proportions over the last decade, with the looting of archaeological sites on an industrial scale, often with the passive or active collusion of the local authorities.

These artifacts are then illegally transported to the west, primarily to dealers in Germany, where they are laundered – i.e. provided with false documents by ‘experts’ indicating that they come from ‘old private collections’, thus legalizing their sale on the open market. 

A recent example of this phenomenon is the material from a Balkan Celtic warrior burial discovered at Bačka Palanka (Vojvodina) on the Danube in northwestern Serbia. The material from the burial represents the complete inventory of a Celtic (Scordisci) warrior, dating to the 3rd / early 2nd century BC, and includes an iron sword in its scabbard, knife and socketed spearhead, all ritually killed / bent according to Celtic ritual.  Further material from the burial included a shield umbo, forged kettle chain and sword chain. 

Plankenburg sword

Plankenburg sword 2

Plankenburg sword 3

Ritually killed iron sword in its scabbard from the Bačka Palanka burial

Plankenburg shield boss

Shield umbo from the burial

 

The material from the Bačka Palanka burial represents just one example of the massive amount of Balkan Celtic material, particularly from Serbia and Bulgaria, which has been looted and illegally exported over the past few years, thus irreversibly distorting and destroying our understanding of the historical and cultural heritage of this part of Europe. 

 

 

 

1. Bačka Palanka -Plankenburg. Landkreis Vojvodina, sword socketed sphead swordbelt knife Danube

 

 

Mac Congail

 

THE MYSTERY MATRIX – On the Significance of a Gallo-Belgic Die Matrix from Southern England

The surprise discovery of a matrix die for the minting of “Ear-Boar type” potins (type of coin; usually a mixture of copper, tin and lead), associated with the Gallo-Belgic Suessiones tribe of northern France, in the Hampshire region of southern England has thrown new light on the nature and development of the first coinage in Britain.

 

The expansion of Gallo-Belgic tribes across the English Channel into the southern part of the Island of Britain during the later Iron Age had a significant cultural and economic impact, as reflected in a large amount of archaeological evidence recorded over the past century.

Aylesford

Celtic ceremonial vessel from Aylesford in Kent, England.  The area of distribution of such buckets coincides with the territory of the Gallo-Belgic tribes, and the regions of southern Britain into which they expanded. (see link below)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/celtic-ceremonial-buckets-and-belgic-expansion/

 

This is particularly true in the case of discoveries of numismatic material from the area of southern England, which clearly indicate that the continental Celtic tribes in question introduced the first coinage and monetary system into Britain during this period. This phenomenon has hitherto been attested to by numerous finds of Gallo-Belgic coinage and hoards thereof in the region, as well as matrices / coin dies which testify to the production of such in southern England from the late 2nd century BC onwards.

Gallo-Belgic A type stater produced in northern France or Belgium, and discovered bytreasure hunters at Fenny Stratford near Milton Ke

Gallo-Belgic “A type” stater produced in northern France or Belgium. Discovered by treasure hunters at Fenny Stratford near Milton KeynesEngland – thought to be the first typof coin ever to circulate in Britain (mid 2. c. BC)

 

Coin die (punch) for the production of Gallo-Belgic A staters discovered by treasure hunters atBredgar (Kent), England. (Late 2

Coin die for the production of “Gallo-Belgic A” staters discovered by treasure hunters at Bredgar (Kent), England. (Late 2nd c. BC)

Die for a Gallo-Belgic B quarter stater discovered by treasure hunters at Alton(Hampshire) England. (late 2 c. BC

Die for a Gallo-Belgic B quarter stater discovered by treasure hunters at Alton (Hampshire) England. (late 2nd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.word-british-currency-and-m press.com/2017/02/07/the-firstonetary-system/

 

Of particular interest in this context is the recent discovery of a bronze die matrix used to create casting moulds for the production of Soissons “Eye Boar type” potins, which are usually identified as a Continental / Belgic import type originating from the Soissons region of Northern France.

 

SUR08FD05a

The “Boar Eye type” die matrix

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/949108

 

Thus the discovery of such a die matrix at Steventon in Hampshire, England is particularly significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the fact that the die is of a very specific type associated with the Suessiones tribe logically indicates that these were one of the main continental Celtic tribes involved in the Gallo-Belgic expansion into southern Britain during this period.

 

Pot 1

Celtic “Boar Eye type” potin discovered at Berrick Salome in Oxfordshire

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/892734

Pot 2

Celtic “Boar Eye type” potin discovered at Welyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/516937

 

 

Most importantly, the Steventon die matrix, as well as numerous finds of such potins in southern England, logically indicates that Celtic tribes in this area were producing not only high value coinage minted in precious metals, which would have circulated mainly among the wealthier classes / tribal elites, but also coinage with a lower intrinsic value for use by the wider  population; thus providing clear evidence that a highly sophisticated coinage / monetary system had already been developed by the native Celtic population in southern Britain in the immediate pre-Roman period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

A ‘Taranis’ Belt Buckle and Anthropomorphic Figurine from the Balkan Celtic settlement at Dalj (Eastern Croatia)

November 2019

 

The area around the village of Dalj (Osijek-Baranja County) near the confluence of the Drava and Danube rivers in eastern Croatia, has yielded a wealth of archaeological material indicating that Dalj was an important area of Celtic settlement in the middle-late Iron Age. 

 

Dalj loc

Archaeologically confirmed fortified Celtic settlements in eastern Croatia. (1. Ilok – 2. Sotin – 3. Vukovar – 4. DALJ – 5. Sarvaš – 6. Osijek – 7. Markušica – 8. Stari Mikanovci – 9. Vinkovci – 10. Privlaka – 11. Orolik – 12. Cerna – 13. Donja Bebrina).

 

Dalj Ck tts

Bronze anthropomorphic figurine with penis and breasts, from the Celtic settlement at Dalj (4th – 3rd c. BC). An almost identical figurine, but portrayed with a torc, has been discovered at Prašník (Trnava reg.) in western Slovakia

 

In 1906 a pair of Celtic (Scordisci) belt buckles were found at the site of a destroyed Celtic necropolis at the Busija site in Dalj. 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.

Dalj buck 1

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).

Dalj Buck

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).

 

Dalj coin

Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. (Serbia late 2nd / 1st c. BC)
(Laureate head (of Zeus?) right / Horse trotting left. Taranis Wheel above)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Chariots and Chariot Elements from Wales

 

 

The past few decades have witnessed the discovery of a large number of Iron Age Celtic chariots across Europe, including a number of examples from the island of Britain.

Celtic chariot from Newbridge (Edinburgh), Scotland. (5th century BC)

Cast bronze enameled terret with multi-colored glass inlay, from Suffolk, England (1 c. BC / 1 c. AD)
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Of particular interest are a large number of Celtic chariot elements uncovered on the territory of modern Wales. Mostly dating from the late period (1st c. BC / 1 c. AD), these artifacts, decorated in the distinctive La Tène style, represent wonderful examples of late Insular Celtic art.
pentyrch terret
Chariot terret of fine bronze with striking red enamel inlay, executed in classic late La Tène style – discovered at Lesser Garth (near Pentyrch), Wales. (1 c. BC)
Bronze enamel - Alltwen, Pontardawe 2
Cast bronze harness fitting (strap union; bronze/enamel), decorated in the La Tène style – from a Celtic chariot (1 c. AD) discovered at Pen yr Alltwen in the Swansea Valley of Wales
Nant-y-cafn, 1 Seven Sisters c adNant-y-cafn, Seven Sisters c ad 2
Bronze strap union from Nant-y-cafn in southern Wales (mid 1st century AD). The replica illustrates the original appearance of the strap union, and the colours of the enamels used.
Bronze harness 1fitting, 60-120 CE. Decorated with red and yellow glass in the Celtic La Tène styleMaindy Camp, Rhondda Cynon Taff
Bronze harness fitting, decorated with red and yellow enamel in the La Tène style (late 1st / early 2nd century AD), from Maindy Camp Hillfort, near Aberdare
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Particularly fascinating is the recent discovery of a Celtic chariot burial uncovered by a ‘treasure hunter’ at a (still undisclosed) site in the south Pembrokeshire area of Wales. While individual elements of Celtic chariots have previously been uncovered in western Britain, this discovery represents the first example of a complete Celtic chariot to be found on the territory of today’s Wales.
Terret decorated with red enamel, from the recently discovered Celtic chariot burial in south Pembrokeshire

Bridle fitting from the south Pembrokeshire chariot

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Despite initial media reports dating the chariot burial to the 6th century BC (!!!), the decorative compositions and distinctive use of red enamel clearly date this chariot to the same period as similar discoveries from southern Britain, i.e. 1st century BC – 1st century AD.

 

Bronze element from the Pembrokeshire chariot, lavishly decorated with red enamel

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Although a systematic archaeological excavation of the burial has not yet been carried out, and is planned for later this year, initial research has revealed a number of interesting facts. The use of ground penetrating radar in the area has indicated a pattern of buried ditches and walls, indicating an important Celtic settlement in the area.

Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that a trial excavation has revealed that the chariot was buried in an upright position, a rare phenomenon in Britain, but one which has been observed in continental Celtic chariot burials in Gaul and on the Balkans, most recently the discovery at Sboryanovo in Bulgaria.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mac Congail

Celtic Settlement in the Matra Mountains area of northeastern Hungary

Iron weapons from Grave 186 at Gyöngyös

This article, by Károly Tankó of Loránd University,  provides an overview of the latest discoveries pertaining to Celtic settlement in the Mátra Mountains region of northeastern Hungary.

https://www.academia.edu/38299331/K._Tankó_Celts_in_the_Mátra_region._Hungarian_Archaeology_E-Journal_2018_summer_1-5

Folded iron sword Grave 59 at Gyöngyös