THE GIANT’S HELMET – A Balkan Celtic Horned Helmet from Bryastovets, eastern Bulgaria

UD: October 2018

с. Брестовец, Плевенско

“On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four footed animals”.

Diodorus Siculus (on Celtic helmets) (History V.30.2)



While horned helmets among the Celtic tribes are well documented in artwork and coins from the period, actual archaeological confirmation of the existence of this particular type of helmet has been rare. Indeed, until now it was thought that the only known example from Iron Age Europe was the Waterloo Helmet found in the River Thames in London, which is ceremonial in nature and differs greatly from Celtic horned helmets depicted elsewhere.


Bronze ceremonial horned helmet with repoussé decoration in the La Tène style, discovered in the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge, London

(ca. 100 BC)



Warrior with horned helmet depicted on a stele from Bormio (Lombardy), Italy

(early 4th c. BC)


Bronze statue of a naked Celtic warrior with horned helmet and torc. Originally from northern Italy, and presently in the Antikensammlung (SMPK), Berlin

(3rd c. BC)


However, despite the belief that the Waterloo Helmet was the only example of such from Iron Age Europe, a further example is to be found in the bronze horned helmet discovered near the modern village of Bryastovets (Burgas region) in eastern Bulgaria.

с. Брестовец, Плевенско 2

The Celtic Horned Helmet from Eastern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)

(After Manov M. (2017) In Search of Tulis or Thrace Between 341 and 218 BC. Sofia. P. 151, Fig. 57 (In Bulgarian) who links it with Cavaros, the ruler of the Celtic “Tyle” state.

 (Fol A., Fol V. (2008) The Thracians. Sofia; Fol, a former Communist minister, member of the Secret Police, and founder of the Institute of Thracology, incorrectly placed the village of Bryastovets in the Targovischte region of northern Bulgaria (!) )*


Location of  Bryastovetz


In the Balkan context Celtic warriors wearing such horned helmets also appear on two panels of the Gundestrup cauldron, which is believed to have been produced in northwestern Thrace in the late 2nd c. BC by the Scordisci tribes:


Scenes from the Gundestrup cauldron (plates C and E) depicting Celtic warriors wearing horned helmets

See also:



The area of today’s eastern Bulgaria where the Bryastovetz helmet originates was located within the territory of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in the 3rd c. BC, and is rich in Celtic numismatic and archaeological material from this period. Celtic tribes are also recorded in this area of s-e Thrace in the 2nd century BC (Appianus, Syriaca 6.22), and it appears likely that the helmet originated from a Celtic warrior burial in the area, most probably an aristocratic burial associated with the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state of the 3rd c. BC.

More specifically, recent research by Bulgarian archaeologists (Manov loc cit) has linked the helmet with the Celtic king Cavaros (meaning “The Giant”), a leader well attested to in ancient sources, and described by the Ancient Greek historian Polybius as “regal and magnanimous” and protector of trade on the Black Sea.


Sadly, as with many Celtic artifacts from Bulgaria, although illustrations of this helmet have been published in a number of popular books on ‘Thracian Treasures’, it is not on display to the public, nor has it been made available for wider academic study. Officially, this unique Celtic treasure is now in the National Museum in Sofia under inv. # 3454. One can only hope that this is indeed the case…












*On Alexander Fol and ‘Thracology’ see:


On the Celtic Tyle State see:


















LEGACY OF LIES – Communism, Nationalism and Pseudoarchaeology in Romania and Bulgaria



While communist regimes on the Balkans may have fallen almost three decades ago, the legacy of political manipulation during that dark period in European history continues to undermine and distort archaeological research in the region


Full Article:















THE THRACIAN MYTH – Celtic Personal Names in Ancient Thrace




The personal names of a population recorded in a region during a given historical period are perhaps the best indicator of the linguistic and historical culture of the population that inhabited that region. What does this linguistic evidence tell us about the ethnic origin of the population of today’s Bulgaria in the centuries after Christ? …



Full Article:



Carasura i.











INVENTING THE PAST – The Case of Roman Republican Imitations from Thrace

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 The communist regimes on the Balkans may have fallen over two decades ago, but their legacy continues to echo in historical research in the region. One of the most glaring examples of this is the ‘Great Dacia’ theory which was part and parcel of Communist-era nationalism.

  In the 1960’s Romania and Bulgaria experienced important political and cultural changes, which were the direct result of the political decision to move away from the Soviet protectorate to an aggressive form of nationalism. This new nationalist trend was in fact a collage of much older elements based on a traditionally nationalist concept that had never died out. Stalinism, which had become so estranged from national issues, contributed greatly to the indigenisation of Marxism and the blurring of any distinctions between communism and nationalism (Mircea Anghelinu (1997) Failed Revolution: Marxism and the Romanian Prehistoric Archaeology between 1945 and 1989. In: Archaeologia Bulgarica XI 2007 1 1-36 Sofia).

 The anti-intellectual orientation of the ruling elite was especially prominent after 1980 and resulted in a tight control of academic promotions, with damaging effects for the access that younger generations had to university and research positions. Such an academic atmosphere reinforced the position and authority of the cultural mandarins, while research personnel gradually grew older, with little chance of being replaced. A new wave of ideological “disciplining” began in historiography, which emphasized the idea of national unity and continuity, and the Thracian-Dacian roots of the Romanian state (Boia L. 1997, Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa romaneascâ Bucureşti. P. 74-82).


In the case of archaeology the cultural heritage law of 1974 forced a drastic ‘reevaluation’ of the old archaeological material. Much more significant for the new ideological doctrine was the creation in 1979 of the Institute of Thracology (apparently modeled on the Bulgarian Institute of Thracology), and then the sudden interest in things Dacian/Thracian displayed especially by sycophants employed by the these institutes, and the Institute for the History of the Romanian Communist Party (Boia op cit; Mircea Anghelinu op cit.).

Thus, in Romania, starting with the 1970s, the Ceauşescu regime used ancient history, seen from a nationalistic and questionable interpretation (Protochronism) as a way to legitimize its own rule. For example, Burebista, a leader of the Thracian Getae tribe who carried out a genocidal attack on his neighbors during the 1st c. BC (see ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article), was portrayed as the “unifier” of the Dacian tribes and, in 1980, the Romanian government declared the celebration of the 2050th anniversary of the founding of the “unified and centralized” Dacian state of Burebista, drawing comparisons with Ceauşescu’s Romania, and claiming an uninterrupted existence of the Romanian state from Burebista to Ceauşescu (Boia L. History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001).





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Romanian postage stamp from1980, labeled “2050 years from the creation of the first centralized and independent Dacian state under the leadership of Burebista”









In Romania the fact that this manipulation took place has been accepted to a certain extent, unlike the case in neighboring Bulgaria where the Institute of Thracology (now the ‘Alexander Fol Institute of Thracology’) continues to function and dictate the official version of ancient history in line with the old nationalist/communist doctrine. However, to varying degrees, the shadow of this manipulation still hangs over academic research in both countries.

See also:





Just one example of the legacy of this phenomenon is the continued attribution by numismatic experts, slavishly following the publications of communist era ‘scientists’  (in this case especially Chiţescu, M. 1971. ‘Copii şi imitaţii de denari romani republicani în Dacia. In:  Memoria Antiquitatis 3: 209–258; also Chiţescu, M. 1981. Numismatic Aspects of the Dacian State. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford. International Series 112.; Preda, C. 1973. Monedele Geto-Dacilor. Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, Bucureşti. In Bulgaria the work of the communist Thracologist Youroukova Y. – especially ‘Coins of the Ancient Thracians’ (1976), of all imitations of the denarii of the Roman Republic in southeastern Europe to ‘Dacians’, a phenomenon which, as illustrated below, is, from a historical and geographical perspective, quite absurd.









In fact, recent research on imitations of the denarii of the Roman Republic found in Moesia and Thrace, within the borders of modern Bulgaria, throws serious doubt on the ‘Dacian’ origin of this type of coinage (Paunov E., Davis P. Imitations of Republican Denarii from Moesia and Thrace. In: HPAKΛEOVΣ ΣΩTHPOΣ ΘAΣIΩN. Studia in honorem Iliae Prokopov sexagenario ab amicis et discipulis dedicata. Veliko Tarnovo 2012, 389-413).




1.       Northeastern Bulgaria


An analysis of the territorial distribution/diffusion of imitations of denarii found south of the Danube in Thrace (in modern Bulgaria) indicates 3 distinct concentrations (map 1).



(After Paunov/Davis 2012)




The first concentration comes from the the north-eastern part of Moesia, in the zone of the modern Bulgarian districts of Russe–Razgrad–Shumen–Silistra–Dobrich. In this area three hoards containing such imitations have been discovered: the Maluk Porovetz, Garvan and ‘South Dobrudja’ hoards. Unfortunately, as is the case with so much numismatic material in Bulgaria, the material from only one of these hoards is extant – the Maluk Porovatz hoard (Dimitrov K.( 2007) The Getic Territory of Sboryanovo, Northeast Bulgaria, in the Late Hellenistic Age (2nd century BC–1st century AD). – Thracia 17, Sofia, 2007, p. 369–390). All the coins from the other two – the Garvan and South Dobrudja hoards, have been stolen/sold, and are no longer available for scientific research (Paunov/Davis op cit).


(on the systematic theft of ancient coinage in Bulgaria see: )




 We are therefore left with the Malak Porovetz hoard found in the Razgrad region of northeastern Bulgaria in 1995. The hoard consisted of 44 denarii of the Roman Republic, 11 imitations of the same, and a single late drachm of Apollonia in Illyria dated to ca. 50–25 BC. What is interesting about this hoard of ‘Dacian’ coins is that has distinct parallels with another hoard now in the Belgrade National Museum. Like Maluk Porovets, this hoard was discov­ered far from Dacia, coming from the ‘Vojvodina Region’ (= formerly South­ern Hungary) in modern Serbia. The hoard arrived in Belgrade sometime between the two World Wars, and consists solely of ‘barbarian’ imitations, 15 in all. This find is, according to the latest research (loc cit) precisely parallel to the Roman Republican imitations issued by the Celtic Eravisci tribe in Pannonia in the late 1st century BC. The style of the Vojvodina coins also closely resembles that of the Celtic Eraviscan issues (loc cit).




The Maluk Porovets / 1995 hoard (after Paunov/Davis 2012)


2.       Northwestern Bulgaria


The bulk of Roman Republican imitations have been found in the west of Bulgaria, in the modern districts of Vratsa and Pleven along the Danube and a strip extending 20–40 km south of the Danube. They originate from denarii hoards deposited between 77 and 43/2 BC, and come from an area which numismatic, archaeological and linguistic evidence clearly shows was inhabited by a Thraco-Celtic population during the period in question (see Archaeology, Numismatics and Linguistics sections on this site), and where there is absolutely no scientific record of ‘Dacian’ settlement.





3.      South-Central Bulgaria


 The third zone appears in central Bulgaria, south of the Balkan chain/Haemus. It is concentrated in the modern district of Plovdiv, Yambol and Sliven, roughly between Philippopolis and Kabyle. Recent numismatic finds from this area has clearly confirmed that this part of modern Bulgaria was also inhabited by a Thraco-Celtic population in the immediate pre-Roman period and, once again, there is absolutely no historical or archaeological evidence of a ‘Dacian’ presence in this region.




Celtic (Philip III type) drachms, and a Roman Republican issue, recently found together in a hoard at Bratya Daskalovi (Stara Zagora region, south-central Bulgaria). The hoard has been dated to the late 1st c. BC.

( After Prokopov, Paunov, Filipova 2011; see: )









The case of the ‘Dacian’ coins outlined above is, of course, only one example of the phenomenon which continues to haunt historical science on the Balkans. Since the collapse of the communist regimes in Bulgaria and Romania no review has been undertaken of the extent and legacy of the systematic manipulation of historical science which occurred during this period. Indeed, academic works produced during the ‘socialist’ era continue to be the standard works on ancient history in this region, which has led to the absurd situation whereby today a new generation of archaeologists and numismatic experts, unwilling or unable to challenge the past, continue to base their research on the manipulated works of communist era ‘scientists’.



It is said that the victors write history; in the case of the Balkans it would appear that the opposite is true. Until they face the recent past, academics in Romania and Bulgaria have little chance of discovering the truth about ancient history.












Mac Congail


















The Absence of Truth

Mac Congail



In order to tell of the Scordisci Wars of the 2nd – 1st c. BC, it is first necessary to understand why this story has hitherto remained untold.


For history to be manipulated, it is not necessary for lies to be told; it is sufficient that vital elements of the truth be omitted. A perfect example of this appears in the official history of Thrace published by the Alexander Fol Institute of Thracology, in which the Roman conquest of Thrace is described thus:

“After Macedonia became a Roman province in 148 BC, Thracian combat groups started penetrating there, but the Romans chased them away, without following them into the interior of Thrace, because they intended to conquer it from the Pontus. Therefore, they waited for the right moment, which occurred in the late 70’s of the 1st century BC, after the defeat of the Pontic ruler, Mithridates VI, and they undertook their first invasion”.

(Jordanov K. (Director of the Institute of Thracology) In: Ancient Thrace. Fol A., Jordanov K., Porozhanov K., Fol V. Published by the Institute of Thracology – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Sponsored by the International Foundation ‘Europa Antiqua’. Sofia 2000. P. 124)


  This simplistic and distorted version of history is most remarkable in that it omits the direct testimony of a multitude of ancient authors to a bitter and prolonged struggle in Thrace between the Roman empire and the native population – Thracians, Bastarnae and Celts – during this period. Compare, for example, the statement that the Romans did not enter Thrace before 72/71 BC, with the clear and unambiguous testimony of ancient Roman authors:


M. Cosconius praetor in Thracia cum Scordiscis prospere pugnavit

 (135 BC) Livy (Per. 56’a)


C. Porcius cos. in Thracia male adversus Scordiscos pugnavit

(114 BC) Livy Per. 63’ a; Cf. also Diod. 34.30a’1-30c’1, Flor. 1.39’1-4, Dio. Cass. Fr. 88’1, Eutrop. 4.24’1, Amm. Marc. 27.4’4)


Livius Drusus cos. adversus Scordiscos, gentem a Gallis oriundam, in Thracia feliciter pugnavit

(112 BC) Livy Per. 63’a; Cf. also Flor. 1.39’5, Dio Cass frg. 88’1, Festus: Brev. 9’2, Amm. Marc. 27.4’10)



  The glaring contradiction between fact and fiction outlined above is only one example of a systematic pattern of distortion which has manifested itself in certain ethnic groups being erased from this period of history at the expense of a simplistic ‘Thracian’ version based on a mixture of  ‘mythology’, censored historical facts, and manipulated archaeological evidence – a discipline which has become known as ‘Thracology’.




(To be continued)