THE DANUBE TORC – An early Balkan Celtic gold torc decorated in the “Vegetal Style” from Montana, Bulgaria

Dating to the early phase of Celtic expansion into this part of Europe, one of the most exquisite artifacts to be discovered on the territory of today’s Bulgaria is the golden torc discovered on the banks of the Danube in the northwest of the country. The torc, from Gorni Tsibar (formerly Cibar Varosh) in the Montana region, is the most easterly example of a number of similar Celtic neck-rings decorated in the ‘Vegetal’ or ‘Waldalgesheim’ style.

Golden Celtic Torc from Gorni Tsibar (Montana region, Bulgaria)

The Waldalgesheim Style is named after a princely burial in the middle Rhine, and displays an independence of interpretation and confidence in execution that marks the culmination of achievement of the early La Tène period (Jacobsthal 1944). The descriptive term ‘Vegetal’ has been proposed in place of Jacobsthal’s type-site to denote the new style, reflecting in particular its use of plant-derived tendril motifs, although the style is not characterized exclusively by vegetal motifs, nor are vegetal motifs exclusive to it (Harding 2007:70).

The Vegetal Style is often regarded as the high point of La Tène curvilinear ornament because it is in this style that derivative classical motifs are deconstructed and re-emerge with the ‘assured irrationality’ of a vibrant and independent Celtic creation (Loc cit. 265).

The Waldalgesheim torc and arm-rings (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn).

Detail of decoration on the Waldalgesheim torc

Detail of decoration on the Bulgarian torc

Another golden torc from grave # 2 at Filottrano near Ancona, in the territory of the Senones, is a closely related piece to the Bulgarian example. Elements in the design in the Gorni Tsibar torc are also paralleled on Celtic pottery from Alsopel in Hungary which shows a similar vegetal tendril surrounded by random dots and stamped arcades or half-moons (Megaw 2001:118-119), while the vegetal decorative details on the neck-guard of the Celtic helmet from Silivaş (Romania) belong to the late phase of the aforementioned style, similar to the ornamentation of the helmets from Förker Laas Riegel in Carinthia, discovered in 1989 (Schaaff 1990).

The neck-guard of the Silivaş helmet. Detail of decoration(early 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/the-mechanism-of-dreams-vegetal-style-and-the-silivas-helmet/

The Bulgarian torc has been dated to the last quarter of the 4th c. BC., and is significant not only from an artistic perspective but because it, in combination with other archaeological and numismatic evidence, confirms Celtic presence in this area of Bulgaria as early as the 4th c. BC., a fact which is also testified to in ancient sources (Seneca nat. quaest 3.11.3; Plin. n.h. 31.53) who describe a battle between the Macedonian general Cassander and Celtic forces in the Balkan mountains (Stara Planina) at the end of the 4th c. BC.

The Gorna Tsibar site is near the location of the Celtic settlement of Cumodina (modern Stanevo, Montana region) (Ravennatis Anonymi Cosmographia. Liber IV, 7, 190). Further along the valley of the small Tsibritza river, on which Gorna Tsibar is situated, recent archaeological evidence has also confirmed Celtic settlement around the villages of Valchedrum and Jakimovo dating until the 1st c. BC / 1st c. AD.

Depiction of a Celto-Thracian chieftain with torc on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure, Montana region (Northwestern Bulgaria / 2/1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/wp-2-nw.jpg?w=820

Military equipment from the burial of a Celtic / Scordisci cavalry officer from Montana, Bulgaria (2/1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/scordisci-swords/

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BALKAN CELTIC SERPENT-HEADED BROOCHES

 

Some of the most exquisite European Iron Age jewelry pieces were produced by the “barbarian” tribes on the Balkan peninsula between the 4th and 1st century BC. During this period Celtic craftsmen, working in a variety of mediums, drew heavily on both Scythian and Hellenistic art; a process which culminated in a distinctive Balkan Celtic style.

Although multiple mediums were used, the genius of Celtic craftsmen of this period is to be most clearly observed in silver treasures produced by the Scordisci tribes, such as those from Hrtkovci, Židovar, Čurug etc...

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/35771383/BALKAN_CELTIC_HINGED_SERPENT-HEAD_BROOCHES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LAST OF THE GOLDEN MASKS – A Balkan Celtic Cult Mask in the Burgmuseum / Deutschlandsberg, Austria

 

 

As with all major conflicts, the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s was accompanied by large scale theft and looting of cultural treasures. A fascinating example of this phenomenon is a Balkan Celtic golden face mask now in the Burgmuseum in Deutschlandsberg, Austria.

 

Such life size golden masks of gold and bronze were created across Europe in the 1st millennium BC; the practice of placing funeral masks on the deceased’s face being particularly common in ancient Macedonia of the sixth and fifth centuries BC. As a constituent part of the grave furnishings, funerary face-masks or golden foliage covering the eyes and mouth have long been known in great numbers from sites such as Trebenište near Ohrid, Beranci near Prilep, Sindos near Thessalonica, and other sites in Macedonia and Halkidiki.

 

 

Golden funeral masks from Trebenište near the ancient city of Lychnidos / Λύχνιδος (modern Ohrid) on the shores of Lake Ohrid in today’s (FYR) Macedonia (6/5 c. BC)

The history of the discovery of royal golden masks from the necropolis near the villages of Trebenište and Gorenci (10 miles north of Ohrid) has a long tradition. In this necropolis five funerary masks have been found on three separate occasions over the last century. The first two masks were found by accident in the spring of 1918 by Bulgarian soldiers during the occupation of this part of Macedonia. At the height of the military occupation, excavations were carried out by the Bulgarians which revealed seven royal tombs from which the material was removed from Macedonia and taken to the Archeological Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria, where it is still located today.

 In 1919, Macedonia was occupied by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (Kingdom of S.H.S.), when part of the lake Ohrid shore with 22 Macedonian villages were transferred to Albania. In 1930-1934, Serbian archaeologist H.Vulić revealed six other royal graves in the same cemetery, and discovered 2 further golden masks, all of which were taken to the Serbian National Museum in Belgrade.

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/lychnidos-golden-masks-and-mercenaries/

 

 

A 680 g. golden mask discovered in August 2004 in a burial in the Svetitsa tumulus near Kazanlak, Bulgaria (4th c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/behind-the-golden-mask-seuthopolis-and-the-valley-of-the-thracian-kings/

 

 

Numerous examples of such human masks have also been found across western Europe. Mostly these are geographically, chronologically and contextually isolated finds of metal masks, such as the bronze masks from Tarbes in the Pyrenees, Blicquy in the Belgian province of Hainaut and Vieil-Evreux; two silver masks from Notre-Dame-d’Allençon, two bronze masks from the Compiègne forest, Garancières-en-Beauce, as well as a tin example from Bath, all belonging to the period of the 4th – 1st c. BC La Tène civilization.

The Deutschlandsberg mask is 14.7cm high and 11.3cm wide, and made from carefully cut, beaten and filed gold sheet metal. The face has round eyes with accentuated eyelids, a long, well-defined nose and tightly closed lips under which is a strongly defined chin. The arched eyebrows are marked out by numerous cuts running from the middle to the sides; the top of the mask is ornamented by small locks of hair.

 

 

The Balkan Celtic Golden Mask

(after Guštin 2009)

 

This mask was first published in 1998 in the exhibition catalogue of the Gebrüder Steffan Fund (Kelten 1998, 36) with the subtitle Ostkeltische Totenmaske aus Goldblech, and presented in the well-known exhibition dedicated to Celtic culture and heritage in Castello di Gorizia – published in its exhibition catalogue (Echi della Terra 2002, 87, fig. 86; see Guštin 2009).

 

 

The mask has holes which indicate that it was originally affixed to another object perhaps an organic or metal surface, for cult purposes – a practice known from the western Celtic sphere. In terms of artistic execution, it differs considerably from the earlier Balkan examples, and the style is similar to that to be observed on the Gundestrup Cauldron and other Celtic artifacts from the later Iron Age (Guštin, loc cit). Thus, it would appear that this is the last representative of a long Balkan tradition, and the use of such masks in funeral and cult practice in southeastern Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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EASTERN CELTIC WARRIOR BURIALS

UD: June 2016

 

warrior b

 

A small selection of Celtic warrior burials from Eastern Europe (5 – 1 century BC). This post will be updated periodically, as further discoveries/publications come to light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupava (Malacky District), Slovakia

(Late 5th c. BC)

 

a - stup

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-burial-of-a-celtic-chieftain-from-stupava-slovakia/

 

 

 

 

a - sred

Srednica (Ptuj/ancient Poetovio), Slovenia

(late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/a-celtic-warrior-burial-from-srednica-northeastern-slovenia/

 

 

 

Csepel Island (Budapest), Hungary

(Late 4th – 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/celtic-budapest-the-burial-complex-from-csepel-island/

Also: Warrior burial #149 (3rd c. BC):

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/a-danubian-warrior-celtic-burial-149-from-csepel-island-budapest/

 

 

Ciumeşti (Satu Mare), Romania

(mid 3rd c. BC)

 

a - cium

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

 

 

 

 

Lychnidos/Ohrid, FYR Macedonia

(mid 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/lychnidos-golden-masks-and-mercenaries/

 

 

Ljubljana, Slovenia

(late 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/melted-warriors-la-tene-burials-from-the-auersperg-palace-in-ljubljana/

 

 

Szabadi (Somogy County), Hungary

(Late 3rd/early 2nd c. BC)

 

a - hun

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/brothers-in-arms-the-double-warrior-burial-from-szabadi-hungary/

 

 

 

 

Kalnovo (Schumen Region), Bulgaria

(Early 2nd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/4096257/The_Celtic_Burials_From_Kalnovo_Eastern_Bulgaria_

 

 

Zvonimirovo (Podravina province), Croatia

(2nd c. BC)

 

a - cro

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-celtic-burials-at-zvonimirovo-croatia/

 

 

Slana Voda (Zlatibor district), southwestern Serbia

(mid 2 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/death-at-salty-water-the-mass-grave-from-slana-voda/

 

 

Desa (Dolj County), Romania

(Late 2nd c. BC)

a - rom

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/scordisci-warrior-burials-from-desa-romania/

 

Montana, Bulgaria

(late 2nd. / 1st c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/a-celtic-cavalry-officer-from-montana-bulgaria/

1 -  ILLUST FRNT

 

 

 

Koynare (Pleven Region), Bulgaria

(Late 2nd/1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/7888751/A_Late_La_Tene_Warrior_Burial_From_Koynare_Bulgaria_

 

 

 

Sremska Mitrovica (Syrmia), Serbia

(Late 2nd/ early 1st c. BC)

a - serb

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-warrior-and-his-wife-a-scordisci-burial-from-serbia/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN TRÍBHÍS MHÓR – The Great Triple Spiral

tri-drag-illust

“And it is well known that Plato is found perpetually celebrating the barbarians,  remembering that both himself and Pythagoras learned the most and the noblest of their dogmas among the barbarians”.
(Clement of Alexandria: The Stromata. Book 1:XV)
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Common to many Indo-European cultures, the triskelion/triskele is one of the most distinctive and common motifs in Iron Age Celtic art, both as a symbol in itself, and forming the geometric basis for numerous artistic compositions…

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/11899946/An_Thr%C3%ADbh%C3%ADs_Mh%C3%B2r_-_On_The_Triskelion_in_Iron_Age_Celtic_Culture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE MECHANISM OF DREAMS – Vegetal Style and the ‘Silivaş’ Helmet

UD: Sept. 2018

 

 

 

 

“…the mechanism of dreams where things have floating contours and pass into other things”.

(Jacobsthal 1941)

 

 

 

SILIVAS hel

 

The Celtic helmet from Silivaş (Transylvania) was first published in 1925 as part of the inventory of a warrior burial which also included two spearheads, a sword, dagger, brooch and a ‘sickle’ (actually a curved dagger), all of which had previously been in the private collection of Count Teleki Dromokos of Transylvania.

 

roska 1925

Inventory of the Celtic Burial from ‘Silivaş’, after Róska 1925*

 

The helmet itself is of a type with neck-guard (eisenhelme mit angesetztem Nackenschutz) common among the Celts at the end of the 4th/beginning of the 3rd c. BC (LT B2). Finds of such helmets are concentrated in the alpine region of western Austria and northern Italy, from where they circulated to the east and west (Rustoiu 2013). The most spectacular examples of such helmets include those from Agris and Amfreville in France, decorated with gold and coral.

Agris helmet

a - a a- -a det agris helmet

The Agris Helmet and detail of decoration

a - a a- -a det MECHANISM

Detail of the Ram-Horned Serpent on the cheek-piece of the Agris Helmet

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/cernunnos-and-the-ram-headed-serpent/

amfreville 1

The Amfreville Helmet

 

 

amfreville det.

Detail of the decoration on the Amfreville helmet

 

 

VEGETAL / WALDALGESHEIM STYLE

 

The helmet from “Silivaş”* is ornamented on the neck-guard with vegetal elements specific to the so-called Waldalgesheim or Vegetal Style.

The Waldalgesheim Style is named after a princely burial in the middle Rhine, and displays an independence of interpretation and confidence in execution that marks the culmination of achievement of the early La Tène period (Jacobsthal 1944). The descriptive term ‘Vegetal’ has been proposed in place of Jacobsthal’s type-site to denote the new style, reflecting in particular its use of plant-derived tendril motifs, although the style is not characterized exclusively by vegetal motifs, nor are vegetal motifs exclusive to it (Harding 2007:70). The Vegetal Style is often regarded as the high point of La Tène curvilinear ornament because it is in this style that derivative classical motifs are deconstructed and re-emerge with the ‘assured irrationality’ of a vibrant and independent Celtic creation (Harding 265).

 The vegetal decorative details on the neck-guard of the helmet from Silivaş belong to the late phase of the aforementioned style, similar to the ornamentation of the helmets from  Förker Laas Riegel, in Carinthia, discovered in 1989 (Schaaff 1990).

Siliv. ng detail

The neck-guard of the Silivaş helmet. Detail of decoration

A further fine example of the vegetal style decoration on the Balkans is to be observed on the Celtic gold torc from Gorni Tsibar (Montana region) in north-western Bulgaria, which dates from the same period as the Silivaş helmet.

 

Danube Torc Bulgaria

Celtic gold torc decorated in the Vegetal Style, from Gorni Tsibar, northwestern Bulgaria

(late 4th/ early 3rd c. BC)

 

Celtic bronze torc, beautifully decorated in the Vegetal Style, from the Laon area (Picardy) of France (3 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that the most recent research on the Silivaş burial has indicated that the helmet and associated material did not in fact originate from Silivaş, but was most probably discovered in a Celtic burial in the Turda area, also in Transylvania, while the brooch and curved dagger came from a Celtic burial either in another part of Transylvania, or from the Scordisci area in today’s northern Bulgaria (for discussion see Rustoiu 2013).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Eastern Celtic helmets of the Novo Mesto type see:

https://www.academia.edu/5463297/The_Power_of_3_-_Some_Observations_On_Eastern_Celtic_Helmets

On Celtic helmets of the Montefortino type in Eastern Europe see:

https://www.academia.edu/4835555/Gallo-Scythians

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

Harding D.W. (2007) The Archaeology of Celtic Art. Routledge.

Jacobsthal P.F. (1944) Early Celtic Art. Oxford.

Roska M. (1925) Keltisches Grab aus Siebenbürgen.  In:  PZ, 16, 1925, p. 210-211.

Rustoiu A. (2013) Wandering Warriors. The Celtic Grave from “Silivaş” (Transylvania) and Its History. In: Terra Sebus. Acta Musei Sabesiensis, 5, 2013, p. 211-226

Schaaff U. (1990) Keltische Waffen. Mainz.

Mac Congail

THE BOXER WHO BECAME THE SUN – Metamorphosis and Fusion in Celtic Numismatic Art

UD: November 2018

 

boxer

 

Some of the most exciting and enigmatic late Iron Age barbarian images are those found in the artistic processes to be observed on Celtic ‘imitations’ of the coinage of the Paeonian kings.

The Celtic migration into the western and central Balkans during the 4th c. BC (Mac Congail 2008) quickly resulted in the development of Celtic coinage based on Hellenistic models, including those of the kings of Paeonia. As with the Macedonian and Thasos models, initial Celtic ‘Paeonian’ models remained quite true to the classical style and iconography of the originals. However, by the 3rd /2nd c. BC artistic experimentation with the Hellenistic models had resulted in a metamorphosis of the core iconography, and the development of unique barbarian imagery – a fusion of Hellenistic and Celtic cultures which resulted in the first non-classical European numismatic art.

Fig. 1 – Early Celtic Imitation of Audoleon AR tetradrachm (c. 315-286 BC)

(BMC Celtic 116-117. Gobl OTA 402/1)

On the evolution of the First Celtic Coinage see:

https://www.academia.edu/25857737/AB_OVO_-_The_First_Celtic_Coinage

 

Fig. 2 – Early Celtic Imitation of Audoleon AR tetradrachm
(Castelin-pg.201#1221)

 

THE BOXER

 In this context, best recorded is the coinage based on images of the Paeonian king Audoleon (315 – 285 BC), which developed in a number of artistic directions, including the ‘Boxer’ process outlined below.

 By the 2nd c. BC coinage based on the ‘Audoleon model’ has been transformed to such an extent that the original is barely recognizable, and in the barbarian issues the images on the reverse have developed a unique style which brings to mind the 20th century artistic movement known as naivism.

 

Fig. 3 – Celtic ‘Imitation of Audoleon AR Tetradrachm, Kroisbach type with Reiterstumpf

(Gobl 469)

 

While the portrait on the obverse of fig. 3 displays the classical idealization of the subject, the rider on the reverse is represented only by a head and torso. The composition of both increasingly conforms to the circular nature of the canvass/coin.

 In fig. 4 the classical idealization of the subject on the obverse has been transformed into a naturalistic portrayal of a Celtic chieftain – a rare phenomenon in Celtic art.

 

Fig. 4 – Celtic ‘Imitation’ of Audoleon AR Tetradrachm, Kroisbach type

 

In fig. 5/6 the naturalistic features of the chieftain are further developed, and the subject is portrayed with a broken nose, logically indicating (if this is the same individual) that these are chronologically later than fig. 4.

 

Fig. 5 Celtic ‘Imitation of Audoleon AR Tetradrachm, Kroisbach type with Reiterstumpf. Broken Nose type.

 

Fig. 6 – Celtic ‘Imitation of Audoleon AR Tetradrachm, Kroisbach type with Reiterstumpf. Broken Nose type (2nd/1st c. BC)

 

 

However, just as the process appears to develop logically towards a naturalistic portrait of the subject on the obverse, and a naivist approach to the horse/rider on the reverse, it takes an unexpected twist.

During the final phase of the process we see a return to the idealization of the subject on the obverse, wholly conforming to the circular composition. Perhaps most remarkable is the schematic/iconic portrayal of the horseman on the reverse. In this final phase the head/torso of the rider fuses with horse and the head is represented by a solar symbol – 9 smaller dots ‘revolving’ around a central larger dot.

 

Fig 7 a/b – Late Celtic ‘Imitations of Audoleon AR Tetradrachm (Kroisbach type with Reiterstumpf) (1st c. BC)

 

Both the ‘rayed sun’ and the fusion of rider and horse into one creature are common developments in late Iron Age Celtic art (fig. 8-10), and may represent the fusion of the human and the divine – the transformation of man into God.

 

Fig 8 – Celtic Scyphate AR Tetradrachm from the Transylvanian Plain. (Ringelkopfreiter type)

(Gobl 450A.1)

 

DBP

Zoomorphic/geometric composition on the reverse of a hemistater of the Aulerci Eburovices tribe. (Northwestern Gaul/ 2nd c BC). Note the use of the solar/RA symbol to depict the horses head.

 

Fig . 9 –  Celtic AR tetradrachm (Serbia). (3rd/2nd c. BC. Helmschweifreiter type)

(Göbl, OTA 165)

 

Fig. 10  – Reverse of a Celtic AR Tetradrachm, Lower Danube (2nd c. BC)


(Gobl OTA-496)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Text after Крусева Б. / Мак Конгал Б., Хората, които се превърна в слънце – Krusseva B. / Mac Congail B., The Men Who became the Sun – Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv, 2010).