“… a people … cruel and savage, and, as ancient history declares, accustomed to offer up their prisoners to Bellona and Mars, and from their hollowed skulls greedily to drink human blood”.
(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)
Presented by Greek and Roman ‘historians’ as mindless savages, recent archaeological evidence from the central Balkans has thrown a completely different light on the Celtic Scordisci tribes who dominated this part of Europe from the 4th century BC until the Roman conquest. Most spectacular of these discoveries has been the hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum (settlement) on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara), in the Banat (Vojvodina) region of modern Serbia.
The Hill at Židovar today
Silver bird pendants from the Židovar hoard
“Foxtail” chains from the hoard
Although excavations have been carried out at the site since the 1940’s, it was not until 2001 that the most spectacular discovery was made. Dated to the late 2nd / early 1st century BC, the rich hoard included 134 amber beads, a bronze mirror (with high tin content) and two pendants fashioned from brown bear teeth.
Bronze mirror from the hoard
Amber beads from the Židovar treasure
Brown Bear Tooth Pendants
The most fascinating part of the hoard consists of 163 silver objects, including fibulae/brooches of the Jarak type. In addition to these, the jewellery group contained pendants of different forms, two rings, three chains and small lidded cylindrical boxes made of silver sheet and decorated in filigree and granulation technique. Two folding razors and a mirror form the group of toiletry accessories of the Židovar treasure.
Jewelry Box from Židovar
All 3 jewelry boxes from the hoard have a high percent of silver (average values over 95 wt%). Copper is the main alloying element (average values from 1.5–4 wt%). Lead contributes less then 1 wt%, and tin was not detected in the metal of any of the boxes.
Silver Fibula of the Jarak type from the hoard
While archaeological finds of Scordisci silver are known from several hoards in Serbia, such as Kovin, Jarak, Hrtkovci and Karaburma, the Židovar hoard is of particular significance, having been discovered in a clear archaeological context.
Silver pendants from the Židovar Hoard
The origin of the silver that the Serbian Celts used for producing jewelry and minting silver coins has not yet been established with any degree of certainty. However, it is likely that a substantial amount came from the silver-lead mine at Kosmaj near the Celtic settlement of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade).
Silver Finger Rings from Židovar
Folding Razor from the Židovar Treasure