Tag Archive: Balkan Celts


 

 

 

“… 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)

 

 

 

 

 

Zidovar m illust

 

 

 

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.

 

zidovar opp hill

The Hill at Židovar today

 

 

Zid intor.

Silver bird pendants from the Židovar hoard

 

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/celtic-scordisci-bird-pendants/

 

 

Zidovar chains

“Foxtail” chains from the hoard

 

https://www.academia.edu/7915664/Celtic_Foxtail_Necklaces

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Mirror

Bronze mirror from the hoard

 

Zid Amber beads

Amber beads from the Židovar treasure

 

Beartooth

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.

 

 

a jew box

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.

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/barbarian-masterpieces-celtic-jewelry-boxes/

 

Fibula

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.

 

 

Pendantys X

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).

 

 

a silver finger rings

Silver Finger Rings from Židovar

 

Folding RAZOR

Folding Razor from the Židovar Treasure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECE GREEN

 

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:

 

https://www.academia.edu/27923462/On_Communism_Nationalism_and_Pseudoarchaeology_in_Romania_and_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BALKAN CELTIC MACHAIRA

a - a - a- curved daggers machaira - Copy

The use of curved single-edged swords – μαχαιρα/machaira* (and variants thereof) – developed during the Bronze Age in south-eastern Europe, with both the Iapodic and Liburian groups on the eastern Adriatic coast using variants of the machaira during this period (Batović 1983:314; Dreschler-Bižić 1983:383-384). Machaira type swords also appear…

 

https://www.academia.edu/24234744/THE_BALKAN_CELTIC_MACHAIRA

 

 

Montana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fascinating article by Andrej Gaspari, University of Ljubljana, on the ritual deposition of Celtic weapons in the Ljubljanica River:

 

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/24157678/Celtic_warriors_and_the_Ljubljanica

 

a - a -a - a - LUBl.

 

 

 

aa  -  Celtiz

 

From the beginning of the 3rd century BC the territory of modern Ukraine, previously defined by the Scythians of the North Pontic steppes and Hellenistic influences from the Black Sea zone, was supplemented by the Celtic culture from the west. The influence of the latter in western Ukraine is testified to by extensive archaeological evidence which indicates the classic pattern of Celtic migration/settlement….

 

 

 

FULL ARTICLE :

https://www.academia.edu/21918619/INTO_THE_EAST_The_Celticization_of_Western_Ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: August 2016

 

Karabur sp

 

 

One of the most fascinating aspects of Iron Age European society is the deposition of weapons and other artifacts in various ritual contexts. This is particularly true of spearheads which have been found in Celtic burials and religious sites across the continent. In fact, such ritual deposition can be traced back to the European Bronze Age, with numerous examples recorded from across the continent.

 

 

 

a - -a -a -a Copper alloy socketed spearhead. Blade rapier-shapedBuckinghamshire,Taplow, river Thames - rapier shp rare - only 3 Brit 7 Irel - 1390 BC -1000 BC MBA

Socketed spearhead with rapier-shaped blade deposited in the River Thames at Taplow (Buckinghamshire), England. (Dated ca. 1,200 BC)

(See also Gibson G. (2013) Beakers Into Bronze: Tracing Connections Between Western Iberia And The British Isles 2800-800. In: Celtic From The West 2. Oxford 2013. pp. 71-100)

 

Spear water type 3

Celtic spearheads discovered in the River Sava between Slavonski Šamac, Croatia and Šamac, Republika Srpska/Bosnia and Herzegovina (2/1 c. BC)

On Celtic material from the Sava River see also:

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

 

 

 

 

Another phenomenon frequently associated with such deposition is the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ – the deliberate breaking or bending of objects before deposition. While this custom is to be observed throughout the European Bronze and Iron Ages, its exact significance remains unclear, as does the question of why some objects are ‘killed’ while others in the same context are deposited intact.

 

srem

Ritually ‘killed’ spearhead and other artifacts from the burial of a Celtic (Scordisci) cavalry officer at Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia (1 c. BC)

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

 

Ritually 'killed' iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain 5-4 c. BC

Ritually deformed iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain (5/4 c. BC)

On ‘Killing The Objects’:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/killing-the-objects-3/

 

 

 

 

 

 

“STABBING DEATH”

 

In terms of weaponry, although all manner of Celtic military equipment is found in such ritual contexts most common are spearheads registered in numerous Iron Age Celtic warrior burials across Europe.

 

zvon

Ritually ‘killed’ sword/scabbard and spearheads in a Celtic warrior burial (LT 96) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)

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

 

 

 

A fascinating phenomenon to be observed among the Balkan Celts in the later Iron Age, i.e. the period of the Scordisci Wars against Rome, is the custom of ‘stabbing’ spears into the warrior burials. The main assault weapon of the Balkan Celtic warrior, numerous cases of spears being stabbed into burials in this distinctive fashion have been recorded throughout the region, particularly among the Scordisci tribes in eastern Croatia, southwestern Romania, Serbia and northern Bulgaria.

 

 

zvon stabbed

Spearhead ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (LT 48) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)

 

Karabur sp

Celtic spear ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (#11) at Karaburma (Belgrade), Serbia (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

The spear treated in this fashion from burial #11 at Karaburma is of a very specific Balkan Celtic type (Drnić type 3), dating to the 1st century BC, with two grooves on both sides of the blade. Examples of such have been discovered in Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials stretching from Slavonski Šamac and Otok near Vinkovci in eastern Croatia (Map #1,2), through Serbia and southwestern Romania to Borovan and Tarnava in northwestern Bulgaria (Map # 11,12)*.

 

 

Map

Distribution of recorded finds of Balkan Celtic Type 3 spearheads in eastern Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria (1st century BC)

https://www.academia.edu/19901603/La_T%C3%A8ne_spearheads_from_south-eastern_Pannonia_and_the_northern_Balkans_typology_chronology_ritual_and_social_context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Celtic / La Têne material within the modern borders of Bulgaria and Romania is still attributed by many Thracologists to the ‘Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii group’ – a pseudo-culture invented by communist scientists in the 1970’s as part of the Protochronism process.

See:

https://www.academia.edu/27923462/On_Communism_Nationalism_and_Pseudoarchaeology_in_Romania_and_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KALE AIR

The Kale (Turkish for fortification) at Krševica near Bujanovac in southern Serbia is situated at a strategic location where the slopes of the Rujen mountain descend towards the Vranje basin and Južna Morava valley. This exceptional strategic position had been used in the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages, but the Hellenistic settlement with acropolis was established at the turn of the 5/4 century BC. Finds of coins of Philip II, Alexander III, Cassander, and Demetrios Poliorketes correspond in general to the chronological span of the Hellenistic settlement which was the northernmost Ancient Macedonian city, and has been identified with the ancient city of Damastium, mentioned in classical sources (Popović P. 2006).

 

 

 

map k.

Location of Krševica

 

 

 

KALE acropolis

The Acropolis at Krševica – Central plateau with complex of buildings

 

(Illustrations after Popović 2006 = Popović P. (2006) Central Balkans Between the Greek and Celtic World: Case Study Kale-Krševica. In: In Homage to Milutin Garašanin. SASA Special Editions. Belgrade 2006. P 523-536)

 

 

 

 

Extensive archaeological excavations at the Krševica site have revealed a unique site in the Južna Morava valley where the significant remains of two civilizations – Greek and Celtic – have been encountered. The most massive layers with buildings, ramparts and other structures, as well as abundant finds of imported and local pottery made after Greek prototypes, date from the 4th and early 3rd  century BC.

 

Suburbium x

Suburbium, platform with ramparts and buildings at Krševica

 

hellen cer m Kale 4th-early 3rd c. BC

Hellenistic Ceramic from Krševica – 4th / early 3rd century BC

 

 

 

With the Celtic expansion into the central Balkans during the late 4th /early 3rd century BC, and the resulting collapse of the Macedonian state, the settlement at Krševica fell under Celtic control (Popović 2006, Mac Gonagle 2015). Archaeological evidence from the site indicates that this transition was a relatively peaceful one, and no significant economic or social disruption is to be observed.

 

 

 

On the Celtic Conquest of the Central and Eastern Balkans see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/the-celtic-conquest-of-thrace-280279-bc/

 

 

Celtic 1 Kale - 2-1 c. BC

La Tène Ceramic from the Celtic/Scordisci layers at Krševica (2/1 century BC)

 

A considerable amount of the ceramic consists of vessels characteristic of the late La Tène production from the territory of the Celtic Scordisci tribes. Besides standard forms, like ‘S’ shaped bowls, pseudo-kantharoi  etc., excavations also uncovered vessels traditionally referred to by Bulgarian and Romanian archaeologists as ‘Thracian-Dacian types of cups’ (bottom left above), which are actually Celtic lamps (Vagalinski 2011:204).

 

See also:

https://www.academia.edu/5992553/Late_La_T%C3%AAne_Ceramic_from_Bulgaria

 

 

 

la tene pits Kale Krsevica

Excavation of one of the Celtic ritual pits at Krševica

 

Celtic 2 Kale Krševica -pits - 2-1 c. BC - near Bujanovac (southeast Serbia)

La Tène ceramic from one of the ‘ritual’ pits at Krševica

The pits were of cult character and according to the main characteristics of the finds they date from the final decades of the second and the beginning of the first century BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the gradual Roman expansion into this region during the late 2nd / 1st century BC, and the resulting war of resistance by the local tribes, Krševica became of particular strategic importance. During this brutal conflict, the fortress was used by the Scordisci Federation, in conjunction with other members of the ‘barbarian coalition’, including the Free Thracian tribes and Dardanians, as a staging-post for frequent attacks/raids on Roman occupied territory to the south. This final phase ended with the defeat of the anti-Roman coalition led by the Scordisci towards the end of the 1st century BC, and the subsequent consolidation of Rome’s control in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Scordisci Wars see also:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baux-de-Provence, Provence Corinthian helmet - Celtic grave - 2nd half - 6th. c. BC (2)

 

 

The Celtic eastwards expansion of the 4th / early 3rd century BC, and resulting clash with military forces of the Hellenistic world, has logically left substantial archaeological traces, which include Hellenistic military equipment discovered in Balkan Celtic warrior burials. Notable examples of such are the Hellenistic greaves from the burial of a Celtic chieftain at Ciumeşti (Satu Mare) in Transylvania, or Greek helmets discovered in Celtic warrior burials at Seuthopolis/Sevtopolis and Kalnovo in south-central and eastern Bulgaria (Getov 1962; Megaw 2004, Mac Gonagle 2014, 2015).

 

 

greaves cium

Bronze greaves from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Ciumeşti

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

 

 

sevt hel

Greek helmet from a Celtic warrior burial at Sevtopolis* (after Getov 1962)

https://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings

 

*Repeated requests to Kazanlak museum for academic access to the extensive Celtic material from the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ have been denied. It has also come to our attention that some of this material has recently ‘disappeared’ from the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

While the aforementioned cases are clearly to be explained as trophies taken by victorious Celtic armies after the defeat of Macedonian forces, or evidence of the well documented Celtic mercenary activity during this period (Mac Gonagle 2013, 2015), more problematic are a number of Hellenistic helmets discovered in western Celtic burials which date to a much earlier period. Examples of such include the recently published Corinthian helmet discovered in a Celtic burial at Baux-de-Provence (Provence), in southern France, which was actually found in 1813, but only recently ‘rediscovered’ (Jourdan 1897, Garcia 2013). The typology of the helmet dates it to the 6th century BC (Garcia op cit), and 2 further examples of this kind of helmet have been discovered in the Lyon area in east-central France (Boucher 1970, Vial 2003).

 

 

x - Baux-de-Provence, Provence Corinthian helmet - Celtic grave - 2nd half - 6th. c. BC (1)

Corinthian helmet from Baux-de-Provence (mid 6th c. BC)

 

 

 

  Whether these Corinthian helmets, and other examples such as the Etruscan Negau type helmets, dating to the 5th century BC, from Ženjak in Slovenia or Agde (Hérault) in south-eastern France (Feugère, Freises 1994-1995) were imports into the Celtic sphere, or represent evidence of Celtic mercenary activity prior to such being recorded in ancient sources, remains unclear.

 

 

 

negau

Negau type helmet from Ženjak, Slovenia 

 

These helmets are of an Etruscan design from circa 500-450 BC called the Vetulonic or Negau type, which are of bronze with a comb-shaped ridge across the skull, and a protruding rim with a groove right above the rim. However, inscriptions on the helmets are believed to have been added at a much later date (2nd c. BC), and the deposition has been dated to circa 50 BC – i.e. shortly before the Roman conquest of the area.

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-negau-inscriptions/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Boucher St. (1970) Bronzes grecs, hellénistique et étrusques des Musées de Lyon. Lyon, Audin et de Boccard.

Getov 1962 = Гетов Л. (1962) Нови данни за въоръжението у нас през латенската епоха.Археология 3, 41-43

Garcia D. (2013) Le casque corinthien des Baux-de-Provence. In: L’Occident grec de Marseille à Mégara Hyblaea. Hommages à Henri Tréziny Bibliothèque d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne et Africaine 13 pp. 85-90

Feugère M., Freises A. (1994-1995) Casque de type Negau découvert près d’Agde (Hérault). RAN, 27-28, 1994-1995, p. 1-7.

Jourdan A. (1897) Guide du visiteur dans l’antique ville des Baux. Avignon, Aubanel.

Mac Gonagle B. (2013) The Kingmakers – Celtic Mercenaries:

https://www.academia.edu/4910243/THE_KINGMAKERS_-_Celtic_Mercenaries

Mac Gonagle B. (2014) The Celtic Burials from Kalnovo (Eastern Bulgaria):

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

Mac Gonagle B. (2015) On The Celtic Conquest of Thrace (180/279 BC):

https://www.academia.edu/10763789/On_The_Celtic_Conquest_of_Thrace_280_279_BC_

Megaw V. (2004) In the footsteps of Brennos? Further archaeological evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Hänsel B., Studenikova E., (eds.) Zwischen Karpaten und Ägäis. Neolithikum und ältere Bronzezeit. Gedenkschrift für Viera Nemejcova-Pavukova. Rahden /Westf. 93-107

Vial J. (2003) Carte archéologique de la Gaule, 34/3. Le Montpelliérais. Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S-T hoards dist map

 

The recent publication of Volume V of the wonderful CCCHBulg (Coin Collections and Coin Hoards from Bulgaria) series has provided further valuable archaeological evidence of Celtic settlement in southwestern Bulgaria in the immediate pre-Roman period. Particularly interesting among the published ancient coinage…
Full Text:

https://www.academia.edu/16198777/Patalenitsa_II_-_Another_Celtic_Strymon_Trident_Hoard_from_Southwestern_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

Overal Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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