BASTARNAE BRIDE – Burial of a Celto-Scythian woman in a Celtic burial complex at Pelczyska in Little Poland

 

UD: Feb. 2019

 

 

pel skull face

 

 

Pelczyska (Świętokrzyskie province) is situated in the western part of the loess uplands of Little Poland, circa 55 km. north-east of Kraków, on the right bank of the Nida river. 7 archaeological sites have hitherto been located in the vicinity of the village, which have yielded significant evidence of Celtic (La Têne) culture in this region during the La Têne B2 – D2 periods (3rd – 1st c. BC).

 

a - a - a - Poland

 

Archaeologically confirmed areas of Celtic settlement in Poland 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/the-celts-in-poland/

 

Killed sword

Ritually ‘Killed’ Celtic Sword from Korytnica, (also Świętokrzyskie province), south-central Poland

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

 

By the later phase of Celtic settlement in this region, as in other parts of central and eastern Europe, cremation had replaced inhumation as the dominant burial custom (see ‘Celtic Death’ article). Thus, for example, the earliest Celtic graves from Silesia, dating to the La Têne C1 period, are cremation burials (Rudnicki, Piasecki 2005). Excavations at Pelczyska over the past decade have revealed that this was also the case in this area of Poland. A number of late La Têne graves revealed southwest of the village are all cremation burials – with one notable exception.

 

Grave skel complete

(after Rudnicki, Piasecki 2005)

 

In grave # 9 was discovered a well preserved inhumation burial, dating from the same period as the aforementioned cremation burials, i.e. – La Têne D2/late 1st c. BC. The body, lying on its right side, orientated west, was found with 2 pots placed on either side of the head. According to anatomical analysis, the skeleton is that of a mature female (adultus maturus), circa 30-35 years of age (loc cit).

 

pel skull

 

The discovery of the female inhumation burial at Pelczyska is the latest in a series of cases from late Iron Age eastern Europe of women from different ethnic groups buried in a Celtic environment. A notable example of this phenomenon is the Thracian woman buried in the Celtic cemetery at Remetea Mare in Romania. As in the Polish case, the female burial in Romania was the only inhumation burial in the Celtic cemetery, the other burials all being cremations.

 

Remetea Mare

Female Inhumation Burial (#3) from Remetea Mare, Romania

(after Rustoiu 2011)

https://www.academia.edu/10087747/Bonds_of_Blood_-_On_Inter-Ethnic_Marriage_in_the_Iron_Age

 

 

So, who was the woman from grave # 9 at Pelczyska ?

The complex cultural situation in this part of Poland in the late Iron Age makes conclusive ethnic attribution difficult, but a number of facts from the site provide strong indications as to the woman’s origin. Firstly, anthropological analysis of the skull indicates the southern origin of the woman (Rudnicki, Piasecki 2005). Furthermore, inhumation burials from eastern Europe from this period where the pot is placed by the head, as is the case at Pelczyska, have been recorded among the (Celto-Scythian) Bastarnae tribes (Babeş 1993: 34=-35). It is therefore particularly significant that a close economic and cultural relationship between the Celts in this part of Poland and the Bastarnae has been confirmed at Pelczyska by the discovery of a large amount of Bastarnae coinage at the site.

 

Bast coins

Bastarnae ‘Huşi-Vovrieşti type’ tetradrachms from Pelczyska

(after Rudnicki 2003)

 

Thus, the available numismatic, archaeological and anthropological evidence strongly indicates that the woman buried in grave #9 at Pelczyska originated from the Bastarnae tribes and, as is the case with the Thracian woman from Remetea Mare, probably came to live among the Polish Celts as a result of a marriage agreement between the latter and the Celto-Scythians to the south-east. The fact that the woman was buried according to her own tribal customs once again highlights the mutual respect for cultural diversity observed by the pre-Roman tribes of eastern Europe.

 

Face recon.

Facial Reconstruction of the Female from Burial # 9 at Pelczyska

(after Rudnicki, Piasecki 2005)

 

 

 

 

 

On Inter-Ethnic marriage during the Iron Age:

https://www.academia.edu/10087747/Bonds_of_Blood_-_On_Inter-Ethnic_Marriage_in_the_Iron_Age

 

On the Bastarnae see also:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Babeş M. (1993) Die Poieneşti-Lukaševka-Kultur. Ein Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte im Raum östlich der Karpaten in den letzten Jahrhunderten vor Christi Geburt, Saarbrücker Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 30, Berlin.

Rudnicki M. (2003) Celtic Coin Finds from a Settlement of the La Têne period at Pelczyska. In: Polish Numismatic News VII, 2003. P. 1-24.

Rudnicki M., Piasecki K. (2005) A Late La Téne Inhumation Grave from Pelczyska: Comments on the Cultural Situation in the Upland Area of Little Poland (with an analysis of the anatomical remains by Karol Piasecki). In Celts on the Margin – Studies in Euopean Cultural Interaction 7th Century BC – 1st Century AD. Krakow 2005. p. 195 – 206

Rustoiu A. (2011) The Celts from Transylvania and the eastern Banat and their Southern Neighbours. Cultural Exchanges and Individual Mobility. In: The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea.  Koper–Beograd 2011. p. 163-171

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SARIAKES – The Wheat King

UD: Feb. 2016

 

 

 

Recently published archaeological and numismatic evidence from the Dobruja region (s.e. Romania/n.e. Bulgaria) has shed new light on the elusive Celto-Scythian kings who ruled in this area in the Late Iron Age, and provided vital information both on the geographical area controlled by the Bastarnae leaders, and the chronology of their rule.

 

 

 

 

SARIAKES

 

An inscription on an altar (fig. 1) discovered at Cape Kaliakra in the Southern Dobruja region of today’s Bulgaria has yielded the first concrete evidence about the territory controlled by the (Peucini) Bastarnae king Sariakes in the early 2nd c. BC. Cape Kaliakra, where the altar was discovered, was known in the Late Iron Age as Tirizis (loc cit), and lay slightly to the east of the Bastarnae settlement of Peuce in the Balchik/Dionysopolis area. Previous numismatic and archaeological evidence has confirmed a Celtic (Celto-Scythian) presence in the area, and the Cape Kaliakra inscription to ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΣΑΡΙΑΚΟΥ provides further epigraphic evidence that this area was controlled by the Bastarnae during the period in question.

 

 

KK - Sarinsc

 

Fig 1. The Cape Kaliakra / Tirizis inscription

(after Драганов Д. Монетите на Скитските Царе. София 2012)

 

 

 

Kap. tir

Cape Kaliakra

 

 

 

 

The dedication on the altar was made to the Bastarnae king by a Macedonian called Antigon, which also provides a possible chronological framework for the rule of Sariakos. We know from ancient sources that in the second decade of the 2nd c. BC Philip V of Macedonia sent envoys to both the Thracian Celts (Scordisci) and the Bastarnae to solicit their help in his planned war with Rome. Livy informs us that:

‘The envoys whom he had sent to the Bastarnae to summon assistance had returned and brought back with them some young nobles, amongst them some of royal blood. One of these promised to give his sister in marriage to Philip’s son, and the king was quite elated at the prospect of an alliance with that nation’.

(Livy 40:5)

 

 

 

The testimony of Livy again emphasizes the geo-political importance of the Bastarnae in the region, and the Kaliakra/Tirizis inscription provides the first archaeological confirmation of the contact between the Macedonians and the Bastarnae of today’s northeastern Bulgaria during the period in question.

Further information about the Bastarnae king, Sariakes, comes from extensive numismatic material discovered in the area. Besides a number of bronze issues, Sariakes was the only one of the Bastarnae kings to have minted silver coinage during this period (fig. 2). Silver coinage circulating in this area in the the 2nd/1st c. BC consisted of issues of the Greek Black Sea colonies or that produced by the Thracian Celtic tribes, which makes the silver Sariakes issues particularly noteworthy.

 

 

Sarsilv

Fig. 2. Silver Sariakes coinage (early 2nd c. BC)

 

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/peucini-bastarnae-the-land-of-esus/

 

 

 

 

The iconography to be observed on both the silver and bronze (fig. 3) Sariakes issues gives us an important insight into the cultural processes at work among the Bastarnae tribes during this period. As with the other Peucini leaders, the coinage of Sariakes is Hellenistic in nature. This process of Hellenization is to be also observed on the coinage of the Celtic Tyle state which controlled this part of Bulgaria in the previous century, and the portrayal of Greek divinities – Demeter, Zeus, Apollo, Heracles, the Dioscuri etc. – on this coinage illustrates that the Bastarnae in this area (at least the aristocratic class), as with the Galatians, had become heavily Hellenized.

 

 

A Sar bron

Fig. 3 – Sariakes Bronze issues

 

 

 

 

 

THE WHEAT KING

 

 

A particularly interesting feature to be observed on the coinage of Sariakes, and other Bastarnae kings, is the recurring presence of the wheat symbol on the reverse of their coinage. The Dobruja area has traditionally been the ‘breadbasket’ of the region, with production of wheat playing a key role in the economy. The wheat symbols on the coins of Sariakes is again an indication that the prosperity of the barbarian Zaravetz culture in this area in the Late Iron Age was largely due to the production and export of wheat along the Danube through Celtic ports such as Mediolana, and to the Hellenistic world through the Greek Black Sea ports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also:

https://www.academia.edu/4118437/Mediolana_and_the_Zaravetz_Culture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEUCINI BASTARNAE

UD – Nov. 2015

 

 

 

 

 

‘…the Gauls on the Danube who are called Bastarnae, an equestrian host and warlike’.

(Plut. Aem. 9.6)

 

Opc

 

 

The Peucini were the southern branch of the Bastarnae tribal confederation, initially settled in the Lower Danube region, specifically around the island of Peuce, from which they took their name – while those who took possession of Peuce, the island in the Ister, are called Peucini’ (Strabo Vii, 3,17).

 From the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 2nd c. BC (coinciding chronologically with the collapse of the Celtic Tyle state in eastern Thrace) the Peucini began to expand southwards into sub-Danubian Thrace, where they are referred to variously as ‘Galatians’, ‘Bastarnae’ or ‘Gauls’. In 179 BC they first appear in historical sources as allies of the Scordisci and the Macedonian king Philip V, who intended to send them against Rome. The geo-political significance of the Peucini at this stage is noted by ancient authors. Livy informs us that:

The envoys whom he had sent to the Bastarnae to summon assistance had returned and brought back with them some young nobles, amongst them some of royal blood. One of these promised to give his sister in marriage to Philip’s son, and the king was quite elated at the prospect of an alliance with that nation (Livy. History of Rome. Book 40:5).

 Although Philip’s sudden death meant that this Macedonian/Celtic coalition against Rome never materialized, the same source makes it clear that by this time the Bastarnae were firmly established in eastern Thrace (Livy 40:58).

( on the Bastarnae tribes see also: https://www.academia.edu/4835555/Gallo-Scythians )

 

Celto-Scythian (Peucini Bastarnae) burial from Durankulak Island (Dobrudja), Bulgaria good

Celto-Scythian (Peucini Bastarnae) burial from Durankulak Island (Dobrudja), north-eastern Bulgaria

(2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 THE “LAND OF ESUS”

 

 

The main centre of Peucini political and economic power in southern Dobruja (n-e Bulgaria) was concentrated in the territory around the Kavarna/Balchik/Kaliakra area on the Black Sea coast, where we encounter the settlement of Peuce in the Balchik area (IGBulg V, 5011 (terr. Dionysopolis), probably the center/capital of the Peucini kingdom. This is confirmed by the fact that many of the Peucini Bastarnae coins were minted in Dionysopolis/Balchik. Close to Peuce was the settlement of Tirizis/ Τιρίζης, located on cape Kaliakra (Men. Perg., Per. 156; Strabo 7. 6.1) which appears to bear the name of the Celtic deity Esus (Proto-Celtic = *tīrro – land, *tīros- ‘land, earth’ [Noun] – GOlD: OIr. tir [0 n]; W: OW tir, MW tir [m], BRET: MBret tir [m], Co: OCo. tir gl. tellus, Co. tyr; the second element from the Celtic deity Esus (Lucanus, Bellum civile I.445, Marcellus of Bordeaux, De medicamentis 15.106, p. 121), – the name meaning literally ‘the Land of Esus’.

 

Archaeological and numismatic evidence from this area of north-eastern Bulgaria, particularly around the aforementioned Kavarna area, indicates that by the 2nd/1st c. BC the material culture of the Peucini was a mixture of La Têne and Hellenistic cultures (Mac Congail 2008:52), which explains why archaeologists have hitherto been unable to identify a distinct Bastarnae culture.

 Numismatic material from this period is particularly indicative of the geo-political and economic status quo in this region in the period directly before the Roman conquest. Coinage circulating in this area in the 3rd – 1st c. BC, besides issues of the Greek Black Sea colonies, consisted of coinage of the Celtic Tyle state (3rd c. BC) found at the villages of Bozhurets, Septemvrijtsi and Sveti Nikola, again in the Kavarna area, Celtic silver Philip II and III type drachms and tetradrachms, and Zaravetz bronze and lead issues.

 

 

In addition to this highly complex mix of Greek and ‘barbarian’ coinage, during the 2nd / 1st c. BC the Celto-Scythian leaders of the Peucini Bastarnae also issued a limited number of their own coins.

 

 

 

BASTARNAE ROYAL COINAGE

 

So far coinage of six Bastarnae kings in the Dobruja region of southeastern Romania/northeastern Bulgaria have been identified – Kanites, Tanousas, Charaspes, Aelis, Akrosas and Sariakes, and their coins have been found almost exclusively around the West Pontic Greek cities of Istrus, Tomi, Callatis, Dionysopolis and Odessos. They are roughly dated to the 2nd / 1st c. BC and, as with the coinage of the Celtic Tyle state in this region of the previous century, are Hellenistic in nature, in terms of artistic style and iconography. Some of the iconography, notably the obverse Head of beardless Heracles in lion skin, are also similar to the Celtic Tyle coins and, as with the Celtic kings of Tyle before them, the Peucini leaders used the royal title ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ on their coinage.

( On the Coinage of the Celtic Tyle state in this area see: https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT )

 

 

 

AELIS

 

Aeli. 1
a. Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r. from above) ΑΙΛΙΟΣ (l. from above). Two horse foreparts jugate, r. (AE; 23 mm; 8.80 g; Kavarna museum (Bulgaria)
b. Obv.: Head of Helios radiate facing. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (l. from below) ΑΙΛΙΟΣ (r. from below). Rayed sun. (AE; 17 mm; 4.52 g)

 

 

KANITES

 

Kani. 1

 

a.       Head of Demeter veiled and wearing corn wreath, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΚΑΝΙΤΟΥ (l., from above). Torch and corn ear. (AE 24 mm; 11.08 g)

b.      Obv.: Head of Zeus diademed, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΚΑΝΙ (l., from above). Bird on thunderbolt, r. (AE; 22 mm; 9.25)

 

 

TANOUSAS

 

Tano

a.       Obv.: Heads of Demeter and Kore jugate, veiled and wearing corn wreaths, r. Countermark, head of Hermes, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΤΑΝΟΥΣΑ (l., from above), ΒΑΚ (below). Two corn ears. (AE; 24 mm; 8.40 g)

b.      Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΤΑΝΟΥ (l., from above), ΒΑΚ (below). Two horse foreparts  jugate, r. (AE; 15 mm; 3.34 g)

 

 

CHARASPES

 

Char.

a.       Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΧΑΡΑΣΠΟΥ (l., from above). Bird on thunderbolt, r. (AE; 23 mm; 9.50 g)

b.      Obv.: Head of beardless Heracles in lion skin, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΧΑΡΑΣΠΟΥ (l., from above). Corn ear, quiver, bow. (AE; 22 mm; 8.54 g)

 

 

AKROSAS

 

Akr.

a.       Obv.: Heads of Dioscuri jugate wearing laureate pilei, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΑΚΡΟΣΑ (l., from above). Two horse fore-parts jugate, r. (AE; 24 mm; 9.50 g)

b.      Obv.: Heads of Demeter and Kore jugate, veiled and wearing corn wreaths, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΑΚΡΟΣΑ (l., from above). Two corn ears. (AE; 24 mm; 6.22 g)

 

( https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/akrosas-the-king-who-scared-a-monster/ )

 

 

 

 

 

SARIAKES

 

Sari

a.  Obv.: Head of beardless Heracles in lion skin, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (r., from above) ΣΑΡΙΑΚΟΥ (l., from above). Bow, quiver, thunderbolt (above), corn ear. (AE; 24 mm; 9.25 g)

b.  Obv.: Head of Zeus diademed, r. Rev.: ΒΑΣΙΛΕ (r., from above) ΣΑΡΙΑΚ (l., from above). Bird on thunderbolt, r. (AE; 24 mm; 10.80 g)

( see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/sariakes-the-wheat-king/ )

 

 

 

The fact that these Celto-Scythian kings issued only bronze coinage is significant from a geo-political perspective. The theory of a unitary (Scythian) state in this region during the late Iron Age, based only on a number of lower value (bronze) coins, minted by the Greek Black Sea colonies for these leaders, is logically flawed. The Bastarnae coinage had a mainly symbolic function, and comprised only a small fraction of the overall coin pool in the area during this period, which consisted primarily of Greek and Celtic coinage.

 

 The Bastarnae royal coinage adds an important piece to the puzzle, and increases our understanding of the socio-political and ethnic status quo in this part of south-eastern Europe. The available archaeological, linguistic and numismatic evidence from this region clearly indicates that a unique culture developed between the 3rd and 1st c. BC, based on a symbiotic and prosperous relationship between the barbarian (Celtic, Bastarnae, Getae) tribes, and the Greek Black Sea colonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

( see also: https://www.academia.edu/4118437/Mediolana_and_the_Zaravetz_Culture )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail