GOD IN THE AXE – Celtic Ceremonial Axes from Horné Orešany (Slovakia)

UD: September 2019

 

 

Intro - Horné Orešany 1

 

 

The Celtic hillfort at Horné Orešany is situated in the Trnava district in western Slovakia, in the Little Carpathian mountains above the village. The double rampart ring of the hill fort with an area of 2 ha was discovered in the early part of this century by ‘treasure hunters’ and greatly damaged by illegal excavations.

 

map

Archaeologically confirmed early La Têne sites in western Slovakia

(On the early La Têne chieftain’s burial from Stupava see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-burial-of-a-celtic-chieftain-from-stupava-slovakia/ )

 

 

Research studies at the Horné Orešany site subsequently identified a massive amount of material dating from the Hallstatt to middle La Têne periods, with the vast majority pertaining to the early La Têne era (5/4 c. BC). From the interior of the hillfort evidence of blacksmith activities and jewellery production was identified, including 11 animal- and human-headed brooches, 10 bird-headed brooches and dozens of box-shaped belt hooks. Further discoveries (mostly by ‘treasure hunters’) have included 3 hoards of iron artifacts and two deposits of bronze ornaments, as well as at least 8 Celtic swords and 60-80 spearheads.

 

brooch 1 GOOOD

brooch 2 GOOOD

Bronze brooches from the Celtic hillfort at Horné Orešany (late 5th / early 4th c. BC)

(after Pieta 2010; see also Megaw 2012)

 

Bronze hybrid/sphinx creature, from the Celtic settlement at Horné Orešany (5/4 c. BC)

 

Among the most significant finds from the site are two bronze decorated axes, also dating to the early La Têne era. Although in prehistory and the Hallstatt period axes were among the most popular weapons, in the La Têne period their use is recorded only in isolated cases (Guštin 1991: 58/59, Schumacher 1989; Todorović 1972:Taf. 18:6). In Slovakia, while there is no evidence of the use of axes as weapons during this period (Pieta 2005:49), a number of bronze axes, believed to have had a ritual purpose, have been recorded. The ceremonial/religious function of the Horné Orešany axes is also clearly indicated by the intricate triskele decoration on the blade, and the depiction of a bearded deity who appears on both examples.

 

Ritual bronze axe from the Celtic settlement on Žeravica Hill, near Stupné (Trenčín region), in northwestern Slovakia

(5/4 c. BC)

 

Horné Orešany 1

 

Horné Orešany 2

 

Celtic ritual/ceremonial axes from Horné Orešany (Width of blades 95/ 67 mm.) – Late 5th c. BC (after Pieta 2014)

 

The Face of Esus ?

In the Celtic pantheon the axe has no clearly defined role, except in the case of the God Esus. The two statues on which the name of Esus appears are the Pillar of the Boatmen from among the Parisii, and a pillar from Trier in the territory of the Treveri tribe. In both of these, Esus is portrayed cutting branches with an axe.

 

The Celtic deity Esus as represented on Le pilier des Nautes (Musée National du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny)

The Celtic deity Esus as represented on Le pilier des Nautes, discovered in a temple at the Gallo-Roman civitas of Lutetia (modern Paris/ Early 1 c. AD)

 

If the deity on the Horné Orešany axes is indeed Esus, it is interesting to note the sharp contrast between the Gallo-Roman depictions which present the God in human form, i.e. as an axeman, and the earlier Celtic examples in which the fusion of form and decoration culminates in the deity literally becoming one with the weapon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited
Guštin M. (1991) Posočje in der jüngeren Eisenzeit. Ljubljana
Megaw V. (2012) ‘Go East Young Man!’ Antipodean thoughts on the earliest La Tène art in Slovakia (with particular reference to the fortified settlement of Horné Orešany) In: Archeológia Na Prahu Histórie. K životnému jubileu Karola Pietu. Nitra 2012, 447 – 460.
Pieta K. (2005) Spätlatènezeitliche Wafen und Ausrüstung im nördlichen Teil des Karpatenbeckens. Slovenská archeológia 53, 35-84.
Pieta K. (2012): Die keltishe Besiedlung der Slowakei. arh. Slov. Mon. Studia 12, Nitra 2010.
Pieta K. (2014) Rituelle Beile aus dem Frühlatène-Burgwall in Horné Orešany/Rituálne sekery z včasnolaténskeho hradiska Horné Orešany. In: MORAVSKÉ KŘIŽOVATKY . Střední Podunají mezi pravěkem a historií. Moravské zemské muzeum, Brno 2014. P. 717-727
Schumacher F. J. (1989) Das frührömische Grab 978 mit Beil und Axt. Wafen oder Werkzeuge? In: A.Hafner (Hrsg.): Gräber – Spiegel des Lebens. Zum Totenbrauchtum der Kelten und Römer am Beispiel des Treverer-Gräberfeldes Wederath-Belginum. Mainz. 247-254
Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma. Beograd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Burial of a Celtic Chieftain at Stupava and early La Têne settlement in southwestern Slovakia

UD: Jan. 2020

Belt Buckle detail

 

The town of Supava (Malacky district) is situated in the Záhorie lowland, under the Little Carpathians, around 15 km (9 m.) north of the Slovakian capital Bratislava. In 1929 industrial work in the area uncovered an Iron Age necropolis, which has provided invaluable information on the early phases of Celtic settlement in this area of Europe.

 

Stupava map

Location of Stupava, and main early La Têne settlements and finds in southwestern Slovakia (LT A – LT B1; after Čambal 2012).

 

H st art 1

Bronze hybrid creature with cat-like body and bird head. from the Celtic settlement at Horné Orešany, western Slovakia

(5-4 c. BC)

H st art 1 axe

Celtic ritual/ceremonial axe from Horné Orešany

(Late 5th c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/god-in-the-axe-celtic-ceremonial-axes-from-horne-oresany-slovakia/?fbclid=IwAR2DCV5aPX4cah2v-3LdmhI-n1MBx2aSFlAfjKJqN9xIRsafxU842faZxno

 

 

Among the 10 graves discovered at the Celtic necropolis in Stupava, which dates to the La Têne A – Lt A2/B1 period, the most outstanding was the male inhumation burial (dated to c. 400 BC) located at the highest point of the cemetery. The situation of the burial, and the grave inventory – which included a sword, lance, iron knife, bronze armlet, stamped pottery decorated with bull horns, and a bronze belt-plaque with human mask – clearly indicate that the individual was of high standing in the community, i.e. a tribal leader/chieftain.

stupava c.400 BC

Metal finds from the Stupava Chieftain’s burial
(c. 400 BC)

stupava 1

Stamped ceramic bowl decorated with bull horns from the Stupava burial

Another fascinating find associated with the burial is a decorated bronze belt-plate with human mask. The Stupava belt-plate is a highly decorated type of a general class with rectangular plate which extend from the Middle Rhine to Slovakia (Megaw/Megaw/Neugebauer 1989; Frey 1996:202, 203, abb. 5, 6; Pieta 2007:307, abb. 10), and is an important example of the development of early La Têne art in this part of Europe. The anthropomorphic element/ face mask on the Stupava belt has many parallels in Celtic compositions of this period, notably those to be observed on a bronze fibula and belt hook  from tomb #1 at Glauberg (Hesse), Germany.

Belt Buckle

Bronze Belt-Plate from the Celtic Chieftain’s Burial at Stupava

retrouvee-dans-la-tombe-n1-de-glauberg-en-hesse-allemagne-datant-du-ve-s-av-j-c-bronze-and-coral-2

Celtic fibula (bronze with coral) with zoomorphic/anthropomorphic decoration, from Glauberg (5th c. BC)

bronze-belt-hook-grave-mound-1-glauberg-ca-500-bc

Bronze belt hook with zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and geometric decoration from Glauberg

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Literature Cited

Čambal R. (2010) Keltské nálezy zo Stupavy. Stupava 7, 2010 – 2011, 3 – 7
Čambal R. (2012) Frühlatènezeitlihes gräberfeld in Stupava. ausgrabungen in Jahr 1929, Zbor. SNM 106. arh. 22, 2012, p. 87 – 119

Eisner J. (1930) Raně latènské památky na Slovensku a v Podkarpatské Rusi. Zvláštní otisk z ČSPSČ 38, Praha 1930, 1-8

Megaw J.V.S. (2010) A world turned upside down: the bronze plaque from Stupava, okr. Malacky. in: J. Šuteková et al. (eds.): Panta Rhei. Studies in chronology and cultural development of Southeastern and central europe in earlier prehistory. Stud. arch. et Med. 11. Bratislava 2010, 607 – 622

Pieta K. (2007) Der frühlatènezeitlihe Burgwall in Horné Orešany, westslowakei.Vorbericht. Slov. arh. 55, 2007, 295 – 310

 

 

Mac Congail