PUPPETRIDERS – Celtic Coinage of the “Zichyújfalu” types

UD: April 2019


puppt intro


The most fascinating and enigmatic of late Iron Age European coinage, the Celtic Puppetrider tetradrachms were produced from the early 3rd c. BC onwards by the Pannonian Celtic tribes. The coinage itself features a male laureate head on the obverse, the subjects eye being represented on a number of issues by an arrowhead.


PR eyear

Obverse of Celtic tetradrachm of the Puppetrider/Triskele type (Hungary, late 3rd c. BC)


The reverse depicts a horseman with left arm raised, of whom only the upper part of the body is represented. Behind the riders head and in front of the horse is a Celtic inscription while below the horse, on the majority of such coins, is a triskelion/triskele, a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic coins and other artifacts. The triskele variants date from the mid 3rd c. BC onwards, while rarer issues which feature a monogram from the coinage of the Paeonian king Audoleon, from which the Celtic puppetrider types are believed to have evolved, date to a slightly earlier period.


tri and mono

Puppetrider tetradrachm with triskele, and the earlier type with Audoleon monogram

(both from the Zichyújfalu hoard; see below)





As mentioned, the vast majority of puppetrider coins are of the aforementioned triskele type. Based on the recorded finds of such, the epicentre of production and distribution lay in the area of today’s central Hungary where, besides numerous single finds, two major hoards of such have been found in close proximity – those from Zichyújfalu, which included 268 Celtic coins, 262 of the triskele type, and Dunaújváros (also in Fejér county) (Kerényi 1960; Göbl 1972: 51-52) which included a similar, slightly larger, hoard of such coinage (see map 1 below).




zichy ho

Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from the Zichyújfalu hoard

(after Torbágyi 2012)


A second concentration of puppetrider/triskele coinage has been identified around the villages of Sióagárd/Baranyamágócs, slightly to the south. These coins, however, are artistically and technically inferior to the aforementioned issues, and should therefore be seen as contemporary Celtic imitations of the latter.


sig tds


Puppetrider/Triskele tetradrachms from Sióagárd

(after Torbágyi 2012)


Although Celtic coinage of the Puppetrider/Triskele types circulated chiefly in the aforementioned area of Central Hungary, finds such as those from Diex in southern Austria, Batina in eastern Croatia, Bač in northern Serbia, as well as Bratislava and Görgő in Slovakia, and Ungvár in western Ukraine (loc cit), indicate that this type of coinage circulated widely among the Celtic tribes of Eastern Europe during the period in question.



Distribution of recorded finds of Celtic Puppetrider/Triskele type coinage (3rd/2nd c. BC)





Literature Cited


Göbl R. (1972) Neue technische Forschungsmethoden in der keltischen Numismatik. Anzeiger der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 109/1972: 49-63.

Kerényi A. (1960) Sztálinvárosi kelta éremlelet. (Trouvaille de médailles celtiques à Sztalinváros /Intercisa/) Numizmatikai Közlöny 58-59/1959-1960: 3-6, 83.
Torbágyi M. (2008) Der „Zichyújfalu” Typ mit Audoleon Monogramm. Festschrift für Günther
Dembski zum 65. Geburtstag. NZ 116-117/2008: 87-93.

Torbágyi M. (2012)Der Münzfund von Zichyújfalu 1873, In: VAMZ, 3. s., XLV (2012) p. 537-552









Mac Congail
































Celtic Coinage of the Strymon / Trident type from Bulgaria

strtri in


Celtic Strymon/Trident Coinage:





3 map Fin.






THE TYLE EXPERIMENT – On the Celtic State in Eastern Bulgaria

UD: March 2019





One would imagine that an invasion by hundreds of thousands of barbarians would have a catastrophic effect on the economy of a region. However, this presumption has been challenged in recent years by the archaeological and numismatic data emerging from the territory which fell under the control of the ‘barbarian’ Tyle state in eastern Thrace during the 3rd c. BC.

The traditional description of the Celtic tribes who arrived in this area has been one of ‘thirsty savages’ or ‘gangs of mercenaries’ (latest Emilov 2007, 2010), and we have been repeatedly informed that ‘their aim was not to settle, but money and booty which could be acquired in different ways … by attacking wealthy cities, and by ravaging the countryside’ (Nixon 1977, cited by Mitchell 1993; Emilov 2010). However, repeating a simplistic stereotype does not make it true, particularly when the depiction of a culture entirely contradicts all the available archaeological and historical evidence. In this case the facts tell a rather surprising tale – a barbarian invasion that brought political stability and economic prosperity in its wake…




S.E. Thrace map




















CATUBODUA – Metempsychosis and the Queen of Death

UD: March 2020


                       mo god gund


‘In dama huair ann ba rigan roisclethan ro alainn;

           Ocus in uair aill… na baidb biraigh banghalis’.


(At one moment she was a broad-eyed, most beautiful queen,

And another time a beaked, white-grey badb)

(Harleian manuscript 4.22)

The central tenet of Celtic religion was metempsychosis – the transmigration of the soul and its reincarnation after death (Caesar J. De Bello Gallica, Book VI, XIV). This belief is probably best summed up by the Roman poet Lucanus (1st c. AD):


While you, ye Druids, when the war was done,

To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned:

To you alone ’tis given the heavenly gods

To know or not to know; secluded groves

Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote.

If  what ye sing be true, the shades of men

Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus

Or death’s pale kingdoms; but the breath of life

Still rules these bodies in another age-

Life on this hand and that, and death between.

Happy the peoples ‘neath the Northern Star

In this their false belief; for them no fear

Of that which frights all others: they with hands

And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe

And scorn to spare the life that shall return.

(Pharsalia Book 1:453-456)


A similar account of the Celtic belief system is provided by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (V.28:5-6; 1st century BC):

“…for the belief of Pythagoras prevails among them, that the souls of men are immortal and that after a prescribed number of years they commence upon a new life, the soul entering into another body”.

In the transportation of the soul from one world to the next Birds of Prey played a central role:

‘to these men death in battle is glorious;

And they consider it a crime to bury the body of such a warrior;

For they believe that the soul goes up to the gods in heaven,

If the body is exposed on the field to be devoured by the birds of prey’.

(Silius Italicus (2nd c. AD) Punica 3 340-343)


‘…those who laid down their lives in war they regard as noble, heroic and full of valor,

And them cast to the vultures believing this bird to be sacred’.

(Claudius Aelianus. De Natur. Anim. X. 22)

Fig. 1 Boii

The removal of flesh from corpses, which is well documented in the Celtic world, had a mortuary significance that differed greatly from the Greco-Roman practices (Soprena Genzor  1995: 198 ff.). The last 25 years of research have revealed how interments were the culmination of previous very complex rituals. The removal of flesh before interment is clearly attested at Celtic sanctuaries like Ribemont (Brunaux  2004: 103-24), but the enormous deficit of interments, especially in the late La Têne period, can be partially explained by the exposure of corpses with the consequent destruction of most of the skeleton. This exposure ritual was a genuine self-sacrifice, as the enemy who had taken the life of the warrior, just as the bird of prey who devoured him, was merely the hand of the god (Soprena 1995; Brunaux 2004: 118-24).

Recent excavations, such as those at Ham Hill in Somerset (England), have provided further evidence of the Celtic practice of excarnation – the ritual exposure of corpses to the elements and scavengers.

Ham Hill

The finds at Ham Hill include ritualistic burials – arrangements of human skulls as well as bodies tossed into a pit, left exposed and gnawed by animals and Birds of Prey. At the site “hundreds, if not thousands of bodies”, dated from the 1st or 2nd century AD, have been found treated in this fashion.

(See: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/excarnation/)


The Ribemont-Sur-Ancre ‘Tower of Silence’

This shrine/sanctuary was erected on the site of the Battle at Ribemont (northern France), where around 1,000 Celtic warriors are believed to have died. The victorious Belgae erected this shrine to celebrate the great battle, decapitated the bodies of the defeated warriors taking the heads home with them as trophies. The headless corpses and thousands of weapons collected from the battle field were hung from a large wooden platform (‘Tower of Silence’). 

 Evidence of weathering and dismemberment of the dead at the site, and others such as Ham Hill, is consistent with the well documented Celtic religious practice of exposing corpses after death to be devoured by Birds of Prey and carnivores  (Soprena Genzor 1995: 198 ff.).



Fascinating narrative scene on a gold diadem from Mones in Asturias (Spain). The narrative features the themes of rebirth and the transformation of men into birds – a common theme in Celtic art. (4/3 c. BC)
Detail of deity with Bird of Prey “crown” on a golden torc from the burial of a Celtic princess at Reinheim (Saarland), Germany (ca. 400 BC)

On the Balkans, the same ritual is described by Pausanias (X, 21, 3) in connection with the Celtic migration into the Balkans at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC. Celtic warriors who fell in battle during the invasion of Greece were likewise left exposed to be devoured by birds of prey, consistent with the religious practice outlined above (Churchin 1995; Mac Congail 2010: 57).

In light of the significance given to birds of prey in Celtic culture it is interesting to note the ‘name’ of the leader of the Celtic offensive on Greece at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC, the same as that of the chieftain who led the Celtic tribes who sacked Rome a century earlier – Brennos. It is unlikely that this is coincidence, and it appears that Brennos was not a personal name, but a military title given to the overall commander of a Celtic army drawn from different tribes. The term comes from the Proto-Celtic *brano- (Matasović R. 2009; Mac Congail 2010: 54-59), and means literally The Raven.



Portrait of the Bird Goddess/Catubodua on the obverse of a Celto-Scythian gold stater (1st c. BC)


The importance of the raven, and birds of prey in general, in Celtic culture and religion is archaeologically confirmed by their frequent appearance on Celtic artifacts and coins. For example, of the more than 500 Celtic brooches with representational decoration now known, from Bulgaria in the east to Spain in the west, more than half depict birds (Megaw 2001: 87). On the Balkans, birds of prey also appear on artifacts such as the Celtic helmet from Ciumesti (Romania), similar examples of which are depicted on the Gundestrup cauldron, produced by the Scordisci in northwestern Bulgaria. Depictions of Birds of Prey are also found on the Celtic chariot fittings from Mezek in southern Bulgaria, and Balkan Celtic sacrificial daggers.

Bronze Celtic fibula from Ingelfingen-Criesbach in southern Germany, depicting a human head crowned by a bird of prey

(5-4 c. BC)


Detail from the Gundestrup Cauldron

a - a- a- Cium

Celtic Chieftain’s Helmet from Ciumeşti (Romania) with Bird of Prey attachment

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



 The Celtic Mother Goddess – the Morrígan / Morrígu, was a triple goddess, appearing as a trinity consisting of Macha, Anann and the Badb.  The Celts believed that the Badb/war-goddess, or more accurately the mother goddess in her war mien, appeared to warriors slain in battle in the form of a bird of prey, most often a crow or raven (O h’Ogain 2002: 22; Mackillop 2004:30; Mac Congail 2010: 72-76). Her presence was not only a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of battle. Most often she did this by appearing as a crow/raven flying overhead, and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors, or, in rare cases, join in the battle herself.

This aspect of the goddess was known as the Catubodua (battle-raveness) which survived in later Celtic tradition as the Cathbhadhbh or Badhbh Chatha (loc cit).

 From Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary originate Celtic coins (of both the Philip II (fig. 4/5) and Paeonia models (fig. 6/7) on which a Bird of Prey is depicted behind the left shoulder of the horseman, accompanying him into battle. The presence of the triskele on the Paeonia model coins in particular confirms the religious nature of the images. On the vogelreiter type (fig. 7), from the 3rd – 2nd c. BC, the horseman himself is portrayed as a skeleton, the ‘deathrider’ again accompanied by a Bird of Prey.

scor coin 1

scor coin 2

paeon. c

rom phal

Celtic gilded silver phalera from Surcea (Covasna county), Romania. Note the Bird of Prey behind the left shoulder of the warrior (late 2nd/ early 1st c. BC)

Depiction of the Mother Goddess with torcs and birds of prey on a Celto-Thracian harness appliqué from Galiche (Vratza reg.) in northeastern Bulgaria

(2-1 c. BC)

This theme is also represented on other Celtic coins from the Balkans, with depictions of the mother goddess – the Morrígan (Great Queen) in her personification as the Badhbh Chatha / Battle Raven. Such is the case, for example, with her portrayal on Celtic ‘Thasos model’ coins from Bulgaria (fig. 8), as well as some of the Paeonian ‘imitations’ (fig. 9).

tha 1

Fig. 8 – Depiction of the Goddess on the Reverse of a Celtic Thasos type issue from Bulgaria

(after Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010)

In fig. 9 the obverse portrays the central theme of transformation of the goddess, while the reverse is packed with religious symbolism, including  the triskele symbol and Celtic inscription. The central image again portrays the mother-goddess in her personification as the war raven  – Badhbh Chatha.

pae. mo.

(Gobl 436; BMC 131)


THE THREE REALMS – Reverse of a Celtic tetradrachm from southern Hungary (2nd c. BC), depicting a horseman, child and bird of prey; representing the 3 phases of life in Celtic belief – childhood, adulthood and death/transition. 








(Modern) Sources Cited


Brunaux J.L. (2004) Guerre et religion en Gaule. Essai d’anthropologie celtique. Paris: Errance.

Churchin L.A. (1995) The Unburied Dead at Thermopylae (279 BC) In: The Ancient History Bulletin 9: 68-71

Soprena Genzor G. (1995) Ética y ritual. Aproximación al estudio de la religiosidad de los pueblos celtibéricos. Zaragosa.

Mac Congail B., Krusseva B.  (2010) The Men Who Became the Sun – Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv. (In Bulgarian)

Mackillop, James (2004) A dictionary of Celtic mythology. Oxford University Press

Marco Simón F.  (2008) Images of Transition. The Ways of Death in Celtic Hispania. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 74, 2008. Pp. 53-68.

Matasović R. (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leiden and Boston

Megaw V., Megaw R. (2001) Celtic Art from its Beginnings to the Book of Kells. London.

Ó hÓgáin D. (2002) The Celts – A Chronological History. Cork.




 Mac Congail



THE LADY IN THE OVEN – Mediolana and the Zaravetz Culture

Mac Congail










The most extraordinary ancient ‘burial’ to be discovered in recent years is that of a woman found in a pottery kiln near the Celtic settlement of Ablana (by the village of Krivina, Rousse region) on the Bulgarian Danube. This burial is remarkable for a number of reasons, foremost among them its situation – in a large pottery kiln – symbolic of the thriving barbarian culture which inhabited this region in the Late Iron Age, and also for the nature of the burial – archaeological testimony to the brutal fashion in which this culture was destroyed.









Ru. map












Recent discoveries of Celtic archaeological sites and material from the Rousse area (and northeastern Bulgaria in general) have confirmed previous linguistic and numismatic evidence that this area was one of the key Celtic economic and political centers in late Iron Age Thrace. From an economic perspective, the most significant Celtic center on this stretch of the Danube was situated at Mediolana (modern Pirgovo, Rousse region) (see ‘Celtic Settlements in n. Bulgaria’ article). Mediolana was strategically situated near the confluence of the Danube and the Lom river, the latter connecting Mediolana with Celtic settlements in the interior such as Abritu (Razgrad). A vast amount of Celtic archaeological and numismatic material has been discovered in the vicinity of Pirgovo/Mediolana over the past century, including separate hoards of Celtic coins found in 1910, 1938, 1979, and 2008 around the village (see Numismatics section, especially ‘Little Metal Men’ article, with relevant lit.), clearly indicating that Mediolana/Pirgovo was a key Celtic economic and coin production center in the pre-Roman period.




Mediolana Td.

Celtic tetradrachms of the Sattelkopfpferd type from Pirgovo/Mediolana, Russe Region (from the 1978 hoard)




 Further hoards of Celtic coins discovered in the Rousse area include 4 hoards found in the area of Rousse city (Gerassimov 1966:213; Preda 1973:209, # 36;  Draganov 2001:40; Gerassimov 1966:213; Preda 1973:209, # 35; Gerassimov 1979:138;Jurukova 1979:60; Prokopov 2006, # 260), as well as from the villages of Slivo Pole (Gerassimov 1969:234; Preda 1973:240, no. 47) and  Nikolovo (Gerassimov 1952, 403-404; Preda 1973:240, # 44) (both beside the Celtic settlement of Tegris), Belyanovo (Gerassimov 1963:257; Draganov 2001: 40)(beside the Celtic settlement of Ablana), Ostritsa (Gerassimov 1962:231; Draganov 2001:40) and Pepelina (Gerassimov 1966:213; Preda 1998:219) (both on the Lom river, slightly to the south of the Celtic settlement at Pirgovo/Mediolana), Mechka (Moushmov 1932:314) (beside Mediolana), and Pissanets (Shkorpil, 1914:49, fig. 46.2; Gerassimov, 1939:344).

  The recent publication of a ‘mother matrix’ for the production of Celtic coinage of the ‘Sattlekopfpferd’ type discovered in the Rousse region confirms large-scale Celtic coin production in this area.




Ru. MM

The ‘Mother-Matrix’ for production of Celtic “Sattelkopfpferd” tetradrachms from the Rousse area (late 2nd / early 1st c. BC)

(see ‘Mother Matrix’ article)







 Further Celtic settlements on this short stretch of the Danube included Ablana (today’s Gorno Ablanovo) to the west of Mediolana, and Tegris (today’s Marten) and Appiaria  (placed XIV and IX Roman miles from Tegris(respectively TP and IA), to the east of Mediolana (see ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article). As with Mediolana, Ablana was situated at a vital strategic point – in this case near the confluence of the Jantra river with the Danube. Extensive Celtic archaeological and numismatic material discovered along the courses of both the Lom and Jantra rivers indicate that these were vital trade arteries connecting Celtic settlements on the Danube with those in the interior (see below).

  A high concentration of La Têne and Celtic numismatic material has been registered in northeastern Bulgaria, particularly in the aforementioned Rousse region on the Danube, and in the Veliko Tarnovo, Targovischte, Schumen, Razgrad and Western Varna regions (see Numismatics and Archaeology sections, especially ‘New Material 1 – 2’ articles).



Var. weap

Celtic Burial Artifacts from North-Eastern Bulgaria (Varna Archaeological Museum)

(see ‘Killing the Objects’ article)




 It should be noted that this concentration of La Têne and Celtic numismatic evidence also coincides exactly with the area of distribution of the Celtic Zaravetz lead and bronze coinage, indicating  that whereas the area further to the east and northeast was dominated by the Peucini Bastarnae (see ‘Bastarnae’ and ‘Peucini’ articles), this area was settled by different Celtic groups. Concentrations of the Zaravetz type coinage, in combination with the other types of Celtic coinage and La Têne material, in the Veliko Tarnovo/western Schumen region, such as that discovered in the cultural layers at Zaravetz hillfort (Veliko Tarnovo) indicate that this area, connected to the Danube settlements by the Jantra river, was also a key Celtic political and economic center in the late Iron Age.





Bronze Celtic fibula with zoomorphic ring from Veliko Tarnovo  (After Mircheva 2007)

 (see ‘New Material 2’ article)




Zarav coin

(see Numismatics section 8)





Mould for the production of Celtic ‘Battle-Axe’ fibulae from northeastern Bulgaria – Varna regional Museum

(see ‘New Material 2’ article)



This mould is similar to another found in the Vratza region of northwestern Bulgaria. It is dated to the 1st c. BC, and was used for making Middle La Têne fibulae. A silver Celtic fibulae from Gorni Dabnik (Pleven region, Bulgaria) is very similar to the form produced by the Varna and Vratza moulds. It belongs to a certain type of nodular ‘battle-axe’ fibulae.





It appears that the main Celtic group in this area of Bulgaria were the Coralli (see ‘Coralli’ article). Another Celtic group, the Aboulonsoi, who were settled in the area between Tutrakan (Trasmarisca) and Razgrad (Abritu) (see ‘Celtic Settlements in n. Bulgaria’ article), were probably a sub-group of the Coralli. La Têne material in eastern Bulgaria, as far south as the valley of the Kamchya river in the w. Varna region, and sites such as the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo (Schumen region) have long been attributed to the Coralli (Domaradski 1984; on the Coralli tribe see ‘Coralli’ article, with relevant lit.).




Kal. A

Material from the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo, Shumen region

               (After Megaw 2004 – see ‘New Material 2’ article)





Sch. M

Mould for the production of La Têne fibulae – Schumen region

(After Mircheva 2007 – see ‘New Material 2’ article)


The mould was used to produce fibulae of the type found at the Celtic burial site at Kalnovo, others found in Serbia, and another example from north-eastern Bulgaria, now in the Varna museum






Sh. Jan

Gold Celtic ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, northeastern Bulgaria

(after Rustoiu A. 2008)

(See ‘The Mezek Syndrome’ article with relevant lit.)







Boba. C

Bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata fortress, Schumen region


(see ‘ New Celtic Material 1’ article)








One of the most fascinating sites to be discovered in recent years in this part of Bulgaria is the Celtic settlement at Chichov Elak on the Danube, again in the Rousse region of northeastern Bulgaria (Vagalinski L. A new Late La Tène pottery kiln with a bread oven on the lower Danube (northern Bulgaria) In: The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea.  Božič D. (ed) Koper -Beograd 2011. p. 219-226). This site, which lay to the west of Mediolana, is near the modern village of Krivina, and in immediate proximity to the Celtic settlement of Ablana. It is again situated at a strategic location – on the confluence of the Danube and the Jantra river (now 2km. east of the Jantra, before the construction of a dam in the 1920’s the river reached the northern end of the village), thus connected via the Jantra to Celtic settlements in the interior.



Kiln map


Location of the Chichov Elak Site





The recent excavations at Chichov Elak (carried out by Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (NIAMBAS), illustrates that this was not just a trading post, but an important Celtic economic centre in its own right, as the discovery of a bread oven and a large ceramic kiln at the site indicates. The kiln, which is dated roughly to the end of the 1st c. BC/beginning of the 1st c. AD, is especially noteworthy for a number of reasons. It’s unusually large size reveals a high capacity of manufacture, i.e. the mass production of Celtic ceramic, which included late La Têne painted ware. This type of ceramic was popular among the Celtic tribes from Normandy to southwest Germany in the west, to the Scordisci in the east, and especially along the Danube (Břeň 1973, Andrews 1991, Sladič 1986 note 90, Cumberpatch 1993, Vagalinski 2011 with relevant lit.), and is usually found in large settlements such as the Celtic oppida. It was produced by professional potters, and used by people of high social status. It is usually found together with late La Têne burnished pottery – exactly the case with the Celtic site at Krivina.



Kiln A 1




Kil A 2





Pottery Kiln (A) with detail of the flue (B)


(after Vagalinski 2011)




The kiln was dug into the hillside, and the Celtic potters used the hardness and the firmness of the thick loess layer, shaping the furnace (combustion chamber) and the flue (fire-tunnel) in it. The kiln is circular in form – the maximum diameter of the grate is 2.45 m (along the 45-225º axis), 2.40 m  (along the north-south axis or 0-180º), 2.34 m (along the east-west axis or 90-270º), and 2.27 m (along the 135-315º axis). The height of the furnace from the kiln foor to the upper end of the support wall is 0.75 m.






Both handmade and wheel-thrown pottery were found at the site. The handmade pottery included jars and cup-like vessels. It has also emerged that the latter, which have been referred to by Bulgarian and Romanian archaeologists as ‘Thracian-Dacian types of cups’, are actually Celtic lamps (Vagalinski 2011:204).





Kr. Cr


A Handmade Jar and Painted Pottery found in the Pottery Kiln






The final phase of this Celtic settlement/economic complex is roughly dated to the end of the 1st c. BC, and in the eastern part of the kiln was found the body of a female. The skeleton, of a woman of 35-40 years of age, was 1.66 m. long, and its location and absence of any burial goods indicate that this was not a burial per se, but that the woman’s body was simply discarded in the oven. The dating of the ‘burial’ coincides with the end of the barbarian Zaravetz culture, and the beginning of the Roman period in this region.





The Female Body found on the Kiln’s Grate

(after Vagalinski 2011)







 The Krivina site is the latest example of the growing contradiction in Bulgarian archaeological science. The only ceramic production center to be found in ‘Late Hellenistic Thrace’ is a Celtic complex for the mass production of La Têne ceramic (Vagalinski, op cit). This once again highlights the Celtic presence in late Iron Age Thrace and, together with other discoveries in the Rousse region, and the large amounts of Celtic numismatic and La Têne material recorded in north-eastern, north-central, north-western, south-central, and south-western Bulgaria (see Archaeology and Numismatics sections), clearly illustrates that the territory of today’s Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period was inhabited by a population that had a significant (in many areas, dominant) Celtic element.











Celtic Coins in Bulgarian Museums (2) – Razgrad /Northeastern Bulgaria

Mac Congail




The recently published numismatics collection from the Razgrad Regional Muesum (in today’s northeastern Bulgaria, see below) provides us with a valuable insight into the economic and geo-political situation in this region in the centuries directly proceeding the Roman conquest.








In the Razgrad area large amounts of La Têne material testifies to a Celtic presence from the 4th c. BC into the Roman period (see archaeology section). The main settlement in this area was at Abritus (Abritu), located in the Hisarlaka district of modern Razgrad, near the Beli Lom river. Despite the fact that it has hitherto been assumed that the settlement was initially of Roman origin, in light of the pre-Roman archaeological/numismatic evidence found in the area, and the geographical situation of Abritus on the Beli Lom river, it is appears that the name actually comes from the Celtic – abo- (Also recorded in Thrace as the first element of the Celtic settlements bearing the name ‘Ablana’ = river plain – see above) = river, and –ritu- = Ford (MIr -rith, OB rit, ret, OC rid (also in LNN), OW rit (LNN), MW ryt, W rhyd. ADA: 123-124; CPNE: 197-198; DGVB: 297; GPC: 3126; LEIA:R-34; PECA: 91; Falaliev DCCPN 2007; see ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article).

Thus, the initial settlement at Abritu/Razgrad developed around a ford on the Beli Lom river, as the Celtic name suggests.




The Razgrad region of northeastern Bulgaria





 Locally produced (non-Hellenistic) coinage circulating in this region in the 3rd – 1st c. BC can be broadly broken into 4 main groups – Celtic imitations based on the Macedonian issues of Philip III and Philip II, Thraco-Celtic Thasos tetradrachms of the Thasos type, and bronze and lead Celtic issues based on the Odessos ‘Darsalas’ type coinage.





1.     ‘Philip II’ Type




Celtic coins of the Philip II model are found on the territory of today’s Bulgaria almost exclusively north of the Balkan mountains (see Numismatics section 4, Map 4).

The high concentration of Philip II model Celtic coinage in northeastern Bulgaria is particularly interesting from a geo-political perspective. In this region the Banat and Saddle-Head (Sattlekopf)/Oltenia type(s) (Fig. 1-3) are most common. In northeastern Bulgaria this type of Celtic coinage has been found in particularly large concentrations in the Targovischte, Veliko Tarnovo, Razgrad and Russe areas where substantial numbers of Celtic Philip III, Thasos, and ‘Zaravetz type’ coins have also been registered (see below).


Fig. 1-2 – The Saddle-Head type (3rd – 2nd  c. BC), the artistic predecessor of the extensive Oltenia type (2nd – 1st c. BC) (See numismatics section 4)



The Celtic “Philip II” type are distinguishable by the strong ‘barbarization’ of the images, the lack of an inscription, the diminishing of the size of the coin cores, and the lowering of the quality of the metal of the coins (Dzanev G. and Prokopov I. Numismatic Collection of the Historical Museum Razgrad (Anc. Abritus). In: Coin Collections and Coin Hoards from Bulgaria /CCCHBulg./ Volume I. Part 2. Sofia 2007; On the artistic evolution of Celtic coins in Thrace see ‘The Art of Rejection article’). A collective find of that type of imitation was discovered in Razgrad at the village of Hursovo, the municipality of Samuil (Razgrad region) Gerassimov, T. Monetni sakrovista, namereni v Bulgaria prez 1966 g., in: IAI, XXX, 1967, 190).




Fig. 3 – Celtic AR Philip II issues from the Razgrad Museum collection (2nd – 1st c. BC)


Göbl, OTA 300/1 – 305/5


(After Dzanev, Prokopov 2007)






Fig. 4 – Celtic tetradrachms of the Sattelkopfpferd/Oltenia type from Pirgovo/Mediolana, Russe Region (from the 1978 hoard), Northeastern Bulgaria

(see ‘The Mother Matrix’ article)





 Other such finds of the Celtic Philip II type in eastern Bulgaria include those from the Veliko Tarnovo and Targovischte areas found at Gorsko Novo-Selo (Veliko Tarnovo region), Kruscheto (Veliko Tarnovo region), Lublen (Turgovischte region), Palamarza (Targovischte region), Veliko Tarnovo  and Samovodene (Veliko Tarnovo region), as well as finds recorded at sites such as the Celtic hillfort at Arkovna (Dalgopol, Varna region), Sliven, Dobritsch, Schumen, and from Kavarna (Dobruja region) on the Black Sea coast (Numismatics section 4, Map 4).

 Most impressive is the heavy concentration of Philip II model Celtic coins in the Rousse area on the Danube, to the northwest of Razgrad. The finds from Rousse itself, the Sredna Kupa district, and the nearby villages of Belyanovo, Mechka, Pirgovo, Slivo Pole, Nikolovo (On these finds see Numismatics section 4, with cited lit.), and Pissanets (Gerassimov, T. Kolektivni nachodki na moneti prez 1939 IBAI, XIII, 1939, 344; Shkorpil, K. An Inventory of the antiquities along the Roussenski Lom River, Sofia 1914, 47 (and item 46, 2) come from an area along the Danube where the Celtic settlements of Mediolana (modern-day Pirgovo), Tegris (modern-day Marten) and Transmarisca (modern-day Tutrakan) were situated (see ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article). Numismatic data thus confirms the linguistic and archaeological evidence which indicates that the Russe/Razgrad area was one of the key political and economic centers of the Celtic culture in northeastern Bulgaria in the 3rd – 1st c. BC. Numerous finds of Celtic ‘Philip II’ type coinage have also been registered in other areas of modern day Bulgaria, particularly from the area of the Scordisci in the north west of the country (see Numismatics section 4).


 In the case of a number of hoards the Celtic Philip II types have been found together with other Celtic coinage from the same period, for example the aforementioned hoards from Pirgovo, Belyanovo, and Mechka, as well as in the city of Russe – where the coins of the “Philip II” type were unearthed together with other Celtic types, notably the Philip III/Cavaros types outlined below.





Fig 5 – Mother coin for the production of Celtic Sattlekopf/Oltenia issues, Rousse region

(See ‘The Mother Matric’ article)









Besides single finds, two major hoards of Celtic Philip III/Cavaros model coins have hitherto been found in the Razgrad area. The first was discovered in February 1940 when a find of 52 pieces of that type, placed in a pot, was uncovered just next to the southern end of the village of Kamenovo, the parish of Senovo. The hoard consists of early examples of this type of Celtic coinage, and from an artistic perspective should be dated to around the mid 2nd C. BC:




Fig. 5 –  Celtic Philip III/Cavaros type issues from the Kamenovo Hoard (Razgrad region, northeastern Bulgaria)

(after Dzanev, Prokopov 2007)




In the 1950’s another large find of the same type of Celtic coins was uncovered on the land of the village of Kostandenets, (Tsar Kaloyan district, Razgrad region). Unfortunately, this hoard was stolen/dispersed, and is no longer available for scientific research (Dzanev, Prokopov op. cit.).



From a more general perspective, besides the aforementioned hoards from Pirgovo, Belyanovo and Mechka, as well as in the city of Russe – where the Celtic coins of the “Philip III” type were unearthed together with other Celtic issues, hoards consisting of imitations of only the “Philip III” type have been recorded across northern and central Bulgaria – for example, from the villages of Pepelina, and Ostritsa in the Rousse region, from the town of Gorna Oryahovitsa, from the village of Radanovo, in the region of Veliko Turnovo,  from the area of Veliko Turnovo, from the village of Pordim, Pleven region, from the village of Alexandrovo, in the region of Lovetch, from the village of Smotchan,  Lovetch region (see Lovech article), from the village of Glavatsi, in the region of Vratsa, from the village of Vrachesh, in the region of Botevgrad (Dzanev, Prokopov op cit.), etc. (On the circulation of these coins in Bulgaria see Numismatics section 1).

 Particularly interesting are Celtic Philip III issues found in a hoard during recent excavations at Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora region (South-Central Bulgaria) which, according to the authors (Prokopov, Paunov, Filipova 2011; see Numismatics section 1), indicates that this area of Thrace was also settled by a Celtic population in the immediate pre-Roman period.






Fig. 6 – Celtic (Philip III type) drachms, recently found together in a hoard at Bratya Daskalovi (Stara Zagora region, south-central Bulgaria). Together with Celtic ‘Thasos’ issues and a Roman Republican issue. The hoard has been dated to the late 1st c. BC.

(After Prokopov, Paunov, Filipova 2011; see Numismatics section 1)





3.     ‘THASOS’



 The third main ‘barbarian’ coinage in circulation in the Razgrad/Northeasten Bulgaria area in the immediate pre-Roman period was Thraco-Celtic imitations of the Thasos tetradrachma. Judging by the artistic features of these coins, which remain relatively close to the Hellenistic original, they should be dated to the last decades of the 2nd c. BC:



Fig. 7 – Early Thraco-Celtic Thasos ‘Imitations’ from the Razgrad Museum collection. Late 2nd c. BC.

(after Dzanev, Prokopov 2007;See Thasos article in Numismatics section; On the artistic evolution of Celtic Thasos imitations in Thrace in the 2nd/ 1st c. BC see Mac Congail, Krusseva  (2010) – Mac Congail B., Krusseva B. The Men Who Became the Sun, Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv)





Along with single finds of ‘Thasos’ imitations, a find consisting of an unknown number of tetradrachms of this type was uncovered to the west of the village of Krivnya, the parish of Senovo (Razgrad region) ‘some years ago’. Apparently, four tetradrachms plus one Roman Republican denarius from this hoard reached the local museum, and are enlisted in the register of the Museum collection of the village of Krivnya. However, after ‘a number of robberies’ the coins themselves have disappeared (Dzanev, Prokopov op cit.). Of another hoard of Thasos coins found at Lipnik (Razgrad district, Razgrad region), dated 90 / 80 BC (Prokopov, 2003:141 = Прокопов И., Няколко Бележки Върху Тасоските Тетрадрахми От Колекцията На Народния Музей В Белград. In: Известия на Катедра Българска история и археология и Катедра Обща история – ЮЗУ ‘Неофит Рилски’ – Благоевград, 1/2003. P. 139-153), there is strangely no mention in the recent catalogue of the Numismatics Collection of the Razgrad Museum.



 From a more general perspective, in the 2nd/1st c. BC the Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ were in circulation virtually over the entire territory of today’s Bulgaria (see Numismatics section 2). Most noteworthy is the concentration of these coins in the region of central Bulgaria called – especially in the area east of Plovdiv stretching to Nova Zagora. As mentioned, in the Chirpan/ Bratya Daskalovi district (Stara Zagora Region) recent excavations have uncovered such Celtic Thasos model tetradrachms together with other Celtic coins. This data, in combination with other previous such finds from this area of Bulgaria (from Benkovski, Kolyo Marinovo, Medovo, Naidenovo, Bolyarino, Nova Zagora, Stara Zagora, and Zetovo) strongly suggests that this was an important center for the production of Celtic coins of the ‘Thasos’ type in the 2nd / 1st c. BC (op cit).




Fig. 8 – Late Celtic tetradrachmas of the Thasos type, dated circa 50 BC

Bratya Daskalovi, Stara Zagora region (After Prokopov et al 2011; see Numismatics section 2 – Thasos)





Also interesting is the number of finds along the Maritza (Hebros) river valley in the Plovdiv and Haskovo regions of Bulgaria, which suggests continuing trade contacts between the Celtic and Thracian tribes of the interior with the Aegean during the 1st c. BC. While other Celtic coinage from this period is localized in certain areas of Bulgaria, the Thasos model is found in all areas of the country, frequently together with other Celtic, Hellenistic or Roman coins. This would appear to indicate that the Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ represented a de facto ‘pan-barbarian’ currency among the native Thracian and Celtic population of today’s Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period.








Most interesting of the Celtic coinage recorded in the Razgrad region are local Celtic issues. Particularly surprising is the presence of Celtic Strymon/Trident type bronze issues in the Razgrad area. Finds of this type of coinage, which was produced by the Celtic tribes in western Bulgaria in the 2nd/ 1st c. BC (see Numismatics Section 6), in the Razgrad region, indicates trade links between the Celtic tribes in the west and northeast of modern Bulgaria.




Fig. 9- Celtic Strymon/Trident Bronze issue from the Razgrad Museum collection.

(after Dzanev, Prokopov 2007)




Perhaps most interesting in the Razgrad Museum collection are bronze issues of the Celtic ‘Zaravetz’ type, dating to the 3rd/ 2nd c. BC. The Celtic Zaravetz type coins are based on autonomous bronze emissions of the Greek colony of Odessos which had been previously dated generally to the 3rd – 1st c. BC. The fact that the Celtic ‘imitations’  have been found in an archaeological context which dates to the end of the 3rd – beginning of the 2nd c. BC logically dates the Greek prototype to the period prior to the end of the 3rd c. BC (see numismatics section 8 – ‘Zaravetz’).

In terms of distribution the Zaravetz issues bronze and lead issues have been discovered in an area which includes most of present day northeastern Bulgaria, with a particularly high concentration in the Veliko Tarnovo area.  Besides the Zaravetz hillfort , further examples have been recorded in Veliko Tarnovo itself, the Hill(fort) at Rachovetz – 7 km. north of Veliko Tarnovo, and in the vicinity of the village of Samovodene, slightly to the west of Veliko Tarnovo. Other finds have been recorded in northeastern Bulgaria at Byala (Russe region), Schumen, Tutrakan (Silestra region), Opaka (Targovischte region), from Razgrad, as well as in large numbers from the western Varna region  (op cit).









Fig. 10 – Celtic ‘Zaravetz’ bronze issues from the Razgrad Museum collection

(after Dzanev, Prokopov 2007)






The recently published numismatic evidence from the Razgrad Museum collection confirms that the coinage produced by the local population in the Thracian interior of northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age ranged from Celtic silver issues of the Philip II, Philip III and Thasos types, to lower value coinage which consisted of the aforementioned Zaravetz bronze and lead issues. This broad spectrum of coinage of differing intrinsic and economic value indicates a highly developed and organized economic system among the ‘barbarian’ population of this area of northeastern Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period.















Mac Congail


(Updated August 1, 2012)






Who’s Afraid of the Past ?




A number of factors should be borne in mind when dealing with the coin collections from Bulgarian museums. Since the early 1990’s attempts have been made by a number of Bulgarian and international experts to get access to information on the coin collections in the various museums around Bulgaria, and publish a comprehensive account of the information contained within. This fine work, which has resulted in catalogues of the collections from a handful of museums being published (the CCCHBulg series) has met with varying success. The philosophy of the authors of the CCCHBulg project is based ‘on the understanding that this type of information is not a personal or even a national property in perpetuity, but is above all – a universal patrimonium’.  (Paunov E. Prokopov I. Filipova S. (2011) Re-discovering coins: Publication of the Numismatic Collections in Bulgarian Museums – A New Project. In: Proceedings of the XIVth International Numismatic Congress, Glasgow 2009).




  From the perspective of Celtic culture in Bulgaria, the completion of such a project would bring long awaited clarity on this controversial issue, surely something which would be welcomed by all those involved in Bulgarian archaeology and culture? However, as has been recently pointed out by those involved in the project – Unfortunately specific information on the contents and details of each hoard preserved in the collections in Bulgaria’s museums remained closed for the foreign scientific community and Bulgarian numismatists as well. This is largely the case for the biggest collection in Bulgaria – in the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at the Academy of Sciences, Sofia. Under the care of the NAIM, access to information for some 600,000 coins is sealed. This huge amount of material includes valuable collections and complete hoards discovered and donated to the museum by the general public and adherent followers of immaculate reputation in the past when the spirit of academicism and fellowship reigned. It is a pity that even today the collection of the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at Sofia is still being managed by people whose ill-intentioned and perverted policy is reduced to shameless trading with the data about the coin hoards and collections’ (Paunov, Prokopov, Filipova op. cit).


 A further problem has been the wholesale theft of coins from Bulgarian museums over the decades, and in particular in the post 1989 period, possibly one of the main reasons why many museums are reluctant to open their collections to the prying eyes of outside experts. A well known example of this phenomenon is that of Veliko Tarnovo regional museum in northeastern Bulgaria where the entire numismatic collection was stolen in December 2006. According to preliminary information, the number of coins stolen is around 30,000 (Prokopov 2007:5), although, as indicated below, this statistic is certainly a gross underestimate, and the real number of recorded and documented coins discovered in Bulgaria, which have subsequently disappeared, is many times that number.




 How does this phenomenon relate to the finds of Celtic coins in Bulgaria ? Until recently virtually none of the thousands of Celtic coins found on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria had been properly published (see numismatics sections 1-11). This situation has changed slowly in recent years, thanks chiefly to the fine work of experts such as Paunov, Prokopov and Filipova, and a small fraction of the vast amount of Celtic numismatic material from Bulgaria has slowly come to light in official publications. However, these publications have raised a number of new and disturbing questions, not least the discrepancy between the finds of Celtic coinage officially recorded in Bulgaria, chiefly in the pre-communist period, and those which today are actually in the collections of these museums. Thus, for example, while the publication of the Celtic numismatic material from Lovech Museum outlined below provides us with invaluable information which confirms the archaeological and numismatic evidence of Celtic settlement in this area in the 3rd – 1st c. BC, the material which is not in the museum (see below) raises questions of a very different nature.








‘Barbarian’ coinage in the Lovech Regional museum collection may be broken up into two distinct groups – Celto-Thracian imitations of the Thasos type (Section 1), and Celtic coinage of the  “Philip III Arrhidaeus’ type (Section 2). The general circulation, and chronological and artistic context of both these types of Celtic coins in Bulgaria (based on current data) are dealt with in separate articles (see numismatics section 1 and 2), the Celtic Thasos ‘imitations’ dated to the second half of the 2nd c. BC/ 1st c. BC, and the Philip III types dated more generally to the 3rd /1st c. BC.  





SECTION 1 – Thraco-Celtic Thasos ‘Imitations’ (2nd/1st c. BC)


(All Inventory numbers and illustrations after Gushterakliev R. and Prokopov I. CCCHBulg. Vol. 1. Part 1 – Numismatic Collection of the Historical Museum Lovech (Anc. Melta) Sofia 2007)




Single Finds:




Celtic Thasos Imitation from the Slatina Hoard (IGCH no.488)




Coins 356-370  = Celtic Thasos type hoard with identical die combination (after Gushterakliev, Prokopov op. cit.)








SECTION 2 – Celtic coinage of the ‘Philip III Arrhidaeus’ type




A massive amounts of this type of Celtic coinage has been registered across Bulgaria, and a large number of hoards consisting only of Celtic coins of the “Philip III” type have also been discovered over the last century. This includes examples like those from the villages of Pepelina and Ostritsa (Russe Region), from the town of Gorna Oryahovitsa, and from the village of Radanovo (Veliko Turnovo reg.), from the area of Veliko Turnovo city itself,  from the village of Pordim (Pleven region), from the village of Glavatsi (Vratza region), from the village of Vrachesh, in the region of Botevgrad, from the villages of Alexandrovo and Smochan, in Lovech region (Gushterakliev R. and Prokopov I. op cit.; see ‘Celtic Coins in Bulgarian Museums (2) – Razgrad; on Smochan see below), etc.




From the Lovech Museum Collection:








Celtic Philip III type Coins from the Smochan Hoard (Lovech region):




Particularly interesting is a large hoard of Celtic coins found at the village of Smochan in the Lovech region. All coins (57-101) are of the same type:


Obv. Head of Heracles in lion’s skin r. or bucel only.

Rev. Zeus enthroned. Pseudo (?) inscription









It should be noted that, according to the authors (Gushterakliev, Prokopov 2007), this study is a complete record of the coins from this period from the Lovech regional museum. Lovech is an area where archaeological and linguistic evidence provides extensive evidence of Celtic settlement in the pre-Roman period, for example La Têne swords, shields, daggers, chainmail etc. from villages such as Smochan, Dojrentsi, Karpachevo, Letnitza, Teteven, Bachovitza, and Lovech itself (see archaeological and linguistic sections). The numismatic evidence from the Lovech area provides indisputable proof of this.

 Particularly interesting is the large hoard of Celtic Philip III imitations found at the village of Smochan, where a variety of La Têne weaponry and other Celtic material from this period has also been recorded. This hoard was found at the Smochan hillfort ‘Kaleto’, only circa 400-500m east of Tumulus 3, which included La Tene D burials and Celtic iron weaponry.



  However, one should note the conspicuous absence of other recorded hoards of Celtic coins from the Lovech region in this cataolgue, such as that from Lometz – (Troyan district, Lovech region) (See numismatics article Part 1 – Map 1 # 7; In the vicinity of Lometz a large hoard of silver Celtic drachmae was uncovered at the beginning of the 20th century. The trove included over 100 Celtic silver drachmae (Alexander/Philip III type – GOTA – 574 (and variation) /575/576 and 577) as well as a gold ring with a gem – Мушмов 1926, p. 324 = Noe, no. 622; Pink 1974, 87), from the village of Alexandrovo, in the region of Lovech (Gerassimov, T. Kolektivni nachodki ot moneti prez 1939, IAI, XIII, 1939, 341; Gushterakliev, Prokopov 2007), or the village of Glojene (Teteven district, Lovech region) where a hoard of Celtic Philiip III type tetradrachms was also found and recorded in the early 1970’s (see Numismatics section 1 – Map 1 # 10 – Youroukova 1978 = Й. Юрукова. Монетните находки, открити в България през 1973 и 1974 г. In: Археология, XX, 1978-2:72; also Nedialkova 2010), etc. May we presume that these, and other recorded hoards of Celtic coins from this region, which do not appear in the ‘comprehensive’ catalogue of Lovech museum, have been overlooked in this case, and will soon also be made available for the purpose of academic research?







Celtic settlements/material from northwestern Bulgaria (3rd – 1st c. BC)

* Provisional (August 2012). Map includes only La Têne weaponry, other Celtic material from this area will be dealt with separately





During the 3rd – 1st c. BC period the only locally produced coins (i.e. those produced by the native population) circulating in this area of north-central Bulgaria were Celto-Thracian Thasos models and Celtic Philip III ‘imitations’, which logically indicates, in combination with the archaeological and linguistic evidence (see relevant sections), that the population of the Lovech region of Bulgaria in the immediate pre-Roman period consisted of a Thraco-Celtic population in which the Celtic element was dominant.





 Depiction of a Celtic warrior in chainmail from the Letnitza treasure, Lovech region, Bulgaria. (Detail; see ‘The Letnitza Treasure’ article)