THE BIRTH OF DRAGONS – Dragonesque Creatures in European Celtic Art

A search on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia will reveal to the curious that, “The modern, western image of a dragon developed in western Europe during the Middle Ages through the combination of the snakelike dragons of classical Graeco-Roman literature, references to Near Eastern European dragons preserved in the Bible, and western European folk traditions”. We are also reliably informed by anonymous ‘experts’ that, “The oldest recognizable image of a fully modern, western dragon appears in a hand-painted illustration from the bestiary MS Harley 3244, which was produced in around 1260 AD”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon#Western_Europe

(Accessed 24/3/2018)

MS Harley 3244 –  “The First European Depiction of a Dragon”

What is understood by a ‘fully modern dragon’ is debatable, but as with many historical and archaeological “facts” pertaining to European culture. presented on a medium from which the vast majority of today’s generation form their perception of the past, the conclusions presented on the tradition and origin of dragonesque creatures in Europe are hopelessly inaccurate and misleading.

In fact, even a quick overview of the actual archaeological evidence reveals that depictions of dragonesque creatures are common in Europe from the Iron Age onwards, appearing on jewelry, coinage, weapons and other artifacts throughout the La Tène period in particular.

Double-headed dragonesque / serpentine creature depicted on a decorative bronze element discovered in a Celtic chariot burial at Cuperly (Marne), France

(5th c. BC)

Bronze Celtic fibula from Pilsen in the Czech Republic (5th c. BC)

Dragonesque fibula (bronze) from a Celtic burial at Arbedo (Ticino), Switzerland (4 c. BC)

As with all aspects of Celtic art, the stylistic execution of such dragonesque creatures varies greatly, from relatively naturalistic to quite schematic images such as the iconic “dragon-pair” images  found across Europe on Celtic scabbards and other artifacts of the middle La Tène period.

Detail of decoration on a “dragon-pair” scabbard from a Celtic warrior burial at Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie), France (late 4th/early 3rd c. BC)

“The Dragonmaster” – Exterior plate B of the Gundestrup cauldron

See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/the-gundestrup-ghosts-hidden-images-in-the-gundestrup-cauldron/

Potin (billon) coin minted by the Bituriges Tribe in central France (1 c. BC)

Thus, despite what some would have us believe, the dragonesque beasts which populate Medieval European literature / art and survive in the consciousness and popular culture of the modern world, derive not from “Graeco-Roman literature and Biblical sources”, but are the offspring of fantastic creatures born in the dark and shining fantasy of Celtic Europe…

Mac Congail

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

UD: September 2017

 

 

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 from Stupava (Slovakia)

UD: December 2018

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).

Among the 10 graves discovered at the Celtic necropolis, 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

Zoomorphic ‘Cult’ Firepots

UD November 2014

 

 

FPt R1

 

 

Since the first half of the 20th century a series of strange ceramic objects, consisting of zoomorphic representations of animal heads – snakes, horses, rams, etc., have been discovered at sites across Bulgaria (Mikov 1932-33, Gerasimov 1960). These artifacts, associated with other Celtic material (‘eye beads’, glass bracelets, daggers, fibulae etc.; see below), and decorated with familiar La Têne motifs – herring-bone, concentric circles/solar symbols, s-scrolls etc., appear most often at cult complexes and burials – indicating that they had a religious function.

Recent excavations in southwestern and south-central Bulgaria have enabled us to definitively date these objects, and the associated ‘Zepina’ type pottery to the 3rd – 1st c. BC (Tonkova, Gotcheva 2008, Tonkova et al 2011), and to finally determine the real function of these mysterious ‘cult objects’.

 

 

 

BD c.

Celtic ‘Zepina Type’ ceramic from Bratya Daskalovi (Stara Zagora reg.), south-central Bulgaria (see http://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace)

 

 

Sl fp

Zoomorphic ‘Cult Object’ from Sliven region, Bulgaria

(Sliven regional Museum)

 

 

 

 

Information from these latest excavations have also enabled us to clarify the real nature of these artifacts. It has transpired that they are not in fact ‘cult objects’, but zoomorphic attachments from the lids of small portable fire-pots, which were used to carry fire to the cult complex. The significance of this practice is still unclear, but they appear to have been found mostly in areas of the sanctuaries where artifacts associated with women (household objects, jewelry, etc.) predominate (Tonkova, Gotcheva op cit.).

 

 

 

 

P fp

Celtic zoomorphic Ram figurine/attachment from Boznik (Pernik region), western Bulgaria (History Museum of Pernik)

 

 

 

 

From a geographical perspective most of these firepots come from the upper Maritza and Struma/Mesta river valleys, and the Sofia plain, i.e. the zoomorphic fire-pots and associated ‘Zepina’ pottery are concentrated in sites in western and south-western Bulgaria: Batak, Belovo, Sv. Ilia and Ostretz Peak (both near Velingrad), Streltcha, Zepina fortress (Dorkovo), and Patelenitza (Pazardjik region); Babyak, Belitsa, and Kochan in the Blagoevgrad region; Kyustendil, Boznik (Pernik region); Poduaine, Muchovo and Jana in the Sofia region. Other finds of these zoomorphic lids and the ‘Zepina type’ pottery from other areas of Bulgaria include examples from Kazanlak/Seuthopolis, Targovischte, Plovdiv, Rousse, Skalsko (Gabrovo region), and Sliven (Mikov 1932-33, Gerasimov 1960, R a d o n o v, 1965, Domaradski 1984, Katincharova 2005). The latter examples, while fewer in number, confirm that these were not confined to the Celtic tribes of western Bulgaria, but were in use in other parts of the region.

 

 

 

Bd urn

Ceramic vessel of the ‘Zepina Type’ used as a funerary urn in a Celtic female burial at Karakochovata Tumulus, Bratya Daskalovi, south-central Bulgaria

(see http://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace)

 

 

 

Recent finds of Celtic ceramic of this type in Thrace include examples from the Unatzi site (Pazardjik reg.), also in central Bulgaria, which was, as at Bratya Daskalovi, found together with a bronze La Têne fibula of the Jezerine type, and from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Sashova Tumulus near the Shipka Pass, where this type of ‘Cult’ ceramic was discovered together with a gold fibula, torc, Celtic sword, etc. (see http://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings).

 

 

Bd fib.

Bronze La Têne Fibula of the Jezerine type from the central Celtic burial at Karakochovata Tumulus, Bratya Daskalovi.

 

The fibula is of great importance for the dating of the complex. This type of late La Têne fibula first appears between 40-30 BC and is most common in the period between 30 and 10 BC (Rustoiu 1997). It is worth noting that the other jewelry from the burial is of types typical of the Scordisci and other Balkan Celts during this period (Tonkova op cit).

 

 

 

It should also be noted that the concentration of the firepots in the western Rhodope mountains/Mesta Valley region also corresponds with the circulation of Celtic Strymon/Trident coinage which dates to the same period  (http://www.academia.edu/4067834/Bandit_Nation_-_The_Bogolin_Hoard) – logically indicating that they were produced by the same tribes.

 

 

 

 

FP reconst.

 

Zoomorphic lid, and reconstructed  fire-pot from Babyak (Blagoevgrad region), s.w. Bulgaria) (after Tonkova, Gotcheva 2008).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download Pdf. version of this file:

 

http://www.academia.edu/5046182/Zoomorphic_Cult_Firepots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources Cited

 

 

Gerasimov T. (1960) Keltski kultovi figuri ot Bulgariia. Izvestiia na Arkheologicheskiia institut (IAI) 23. Sofia: BAN, pp. 165–204.

Катинчарова Д. (2005) Аpхеологически проучвания на обект “Свети Илия” край  Велинград през 2004. In: Археологически Институт с  Музей – БАН. Археологически Открития и Разкопки през 2004 г. XLIV. Национална Археологически Конференция София 2005

Mikov V. (1932–1933). Keltski nakhodki u nas. Bulgarska istoricheska biblioteka V: 1. Sofia

R a d o n o v  Z. (1965) Kultovi pametnici v Okryzhnija muzej v Pernik. Arheologia,VII, № 4, 47 – 53

Rustoiu A. (1997) Fibulele din Dacia Preromana (sec. I i.e.n. – I e.n). Bucuresti .

Тонкова, М. и Гоцев  A. (2008) Тракийското светилище при Бабяк и неговата археологическа среда. София.

Tonkova et al (2011) Трако-римски династичен център в районнаЧирпанските възвишения. Тонкова M. (ed.) София.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEHIND THE GOLDEN MASKS – Celts in the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’

UD: June 2019

 masks

The Valley of the Thracian Kings is an area of south-central Bulgaria situated to the west of the ancient Hellenistic polis of Seuthopolis / Σευθόπολις (near modern day Kazanlak), on the southern slopes of the Haemus (Balkan) mountains. Over the past decades this area has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bulgaria, with thousands of visitors from all over the world coming to see such cultural treasures as the UNESCO listed Kazanlak tomb and other sites in the area. According to Bulgarian archaeologists, this remarkable archaeological complex was established by the Thracian priest-king Seuthes III at the end of the 4th c. BC, and was the capital of the ‘Great Odrysae state’ and its ruling elite – the immortal bearers of the esoteric faith-doctrine of orphism, until the Roman period (Fol et al, Ancient Thrace 2000:120-121).

However, behind the fairy tales and golden masks lies another reality, a reality which, for reasons best known to Bulgarian archaeologists, is conspicuously absent from their glossy tourist brochures and history books…

FULL ARTICLE:

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

New Celtic Material From Bulgaria (Part 2)

 

 Over the past 20 years, mostly as a result of systematic and unchecked looting at archaeological sites in various parts of Bulgaria, hundreds of Celtic artifacts have been uncovered. The case of the northeastern part of the country is typical of this phenomonen. Of the large amount of archaeological material found in this area pertaining to the Celtic culture, only a tiny percentage has reached the regions museums, and even less has been published. (Lazarov 2010) According to sources within the Bulgarian Pametnitsi na Kultura (National Cultural Monuments Agency) ‘at least 1,000’ Celtic artifacts from this area lie unpublished in the Varna, Razgrad, Veliko Tarnovo and Shumen museums. In the Dobruja region La Têne material discovered along the Sucha River valley in the vicinity of the villages of Kragulevo and Bakalovo, as well as around the village of Tervel, and from a Celtic necropolis near Kavarna, has lain unpublished for years in the Dobritsch museum. (see Mac Congail 2008:52)

  The Celtic material from this region which we do have official information on in recent years includes La Têne B2/C1 fibulae from the Russe area (Atanassov 2007 # 1-5); Celtic bronze bracelets (Tonkova 2006:271 Pl. v 1-3) and daggers (Mac Congail 2010:125) from the Varna area; the aforementioned Celtic material from the Sboryanovo/Helis, Krivina, Dalgopol/Arkovna, and Kavarna sites (see section 1); and further Celtic material from the hillfort at Zaravetz (Veliko Tarnovo) (Lilova 2005: 276 ff. Abb. 3-6) which adds to that published from the site in the 1980’s. Here one should also mention the recent publication of Celtic coins of the ‘Zaravetz type’ (fig. 1) from the Razgrad, Veliko Tarnovo, Russe, and Varna regions, which will be dealt with seperately  (See Numismatics part 7 – Celtic Regional Coinage -Zaravetz).

 

Fig. 1 – Celtic ‘Zaravetz lead’ from the Razgrad region

 

  Other recently published material also throws more light on Celtic settlement in this part of Bulgaria.  A bronze fibula found in the town of Schumen (Fig. 2) has parallels from the Celtic burials at Piscolt in Romania, another from burial # NG3/ 1201 from Pećine – Serbia, and a pair of similar fibulae from Cakóháza in Hungary. According to Bujna’s classification this fibula belongs to the series EF – C10-a, and is dated to the 3rd c. BC (Bujna 2003:72. Fig. 48; Mircheva 2007:65).

 

Fig. 2         La Têne bronze fibula from Schumen (3rd c. BC) (After Mircheva 2007)

 

Another bronze fibula (Fig. 3) found in the Shumen area is a close parallel to a gold fibula discovered at the Celtic warrior burial at Sashova tumulus near Kazanlak in the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ (Fig. 4) (See ‘The Golden Empire of Orpheus’ article). According to the typology they belong to Bujna’s EF-K-B classification and correspond to the LT – C1b phase, i.e. the beginning of the 2nd c. BC (Bujna 2003:61; Mircheva 2007:66)

 

Fig. 3 – La Têne bronze fibula. Shumen area (2nd c. BC) (After Mircheva 2007)

 

Fig. 4  A golden double-spring fibula decorated in gold filigree, granules and inlaid with dark blue, light green and black cloisonné enamel discovered in the Celtic burial at Sashova mogila tomb, Shipka (2nd c. BC)  (After Kitov 1996: fig.10; Marazov 1998:102 – Both published the fibula as ‘Thracian’)

 

 Production of Celtic fibulae in the Schumen region is confirmed by the discovery of a mould for producing La Têne C fibulae found in the Schumen-Razgrad area (Fig. 5) The mould was used to produce fibulae of the type found at the Celtic burial site at Kalnovo (Schumen district – see below), others found in Serbia, and another example from north-eastern Bulgaria, now in the Varna museum (Mircheva 2007:71)

 

                Fig. 5  – Mould for Celtic fibulae – Schumen region (After Mircheva 2007)

 

A further mould for Celtic fibulae from northeastern Bulgaria (also in Varna museum) (Fig. 6) 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) is very similar to the form produced by the Varna and Vratza moulds. It belongs to a certain type of nodular ‘battle-axe’ fibulae. (loc cit)

 

Fig. 6  – Mould for Celtic ‘Battle-axe’ fibulae – Varna regional Museum (After Mircheva 2007)

 

 

Fig. 7 – Material from Celtic warrior burial at Kalnovo, Shumen region (After Megaw 2004)

 

 

   Contemporary to the aforementioned Celtic warrior burial in Sashova mogila near Shipka is the necropolis investigated on the left terrace of the Kamchiya River in northeastern Bulgaria, in the vicinity of the Kalnovo village in the Shumen region. During excavations in the communist period (early 1970’s) of the tumuli located there, several burial structures and pits were found. While most of the site was quickly destroyed ‘due to conditions pertaining at the time’ (see Megaw 2004), some results of the investigations from the Celtic necropolis were finally published two decades later. (Fig. 7) A clay lamp, La Têne fibulae, as well as elements of the warrior and equestrian equipment such as a La Têne C rectangular shield umbo, Celtic swords, H-formed horse bits and a chain mail tunic mark the burial of a Celtic chieftain, whose cremated remains were deposited about 220-180 BC, according to the dating of the pottery discovered there (Atanassov 1992; Megaw 2004:104). The features of the grave construction are similar to that at the secondary grave in tumulus N 10 near Branichevo in Shumen region dated to the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Similar constructions, although not so elaborate in plan and execution, are also known in tumulus N18 in the Eastern necropolis of Sboryanovo/Helis (Ivanov 2005: 22-38) and near the modern town of Tutrakan on the south bank of the Danube river. They are dated to the first half of the 3rd century and could be listed as prototypes of the structure at the Celtic burial complex near Kalnovo. (Emilov 2007)

  Four of the silver and two of the iron fibulae found at the Kalnovo site are similar in type to a bronze example recently published by Varna museum (fig. 8) and an iron Celtic fibula found at the Celtic hillfort at Arkovna (see section 1).

 

 

Fig 8 Celtic bronze fibula (2nd c. BC)  Varna Museum (After Mircheva 2007)

 

 

 A further Celtic bronze fibula found in the Razgrad area (Fig. 9) is the same type as a pair found during excavations at Seuthopolis in the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’, as well as an example found at the Celtic hillfort at Zaravetz (Veliko Tarnovo). Bronze and iron Celtic fibulae of the same type have been discovered in level IV at Piscolt necropolis in Romania. According to the Bujna classification, these belong to series BF – Hy1Aa, and are dated to the end of of the 3rd / beginning of the 2nd c. BC. (Mircheva 2007:66)

 

Fig. 9 – Celtic bronze fibula – Razgrad region (Razgrad Regional Museum Inv. # 11386)

 

 Another iron fibula (fig. 10) from north-eastern Bulgaria, recently published by Varna museum, has parallels in Celtic burials typical for phase LTC weaponry – swords, arrowheads, and pottery – such as that at Piscolt and from Maňa (Slovakia). This type is dated to the beginning of the 2nd c. BC. (loc cit)

 

Fig. 10                 Iron Celtic fibula (2nd c. BC).  Varna Archaeological Museum

 

 

 A silver fibula (Fig. 11) from the hillfort at Arkovna (Varna region – see Section 1) is of the same type as Celtic bronze and iron fibulae found within the burial tumulus at Altimir (Vratza region) and at Kailaka (Pleven region). All are dated to the 2nd c. BC, while a bronze example found at Veliko Tarnovo (fig. 12) has a zoomorphic ring at its foot, typical for the La Têne B phase. It is dated to the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. (Mircheva 2007:71)

 

Fig. 11 – Silver fibula from Arkovna  (2nd c. BC) (After Mircheva 2007)

 

Fig. 12 –  Bronze Celtic fibula with zoomorphic ring – Veliko Tarnovo  (After Mircheva 2007)

 

  A particularly interesting find comes from the Bobata fortress north of Osmar village in the Shumen region. The bronze Celtic chariot fitting (Fig. 13) (Atanassov 2005: 126, 130, fig.3) is similar in function to the chariot decorations in the dromos of Mal tepe (Mezek) tomb in southern Bulgaria. Two snake-like figures flank an abstract human face in high relief on the bronze plate of the fitting. The findspot of the application is in the territory of a fortified settlement and dated to the end of the 4th – the 2nd century BC. (Emilov 2007)

 

Fig. 13    Bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata fortress, Schumen region (After Emilov 2007)

 

 
The material outlined above furnishes us with new pieces in the puzzle. Together with previously published archaeological and numismatic material from the region, it adds to our picture of the culture that inhabited this part of Europe in the pre- and early Roman period. As with the ‘Tyle’ state in eastern Bulgaria in the 3rd c. BC, the ‘Zaravetz Culture’ which inhabited northeastern Bulgaria / southeastern Romania in the late Iron Age was by no means a ‘pure’ Celtic culture, but contained significant Thracian (Getae) elements. The Germano-Celtic Bastarnae tribes, who gradually moved southwards from Scythia from the 2nd c. BC onwards into this and other parts of Bulgaria, were also a significant ethnic and cultural element in this ‘barbarian’ culture. (see Bastarnae article)

 It is ironic that in the 21st century it should be necessary, because of recent political manipulation, to again prove the existence of a culture which we were clearly told of 2,000 years ago. Writing at the end of the 1st c. BC / beginning of the 1st c. AD, the Greek author Strabo (vii, 3,2) tells us exactly who lived in this part of Bulgaria in the late Iron Age:

‘… the Bastarnae tribes are mixed with the Thracians mostly on this side of the
Ister
(Danube), but also partly beyond that river. Celtic tribes are also mixed with them…’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Modern) Sources

 

Antonova V. (1995) Šumen i Šumenskata krepost. Šumen.

Atanassov G.,1992. S’or’ženija ot III-II v. pr. n. e. ot okolnostite na s. K’lnovo, Šumensko. – Izvestija na Istoričeskija Muzej – Šumen, 7, 5-39.

Atanassov G.(2005) Instrumenti za proizvodstvo na juvelirni izdelija ot fonda na RIM-Šumen. – In: Marazov I., (ed.) Trakite i okolnija svjat. Naučna konferenciya Šumen, 2004, MIF 9. Sofia. 123-136.

Anastassov J. (2007) Le mobilier laténien du Musée de Ruse (Bulgarie) – Izvestie na Istoricheskia musea – Russe 11, 165 – 85

Bujna J. (2003) Spony z keltskych hrobov bez vyzbroje z územie Slovenska. (Typovo-chronologické triedenie LTB – a C1 – spŏn). Slovenská archeológia LI, 1, 39 – 103.

Emilov J. (2007) La Téne finds and the indigenous communities in Thrace. Interrelations during the Hellenistic period. Studia Hercynia 11, 57-75.

Ivanov J. (2005) Mogila 18 – pogrebenie na žrica. – In Gergova D., (ed.) Getica, 1, 16-76.

Kitov G. (1996) Sašova mogila (Monumentalna trakijska grobnica meždu Šipka i Jasenovo). – Arheologija, 2-3, Sofia, 9-22.

Lilova B. (2005) Metallfunde aus der thrakischen Siedlung auf dem Zaravetz Hügel. In: Stoyanov T. et al (ed.) Heros Hephaistos. Studia in honorem Liubae Ognenova-Marinova. Veliko Tarnovo. P. 276 – 280.

Marazov I. (1998) (ed.) Ancient Gold. The Wealth of the Thracians. Treasures from the Republic of Bulgaria. New York.

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.

Mircheva E. (2007) La Téne C fibulae kept in Varna Archaeological Museum. In: Vagalinski L. (ed.) The Lower Danube in Antiquity (VI c. BC – VI c. AD) International Archaeology Conference. 6 – 7. 10 2005.
Tutrakan. (Sofia 2007) P. 65 – 72.

Tonkova M. (2006) Influences réciproques dans l’órfévrerie des Thraces et des Celtes au IV – III siècle av. J.C. In: Sîrbu V., Vaida L. (ed.) Thracians and Celts. Proceedings of the International Colloquium from
Bistriţa 18-20 mai 2006. Cluj-Napoca. P. 265 – 278.