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Pametnitsi na Kultura (National Cultural Monuments Agency) ‘at least 1,000’ Celtic artifacts from this area lie unpublished in the Varna, Razgrad, Veliko Tarnovo and Shumen museums.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of Kragulevo and Bakalovo, as well as around the village of Tervel, and from a Celtic necropolis near Kavarna, has lain unpublished for years in the Dobritsch museum.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…’.
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