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

UD: September 2019

 

 

Intro - Horné Orešany 1

 

 

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

 

map

Archaeologically confirmed early La Têne sites in western Slovakia

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

 

 

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

 

brooch 1 GOOOD

brooch 2 GOOOD

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

(after Pieta 2010; see also Megaw 2012)

 

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

 

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

 

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

(5/4 c. BC)

 

Horné Orešany 1

 

Horné Orešany 2

 

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

 

The Face of Esus ?

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEUCINI BASTARNAE

UD – Nov. 2015

 

 

 

 

 

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

(Plut. Aem. 9.6)

 

Opc

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

(2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 THE “LAND OF ESUS”

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

BASTARNAE ROYAL COINAGE

 

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

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

 

 

 

AELIS

 

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

 

 

KANITES

 

Kani. 1

 

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

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

 

 

TANOUSAS

 

Tano

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

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

 

 

CHARASPES

 

Char.

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

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

 

 

AKROSAS

 

Akr.

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

SARIAKES

 

Sari

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail