Čurug – A Balkan Celtic Treasure From Vojvodina (northern Serbia)

UD: June 2019

 

The Vojvodina (Српска Војводина) region of today’s northern Serbia has yielded a vast amount of archaeological material dating from the second half of the 4th to the 1st century BC pertaining to the Balkan Celtic (Scordisci) population who inhabited this part of Europe in the pre-Roman period.

 

Female inhumation burial, one of 18 Celtic burials discovered at Zrenjanin in eastern Vojvodina, Serbia. The burials, from the late 4th c. BC, relate to the first phase of Celtic settlement in this part of Europe.

 

The spectacular Celtic hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum (settlement) on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara), in the Vojvodina region of modern Serbia. (2-1 century BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/the-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-zidovar-serbia/

 

 

According to the archaeological data, one of the most important Celtic settlements in this region was that at the village of Čurug, situated in the lowlands of the south-eastern part of the Bačka area of the Vojvodina region.

 

Lead solar/ Taranis votive wheel from Čurug (2-1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/taranis-the-thunder-god/

 

 

Ritual ceramic rattle discovered at Čurug (2-1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/chasing-demons-celtic-ritual-rattles/

 

 

While most of the Celtic material recorded at Čurug dates to the late Iron Age/ immediate pre-Roman period, the most spectacular find, a hoard of silver jewelry, dates to the earlier period of Celtic expansion into the Balkans, i.e. the late 4th / early 3rd c. BC.

 

The Balkan Celtic silver hoard from Čurug

 

 

As with other major Balkan Celtic treasures from the area of modern Serbia (Hrtkovci, Židovar, etc.), the Čurug hoard consists of wonderfully executed silver jewelry – bracelets, finger- and arm-rings, as well as fibulae, notably the distinctive hinged serpent-head fibulae (below). The latter have been recorded in other Balkan Celtic hoards of this period and, as with numerous other examples of eastern Celtic jewelry, bear eloquent testimony to artistic influences of the native Balkan and Hellenistic cultures in Balkan Celtic art of this period.

 

Hinged serpent-head fibulae from the Čurug hoard

 

 

The origin of the silver that the Balkan Celts used for producing jewelry and minting silver coins has not yet been established with any degree of certainty. However, it is likely that a substantial amount came from the silver / lead mine at Kosmaj near the large Celtic settlement of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celtic (Scordisci) Bird Pendants

UD: June 2019

 

 

Zid intor.

 

 

The importance of birds in Celtic culture and religion is well attested to by their frequent appearance on artifacts and coins, with birds by far the most commonly depicted creatures in Celtic art. 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).

 

 

sc.c mon. dag dec.

A = Reverse of a Scordisci tetradrachm depicting a bird behind the riders right shoulder (Serbia II c. BC)

B = Detail of a Celtic dagger decorated with mirrored bird symbols from a Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria (late II/early I c. BC)

 

 

In this context, particularly interesting are recently discovered hoards of Celtic jewelry among the Scordisci in Serbia which contain a large number of silver ornithomorphic beads/pendants (Ruševljan, Jevtić 2006; Popovic 2011). The first of these hoards came from the village of Hrtkovci in the Syrmia District (Vojvodina province) of Serbia. The Hrtkovci hoard contained, in addition to a large amount of Celtic fibulae and other items, 6 silver ornithomorphic beads/ pendants. The heads are triangular in shape and sheaves of slanting, ribbed channels are used to decorate the short tail while the rather broad neck is denoted by two concentric ribs. The lower segment of the birds are funnel-shaped and also decorated with sheaves of narrow channels arranged in a herringbone pattern. On top and bottom of the birds are openings for them to be laced through a cord/chain  (Ruševljan, Jevtić op. cit).

 

Hrtkovici brds f.

Silver Scordisci bird bead/pendants from Hrtkovci
(Length of the beads 22-32 mm.; width 12-17 mm.; weight range = 3.43 g. – 1.68 g.)

 

hrt. fib

Silver La Têne fibulae from the Hrtkovci hoard

 

Hinged

Gilded Silver Hinged Type Fibula from the Hrtkovci hoard

 

The finds from Hrtkovci (with the exception of the gilded hinged fibula which is earlier) date to the late La Têne period (2/1 c. BC), and the latest discoveries of Celtic jewelry from this area of Serbia confirm the existence of a local Celtic workshop connected to the Scordisci settlement in Sremska Mitrovica (loc cit).

Also dating to the late La Têne period are a number of exquisite Scordisci silver bird pendants discovered in the Celtic hillfort at Zidovar near Vršac (Banat region), also in the Voivodina province of Serbia. In 2001 during the systematic archaeological excavations on the Celtic hillfort at Zidovar near Vrsac a rich hoard of silver jewelry and amber was discovered, dating to the first half of the 1st c. BC (Popovic 2011; on the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar see also Todorović 1974: 50, 181; Brukner, Jovanović, Tasić 1974).

The spectacular Scordisci hoard from Zidovar consisted of 163 silver items, 134 amber beads, two brass rings and two pendants from Brown Bear teeth. Also among the items in the hoard were 22 bird shaped silver pendants.

 

zidovar brds 3

Zidovar 2

Silver Scordisci bird pendants from the Zidovar hoard

 

As in the case of the Hrtkovci ‘beads’ the Zidovar bird pendants ranged significantly in dimensions and weight (length = 34 – 25.5 mm.; width 9-20 mm.; weight 1.98-1.08 g.). Interesting also is the fact that, unlike the majority of Celtic ornithomorphic depictions where birds of prey are generally represented, the Scordisci beads/pendants from Hrtkovci and Zidovar both portray smaller birds (sparrows?), indicating that these were items of Celtic female jewelry.

 

 

Zidovar 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On birds in Celtic art and religion see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/catubodua-queen-of-death/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Brukner B., Jovanović B., Tasić N. (1974) Praistorija Vojvodine, Institut za izučavanje istorije Vojvodine, Savezarheoloških društava Jugoslavije, Novi Sad

 

Megaw V., Megaw R. (2001) Celtic Art from its Beginnings to the Book of Kells. London
Popovic I. (2011) The Zidovar treasure and roman jewellery from the Balkan provinces of the empire. In: The eastern Celts : the communities between the Alps and the Black Sea, p. 179-188. Koper-Beograd: Univerzitet u Beogradu, 2011. (Annales Mediterranei)
Ruševljan V.D., Jevtić M. (2006) Silver Jewelry of Hellenistic and Celtic Type from Hrtkovci in Srem. In: Starinar LVI/2006. P. 291-307
Todorović, J. (1974) Skordisci: istorija i kultura, Institut za izučavanje istorije Vojvodine, Savezarheoloških društava Jugoslavije, Novi Sad, Beograd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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