Tag Archive: Celtic human sacrifice


 

Some of the most fascinating archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Bronze and Iron Age site at Cliffs End Farm on the Isle of Thanet (Kent), in south-eastern England. Of the wealth of material uncovered at the site most enigmatic is pit #3666, which tells a tale of bizarre ritual practices and human sacrifice…

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/33313713/SLAUGHTER_OF_THE_INNOCENTS_Some_Observations_on_Human_Sacrifice_in_Iron_Age_Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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tur

 

“……He was their god, the wizened Bent One with many glooms;

the people who believed in him over every harbour, the eternal Kingdom shall not be theirs.

For him ingloriously they slew their wretched firstborn with much weeping

and distress, to pour out their blood around the Bent One of the hill”.

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

 

https://www.academia.edu/29430953/SAMHAIN_Some_Reflections_on_the_Celtic_Origins_of_Halloween

 

 

 

 

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Býčí skála intro illust

 

Probably the most enigmatic and mysterious archaeological site in Europe, the Býči Skála/Bull Rock cave in the Křtiny Valley (Czech Republic), was first investigated in 1867 by a local doctor, Jindřich Wankel, who initially discovered traces of a Paleolithic settlement.

 

x - Entrance Býčí Skála, translated from Czech to Bull Rock cave enterance

The Entrance to Bull Rock Cave

 

 

Two years later, interest in the site intensified when two young brothers discovered a bronze Celtic bull statue, dated to ca. 560 BC, in the entrance hall of the cave.

 

Býčí Skála, translated from Czech to Bull Rock cave Clay jar 6th c. BC

The Bronze Bull discovered in the entrance hall of Bull Rock Cave (ca. 560 BC)

 

 

Subsequent investigation has established that the cave was occupied, for short periods, during the Palaeolithic, Eneolithic, Hallstatt, La Têne, and Medieval periods. However, the most spectacular discoveries at the site, dating to the 6th c. BC, came during a 2-month amateur excavation in 1872.

During the course of this campaign, under a layer of stones and burned limestone, locals discovered a fireplace with pieces of pottery, tools, bronze and gold ornaments, jewelry, swords, armour and glass beads. A number of jars that still contained flour, millet and meat were also found; at the back of the entrance a Celtic Iron Age metal workshop and tools were discovered.

 

 

 

The “Chieftain’s Burial”

 

Most spectacular was the scene in the entrance hall where about 40 human bodies, some of them missing their head, hands and feet, were found; one of the skulls had been placed in a bucket. On a stone altar, adorned with stalks of grain, lay two arms with bracelets and gold rings, next to which was a skull that was spliced in half. Deeper in the cave, the remains of a chariot with bronze fittings and the skeleton of a man were discovered. Based on the artifacts, Dr. Wankel concluded that he had found the grave of a Celtic chieftain, buried with his jewelry, weapons, food, sacrificed horses and young maidens.

 

 AlTAR - Býčí Skála - Bull Rock Cave - 6 th c. BC - crowned skull - 40 bodies Altar

The stone altar on which was displayed severed arms with bronze bracelets and gold rings

 

Býčí Skála - Bull Rock Cave - 6 th c. BC - crowned skull - 40 bodies 3

Skull and decorated bronze headband/crown discovered in 1872 inside the Býčí Skála (Bull Rock) Cave

 

 


However,
the local doctor’s rather ‘romantic’ view of the archaeological evidence has not borne up to scientific scrutiny. More recent investigation has illustrated that the funeral chariot in which the supposed chieftain lay buried was actually not one, but three different chariots. Furthermore, the human remains were not all female as initially thought, and subsequent analysis has indicated that most were men and women aged between 30 and 45 years old, while the remains of children were also identified.  

 

 

Chariot 1

Chariot 2

Chariot 3

Chariot and detail of decoration from Bull Rock Cave (Reconstruction by the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna)

See also:

https://www.academia.edu/15170255/THE_TETRASKELION_SWASTIKA_IN_IRON_AGE_CELTIC_CULTURE

 

 

 

 The nature of the ‘massacre’ in the cave has also remained unclear, with subsequent examination of the bones providing more questions than answers. For example, anthropologists have hitherto failed to establish whether the individuals were sacrificed or murdered, and while some of the wounds discovered appear to be fatal, inflicted upon living persons, others have proved to have been inflicted after death.

Archaeological research at the site has also been complicated by the fact that, although the skulls have been preserved, the rest of the human remains from the 19th century ‘excavations’ were buried in an unknown location, and have never been recovered. Furthermore, during World War II the German army planned to use Bull Rock cave as a weapons factory, and the entrance hall was paved, thereby burying all remaining evidence under a thick layer of concrete.

 

 

Thus, although many theories have been advanced as to the function of Bull Rock cave during this period, and the dramatic events that occurred in the mid 6th century BC, the full truth about this enigmatic site will probably never be known…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On ‘Human Sacrifice’among the Celts see also:

https://www.academia.edu/5275216/Multiple_Burials_And_The_Question_of_Celtic_Suttee

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/the-wicker-man/

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/the-witch-of-cliffs-end-human-sacrifice-or-execution/

 

External links for further reading on Bull Rock Cave:

http://www.byciskala.com/index.php?page=5&art=J.%20Wankel%27s%20famous%20discovery%20of%20the%20Hallstatt%20culture

https://www.academia.edu/6981237/Peter-R%C3%B6cher_Die_B%C3%BD%C4%8D%C3%AD_sk%C3%A1la-H%C3%B6hle_in_M%C3%A4hren_Opfer_Ahnenkult_und_Totenritual_in_der_Hallstattzeit (in German)

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wicker Man

UD: May 2017

 

wicker

 

“…having devised a colossus of straw and wood, throw into the colossus cattle and wild animals of all sorts and human beings, and then make a burnt-offering of the whole thing”.

(Strabo IV, 4:5)

 

 

 

The most horrific ritual associated with the ancient Celts is undoubtedly the Wicker Man, and the mass burning of human and animal sacrifices inside this sinister structure. Our knowledge of this phenomenon comes largely from two main sources – Caesar, and the Greek geographer Strabo, although it appears that both harvested their information from a single source  – Posidonius, whose account has not survived (Tierney J.J. (1959-60) The Celtic Ethnography of Posidonius. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 60. P. 189-275; Green M. Humans as Ritual Victims in the Later Prehistory of Western Europe. Oxford Journal of Archaeology. 17/2. 1998. P. 169-189).

 

Most information on the Wicker Man comes from Julius Caesar, who states the Druids burned criminals and prisoners of war in the wicker structures, and that when such were unavailable, they “even go so low as to inflict punishment on the innocent”:

“Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames. They consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offense, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when a supply of that class is wanting, they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent”.

(Caesar, De Bello Gallico 6.16)

 

 

Caesar’s use of emotive language (“they even go so low”) hints that he was intending to show the enemies of Rome in a particularly barbaric light. In any case, Caesar himself did not witness such rituals, instead citing the Greek traveller Posidonius, who had visited Gaul about 50 years earlier, and written of the human sacrifice there. Why Posidonius, a Roman sympathizer, wrote, and why he wrote it, is unclear. He may have had first-hand experience of sacrificial rites, or he may have been transmitting rumors or outright lies, subsequently copied by other classical authors. Besides Caesar and Strabo, another source, Florus, also mentions the practice of human sacrifice by burning, this time among the Balkan Celts, stating that during the campaigns by the Scordisci at the beginning of the 1st c. BC Roman prisoners were also burnt alive:

Throughout their advance they left no cruelty untried, as they vented their fury on their prisoners; they sacrificed to their gods with human blood; they drank out of human skulls; by every kind of insult inflicted by burning and fumigation they made death more foul; they even forced infants from their mother’s wombs by torture”.

(Florus, Epitome of Roman History XXXVIIII, iii, 4)

 

 

 

 

So did the Wicker Man really exist, or is it simply another ‘urban legend’ – a product of the classical imagination designed to reinforce the image of the savages in the popular psyche, and illustrate the necessity that they be ‘civilized’?

All classical accounts of the ‘Wicker Man’ and human sacrifice by burning, are hearsay, and no eyewitness account has survived. Furthermore, no archaeological evidence of such a phenomenon has ever been discovered, which logically raises further doubts about the veracity of such claims.

 

And yet, there is one further source of information, produced by the Celts themselves, which may support the horrific accounts of ancient authors. During the 1st c. BC the Celtic tribes in Thrace produced a large number of silver tetradrachms of the Thasos type, on many of which a mysterious figure appears on the reverse. Various versions of these Celtic coins depict a colossus with a burning head (fig. A/B) or the head portrayed as a wheel (fig. C/D/F) – both apparently references to the Thunder God Taranis, to whom sacrifice was made by fire, and who is associated with the Solar Wheel.

 

 

W. fire 1

Fig A

 

W. firehead g

Fig. B

 

W. wheel head

Fig. C

 

w whhead 3

Fig. D

 

 

Other issues depict the figure within a rectangular structure (fig. E), and/or standing on a platform (fig. A/B/C/E/F), with what appears to be a ladder in the bottom right corner (Fig F):

 

W. stru 1

Fig. E

 

 

ladder

Fig. F

On Celtic “Thasos type” coinage:

https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria

 

 

thasos-taranis-rev

Reverse of a Balkan Celtic tetradrachm from Central Bulgaria, with solar/Taranis wheel in the top left corner

(1st c. BC)

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

 

 

 

 

 

While the schematic nature of these images makes certainty impossible, this coinage corresponds geographically and chronologically with accounts of human sacrifice by burning among the Balkan Celts, and it appears likely that these images may be the only direct archaeological evidence of the gruesome phenomenon which has become known as the ‘Wicker Man’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail