The Gruesome Secrets of Bull Rock Cave

 

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.

 

FULL ARTICLE:

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/the-secrets-of-bull-rock-cave/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SAMHAIN/THE GATHERING – On the Celtic Origins of Halloween

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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THE DRUID CROWNS

UD: December 2018

“To you alone ’tis given the heavenly gods
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote”.

(Pharsalia Book 1:453-456)

200-150 BC - Deal

Recently published material from the Celtic settlement at Roseldorf, situated on the Sandberg in the western Weinviertel in Lower Austria, has furnished a wealth of new archaeological material pertaining to the Iron Age inhabitants of this area in particular, and pan-Celtic cult/religious practices in general.

 Excavations at Roseldorf, the largest La Tène settlement in Austria, have uncovered a Celtic settlement of supra-regional economic and cultural importance, as attested to by the discovery of coins of the Vindelici Manchinger type and Buschl-quinars from Lower Bavaria, as well as coinage produced by Gaulish and Balkan Celtic tribes. Furthermore, many small zoomorphic figurines from Roseldorf have parallels especially in the northeast, in the Celtic settlements at Nowa Cerekwia in Poland and Němčice in Moravia (Holzer 2014).

 

In the present context, of particular interest at Roseldorf are 3 cult districts with seven sanctuaries which played a major role in the functional orientation of the complex. Although evidence of human sacrifice has not been identified at the site, evidence of post-mortem manipulation of the bodies has been established, consistent with the Celtic practice of exhumation.

 

Roseldorf - antler 1

Carved and pierced deer-antler,  believed to have been attached to a statue of the Celtic God Cernunnos

(After Holzer V. (2014) Roseldorf – An Enclosed Central Settlement of the Early and Middle La Tène Period in Lower Austria. In: Paths of Complexity. Centralization and Urbanization in Iron Age Europe. Oxford/Philadelphia 2014. p. 122-131)

From the first sanctuary area (object 1), the antler shows signs of complex artificial treatment. The natural coronet has been removed and a new one cut to extend the pedicle in order to fix it more easily with an iron nail or pin. It is believed to have formed part of the statue of a deity, probably Cernunnos.

On Cernunnos: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/cernunnos-and-the-ram-headed-serpent/

Rosel Skulls

Fragments of human skulls found at the second large sanctuary (object 30) at Roseldorf.

(On Celtic Excarnation see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/excarnation/ )

Rosel horses

Remains of horse sacrifices in the second large sanctuary at Roseldorf

The numerous horse harnesses, horse skeletons and chariot parts etc. discovered in this area have led archaeologists to interpret it as a sanctuary to the Celtic horse-goddess Epona

On the Celtic Horse Goddess:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/epona-the-celtic-horse-goddess-in-thrace/

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THE DRUID CROWN

Perhaps the most interesting artifact to come from the site is an iron ‘Druid’s Crown’ discovered in the first large sanctuary at Roseldorf. The crown has been ritually ‘killed’ before deposition – i.e. deliberately bent/deformed, according to Celtic religious ritual.

1 - a - a -a - Roseldorf-Ensemble Druids crown etc.

Ceramic, antler, bone, weapons and other artifacts from the sanctuary area of the Celtic settlement at Roseldorf

 

Roseldorf - Druid crown GOOD

The Roseldorf Druid Crown

(after Holzer 2014)

The Roseldorf Druid Crown corresponds to Parfitt’s type I, with an encircling headband and two bands crossed at the apex (Holzer 2009b: 175–177, 182; Parfitt 1995: 72–82; see Holzer 2014). The best example of such a crown was discovered in the burial of a Celtic ‘warrior-priest’ at Mill Hill Cemetery in Deal (Kent), England. Dating to the early 2nd century BC, the Deal Crown was found on the head of a warrior buried with his sword and shield, and consisted of two sheets of bronze, decorated in La Tène style, held together with rivets. The metal was worn directly on the head (i.e. not padded or strengthened with leather); when discovered impressions of human hair remained in the corrosion on the inner surface.

Deal skeleton

Burial of the Deal Priest-Warrior with weapons and Druid Crown

Also found in the grave were: an iron sword with bronze scabbard fittings and suspension rings for holding the sword on a belt; bronze parts from a wooden shield, and a bronze brooch decorated with applied coral studs.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_prb/s/skull__crown_of_deal_warrior.aspx

Although not as elaborate as the Deal Crown, and incomplete, the Roseldorf example is particularly significant as it represents the first such found in an archaeological context in mainland Europe, and the oldest Druid Crown yet discovered.

200-150 BC - Deal

The Deal Crown

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Mac Congail

THE SECRETS OF BULL ROCK CAVE

UD: May 2019

 

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 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BURNING MEN – The Myth of the “Wicker Man” in Celtic Europe

UD: May 2019

 

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