Celtic Warrior Burials and Coin Hoard from Dolj County (Romania)


Recent archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the village of Desa (Dolj county) in southwestern Romania have yielded 2 Iron age warrior burials, a discovery which has greatly supplemented our knowledge of the Celtic Scordisci tribes which inhabited large areas of Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania in the middle/late Iron Age.







UD: June 2016


warrior b


A small selection of Celtic warrior burials from Eastern Europe (5 – 1 century BC). This post will be updated periodically, as further discoveries/publications come to light.








Stupava (Malacky District), Slovakia

(Late 5th c. BC)


a - stup






a - sred

Srednica (Ptuj/ancient Poetovio), Slovenia

(late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)






Csepel Island (Budapest), Hungary

(Late 4th – 3rd c. BC)


Also: Warrior burial #149 (3rd c. BC):




Ciumeşti (Satu Mare), Romania

(mid 3rd c. BC)


a - cium






Lychnidos/Ohrid, FYR Macedonia

(mid 3rd c. BC)




Ljubljana, Slovenia

(late 3rd c. BC)




Szabadi (Somogy County), Hungary

(Late 3rd/early 2nd c. BC)


a - hun






Kalnovo (Schumen Region), Bulgaria

(Early 2nd c. BC)




Zvonimirovo (Podravina province), Croatia

(2nd c. BC)


a - cro




Slana Voda (Zlatibor district), southwestern Serbia

(mid 2 c. BC)




Desa (Dolj County), Romania

(Late 2nd c. BC)

a - rom



Montana, Bulgaria

(late 2nd. / 1st c. BC)






Koynare (Pleven Region), Bulgaria

(Late 2nd/1st c. BC)





Sremska Mitrovica (Syrmia), Serbia

(Late 2nd/ early 1st c. BC)

a - serb





















Mac Congail












A Late La Tene Warrior Burial from Koynare (Bulgaria)

koinare - Copy





The village of Koynare (Pleven region) is situated on the left bank of the Iskar river in north-western Bulgaria, an area which over the past century has yielded probably the highest concentration of Iron Age warrior burials in Europe – the vast majority discovered ‘accidentally’ by the local population (Domaradski 1984, Torbov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013).




Koyn map

Finds of Celtic weapons and location of Koynare in north-western Bulgaria

(afte Paunov 2013)




The late Iron Age burial at Koynare has been dated to the La Tene D1 period (1st c. BC), and included material typical of a Balkan Celtic warrior burial of this period – La Tene sword/scabbard, circular shield umbo, spearheads, dagger (sica), and a H-shaped horse bit (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).






Discovered together with fragments of its scabbard, the Koynare sword is one of over 60 examples of Celtic La Tene C2/D swords to have been discovered in the area of north-western Bulgaria between the Timok and Iskar rivers alone. These swords are identical to the Belgrade 2 / Mokronog 2-4, and Belgrade 3 / Mokronog 5-6 type Celtic swords from Scordisci burials in neighboring Serbia (Torbov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013).





The circular shield umbo from Koynare is of the Novo Mesto type. Further examples of this specific type of Celtic shield have been recorded in north-western Bulgaria at Montana, Kriva Bara (Vratza reg.), Pleven etc. (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).



Mon shield

Celtic (Scordisci) shield umbo from Montana, north-western Bulgaria (late 2nd c.  BC)









In terms of typology, the spearheads from Koynare have direct parallels in Balkan Celtic burials at Turnava and Biala Slatina (both Vratza reg.), and Montana in north-western Bulgaria, as well as an example from Portilor de Fier (Mehedinti) Romania – all similarly dated to the La Tene D1 period (loc cit). Spearheads are found in the vast majority of Balkan Celtic burials from this period. The presence of two examples, as at Koynare, is exceptional, but by no means unique. Such is the case, for example, with the recently discovered Scordisci warrior burial from Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia), which included two spearheads, one ritually ‘killed’.




Rit serb


(Ritually ‘killed’) spearhead from a Scordisci burial at Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia/1st c. BC)


(see Balkancelts ‘The Warrior and His Wife’ article, with relevant lit.)











Curved daggers (sica) are a frequent part of the inventory of late Iron Age Scordisci warrior burials from the territory of modern Serbia, southern Romania and northern Bulgaria. For example, at the Scordisci necropolis at Karaburma (Belgrade) 7 such curved daggers, dating from the La Tene C2-D1 period, have been registered (burial nos. 13, 25, 32, 35, 66, 97, 112) (Todorovic 1972). Decorated daggers of this type, as the Koynare example, are most commonly found in Celtic burials from northern Bulgaria and Oltenia (southern Romania) (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).




mon dagg

Celtic dagger (sica) from Montana, n.w. Bulgaria, decorated with mirored bird symbols


(See Balkancelts ‘Sacrificial Curved Daggers’ article)








The H-shaped horse bit discovered at Koynare suggests that, as in the case of Celtic burials such as those from Pavolche and Montana in north-western Bulgaria, or the recently discovered Scordisci burials from Desa in Romania, the individual in the Koynare burial was a Celtic cavalry officer.


Desa h-b

H-Shaped horse bit and circular shield umbo from the Scordisci burials at Desa, Romania

(See Balkancelts ‘Desa’ article)






As at Koynare, the vast majority of Celtic burials from north-western Bulgaria date to the La Tene C2/D period – i.e. from the time of the Scordisci Wars with Rome in the late 2nd/1st c. BC, reflecting the high level of militarization in Celtic society in this area during the period in question.

 However, the fact that only warrior burials have been discovered from this period, and those ‘accidentally’ by the local population, reflects a chronic lack of research at Celtic sites in the area, resulting in a continuing distortion in Bulgarian archaeological science.




















Cited Literature



Luczkiewiez P., Schonfelder M. (2008) Untersuchungen Zur Ausstattung Eines Spateisenzeitlichen Reiterkriegers Aus Dem Sudlichen Karpaten Oder Balkanraum. Sonderdruch aus Jahrbuch des Romisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 55. Jahrgang 2008. p. 159-210

Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

Megaw J.V.S (2004) In The Footsteps of Brennos? Further Archaeological Evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Zwischen Karpaten und Agais. Rahden /Westf. p. 93-107

Paunov E. (2013) From Koine To Romanitas: The Numismatic Evidence for Roman Expansion and Settlement in Bulgaria in Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC –AD 98/117) Phd.Thesis. School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Cardiff University. 2013)

Szabó M., Petres E. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Têne Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin. Inv. Praehist Hungariae 5 (Budapest 1992)

Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma, I, Beograd.

Tорбов Н. (2000) Мечове от III- I в. пр. Хр. открити в сиверосападна България. In: Исвестия на музеите в сиверосападна България. т. 28. 2000.





















BROTHERS IN ARMS – A double Celtic warrior burial from Szabadi (Hungary)

UD: June 2019



The village of Szabadi (Somogy county) is situated on the Kapos river in southern Hungary, circa 2.5 km. from the Iron Age oppidum at Szalacska. South of the village a Celtic burial site, used from the end of the 4th – early 2nd c. BC, yielded 12 cremation burials including 3 female graves and 5 warrior burials (# 1,4,5,11 and 12).


s map f.

Location of the site



During rescue excavations at the site in 1981 a wealth of archaeological material was uncovered, including ceramic, bronze and iron fibulae, decorated iron, bronze and glass bracelets, ankle rings and weaponry. The most significant find at the site came from grave # 11, where a double warrior burial dating to the late 3rd/early 2nd c. BC was discovered. Material from the burial included 3 swords in their sheaths, 3 spearheads, 2 sword belts, 2 shield umbos, bracelets (iron and glass), and fibulae (Horváth, Németh 2011).


umb illust

Shield umbo from warrior burial #11 at Szabadi

(after Horváth, Németh 2011)


Hun. swo styl illust

One of the decorated scabbards from burial #11. Although badly corroded, at the opening of the sheath a simple symmetrical carved decoration can be observed, composed of tendrils and two drops, known as the Hungarian Sword Style (phase 2, after Szabó, Petres 1992; illustration after Horváth, Németh 2011)





In the south-west and south-eastern parts of the grave meat (chicken and pork) for the afterlife had been placed in bowls. A further notable find in the warrior burial was a small glass bracelet, much smaller than the iron bracelets of the warriors. Such glass bracelets are characteristic for Celtic female burials of this period; a significant marker of Celtic eastwards expansion, they have been found in 3rd c. BC contexts as far east as Celtic sites such as Arkovna, Kalnovo, Sevtopolis and Zaravetz in e. Bulgaria. It is believed that the bracelet in burial #11 at Szabadi was a present to one of the warriors from his girlfriend or wife, which he also carried with him into the afterlife (loc cit).


Glass b. h

Glass bracelets from various Celtic female burials in Hungary (late 4th – early 2nd c. BC)

(after Tanko 2006)


The double burials in grave #11 at Szabadi were performed at the same time, and it has thus been assumed that the warriors fell in battle (Horváth, Németh 2011). Although the nature of the cremation process makes forensic confirmation impossible, this indeed appears the most plausible explanation for such a phenomenon. Finally, it is noteworthy that similar burial assemblages to those at Szabadi are common in the territory of the Scordisci (loc cit), logically indicating a close relationship between the Celts of the Kapos Valley and those in Serbia and n. Bulgaria.


mian illust

Full inventory of warrior burial #11

(after Horváth, Németh 2011)
























Literature Cited


Horváth L., Németh P. (2011) Celtic warriors from Szabadi (Somogy County, Hungary) In:The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea. Koper–Beograd 2011. p. 20-30.

Szabó M., Petres É. F. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Tène Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin. Inventaria Praehistorica Hungariae 5, Budapest.

Tankó K. (2006) Celtic Glass Bracelets in East-Hungary. In: Thracians and Celts. Proceedings of the International Colloquium from Bistriţa, 18-20 May 2006. p. 253-263
























Celtic Warrior Burials and Coinage from Dolj County (Romania)

UD: Feb. 2019


desa d.

“Part of this region (Thrace) was inhabited by the Scordisci … a people formerly cruel and savage…”.

(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)



Recent archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the village of Desa (Dolj county) in southwestern Romania have yielded 2 Iron age warrior burials, a discovery which has greatly supplemented our knowledge of the Celtic Scordisci tribes which inhabited large areas of Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania in the middle/late Iron Age.
The village of Desa is situated on the Danube and although a large amount of Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials have been recorded south of the river, especially in western Serbia and northwestern Bulgaria, such discoveries in this part of Romania have hitherto been relatively sparse. Thus the Desa burials are of particular significance.

desa s

Round shield umbo from the Scordisci warrior burials at Desa (2nd c. BC)
(Illustrations from the excavations provided by the Desa Archaeological Site)



Material from a Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)
(See: https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria)


The Celtic burials at Desa discovered during the 2013 excavations yielded a wealth of archaeological material which included, besides the cremated remains of the warriors, spearheads, an iron cleaver, shield umbos, nails, buttons/clasps, etc. A H-shaped horse bit discovered beside a round shield umbo, similar to examples found in Scordisci burials at Montana and Pavolche in nearby northwestern Bulgaria, logically indicates that, as in the latter cases, the Desa warriors were Celtic cavalry officers.


desa um. bt

Round shield umbo and H-shaped horse bit from the Desa burials (2nd c. BC)


dal . u.

Round Celtic shield umbo from Dalgopol, northeastern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)


A further interesting discovery from the Desa burials (dated 200-150 BC) was a button fashioned in the form of a miniature shield umbo, also discovered among the warriors remains.

desa min.

Button in the form of a miniature shield umbo, cremated bone and a nail from the shield umbo found in the Celtic burials

desa d.

Weapons and other artifacts in situ at the Desa burials







A recent find of Balkan Celtic silver tetradrachms discovered in a vineyard near the village of Motoci, also in Dolj district, has provided further evidence of Celtic presence in this area during the period in question (2nd c. BC). The hoard, consisting of 10 tetradrachms, is the latest discovery of this specific type of Celtic coinage to be recorded in southwestern Romania. A further 20 such coins are stored in the local museum in Vâlcea, slightly to the north of Dolj.



The Celtic hoard from Motoci (2nd c. BC)

















Mac Congail








Mac Congail



“One must have evidence, because knowledge is not mere true belief”.


(Butcharov. The Concept of Knowledge)




Perhaps the most iconic of Celtic Iron Age weapons, in its classic form the Celtic shield consisted of an ovoid shield board with a long, spindle-shaped umbo with a spine extending vertically along the shield board. Both Greek and Roman art depicted the oval shield with the spindle boss as an identifying feature of the ‘barbarian’ Celt’s shield (see ‘Shield Coins’ article). Since the main components of these shields are organic, surviving archaeological evidence is limited.

Such shields are known from approximately the 6th century BC to the early centuries AD through artwork, scattered remains of fittings, and in a few rare instances, wholly preserved shields, such as those from the site of La Têne itself.








The earliest evidence for Celtic shields on the territory of today’s Bulgaria dates to the second half of the 4th c. BC when warriors on the friezes of the Kazanlak / Seuthopolis tomb are depicted with the distinctive oval Celtic shields (Domaradski 1984, Mac Congail 2008, Emilov 2010). Celtic presence in this area at this early stage is confirmed by La Têne B artifacts from the villages of Ivanski, Malomir, Sveschtari (Dom. 1984:134, 138; Mac Congail 2010:51) and from the Schumen/Veliko Tarnovo areas (see ‘New Material 1 + 2’ articles). Depictions of Celtic oval shields also appear on a number of coins minted by the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in eastern Thrace in the 3rd c. BC (See ‘Shield Coins’ article).

  Such shields have been registered in eastern Bulgaria at sites such as Kamburovo (Targovischte region – Novo Mesto 169 type) (Domaradski 1984; Emilov 2010), the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo (Schumen region) (Atananassov 1992; Megaw 2004), and in the chieftains burials at Sashova and Fomus tumuli near the Shipka pass (Manov 2010). Further La Têne shields, but dating to the Roman period, have been found at the Taja site, to the west of Sevtopolis (See below).


  As with finds of La Têne swords, scabbards, chainmail etc., the majority of Celtic shields found in Bulgaria have been discovered in the west of the country. At Gorna Malina in the Sofia region a Celtic shield of the Karaburma type has been registered (Emilov 2010). Also from the Gorna Malina area (Bailovo) comes the earliest Celtic sword from Bulgaria, which dates to the La Têne B2 period (see ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article). To the southwest of the Bulgarian capital an oval Celtic shield was found in 1989 in a burial at Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region) which had been disturbed by ‘treasure hunters’. Associated with this Celtic shield was an inscribed Macedonian shield, suggesting that the burial is related to the first phase of Celtic expansion into the area at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. (Manov, Staikova 1992).

  Also noteworthy from the aforementioned Dolna Koznitza site is a bronze frontlet and other artifacts executed in the distinctive Celtic Plastic style common from the 4th c. BC. The frontlet with a 3 dimensional head above opposing rams heads, as with other Celtic works of art from this period found in Bulgaria, such as the Mezek chariot attachments or the golden Janus heads from Schumen, conforms exactly to the definition of this Celtic art style – ‘protruding, non-representational relief ornament cast in bronze and demonstrating a particular type of abstraction of human and animal heads’ (Megaw 2001: 139, 140-141,144).




Celtic Bronze frontlet from Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region, Bulgaria)







As with the majority of La Têne material dating to the II – I c. BC, it is northwestern Bulgaria which has yielded the majority of finds of Celtic shields. Novo Mesto 169 type shields have been found at Koynare (Pleven reg.) and at Smochan and Dojrentsi in the Lovech region (Emilov 2010; on other Celtic material from these sites see ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ and ‘Chainmail’ articles) In the Montana/Vratza regions Celtic shields (umbos), all accompanied by La Têne D swords of the Belgrad 3/Mokronog 5-6 type (Torbov 1997, 2000), and other La Têne material consistent with similar Scordisci burials across the border in Serbia, have been recorded at Kriva Bara (Montana region), where the recent publication of La Têne ceramic confirms Celtic settlement until at least the 1st c. AD (Vagalinski 2007), as well as at Dobruscha, Varbeschnitza, Galiche and Tarnava in the Vratza region (Torbov op cit).

 Particularly interesting is the Germanic (Bastarnae) influence in the construction of the Tarnova shield (Domaradski 1984: 144), which may relate this burial to the battles between the Roman forces of Crassus and his ‘Dacian’ allies and the Bastarnae/Scordisci in 29/28 BC. The presence of the Bastarnae in this area of northern Bulgaria is also confirmed by other archaeological evidence (e.g. from the Panagurischte Kolonii site – see  ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article), topographical traces (see  ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article), as well as extensive finds of Bastarnae coins of the Huşi Vovrieşti type found in north-central and north-western Bulgaria (See Numismatics section, and Mikolajczyk 1984). Thus, while the majorty of Celtic material from this part of Bulgaria is connected to the Scordisci tribes (Serdi, Meldi, Artacoi), some of it, such as the Tarnova burial, may be associated with the Celto-Germanic Bastarnae tribes (see Bastarnae article).

    Besides the aforementioned burials, Celtic Novo Mesto 169 type shields are also depicted on the silver Scordisci treasures from Galiche and Jakimovo (Emilov op. cit.). At the latter site recent publication of La Têne ceramic, similar to that found at Kriva Bara and underneath the Roman Castra Martis at Kula in the Montana region, confirms Celtic settlement at that site until at least the 1st c. AD. (Vagalinski 2007). The Scordisci treasures from Jakimovo and Galiche will be dealt with separately.





Depiction of a Celtic (Scordisci) chieftain on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure (Northwestern Bulgaria) II – I c. BC






 The latest Celtic shields found on the territory of today’s Bulgaria have been discovered at the Atanasza site near the village of Taja in the Balkan mountains. Celtic presence in this area of the central Balkans from the 3rd c. BC until the 3rd / 4th c. AD is testified to by a large amount of Celtic material from the Sevtopolis/Kazanlak area, as well as from the villages of Kran, Dolno Sahrane, and from the Shipka Pass area to the northwest of Sevtopolis (e.g. Sashova and Fomus tumuli) (Manov 2010). This material is to be related to the Celtic Artacoi tribe who inhabited this area from the late Iron Age until the Early Christian period (see Artacoi article – forthcoming).


 At the Taja site two La Têne shield umbos were found in ‘rich’ warrior burials (Tumulus # 3, burial # 1 + 3; other burials yielded typically only ceramic or ceramic and a single spearhead). The shield umbo from burial # 3 was associated with a Middle La Têne sword and scabbard (Group B according to De Navarro’s classification) (Domaradski 1993), while the shield itself is characteristic for the La Têne D period, similar to the aforementioned examples from northwestern Bulgaria. Associated ceramic dates this burial to the 1st / 2nd c. AD. Burial # 1 yielded a further La Têne iron shield umbo, as well as a La Têne sword and accompanying scabbard of the Noric tradition (Werner 1977; Domaradski op cit.). Both the Celtic sword and shield show modifications based on Roman models of the 1st / 2nd c. AD, while the burial itself dates to the late 2nd / 3rd c. AD (Domaradski op cit). Weaponry and other material from the site were killed in the distinctive Celtic fashion, a custom also to be observed in this area at Celtic burials from Sevtopolis, and at sites such as Skalsko and Chervenvruh (see ‘Killing the Objects’ article) from the 3rd c. BC until the Early Christan period (3rd / 4th c. AD).

 Settlement at the Taja site began not earlier than the late 2nd / 1st c. BC, i.e. within the framework of the Scordisci Wars, and the movement of a Celtic population into this mountainous area during this period is to be related to the Roman advance into western Thrace. Two separate Roman campaigns were undertaken against the Celtic Artacoi tribe in this area, in 29/28 BC by Crassus and in 23/24 AD by Sabinius (see ‘Artacoi’ article – forthcoming), but archaeological evidence from the central Balkan mountains of Bulgaria indicates the survival of a Celtic population in this area into the Early Christian period.




Map Sh. 1

Distribution of Recorded Celtic Shields in N.W. Bulgaria



* Provisional (April 2012). Map includes only La Têne weaponry, other Celtic material from this area will be dealt with separately

** Celtic coinage does not include Celtic Paeonia issues or Bastarnae coins








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