CELTIC SYRMIA

 

 

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Syrmia region of modern Serbia*, a fertile area of the Pannonian Plain situated between the Danube and Sava rivers, has yielded a massive amount of archaeological material pertaining to the Celtic Scordisci Federation who inhabited this region in the pre-Roman period. These discoveries include some of the most spectacular Balkan Celtic hoards, such as those from the Celtic hillfort at Židovar and the Scordisci settlement at Čurug, as well as extensive finds from Celtic sites such as Kupinovo.

 

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

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

 

 

The Balkan Celtic silver hoard from Čurug

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/curug-a-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-vojvodina-northern-serbia/

 

Detail of anthropomorphic decoration on the pommel of an iron sword, and scabbard decorated in the “Hungarian Sword Style”,  from a Scordisci burial complex at Kupinovo (Syrmia), Serbia (3rd c. BC)

(after: Drnić I. (2015) Groblje latenske culture/A La Têne Culture Cemetery. Arheološki muzej u Zagrebu, 2015)

 

 

While the aforementioned finds, discovered during regulated excavations, clearly indicate the economic and political importance of the Syrmia region within the territory of the Scordisci Federation, other discoveries made in a less professional manner suggest that the officially documented data is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. As with all areas of the Balkans, the vast majority of archaeological material registered in this region has been uncovered ‘accidentally’ by locals, providing invaluable evidence concerning the Scordisci tribes who inhabited large areas of today’s Serbia, eastern Croatia, south-western Romania and northern/western Bulgaria in the late Iron Age.

A good example of this phenomenon is the case of a Celtic warrior burial disturbed by a local farmer close to the modern town of Sremska Mitrovica in Syrmia.

 

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011 = Tapavički-Ilić M., Filipović V., A Late Iron Age Grave Find from Syrmia. In:  Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Poceedings of the International Colloquium from Târgu Mureş, 7–9 October 2011. 453-559)

 

In this case, the cremation burial was accompanied by a bronze ‘kettle’, a bronze simpulum, a pair of iron snaffle-bits, a bronze fibula, an iron knife, a belt buckle of the Laminici type, a scabbard decorated with geometric ornaments, and two spears (one ritually killed). A sword from the grave had been removed, and presumably sold, before the material was presented to archaeologists. There is no information about the sword itself, so one cannot tell whether it was a long one, typical of the Late Iron Age, or a shorter one, developed during the last decades of the 1st century BC by the Balkan Celts. Examples of the latter have been found at sites in Serbia and in Bulgaria, such as the Taja site in the Balkan mountains where burials contained examples of both types of late Iron Age Celtic swords.

A number of interesting features are to be noted in the Sremska Mitrovica burial. All of the finds have close parallels with material from Balkan Celtic burials from the same period (late 2nd / 1st c. BC). Two iron spurs with button-shaped endings, which belong to the first variant of the La Tène spur type 1 in Serbia, chronologically belong to the 1st century BC. What makes this find of spurs special is that so far in the Central Balkans only one more pair of Celtic spurs have discovered as grave goods – from a Celtic burial at Popica in Bulgaria. Usually, only a single spur is encountered (Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović op cit.). The bronze kettle discovered has analogies in Scordisci territory along the Danube in Serbia and in examples from Romania (Tigănesti, Bobaia, Vedea, Costești and Pescari), all dated to the 1st century BC.

An iron knife with a straight blade is also noteworthy. This knife is in contrast to the typical Celtic/Scordisci fighting knives (daggers), which possess a massive bent blade and a short handle. Thus, the type of knife found at Sremska Mitrovica was not a fighting knife/dagger, and the bronze earring-like ornament on its handle indicates that it belonged to a female. Also noteworthy in this burial is the deliberate bending/deformation of the spearhead before being placed in the grave – once again confirming that the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ was a common religious practice among the Balkan Celts in the late Iron Age.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Celtic burial under discussion is the presence of female articles in the grave. Objects such as the knife, ‘Laminci’ belt buckle and fibula belong to a woman, in contrast to the weapons and spurs which are obviously from a male burial. This has led archaeologists to conclude that we may be dealing with the double cremation burial of a warrior accompanied by his wife. The circumstances which could have led to such a double burial, which dates to the period of the Scordisci Wars, can only be guessed at.

 

Ritually ‘killed’ sword from a Celtic warrior burial at Kupinovo (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On “Accidental Archaeology” and Celtic material from this part of the Balkans see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/scordisci-swords/

 

*This article only covers the Serbian part of Syrmia. Celtic/Scordisci finds from the  Vukovar-Srijem area of Eastern Croatia are dealt with elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

FULL ARTICLE:

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/scordisci-warrior-burials-from-desa-romania/

 

EXPANSION AND SYMBIOSIS – A Major Celto-Scythian Settlement and Burial Complex from the Mátra Mountains in north-eastern Hungary

UD: March 2018

 

 

 

Discovered in the foothills of the Mátra Mountains in northeastern Hungary in 2015-2016, the bi-ritual burial complex at Gyöngyös is one of the largest and most important Iron Age sites in the region and has provided fascinating new information on Celtic (and Scythian) settlement in this part of Europe.

The burial site has yielded 154 burials from the La Tène period, and has parallels in other Celtic complexes in northern Hungary such as those at Mátraszolos, Sajópetri or Ludas, the latter being situated a few kilometers west of Gyöngyös (Szabó, Tankó 2006, 2012). Previous research at the site in 2003 had uncovered evidence of a Celtic settlement, dating to the same period (late 4th – early 2nd c. BC), close to the burial complex.

 

Notable among the inhumation burials at the site is grave #113, in which the skeleton of a young girl was discovered with a rich set of jewellery. A three-row bronze necklace, two amber ring-beads and many glass beads decorated her neck; a bronze bracelet was found on her right forearm, while a saprolite ring was on her left forearm. The young lady also wore a silver finger-ring on her left hand, an iron belt on her waist, as well as a pair of anklets made of bronze (hohlbuckelringe). A particularly interesting artefact was found beside the skeleton: a spherical clay rattle.

 

Gyöngyös – Inhumation Burial #113

(after Tanko et al 2016)

 

 

At Gyöngyös, material recovered from both the inhumation and cremation burials attest to a thriving and wealthy community. Bronze bracelets, anklets, glass or saprolite jewellery, finger-rings, various iron and bronze fibulae, bronze torques and small chain-necklaces with amber ring-beads came to light from the female burials; in male graves jewelry, iron swords / scabbards with suspension chain-belts, spearheads and shield umbos. Based on traces of burning, it has been established that the deceased were cremated wearing full costume as well as jewellery or other items of clothing (loc cit.).

 

Gyöngyös – Cremation/Warrior Burial #128

 

 

Based on the available data, the necropolis unearthed at Gyöngyös was established at the end of the 4th century BC, was mainly used in the 3rd century BC, and abandoned at the beginning of 2nd century BC.

A further interesting feature of the site is the fact that archaeological material from the settlement and burial complex, particularly pottery, represent both Celtic and Scythian traditions. In some cases the burials can be connected to the population of the Vekerzug Culture (or Alföld Group) featuring Scythian characteristics. This phenomenon has been observed at other sites in the area, such as that at Sajópetri–Hosszú-dulo, where excavations have established that a significant population of Scythian origin lived beside the Celts during the La Tène period (Szabó et al 1997, Szabó 2007), and Gyöngyös provides further evidence of a symbiotic relationship between, and fusion of, the two cultures in the aftermath of the Celtic expansion/migration into the region.

 

 

 

Documentation of Cremation Burial #155 at Gyöngyös, using 3D photogrammetry

 

 

Ariel view of the Gyöngyös site using drone technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITERATURE

 

Szabó M., Guillaumet J.-P. Kriveczky B. (1997) Sajópetri-Hosszú-dűlő. Késővaskoritelepülésa Kr.e.IV-III.századból. In: Raczky, P.–Kovács, T.–Anders, A.(eds.): Utak a múltba. Az M3-as autópálya régészeti leletmentései – Paths into the Past. Rescue Excavations on the M3 motorway. Budapest,81–88.

Szabó M., Tankó K. (2006) Nécropole laténienne à Ludas–Varjú-dűlő. Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 57, 325–343.

Szabó M., Tankó K. (2012) La nécropole celtique à Ludas–Varjú-dűlő. In: Szabó M.(dir.) –Tankó K.(ass.), Czajlik Z.(ass.): La nécropole celtique à Ludas – Varjú-dűlő. Budapest, 9–152.

Szabó M. (2007) Les relations Celto-Scythes. In: Szabó M.(dir.) –Czajlik Z.(ass.): L’habitat del époque de La Tène à Sajópetri – Hosszú-dűlő. Budapest, 325–332.

Tanko K., Toth Z., Rupnik L., Czajlik Z., Puszta S. (2016) Short report on the archaeological research of the Late Iron Age cemetery at Gyöngyös. In: Dissertationes Archaeologicae ex Instituto Archaeologico Universitatis de Rolando Eötvös nominatae Ser. 3. No. 4. Budapest 2016. P . 307-324.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE TRANSITION – Inhumation to Cremation and the Case of the Celtic Complex at Csepel Island, Budapest

 

csepel-1

 

Fascinating study by Attila Horváth of the Budapest History Museum on the question of the transition period in Celtic burial rites, based on data from the complex at Csepel Island, Budapest:

 

https://www.academia.edu/30399043/HORV%C3%81TH_M._A._Problems_about_the_Change_of_Periods_and_Rites_in_the_La_T%C3%A8ne_Cemetery_on_Csepel_Island_Budapest_._In_S._Berecki_ed._Iron_Age_chronology_in_the_Carpathian_Basin._Proceedings_of_the_international_colloquium_from_T%C3%A2rgu_Mure%C5%9F_8-10._October_2015._Cluj-Napoca_2016_141-163

 

 

csepel-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Celtic Cavalry Officer from Montana (Bulgaria)

 

 

1 -  ILLUST FRNT

 

 

Probably the most significant Celtic burial yet published from the territory of today’s Bulgaria is that of a Scordisci cavalry officer discovered in the Montana area in the north-west of the country. Dating to the La Têne C2/D1 period (late 2nd / early 1st c. BC)…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

 

https://www.academia.edu/26277623/A_CELTIC_SCORDISCI_CAVALRY_OFFICER_FROM_MONTANA_BULGARIA_

 

 

Chief Yakimovo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BALKAN CELTIC MACHAIRA

a - a - a- curved daggers machaira - Copy

The use of curved single-edged swords – μαχαιρα/machaira* (and variants thereof) – developed during the Bronze Age in south-eastern Europe, with both the Iapodic and Liburian groups on the eastern Adriatic coast using variants of the machaira during this period (Batović 1983:314; Dreschler-Bižić 1983:383-384). Machaira type swords also appear…

 

https://www.academia.edu/24234744/THE_BALKAN_CELTIC_MACHAIRA

 

 

Montana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STABBING DEATH – The Ritual Deposition of Celtic Spears

UD: March 2017

 

Karabur sp

 

 

One of the most fascinating aspects of Iron Age European society is the deposition of weapons and other artifacts in various ritual contexts. This is particularly true of spearheads which have been found in Celtic burials and religious sites across the continent. In fact, such ritual deposition can be traced back to the European Bronze Age, with numerous examples recorded from across the continent.

 

 

a - -a -a -a Copper alloy socketed spearhead. Blade rapier-shapedBuckinghamshire,Taplow, river Thames - rapier shp rare - only 3 Brit 7 Irel - 1390 BC -1000 BC MBA

Socketed spearhead with rapier-shaped blade deposited in the River Thames at Taplow (Buckinghamshire), England. (Dated ca. 1,200 BC)

(See also Gibson G. (2013) Beakers Into Bronze: Tracing Connections Between Western Iberia And The British Isles 2800-800. In: Celtic From The West 2. Oxford 2013. pp. 71-100)

 

Spear water type 3

Celtic spearheads discovered in the River Sava between Slavonski Šamac, Croatia and Šamac, Republika Srpska/Bosnia and Herzegovina (2/1 c. BC)

On Celtic material from the Sava River see also:

https://www.academia.edu/5463297/The_Power_of_3_-_Some_Observations_On_Eastern_Celtic_Helmets

 

 

 

Another phenomenon frequently associated with such deposition is the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ – the deliberate breaking or bending of objects before deposition. While this custom is to be observed throughout the European Bronze and Iron Ages, its exact significance remains unclear, as does the question of why some objects are ‘killed’ while others in the same context are deposited intact.

 

srem

Ritually ‘killed’ spearhead and other artifacts from the burial of a Celtic (Scordisci) cavalry officer at Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia (1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-warrior-and-his-wife-a-scordisci-burial-from-serbia/

 

Ritually 'killed' iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain 5-4 c. BC

Ritually deformed iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain (5/4 c. BC)

On ‘Killing The Objects’:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/killing-the-objects-3/

 

 

 

“STABBING DEATH”

 

In terms of weaponry, although all manner of Celtic military equipment is found in such ritual contexts most common are spearheads registered in numerous Iron Age Celtic warrior burials across Europe.

 

zvon

Ritually ‘killed’ sword/scabbard and spearheads in a Celtic warrior burial (LT 96) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-celtic-burials-at-zvonimirovo-croatia/

 

 

 

A fascinating phenomenon to be observed among the Balkan Celts in the later Iron Age, i.e. the period of the Scordisci Wars against Rome, is the custom of ‘stabbing’ spears into the warrior burials. The main assault weapon of the Balkan Celtic warrior, numerous cases of spears being stabbed into burials in this distinctive fashion have been recorded throughout the region, particularly among the Scordisci tribes in eastern Croatia, southwestern Romania, Serbia and northern Bulgaria.

 

 

zvon stabbed

Spearhead ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (LT 48) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)

 

Karabur sp

Celtic spear ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (#11) at Karaburma (Belgrade), Serbia (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

The spear treated in this fashion from burial #11 at Karaburma is of a very specific Balkan Celtic type (Drnić type 3), dating to the 1st century BC, with two grooves on both sides of the blade. Examples of such have been discovered in Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials stretching from Slavonski Šamac and Otok near Vinkovci in eastern Croatia (Map #1,2), through Serbia and southwestern Romania to Borovan and Tarnava in northwestern Bulgaria (Map # 11,12)*.

 

 

Map

Distribution of recorded finds of Balkan Celtic Type 3 spearheads in eastern Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria (1st century BC)

https://www.academia.edu/19901603/La_T%C3%A8ne_spearheads_from_south-eastern_Pannonia_and_the_northern_Balkans_typology_chronology_ritual_and_social_context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Celtic / La Têne material within the modern borders of Bulgaria and Romania is still attributed by many Thracologists to the ‘Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii group’ – a pseudo-culture invented by communist scientists in the 1970’s as part of the Protochronism process.

See:

https://www.academia.edu/27923462/On_Communism_Nationalism_and_Pseudoarchaeology_in_Romania_and_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail