Tag Archive: Celtic warrior burials


 

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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: May 2017

 

Baux-de-Provence, Provence Corinthian helmet - Celtic grave - 2nd half - 6th. c. BC (2)

 

 

The Celtic eastwards expansion of the 4th / early 3rd century BC, and resulting clash with military forces of the Hellenistic world, has logically left substantial archaeological traces, which include Hellenistic military equipment discovered in Balkan Celtic warrior burials. Notable examples of such are the Hellenistic greaves from the burial of a Celtic chieftain at Ciumeşti (Satu Mare) in Transylvania, or Greek helmets discovered in Celtic warrior burials at Seuthopolis/Sevtopolis and Kalnovo in south-central and eastern Bulgaria (Getov 1962; Megaw 2004, Mac Gonagle 2014, 2015).

 

 

greaves cium

Bronze greaves from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Ciumeşti

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/prince-of-transylvania/

 

 

sevt hel

Greek helmet from a Celtic warrior burial at Sevtopolis* (after Getov 1962)

https://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings

 

*Repeated requests to Kazanlak museum for academic access to the extensive Celtic material from the ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ have been denied. It has also come to our attention that some of this material has recently ‘disappeared’ from the museum.

 

 

Ritually “killed” Thracian sword of the rhomphaia type found in the recently discovered Celtic shrine/ritual area at Sboryanovo in northeastern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC).

https://www.academia.edu/32172303/FALL_OF_THE_CITY_OF_WOLVES_A_Celtic_Chariot_Burial_from_Sboryanovo_in_n.e._Bulgaria

 

 

While the aforementioned cases are clearly to be explained as trophies taken by victorious Celtic armies after the defeat of Macedonian forces, or evidence of the well documented Celtic mercenary activity during this period (Mac Gonagle 2013, 2015), more problematic are a number of Hellenistic helmets discovered in western Celtic burials which date to a much earlier period. Examples of such include the recently published Corinthian helmet discovered in a Celtic burial at Baux-de-Provence (Provence), in southern France, which was actually found in 1813, but only recently ‘rediscovered’ (Jourdan 1897, Garcia 2013). The typology of the helmet dates it to the 6th century BC (Garcia op cit), and 2 further examples of this kind of helmet have been discovered in the Lyon area in east-central France (Boucher 1970, Vial 2003).

 

x - Baux-de-Provence, Provence Corinthian helmet - Celtic grave - 2nd half - 6th. c. BC (1)

Corinthian helmet from Baux-de-Provence (mid 6th c. BC)

 

 

Whether these Corinthian helmets, and other examples such as the Etruscan Negau type helmets, dating to the 5th century BC, from Ženjak in Slovenia or Agde (Hérault) in south-eastern France (Feugère, Freises 1994-1995) were imports into the Celtic sphere, or represent evidence of Celtic mercenary activity prior to such being recorded in ancient sources, remains unclear.

 

 

negau

Negau type helmet from Ženjak, Slovenia 

 

These helmets are of an Etruscan design from circa 500-450 BC called the Vetulonic or Negau type, which are of bronze with a comb-shaped ridge across the skull, and a protruding rim with a groove right above the rim. However, inscriptions on the helmets are believed to have been added at a much later date (2nd c. BC), and the deposition has been dated to circa 50 BC – i.e. shortly before the Roman conquest of the area.

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-negau-inscriptions/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Boucher St. (1970) Bronzes grecs, hellénistique et étrusques des Musées de Lyon. Lyon, Audin et de Boccard.

Getov 1962 = Гетов Л. (1962) Нови данни за въоръжението у нас през латенската епоха.Археология 3, 41-43

Garcia D. (2013) Le casque corinthien des Baux-de-Provence. In: L’Occident grec de Marseille à Mégara Hyblaea. Hommages à Henri Tréziny Bibliothèque d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne et Africaine 13 pp. 85-90

Feugère M., Freises A. (1994-1995) Casque de type Negau découvert près d’Agde (Hérault). RAN, 27-28, 1994-1995, p. 1-7.

Jourdan A. (1897) Guide du visiteur dans l’antique ville des Baux. Avignon, Aubanel.

Mac Gonagle B. (2013) The Kingmakers – Celtic Mercenaries:

https://www.academia.edu/4910243/THE_KINGMAKERS_-_Celtic_Mercenaries

Mac Gonagle B. (2014) The Celtic Burials from Kalnovo (Eastern Bulgaria):

https://www.academia.edu/4096257/The_Celtic_Burials_From_Kalnovo_Eastern_Bulgaria_

Mac Gonagle B. (2015) On The Celtic Conquest of Thrace (180/279 BC):

https://www.academia.edu/10763789/On_The_Celtic_Conquest_of_Thrace_280_279_BC_

Megaw V. (2004) In the footsteps of Brennos? Further archaeological evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Hänsel B., Studenikova E., (eds.) Zwischen Karpaten und Ägäis. Neolithikum und ältere Bronzezeit. Gedenkschrift für Viera Nemejcova-Pavukova. Rahden /Westf. 93-107

Vial J. (2003) Carte archéologique de la Gaule, 34/3. Le Montpelliérais. Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: September 2016

 

 

 

srednice 3 good

 

 

 

 

The area of the modern city of Ptuj (ancient Poetovio) in eastern Slovenia has yielded a massive amount of material pertaining to the Celtic culture, uncovered at multiple sites around the city. While the majority of this archaeological material has hitherto tended to relate to the immediate pre-Roman and Roman periods, recent discoveries have also furnished fascinating information regarding the earlier phases of Celtic settlement in this part of Europe.

 

 

 

 

ptuj map

( after Lubšina Tušek M., Kavur B. 2009 = https://www.academia.edu/1379528/LUB%C5%A0INA_TU%C5%A0EK_Marija_KAVUR_Boris._A_sword_between_the_Celtic_warriors_grave_from_Srednica_in_north-eastern_Slovenia._V_TIEFENGRABER_Georg_ur._KAVUR_Boris_ur._GASPARI_Andrej_ur._._Keltske_%C5%A1tudije_II_papers_in_honour_of_Mitja_Gu%C5%A1tin_Protohistoire_Europ%C3%A9enne_11_._Montagnac_%C3%89ditions_Monique_Mergoil_2009_str._125-142 )

 

 

 

mat

Relief of the Celtic Matres from Ptuj/Poetovio (LIMC, vol. 6.2, p. 620, n°4)
(see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/cult-of-the-nutrices-nursing-mothers/ )

 

 

br

The Brogdos Pot from Poetovio

 
The most extraordinary Celtic inscription to be found at Poetovio is undoubtedly that found on a beaker at the site. Dated to the 2nd/3rd c. AD, and written in a Celto-Etruscan script, this inscription reads ARTEBUDZ BROGDUI which has been translated as ‘Artebudz for Brogdos’. Both names are Celtic, and the vessel was a votive offering to Brogdos – a deity guarding the border between the world of the living and the after-world.
see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/between-birth-and-death-celtic-graffiti/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SREDNICA

 

In 2007 four Early La Tène (LT B2) graves were discovered in Srednica on the outskirts of Ptuj, three female burials and that of a warrior. The most interesting of these burials (#9) was that of the Celtic warrior, dating to the late 4th/ early 3rd c. BC, which was accompanied by ceramic vessels, a Middle La Téne iron fibula, socketed spearhead, knife and a Hatvan-Boldog/Münsingen type sword.

 

 

srednice grave 9 warrior cremation late 4th - early 3rd c. BC

Celtic Warrior Burial (#9) from Srednica

 

spearhead knife fibula irin Srednica b. 9 lare 4 ear 3 c. bc.

Spearhead, knife and fibula from burial #9

 

 

 

 

The most spectacular discovery in the burial is undoubtedly the sword/scabbard, richly decorated with tendrils, s-scrolls and triskele motifs, combining many Celtic stylistic elements of this period.

 

 

 

srednice 1 x

Upper plate of the Srednica scabbard

 

 

srednice 3 good

Suspension loop of the Srednica scabbard

 

(After Kavur B. (2014) = http://www.hippocampus.si/ISBN/978-961-6832-74-8.pdf)

 

(The sword is 69 cm long with the blade measuring 56 and the handle 13 cm. The scabbard is up to 4.4 cm broad. The clamps of the scabbard reinforcement are 5.3 cm broad and 1.8 cm long. The discs on the frontal reinforcement are 1.5 cm broad. The suspension loop is 7.4 cm long. The loop plates are 2.6 and the arch is 1.5 cm broad. The chape is 10.3 cm long and 5.9 cm wide)

 

 

 

 

 

 

From a wider perspective, the Srednica burials represent the first phase of Celtic migration into this part of Europe. In the initial phase only a few inhumation burials are known, such as burials 63 and 111 at Karaburma /Belgrade from Scordisci territory, to which we may add one of the female burials from Srednica, indicating that by the late 4th century BC eastern Slovenia was already settled by Celtic populations (Lubšina Tušek, Kavur 2009). While it has traditionally been thought that the initial Celtic settlement in the Central Balkans was connected with the ‘Brennos Invasion’ of 280/279 BC, it is becoming increasingly clear that this campaign was only the culmination of an ongoing migration which had begun decades earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(On the initial phase of Celtic expansion on the Balkans see also: https://www.academia.edu/10763789/On_The_Celtic_Conquest_of_Thrace_280_279_BC_ )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I B ci

 

 

Over the past century a large amount of epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological material relating to the Celtic Eravisci tribe has been uncovered in the Budapest region of modern Hungary. However, until recently the vast majority of this material has dated to the immediate pre-Roman and Roman periods (i.e. 1st century BC onwards), while little has been known of the earlier Celtic presence in this area.

 

Eravisci - stove

Clay stove from a Celtic house (#9) at Budapest-Gellérthegy (1st c. BC)

 

Eravisci -Late La Tène pottery workshop at Békásmegyer

Ceramic from a Late La Tène pottery workshop at Békásmegyer (Budapest  – 1 c. BC)

 

 

Eravisci 1 c. BC --ilver denarius. Imitating Roman Republican denarius of L. Roscius Fabatus.

Celtic (Eravisci) denarius from the Budapest area (1st. century BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSEPEL ISLAND

 

 

In light of the above, of particular interest have been the systematic excavations carried out over the past decade at the Csepel Island site on the Danube in Budapest. The site, better known as the personal domain of the Hungarian ruler Árpád after the migration of Hungarians into Pannonia in the early 10th century, and which remained a favourite resort of the Hungarian kings into the Middle Ages, has also proved one of the most significant Celtic sites in Eastern Europe.

 

 

Comp x.

Ceramic, bronze fibula and hohlbuckelring (bronze anklet) from the Celtic burials at Csepel Island (late 4th-3rd c. BC)

 
(On Hohlbuckelringe see:
https://www.academia.edu/7212191/On_Hohlbuckelringe_as_a_Marker_of_Celtic_Eastwards_Expansion )

 

 

 

 

 

The Celtic burial complex at Csepel Island was in use from the La Têne B1 – C1 period, i.e. from the 2nd half of the 4th until the late 3rd c. BC, and excavations at the site have uncovered 107 Celtic burials, both inhumation and cremation, dating to this period (Horváth 2012).

 

 

I B ci

Celtic inhumation burial from Csepel Island (late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)

 

warrior b. 149

Grave goods from a Celtic warrior burial (#149) at Csepel Island:
1. Fragment of shield boss; 2. Body of shield; 3. Suspension chain; 4. Spearhead; 5. Sword/scabbard

(after Horváth M.A. (2014) A Decorated La Tène Sword from the Budapest–Csepel Island. –
https://www.academia.edu/9541006/Horv%C3%A1th_M._A._A_Decorated_La_T%C3%A8ne_Sword_from_the_Budapest_Csepel_Island_IN_Berecki_S._ed._Iron_Age_Crafts_and_Craftsmen_in_the_Carpathian_Basin_BMM-SA_VII_Mega_2014_p._161-170 )

 

 

 

 

Of particular interest is cremation burial #6 at the site, analysis of which has indicated that the deceased was deposited in a large chamber constructed of timber. Such Celtic burials have been previously recorded in Hungary and Slovakia but, due to practical and environmental factors, have rarely been studied in detail.

 

 

cremation grave 6

Cremation burial #6 at Csepel Island (3rd c. BC)

 

cremation grave 6 recon.

Graphic reconstruction of the burial based on the archaeological data

 

( After Horváth 2012 (in Hungarian) – https://www.academia.edu/6969233/S%C3%ADrszerkezet_rekonstrukci%C3%B3s_k%C3%ADs%C3%A9rlet_egy_La_T%C3%A8ne_kori_temetkez%C3%A9s_kapcs%C3%A1n._Versuch_der_Grabrekonstruktion_eines_lat%C3%A9ne-zeitlichen_Begr%C3%A4bnisses._Budapest_R%C3%A9gis%C3%A9gei_XLV_2012._91-110 )

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Celtic cremation burials from Hungary see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/celtic-death/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mian illust

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

PARTING GIFTS

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Celtic Multiple Burials see also:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gc 1

 

“And while the attention of our men is engaged with this surrender, in another part Adcantuannus, who held the chief command, appeared with 600 devoted followers whom they call soldurii; the conditions of whose association are these, – that they enjoy all the conveniences of life with those to whose friendship they have devoted themselves: if any thing calamitous happen to them, either they endure the same destiny together with them, or commit suicide”.

 
(Caesar, Bellum Gallicum III:22)

 

 

 

 

 

The most mysterious archaeological discovery from late Iron Age Europe occurred in 2002 with the discovery of the Celtic cavalry burials in the vicinity of the oppidum of the Averni tribe at Gondole (Puy-de-Dôme), France. While the burial of Celtic warriors in the mid and late Iron Age together with their horses is unusual, this phenomenon is not unknown (isolated examples of such Celtic burials have been found as far east as Kalnovo in eastern Bulgaria). However, the Gondole burials are undoubtedly among the most bizarre in European archaeology.

 

 

The mass burial at Gondole, situated 300 meters from the rampart of the oppidum, consisted of 8 men and their horses, lined up four by four in two rows, who had been buried together in a rectangular grave. Each warrior was lying on his right side, head to the south, facing east. Seven of them were adults and the eighth an adolescent. Apart from the boy, whose hand was placed near his face, all the warriors had their left arm extended, placed on the previous skeleton.

 

 

 

 

gc 2

Archaeo-zoological analysis has confirmed that the horses in the burial were Gallic horses (small horses 1.20 high)

 

 

 

 

Initial explanations of this unique archaeological phenomenon logically linked the burial to Celtic warriors killed in battle with Caesar’s forces during this turbulent period. However, the fact that no weapons, no personal belongings, no offerings, and no elements of harnessing were found with the bodies further indicated that this was no ordinary mass warrior burial. Furthermore, the theory that the men had fallen in battle with the Romans also collapsed when anthropological analysis revealed no trace of trauma on the skeletons of the warriors which would be compatible with combat, and therefore no logical scientific explanation for their deaths.

 

 

 

gc 3

 

 

 

Thus, while theories abound concerning the circumstances of their deaths and the enigmatic burial rites to be observed at the site, the ‘Ghost Cavalry of Gondole’ remains one of the greatest mysteries of Celtic Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: September 2016

 

 

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)

 

 

 

mon

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

 

 

 

 

Update: September 2016

 

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.

 

dolj-hoard

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail