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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

STABBING DEATH – The Ritual Deposition of Spears in Celtic Europe

UD: September 2018

 

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)

 

No automatic alt text available.

Burial of a young Celtic warrior with iron sword at Pocklington (East Yorkshire), England. 5 spears were also discovered in the grave, the positioning of which indicate that they had been thrown at the body in the grave. 23 such “speared corpse burials” have been recorded in this region of England.

(4th c. BC)

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROTHERHOOD OF THE DRAGON ? – Celtic dragon-pair scabbards

UD: March 2018

 

 

CHENS-SUR-LÉMAN (HAUTE-SAVOIE) lt 4th - early 3rd c. BC Scabbard detail

 

 

“The other order is that of the knights. These, when there is occasion and any war occurs …, are all engaged in war. And those of them most distinguished by birth and resources have the greatest number of vassals and dependents about them”.


(Caesar. Gallic War. 6.15)

 

 

 

Iron Age European artistic compositions are populated by a vast array of fantastic and impossible creatures. These include a wide variety of dragonesque beasts which appear on Celtic jewelry, coinage and weapons throughout the La Tène period. 

 

Celtic bronze brooch from Pilsen in the Czech Republic (5th century BC)

 

Bronze brooch from a Celtic burial at Arbedo (Ticino), Switzerland (4th c. BC)

 

Celtic potin (Bituriges Cubi tribe – early 1 c. BC) from Central France

 

 

One of the genuinely pan-European elements in early La Tène art is the dragon-pair motif, which is found on the upper end of the front-plate of Celtic scabbards from south-eastern Britain to the Balkans, with further examples from south of the Alps and Iberia (Stead, 1984, Megaw 2004, Megaw and Megaw 1989, Ginoux 1995). Comprising a pair of opposed S-shapes with zoomorphic heads facing inwards, the beasts represented are highly schematic, and have sometimes been thought of as griffons rather than dragons.

 

 

hamm drag 1 g.

Dragon-pair decoration on a Celtic iron scabbard discovered in the nineteenth century in the river Thames at Battersea and Hammersmith, London (Stead:1984). A further example was also found in the Thames, and a derivative of the dragon-pair motif at Fovant (Wiltshire), also in England (Jope 2000:278).

 

Scabbard fragment with Dragon Pair decoration discovered in the Celtic hillfort at Ensérune (near Nissan-lez-Ensérune), France

 

 

Although earlier studies (Jacobsthal (1944:46, De Navarro 1972:229) saw these motifs as evidence of orientalizing influences in early Celtic art, or even as a direct Scythian introduction into eastern Central Europe, subsequent discoveries in the west have now rendered this view obsolete. The earliest incidence of a dragon-pair has conventionally been the example from an old and never fully published burial from Saint Jean-sur-Tourbe in the Marne, which should belong to an early La Tène phase (Harding 2007).

 

 

CHENS-SUR-LÉMAN (HAUTE-SAVOIE) lt 4th - early 3rd c. BC Scabbard
CHENS-SUR-LÉMAN (HAUTE-SAVOIE) lt 4th - early 3rd c. BC Scabbard detail
Celtic sword in scabbard with dragon-pair motif, and detail of decoration – from a recently discovered Celtic warrior burial at Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie), France (late 4th/early 3rd c. BC)

(after Landry, Blaizot 2011)

 

2 - 2 - Wöllersdorf-Steinabrückl - Dragon pair 3 c. BC

Celtic scabbard with dragon-pair motif recently discovered in a warrior burial at Wöllersdorf-Steinabrückl (Niederösterreich), Austria (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

Dating to the late 4th/3rd century, dragon-pair scabbards are also well represented in Eastern Europe, in association with the Hungarian scabbard style, as at Halimba, Jutas 3, Kosd, and Szob (Harding 2007). Other examples have been registered at Celtic warrior burials in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and Pisçolt in Romania (Megaw 2004, Szabó and Petres, 1992, Pl. 96). Interestingly, a variant of the ‘Dragon Pair’ motif is also to be found on a bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata Fortress (Schumen region) in north-eastern Bulgaria, also dating to the 3rd c. BC.

 

 

dp schumen

Bronze chariot fitting with ‘dragon-pair’ motif from Bobata fortress (Schumen), Bulgaria

(see: https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT)

*2 Dragon-pair scabbards were also found during excavations in the 1990’s of Celtic burials in the center of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Sadly, these have subsequently been stolen / disappeared from the Regional Museum in Plovdiv. 

 

 

Sword / scabbard, decorated with dragon-pair motifs, from a Celtic warrior burial at Pişcolt (Satu Mare) in Transylvania

(3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

The pan-tribal nature of the dragon-pair scabbards, a unique phenomenon in Celtic Europe, logically raises the question of whether this motif had a significance beyond simply an artistic device. That a distinct warrior class/elite existed in Celtic society is a well documented fact, and the possibility exists that the dragon-pair insignia, which cross geographical and tribal borders, represented a special group within this warrior class, i.e. a pan-European order of elite warriors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the ‘Warrior Elite’ in Celtic society see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/the-warrior-elite/

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

de Navarro, J. M. (1972) The Finds from the Site of La Tène, Vol. 1, Scabbards and the Swords Found in Them, London, British Academy, Oxford University Press.

Ginoux, N. (1995) ‘Lyres et dragons, nouvelles données pour l’analyse d’un des principaux
thèmes ornementaux des fourreax latèniens’, in J. J. Charpy (ed.) (1995): 405–12.

Harding D.W. (2007) The Archaeology of Celtic Art. Routledge

Jacobsthal, P. (1944) Early Celtic Art, 2 vols, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Jope, E. M. (2000) Early Celtic Art in the British Isles, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Landry C., Blaizot F. (2011) Une Sépulture De Guerrier Celte À Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie). In: Revue Archéologique de l’Est, t. 60-2011, p. 147-171

Megaw, R. and Megaw, J. V. S. (1989) ‘The Italian Job: Some Implications of Recent Finds of Celtic Scabbards Decorated with Dragon-pairs’, Mediterranean Archaeology, 2: 85–100.

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

Stead, I. M. (1984) ‘Celtic Dragons from the River Thames’, AntJ, 64: 269–79.

Szabó, M. and Petres, É. F. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Tène Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin, Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE KINGMAKERS – Celtic Mercenaries

“The kings of the east then carried on no wars without a mercenary army of Gauls; nor, if they were driven from their thrones, did they seek protection with any other people than the Gauls. Such indeed was the terror of the Gallic name, and the unvaried good fortune of their arms, that princes thought they could neither maintain their power in security, nor recover it if lost, without the assistance of Gallic valour”.

(Marcus Junianus Justinus. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus XXV, 2)

 

king-2

 

 Although the first Celtic mercenary activity in southeastern Europe is recorded in 367 BC, when Dionysios of Syracuse took a band of them into his service and sent them to the aid of the Macedonians against Thebes (Justin. XX, 5,6; Diod. XV, 70,1), it is not until the expansion into the Balkans and Asia-Minor at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC that Celtic mercenary forces become a vital political and military factor in the Hellenistic world…

 

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

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

 

 

1-a-a-a-mercen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACCIDENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY – Celtic Swords from Northwestern Bulgaria

(UD: Dec. 2017)

 

https://balkancelts.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/wp-2-nw.jpg?w=820

 

Of the later Celtic material from Thrace, most remarkable is a dense concentration of La Têne C/D swords recorded over the last 100 years between the Timok and Iskar rivers in today’s northwestern Bulgaria (Popov 1922, 1924; Mikov 1932/33, 1933; Velkov 1957; Milchev 1958; Nikolov 1965, 1981, 1990, 1993; Alexandrov 1975, 1983; Wozniak 1975; Werner 1977; Petrov 1978; Tacheva-Hitova 1978; Domaradski 1984; Torbov 2000 with cited lit.; see also Paunov 2012). By the end of the 20th century over 60 of these swords had been registered in this area of northwestern Bulgaria alone – the largest concentration of such Celtic material in Europe….

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRINCE OF TRANSYLVANIA

UD: April 2017

 

x - ciumesti

 

 

 

Best associated with the spectacular chieftain’s helmet with Bird of Prey attachment, in fact the Celtic settlement at Ciumeşti (Satu Mare) in Transylvania has yielded a wealth of archaeological information on Iron Age settlement and society in southeastern Europe, and the Celtic warrior culture during this period.

 

 

 

 

 

THE SETTLEMENT

 

 

The Iron Age settlement at Ciumeşti was a small rural community, of which 8 houses have been excavated. These were spread over a large area, and the general pattern was of houses organized in groups of 3 or 4, each group also having a larger central structure with two rooms. The spatial distribution of the dwellings indicates that the settlement was organized on a clan system (Zirra 1980:69-70, Rustoiu 2006:66). Finds from the settlement include Celtic wheel-made ceramic, as well as local hand-made pottery, again indicating a symbiotic relationship between the newly arrived Celts and the local population – a phenomenon to be observed throughout the eastern Celtic migration.

 

 A large La Têne funerary complex was discovered at the site, of which 33 burials have been excavated. The cemetery has been broadly dated to the La Têne B2b – C1 period, which in Transylvania corresponds to the period between 280/277 – 175 BC (Horedt 1973:32, 2006:43). Three of the excavated graves were warrior burials indicating that the percentage of warriors in this community during the period in question was circa 9%.

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHIEFTAIN’S BURIAL

 

 

The Ciumeşti Chieftains burial was discovered on 10 August 1961 in a circular pit with a diameter of 1.2 – 1.5 m. Initially only part of the artifacts from the cremation burial were published, including the ‘Falcon’ helmet, two bronze greaves, an iron spearhead, and iron chainmail:

 

 

 

Cium. 1969 1

Cium. 1969 2

 Subsequently other artifacts from the burial have come to light, and a review of all the  material published over the past 50 years reveals that the complete inventory consisted of the following:

 

 

 

 

1.      POTTERY

 

The pottery from the burial consisted of a large pot and a bowl, both wheel-made. Vessels of this type are frequent in Celtic burials from the La Têne B2b – C1 period from the Carpathian basin, and analogies have been found in other burials at Ciumeşti, as well as at sites such as Pişcolt, Apahida, etc. (Zirra 1976:143-144; Rustoiu 2006:44).

 

 

 

2.      BELT CHAIN

 

The iron belt chain was of elements of bent wire fitted in the middle with a ring. The buckle of the belt had a lanceolated form. Such belts are well known among the Carpathian Celts and to the west in Moravia and Bohemia. In the sub-Danubian region they have also been found in Celtic burials at Komarevo, Montana, Panagurischte Kolonii and Stoikite in Bulgaria (Rustoiu 1996:113-114). They were still in use among the Thracian Celts in the LT D period (1st c. BC).

 

 

 

3.      “SPEARHEAD” – JAVELIN

 

With an elongated blade and an angular median nervure, its dimensions (legnth 22 cm., socket 8 cm., blade 14 cm., socket diameter 1.7 cm.) indicate that it is in fact a javelin and not a spear as originally identified (Rustoiu 2006:47). This is the only offensive weapon among the graves inventory.

 

 

 4.      CHAINMAIL

 

CHAINMAIL CIUM

Chainmail and Bronze ‘Triskele’ Discs from the Burial

(after Borangic, Paliga 2013)

 

 

Diodorus (v,30:3), Strabo (II, 3:6), Appianus (Syriaca 32, 1-3), Livy (37:40) and Varro (De Ling. Lat. V, 24:116) all mention that the Celts used chainmail, with the latter explicitely stating that they invented it. Chainmail from central and western Europe, with the exception of a piece from Vielle-Tursan (Aubagnan) dated circa 200 BC (Boyrie-Fénié, Bost 194:160), refer to the late La Têne period. In the Carpathian Basin the earliest chainmail has been found at a burial in Horný Jatov (Slovakia) dated to the LT B2 period (first half of the 3rd c. BC) (Rustoiu 2006:50), while numerous examples of Celtic chainmail have been recorded in Romania – Ciumeşti, Cugir, Cetăţeni, Poiana-Gorj, Popeşti etc. (Rustoiu op cit 49, with cited lit), and in Bulgaria from sites such as Kalnovo, Kyolmen, Jankovo, in the so-called ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’ (Sashova, Slavchova and Tziakova tumuli), as well as from Tarnava, Varbeschnitza,  Mezdra, Smochan, Dojrentsi, Panagurischte Kolonii, Rozovetz, Ravnogor, Matochina and Arkovna.

Among the Turkish Celts (Galatians) the use of chainmail is attested to by Appian (Syriaca 32, 1-3) and Livy (37:40) and included in the depiction of Celtic military equipment at Pergamon (Rustoiu 2006:55). Archaeological confirmation of this has been recorded at the royal cemetery of the Galatian Tolistobogi (-boii) tribe at Karalar (Turkey) (Arik, Coupry 1935:140).

 

 

Perga. Chain

Celtic shields and chainmail depicted on the ‘weapons frieze’ from Pergamon

 

 

The Ciumeşti chainmail was closed with a system made from a horizontal iron plaque with decorated bronze discs. Similar bronze ‘triskele discs’ from Celtic chainmail have been found at Targu Mureş in Transylvania and Matochina in southern Bulgaria.

 

 

Tar Ch. M

Bronze ‘Triskele’ appliqués from the Târgu Mureş chainmail (after Berecki 2010)

 

On Celtic chainmail see: https://www.academia.edu/3891226/Celtic_Chainmail

 

 

 

 

 

5.      ‘FALCON’ HELMET

 

 

“On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four footed animals”.

Diodorus Siculus (on Celtic helmets) (History V.30.2)

 

 

Bronze Celtic fibula from Ingelfingen-Criesbach in southern Germany (5/4 c. BC), depicting a human head crowned by a bird of prey. Birds of Prey had a special significance in Celtic culture and religion.

see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/catubodua-queen-of-death/

 

 

 

 

The best known of the Ciumeşti artifacts, the Bird of Prey (falcon) helmet belongs to a type with reinforced calotte. Such helmets had lateral triangular elements fitted with rivets from which were hung mobile cheek pieces. Similar Celtic helmets have been found at sites such as Batina (Croatia) and Mihovo (Slovenia) (Rustoiu 2006:48), but what distinguishes the Ciumeşti helmet is the bronze falcon which decorated the calotte. Besides the testimony of Diodorus, such Celtic helmets are depicted on Celtic coins and artifacts like the Gundestrup Cauldron.

 

 

cium hel

 

 

 

 

6.      GREAVES

 

 

From an historical perspective, the most informative artifacts from the chieftain’s burial are a pair of bronze greaves. Similar pieces appeared in Greece at the end of the Archaic Age, and were used during the classical and Hellenistic periods. The better preserved right greave had a length of 46 cm., which indicates that the warrior was of large stature – between 1.80 – 1.90 m. in height.

 

 

 

cium greav

The Greaves from the Ciumeşti Burial

(Baia Mare History and Archaeology Museum)

 

 

 

 

 

Manufacture of such greaves logically requires the exact measurement of the warrior’s legs. Two golden greaves from the so-called Philip II grave at Vergina, which are of different sizes and designed for a crippled man, are a significant example (Andronicos 1984:186-189). It therefore appears that the Ciumeşti warrior had these made at a Greek workshop in the Mediterranean area, which is only possible if the warrior was himself present there (Rustoiu op. cit). Celtic mercenary activity in Hellenistic armies in Greece and Asia-Minor is recorded throughout the 3rd c. BC, and we can conclude with a great degree of certainty that the Transylvanian chieftain was the leader of one such Celtic mercenary force.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Celtic mercenaries see: https://www.academia.edu/4910243/THE_KINGMAKERS_-_Celtic_Mercenaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITERATURE CITED

 

Andronicos M. (1984) Vergina. The Royal Tombs and the Ancient City. Athens.

ArikR.O., Couprey J. (1935) Les tumuli de Karalar et la sépulture du roi Déotarus II. In: Revue archéologique 6, Paris 1935. P. 133-151.

Berecki S. (2010) Two La Tène Bronze Discs from Târgu Mureş, Transylvania In: Marisia, Studii Şi Materiale, XXX Arheologie. Targu Mureş 2010. P. 69 – 76

Borangic C., Paliga S. (2013) Note pe marginea originii şi a rolului armurilor geto-dacilor în ritualurile funerar. In: Acta Centri Lucusiensis, I, 2013, p. 5-23.

Bohn R. (1885) Das Heligtum der Athena Polias Nikephoros. Mit Beitrag H. Droysen, Die Balustradenreliefs. Altertümer von Pergamon II. Berlin.

Boyrie-Fénié B., Bost J.P (1994) Les Landes. In: M. Provost (ed.), Carte archeologique de la Gaule 40. Paris

Horedt K. (1973) Interperpretări arheologice II. SCIV 24, 2, 1973. P. 299-310

Rustoiu A. (1996) Metalurgia bronzului la daci (sec. II î Chr. – sec. I d. Chr.) Tehnici, ateliere şi produse de bronz. Bibliotheca Thracologica 15. Bucharest.

Rustoiu A. (2006) A Journey to Mediterranean. Peregrinations of a Celtic Warrior from Transylvania. In: Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai, Historia 51, no. 1 (June 2006). P. 42-85

Rusu M. (1969) Das Keltische Furstengrab von Ciumeşti in Rumänien. Germania 50, 1969: 167 – 269

Zirra V. (1976) La nécropole La Téne d’Apahida. Nouvelles considerations. Dacia N.S, 20. P 129-165

Zirra V. (1980) Locuiri din a doua vărstă a fierului în nord-vestul României (Aşezarea contemporană cimitirului La Têne de la Ciumeşti şi habitatul indigen de la Berea). In: StComSatu Mare 4, 1980. P. 39-84.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CELTIC WARRIOR ELITE

UD: November 2016

 

Alexander c

 

“The other order is that of the knights. These, when there is occasion and any war occurs …, are all engaged in war. And those of them most distinguished by birth and resources, have the greatest number of vassals and dependents about them”.

 

(Caesar. Gallic War. 6.15)

 

 

 

Gund illust. w

 

 

The warrior class was a crucial element in Celtic culture and, along with the druids, formed the backbone of the social structure in Iron Age European society. Their military aptitude and ability to mobilize significant numbers of troops is evident from accounts of their struggles with the classical world, and confirmed by the profusion of weapons found in their burials. The warrior class also played a central political role as participation in tribal councils was reserved for those who bore arms (Kruta V. 2004:190).

 

 

benacci-tomba-gallica-benacci-953-bologna-bononia-early-3rd-c-bc

Burial goods from the grave (Benacci 953) of a Celtic warrior/chieftain in Bononia/Bologna, Italy

(early 3rd c. BC)

 

 

However, what has hitherto remained unclear is exactly what proportion of Celtic society this warrior class represented. An analysis of burials sites in southeastern Europe allows us to throw some light on this question.

 

 

a - Dubník. Keltisches Kriegergrab aus der älteren Latènezeit. late 5th c. BC

Excavation of a Celtic warrior burial at Dubník, Slovakia. (late 5th c. BC)

 

 

 

During the initial migration phase into southeastern Europe in the late 4th/early 3rd c. BC the proportion who bore arms was logically quite high. For example, of the 20,000 Celts who crossed into Asia-Minor in 277 BC (subsequently known as the Galatians) 10,000, or 50%, bore arms (see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/galatia/). In the immediate post-migration phase this figure remains high. For example, at the Celtic cemetery at Belgrad-Karaburma (Serbia) the percentage of warrior burials from the LT B2b period (i.e. 2nd quarter of the 3rd c. BC) is 70% –  an exceptionally high proportion. However, in the subsequent decades this figure falls dramatically, and by the LT C1 period (post 250 BC) warrior burials at the site constitute only 35% of the graves:

 

 

 

Belgrad-Karaburma

Grave   #    Swords     Spears     Shields   Dating
         
22        1         1   LT B2b
23            1 LT B2b
51        1         1   LT B2b
62        1         1        1 LT B2b
66        1         1        1 LT B2b
71        1         1        1 LT B2b
111        1         1   LT B2b
26        1         1        1 LT C1
29        1         1        1 LT C1
33           1   LT C1
41        1         1        1 LT C1
324        1     LT C1
325        1         1        1 LT C1

 

Horizon 1

Graves with weapons    =  7

Graves without weapons = 3

Warriors = 70 %

 

Horizon 2

Graves with weapons    =  6

Graves without weapons = 11

Warriors = 35.29 %

 

(Tables adapted after Rustoiu 2006)

 

 

bg karaburma

Weaponry from Celtic (Scordisci) Warrior Burials at Karaburma (3/2 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

Similar statistics are to be observed at other Celtic burial sites in the region such as Ižkovce in eastern Slovakia or Apahida in Romania (Zirra 1976, Rustoiu 2006). An analysis of burial complexes in the Carpathian basin reveals that while warrior graves constituted 18% of the total burials (Bujna 1982), once again a rapid transition from the highly militarized society of the first quarter of the 3rd c. BC to ‘peacetime’ conditions is to be observed in the decades which follow. For example, at Remetea Mare in Transylvania in the burial complex from the LT B2b period warrior graves represented 35% of the total burials, while at Ciumeşti, also in Transylvania, by the LT C1 period – i.e. a few decades later, warrior graves constitute only 9% of the total burials:

 

Remetea Mare:

Grave #    Swords    Spears    Shields  Dating
         
D1         1        1   LT B2b
D2          1   LT B2b
D3         1     LT B2b
M1         1        1   LT B2b
M4         1     LT B2b
M9         1        1          1 LT B2b
M10         1        1          1 LT B2b

 

Graves with weapons = 7

Graves without weapons = 13

Warriors = 35%

 

 

Ciumeşti

Grave  # Swords Spears Shields Helmet Chainmail Greaves Dating
               
    9       1      1       1       LT C1
   12       1           LT C1
M1961        1        1        1       1 LT C1

 

Graves with weapons   = 3

Graves without weapons  = 30

Warrior graves  =  9.09 %

 

 

 

 

  Thus, the above data indicates that the number of warriors in Celtic society was not fixed, and varied greatly depending on the geo-political conditions pertaining at the time. In peacetime this figure appears to have been constant at circa 10 %, which probably indicates the core warrior class in Celtic society. However, there existed an ability to expand these numbers dramatically, which illustrates an intrinsic flexibility in society capable of rapidly mobilizing a large proportion of the population in times of conflict. This also logically indicates that besides the ‘warrior elite’ substantial numbers  who were normally engaged in other professions, also had basic combat training.

 

 

 

 

 Mont

Grave goods from the Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria

(RGZM – Inv. # 0.42301/01-08; see: https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria )

 

 

 

war elite illust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources Cited

 

Bujna J. (1982) Spiegelung der Sozialstruktur auf latenzeitlichen Grăberfeldern im Karpatenbecken. In: PamArch, 73, 1982. P. 312-431.

Kruta V. (2004) The Celts: History and Civilization. London.

Rustoiu A. (2006) A Journey to Mediterranean. Peregrinations of a Celtic Warrior from Transylvania. In: Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai, Historia 51, no. 1 (June 2006). P. 42-85

Zirra V. (1976) La nécropole La Téne d’Apahida. Nouvelles considerations. Dacia N.S, 20. P 129-165

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail