Tag Archive: Celtic weapons


 

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/

 

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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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mai-illust-new

 

 

 

 

Some of the finest examples of Iron Age European art are to be found on Celtic scabbards of the middle/late La Têne period – fantastic compositions born of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and geometric motifs, or a combination thereof.

 

 

scabb-2

Detail of scabbard with Triskele decoration, from a Celtic burial at Novajidrány-Sárvár, Hungary. The triskele is a particularly common motif on Celtic scabbards and other protective military equipment.

(3rd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/11899946/An_Tr%C3%ADbh%C3%ADs_Mh%C3%B2r_-_On_The_Triskelion_in_Iron_Age_Celtic_Culture

 

 

srednica-n

Scabbard with Triskele decoration from a Celtic warrior burial at Srednica (Ptuj), Slovenia

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

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/a-celtic-warrior-burial-from-srednica-northeastern-slovenia/

 

fork-edited-good

Geometric and Anthropomorphic decoration on scabbards from a Celtic hoard discovered at Förker Laas Riegel (Carinthia), Austria.

(3rd c. BC)

 

bronze-front-plate-of-scabbard-antrimskerrylisnacroghera-bog-c-250-bc-incised-symmetrical-curvilinear-decoration-representing-the-later-stages-of-irish-sword-styleantrim-scabb

Bronze front plate of a Celtic scabbard with incised symmetrical curvilinear decoration, discovered in Lisnacroghera Bog (Antrim), Ireland

(ca. 250 BC)

 

 

 

Celtic art draws its inspiration from all aspects of the natural world, and the artistic compositions on middle-late La Têne scabbards are no exception, with creatures of all kinds, both real and imaginary, appearing in the decoration of such scabbards.

 

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a-frg-2

Fantastic aquatic/serpentine creatures depicted in the decorative composition of a Celtic scabbard from Cernon-sur-Coole (Marne), France

(ca. 280 BC)

 

 

 

Beasts portrayed on Celtic scabbards range from highly stylized examples, such as those which appear on Dragon-Pair scabbards, to comparatively naturalistic portrayals.

 

 

chens-sur-leman-haute-savoie-lt-4th-early-3rd-c-bc-scabbard-detail

Celtic scabbard with dragon-pair motif from a Celtic warrior burial at Chens-sur-Léman in eastern France

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

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/brotherhood-of-the-dragon-celtic-dragon-pair-scabbards/

 

 

fork-scabbard-4-c-bc

Geometric/zoomorphic composition on a Celtic scabbard from the Förker Laas Riegel hoard

 

 

 

 

 

A particularly interesting example of the diversity of creatures used to decorate Celtic scabbards of this period is a bronze sword scabbard mount discovered in Lincolnshire, England, the zoomorphic decoration on which bears a striking resemblance to a horse-fly complete with large protruding eyes and proboscis…

 

 

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horse-fly-1

The Lincolnshire bronze scabbard mount (3 c. BC)

(Illustrations thanks to Adam and Lisa Grace)

 

horse-fly

Head of a Horse-Fly (Tabanus Atratus)

 

 

 

 

Postcards From The Past…

 

Celtic art functions on a number of levels (often simultaneously), merging reality, the subconscious and the absurd. While the modern mind may never fully comprehend the exact messages being conveyed, the artistic symphonies portrayed on Celtic scabbards provide a unique glimpse into the framework of religious and cultural values which motivated the Iron Age European population.

 

 

iron-la-tene-2-c-bc

Trio of dancing deer in the artistic composition on a Celtic scabbard from La Tène, Switzerland

(2 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSEP intro illust.

 

 

 

The largest island on the Hungarian Danube,  Csepel Island in Budapest has provided a wealth of archaeological material pertaining to many cultures including a Celtic bi-ritual cemetery with 59 inhumation and 28 cremation graves, dating largely from the La Têne B1 – C1 period, i.e. late 4th – 3rd century BC. While a more comprehensive account of the Celtic burials from Csepel Island is provided elsewhere (see link below), of particular interest is warrior burial #149 at the site.

 

Locally produced ceramic from the cremation burial (110 cm long X 85 cm deep, orientated n-s) showed Scythian influence, and included two large vessels, two small jugs, and two bowls; metal objects consisted of an iron knife, bronze/iron bracelet and weapons.

 

 

CERMIC x

                           Ceramic Vessels from Burial #149

 

(Illustrations after Attila Horváth 2014)

 

 

 

 

Military equipment discovered in the northwestern part of burial #149 consisted of a large leaf-shaped spearhead with a narrow socket, winged shield umbo, sword chain and sword/scabbard. The latter was the only one of 8 Celtic swords from the burial complex to be discovered in its decorated scabbard.

 

weapons

Metal artifacts from Burial #149

 

 

 

Besides the ceramic vessels mentioned above, a further noteworthy find registered in the warrior burial was a Celtic/Danubian kantharos with anthropomorphic handles. One of a pair of kantharoi from the grave, this vessel is believed to have been made especially for the burial. 

 

CERMIC Kantharos

Kantharos with anthropomorphic handles from Celtic burial #149 at Csepel Island

 

 

 

Such Danubian kantharoi represent a ceramic category adopted by the eastern Celts from a range of vessels specific to the Mediterranean region and, as in the case of the example from burial #149 at Csepel Island, appear to have had special religious significance.

 

 

BLANDIANA kantharos

Kantharos with anthropomorphic handles from a Celtic burial at Blandiana (Alba County), Romania

 

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/the-archaeology-of-heads/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Celtic burial Complex from Csepel Island:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/celtic-budapest-the-burial-complex-from-csepel-island/

 

 

Full report on burial #149:

https://www.academia.edu/13495605/Attila_Horv%C3%A1th_M._Kantharoi_from_the_La_T%C3%A8ne_Period_Cemetery_Budapest_-_Csepel_Island._In_M._Gu%C5%A1tin_W._David_eds._The_Clash_of_Cultures_The_Celts_and_the_Macedonien_World._Schriften_des_Kelten-R%C3%B6mer-Museums_Manching_9_Manching_2014_247-258_in_print_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fascinating article by Andrej Gaspari, University of Ljubljana, on the ritual deposition of Celtic weapons in the Ljubljanica River:

 

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/24157678/Celtic_warriors_and_the_Ljubljanica

 

a - a -a - a - LUBl.

 

 

 

aa  -  Celtiz

 

From the beginning of the 3rd century BC the territory of modern Ukraine, previously defined by the Scythians of the North Pontic steppes and Hellenistic influences from the Black Sea zone, was supplemented by the Celtic culture from the west. The influence of the latter in western Ukraine is testified to by extensive archaeological evidence which indicates the classic pattern of Celtic migration/settlement….

 

 

 

FULL ARTICLE :

https://www.academia.edu/21918619/INTO_THE_EAST_The_Celticization_of_Western_Ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-burial-of-a-celtic-chieftain-from-stupava-slovakia/

 

 

 

 

a - sred

Srednica (Ptuj/ancient Poetovio), Slovenia

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

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/a-celtic-warrior-burial-from-srednica-northeastern-slovenia/

 

 

 

Csepel Island (Budapest), Hungary

(Late 4th – 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/celtic-budapest-the-burial-complex-from-csepel-island/

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

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/a-danubian-warrior-celtic-burial-149-from-csepel-island-budapest/

 

 

Ciumeşti (Satu Mare), Romania

(mid 3rd c. BC)

 

a - cium

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

 

 

 

 

Lychnidos/Ohrid, FYR Macedonia

(mid 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/lychnidos-golden-masks-and-mercenaries/

 

 

Ljubljana, Slovenia

(late 3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/melted-warriors-la-tene-burials-from-the-auersperg-palace-in-ljubljana/

 

 

Szabadi (Somogy County), Hungary

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

 

a - hun

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/brothers-in-arms-the-double-warrior-burial-from-szabadi-hungary/

 

 

 

 

Kalnovo (Schumen Region), Bulgaria

(Early 2nd c. BC)

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

 

 

Zvonimirovo (Podravina province), Croatia

(2nd c. BC)

 

a - cro

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

 

 

Slana Voda (Zlatibor district), southwestern Serbia

(mid 2 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/death-at-salty-water-the-mass-grave-from-slana-voda/

 

 

Desa (Dolj County), Romania

(Late 2nd c. BC)

a - rom

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

 

Montana, Bulgaria

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

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/a-celtic-cavalry-officer-from-montana-bulgaria/

1 -  ILLUST FRNT

 

 

 

Koynare (Pleven Region), Bulgaria

(Late 2nd/1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/7888751/A_Late_La_Tene_Warrior_Burial_From_Koynare_Bulgaria_

 

 

 

Sremska Mitrovica (Syrmia), Serbia

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

a - serb

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: September 2017

 

 

Intro - Horné Orešany 1

 

 

The Celtic hillfort at Horné Orešany is situated in the Trnava district in western Slovakia, in the Little Carpathian mountains above the village. The double rampart ring of the hill fort with an area of 2 ha was discovered in the early part of this century by ‘treasure hunters’ and greatly damaged by illegal excavations.

 

 

map

Archaeologically confirmed early La Têne sites in western Slovakia

(On the early La Têne chieftain’s burial from Stupava see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-burial-of-a-celtic-chieftain-from-stupava-slovakia/ )

 

 

Research studies at the Horné Orešany site subsequently identified a massive amount of material dating from the Hallstatt to middle La Têne periods, with the vast majority pertaining to the early La Têne era (5/4 c. BC). From the interior of the hillfort evidence of blacksmith activities and jewellery production was identified, including 11 animal- and human-headed brooches, 10 bird-headed brooches and dozens of box-shaped belt hooks. Further discoveries (mostly by ‘treasure hunters’) have included 3 hoards of iron artifacts and two deposits of bronze ornaments, as well as at least 8 Celtic swords and 60-80 spearheads.

 

 

 

brooch 1 GOOOD

brooch 2 GOOOD

Bronze brooches from the Celtic hillfort at Horné Orešany (late 5th / early 4th c. BC)

(after Pieta 2010; see also Megaw 2012)

 

 

Bronze hybrid/sphinx creature, from the Celtic settlement at Horné Orešany (5/4 c. BC)

 

 

Among the most significant finds from the site are two bronze decorated axes, also dating to the early La Têne era. Although in prehistory and the Hallstatt period axes were among the most popular weapons, in the La Têne period their use is recorded only in isolated cases (Guštin 1991: 58/59, Schumacher 1989; Todorović 1972:Taf. 18:6). In Slovakia, while there is no evidence of the use of axes as weapons during this period (Pieta 2005:49), a number of bronze axes, believed to have had a ritual purpose, have been recorded. The ceremonial/religious function of the Horné Orešany axes is also clearly indicated by the intricate triskele decoration on the blade, and the depiction of a bearded deity who appears on both examples.

 

Ritual bronze axe from the Celtic settlement on Žeravica Hill, near Stupné (Trenčín region), in northwestern Slovakia

 

(5/4 c. BC)

 

 

Horné Orešany 1

 

 

Horné Orešany 2

 

Celtic ritual/ceremonial axes from Horné Orešany (Width of blades 95/ 67 mm.) – Late 5th c. BC (after Pieta 2014)

 

 

 

The Face of Esus ?

 

In the Celtic pantheon the axe has no clearly defined role, except in the case of the God Esus. The two statues on which the name of Esus appears are the Pillar of the Boatmen from among the Parisii, and a pillar from Trier in the territory of the Treveri tribe. In both of these, Esus is portrayed cutting branches with an axe.

 

The Celtic deity Esus as represented on Le pilier des Nautes (Musée National du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny)

The Celtic deity Esus as represented on Le pilier des Nautes, discovered in a temple at the Gallo-Roman civitas of Lutetia (modern Paris/ Early 1 c. AD)

 

If the deity on the Horné Orešany axes is indeed Esus, it is interesting to note the sharp contrast between the Gallo-Roman depictions which present the God in human form, i.e. as an axeman, and the earlier Celtic examples in which the fusion of form and decoration culminates in the deity literally becoming one with the weapon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited
Guštin M. (1991) Posočje in der jüngeren Eisenzeit. Ljubljana
Megaw V. (2012) ‘Go East Young Man!’ Antipodean thoughts on the earliest La Tène art in Slovakia (with particular reference to the fortified settlement of Horné Orešany) In: Archeológia Na Prahu Histórie. K životnému jubileu Karola Pietu. Nitra 2012, 447 – 460.
Pieta K. (2005) Spätlatènezeitliche Wafen und Ausrüstung im nördlichen Teil des Karpatenbeckens. Slovenská archeológia 53, 35-84.
Pieta K. (2012): Die keltishe Besiedlung der Slowakei. arh. Slov. Mon. Studia 12, Nitra 2010.
Pieta K. (2014) Rituelle Beile aus dem Frühlatène-Burgwall in Horné Orešany/Rituálne sekery z včasnolaténskeho hradiska Horné Orešany. In: MORAVSKÉ KŘIŽOVATKY . Střední Podunají mezi pravěkem a historií. Moravské zemské muzeum, Brno 2014. P. 717-727
Schumacher F. J. (1989) Das frührömische Grab 978 mit Beil und Axt. Wafen oder Werkzeuge? In: A.Hafner (Hrsg.): Gräber – Spiegel des Lebens. Zum Totenbrauchtum der Kelten und Römer am Beispiel des Treverer-Gräberfeldes Wederath-Belginum. Mainz. 247-254
Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma. Beograd