Celtic Shield Coinage

UD: November 2018

 

Rennes Region (Bretagne). Gold Stater (7.72 g) struck c. 2nd century BC.

 

One of the most iconic symbols on Celtic coinage, the oval shield appears either alone or as a central element in the artistic composition on Celtic coins (and other artifacts) across Europe and Asia-Minor in the 3-1 century BC period, as well as being represented on numerous Greek and Roman images depicting Celtic military equipment.

 

deio br.

Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros I (c. 62-40 BC) AE. Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Large monogram and Celtic oval shield

 

tascio reverse.

Mounted warrior with oval shield on the reverse of a silver issue of Tasciovanus – King of the Catuvellauni tribe in southern England (25-10 BC)

 

carnyx gold stater caesar 48 bc

Celtic military equipment, including oval shield and carnyx, represented on the reverse of a Roman gold stater (c. 48 BC)

 

The fact that oval shields are depicted with such frequency by both the Celts themselves and their enemies, in such a broad spatial and temporal context, logically indicates that they had a political and cultural significance that went beyond their purely military function, i.e. also served as a symbol of political authority and power.

Rennes Region (Bretagne). Gold Stater (7.72 g) struck c. 2nd century BC.

Mounted Goddess with oval shield depicted on the reverse of a Celtic gold stater from the Rennes Region, Brittany (2nd century BC)

 

Wild boar over Celtic oval shield motif, recently discovered by ‘treasure hunters’ in southern Germany. Such a ring would have belonged to a high ranking member of society, probably a chieftain.

(1 c. BC)

 

Among the Balkan Celts oval shields first appear on coinage of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria in the mid 3rd century BC, and are to be found on both tetradrachms and bronze issues of the Celtic kings of Thrace during this period.

 

kav. bronze

Bronze issue of the Celtic king Cavaros with oval shield on the reverse – minted at Arkovna (Varna reg.), Bulgaria (2nd half of the 3rd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT

 

a - kerseb

Reverse of a tetradrachm of Kersebaul, one of the Celtic kings of the ‘Tyle’ state in today’s eastern Bulgaria (mid 3rd c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/9763573/BIRTH_OF_THE_ICON_-_The_Development_of_Celtic_Abstract_Iconic_Art_in_Thrace_3-1_c._BC_

 

 

Also noteworthy in this context are the Celtic shield coins minted by the Greek city of Mesembria (modern Nesebar) on the Black Sea coast during this period. These coins, which feature a helmet on the obverse and a Celtic oval shield on the reverse (viewed from within; Price 1991, Karaytov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013) illustrate the influence of the Celtic state on the Greek Black Sea colonies during the 3rd c. BC – a phenomenon also testified to by archaeological evidence, and confirmed in ancient sources (Lazarov 2010, Manov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013).

 

mess shield

Bronze Mesembria Celtic Shield Issue (last quarter of the 3rd c. BC)
(After Karaytov 2000)

Also connected to the Tyle state are the Apros Celtic shield coins minted in today’s European Turkey in the second half of the 3rd century BC, which provide further archaeological evidence, again confirmed in ancient sources, that the area of south-eastern Thrace, including the immediate environs of Byzantium, was under Celtic control during this period (Manov 2010, Lazarov 2010, Mac Gonagle 2013). Exactly which tribe minted the Apros coins remains unclear, but one possibility is that that they were produced by the Aegosages tribe prior to their migration into Asia-Minor in the summer of 218 BC.

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Bronze Celtic shield coins minted at Apros (After Draganov 2001)
(Apros was located either at present-day Kestridge or further west near present-day Kermian, both in European Turkey above the Thracian Chersones and on the route of the later Via Egnatia)
On the Aegosages tribe see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/death-of-a-dream-the-aegosages-massacre/

 

mondragon-vaucluse-late-iie-siecle-av-j-c-begin-ier-siecle-av-j-c-sagum-oval-shield-right-hand-torc

Statue of a Celtic chieftain wearing a sagum, and holding an oval shield and torc  – from Mondragon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), France

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

Dimitrov K. (2010) Celts, Greeks and Thracians in Thrace During the Third Century BC. Interactions in History and Culture. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 51- 66
Draganov D. (2001) Coins of the Unknown Mint of Apros in Thrace. НСФ 8, 1-2, 25-31.
Kарайтов И. (1996) Месамбрия и келтският цар Кавар. In: More 4, 9-10, 10-14; Kарайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владитетелите на крайбрежна Тракия (според нумизматични данни) – INMB 3, 66-81
Карайтов И. (2000) Месамбрия и владетилите на крайбрежна тракия според нумизтични данни. Известия на Народния Музий Бургас. Том 3, 2000. 66- 82
Lazarov L. (2010) The Celtic State In the Time of Cavaros. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 97-113
Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT
Manov M. (2010) In Search of Tyle (Tylis). Problems of Localization. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c BC). Sofia 2010. P. 89 – 96
Price M. J. (1991) The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arhideus. A British Museum Catalog, vol. 1, Zurich-London.
Topalov S. (2001) Contributions to the Study of the Coinage and History In the Lands of Eastern Thrace from the end of the 4th c. BC to the end of the 3rd c. BC. Sofia 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONS OF MOCCOS – The Cult of the Wild Boar in Celtic Europe

UD: March 2020

 

Neu bo

 

Extensive archaeological data clearly indicates that the wild boar had a special significance in Bronze and Iron Age European society, and the importance of the animal in Iron Age society and religion is well attested to by numerous depictions in Celtic works of art from across the continent.

 

60-worked-bones-and-boar-tusks-from-the-garment-of-a-shaman-chieftain-burial-at-upton-lovell-wiltshire-england-the-grave-goods-included-four-axeheads-inca-prestigious-battle-axe-made-of-black

60 worked bones and boar tusks from the garment of a shaman-chieftain, discovered in a  burial at Upton Lovell (Wiltshire), England. Other grave goods included four axe-heads and a prestigious battle-axe made of black dolerite.

(ca. 1,800 BC)

 

bronze-pendants-mounted-on-boar-tusks-grave-of-woman-and-child-hueneburg-s-germany-583-bce

Bronze pendants mounted on decorated boar tusks, discovered in the double burial of a Celtic woman and child at the Heuneburg (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

(583 BC)

 

lictt - cluj

Celtic bronze boar figurines from (left) the Gutenberg Votive Deposit, Lichtenstein (2-1 c. BC), and (right) Luncani (Cluj), Romania (1st c. BC)

 

2-1-jh-v-chr-wurde-in-den-1970er-jahren-bei-altenburg-rheinau-an-der-deutsch-schweizerischen-grenze

Bronze boar figurine from the Celtic settlement at Altenburg-Rheinau, on the German/Swiss border

(2/1 c. BC)

 

Rothwell Boar

Bronze boar figurine from Rothwell (Lincolnshire), England. Corieltavi tribe / 1 c. BC

 

Bronze figurine of a wild boar, from the Celtic oppidum town at Bibracte (Burgundy), France 1. C bc

Bronze figurine of a wild boar, from the Celtic oppidum / town at Bibracte (Burgundy), France (1 c. BC)

 

Boars occur everywhere in Celtic Europe – as figurines, helmet crests, on war trumpets (carnyxs) and on coins, confirming their particular association with power and warfare.

 

gund houn

Bronze boar attachments from Celtic helmets from Hounslow, England (left), and (right) warrrior helmet with boar attachment depicted on the Gundestrup cauldron (both late 2nd/early 1st c. BC).

 

Obverse of a Celtic silver coin from Esztergom, Hungary (early 1st c. BC)

Celtic helmet with boar attachment depicted on the obverse of a Celtic silver coin from Esztergom, Hungary (early 1st c. BC)

 

Iron Ring – wild boar over Celtic oval shield motif, discovered by ‘treasure hunters’ in southern Germany. Such a ring would have belonged to a high ranking member of society, probably a chieftain.

(1 c. BC)

 

Preserved Elements of a boar statue discovered near the village of illonse (Alpes-Maritimes)

Bronze boar statue discovered near the village of illonse (Alpes-Maritimes), France

(1 c. BC)

 

On that most distinctive of Celtic musical instruments, the Carnyx (war trumpet), it is once again the boar that is the most frequently portrayed animal (see ‘The Boar Headed Carnyx’ article). Also particularly impressive are a number of life-sized bronze statues of boars discovered in Celtic burial contexts and sanctuaries such as that from the Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Bulgaria, or those found in the sanctuary at Neuvy-en-Sullias (Loiret) France.

 

Neu bo

Bronze boar statue from the Celtic sanctuary at Neuvy-en-Sullias (1st c. BC)

 

mezek j

Bronze boar statue from the Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/the-mezek-syndrome-bogdan-filov-and-the-celtic-chariot-burial-from-mezek-in-southern-bulgaria/

 

 

While the pig is the most common animal placed in Iron Age burials as food for the afterlife, the remains of boars are rarely found in such contexts, indicating that the wild boar, as opposed to domestic pigs, was not viewed solely as a food source. The religious significance of the animal is confirmed by its portrayal on artifacts such as the Celtiberian cult-vehicle from Mérida (Spain), or the ‘Boar Warrior’ statue from Euffigneix, (Haute-Marne) France, the latter probably a representation of the Celtic boar god Moccos.

 

Limestone pillar statue from Euffigneix, (Haute-Marne) France (1st c. BC)

 

merida-cult-add

‘The Boar Hunt’ – Bronze Celtiberian cult-vehicle from Mérida (Spain) (1st c. BC)

 

Bronze statue of a Goddess riding a Wild Boar, from the Jura area of northwestern Switzerland. (1 c. BC/ 1c. AD)

 

 

The fact that the wild boar is, besides birds of prey, the most frequently depicted animal in Celtic art, logically indicates that it had a special significance in society. The available archaeological and numismatic evidence also strongly suggests that boar hunts may have played an important role in Iron Age warrior initiations, forming part of the ‘rite of passage’ rituals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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