Dating to the early phase of Celtic expansion into this part of Europe, one of the most exquisite artifacts to be discovered on the territory of today’s Bulgaria is the golden torc discovered on the banks of the Danube in the northwest of the country. The torc, from Gorni Tsibar (formerly Cibar Varosh) in the Montana region, is the most easterly example of a number of similar Celtic neck-rings decorated in the ‘Vegetal’ or ‘Waldalgesheim’ style.
Golden Celtic Torc from Gorni Tsibar (Montana region, Bulgaria)
The Waldalgesheim Style is named after a princely burial in the middle Rhine, and displays an independence of interpretation and conﬁdence in execution that marks the culmination of achievement of the early La Tène period (Jacobsthal 1944). The descriptive term ‘Vegetal’ has been proposed in place of Jacobsthal’s type-site to denote the new style, reﬂecting in particular its use of plant-derived tendril motifs, although the style is not characterized exclusively by vegetal motifs, nor are vegetal motifs exclusive to it (Harding 2007:70).
The Vegetal Style is often regarded as the high point of La Tène curvilinear ornament because it is in this style that derivative classical motifs are deconstructed and re-emerge with the ‘assured irrationality’ of a vibrant and independent Celtic creation (Loc cit. 265).
The Waldalgesheim torc and arm-rings (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn).
Detail of decoration on the Waldalgesheim torc
Detail of decoration on the Bulgarian torc
Another golden torc from grave # 2 at Filottrano near Ancona, in the territory of the Senones, is a closely related piece to the Bulgarian example. Elements in the design in the Gorni Tsibar torc are also paralleled on Celtic pottery from Alsopel in Hungary which shows a similar vegetal tendril surrounded by random dots and stamped arcades or half-moons (Megaw 2001:118-119), while the vegetal decorative details on the neck-guard of the Celtic helmet from Silivaş (Romania) belong to the late phase of the aforementioned style, similar to the ornamentation of the helmets from Förker Laas Riegel in Carinthia, discovered in 1989 (Schaaff 1990).
The neck-guard of the Silivaş helmet. Detail of decoration(early 3rd c. BC)
The Bulgarian torc has been dated to the last quarter of the 4th c. BC., and is significant not only from an artistic perspective but because it, in combination with other archaeological and numismatic evidence, confirms Celtic presence in this area of Bulgaria as early as the 4th c. BC., a fact which is also testified to in ancient sources (Seneca nat. quaest 3.11.3; Plin. n.h. 31.53) who describe a battle between the Macedonian general Cassander and Celtic forces in the Balkan mountains (Stara Planina) at the end of the 4th c. BC.
The Gorna Tsibar site is near the location of the Celtic settlement of Cumodina (modern Stanevo, Montana region) (Ravennatis Anonymi Cosmographia. Liber IV, 7, 190). Further along the valley of the small Tsibritza river, on which Gorna Tsibar is situated, recent archaeological evidence has also confirmed Celtic settlement around the villages of Valchedrum and Jakimovo dating until the 1st c. BC / 1st c. AD.
Depiction of a Celto-Thracian chieftain with torc on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure, Montana region (Northwestern Bulgaria / 2/1 c. BC)
Military equipment from the burial of a Celtic / Scordisci cavalry officer from Montana, Bulgaria (2/1 c. BC)