CELTIC GLASS “FACE BEADS”

It has long been noted that the cult of the head “constitutes a persistent theme throughout all aspects of Celtic life spiritual and temporal, and the symbol of the severed head may be regarded as the most typical and universal of their religious attitudes” (Ross A. Pagan Celtic Britain. London 1967:163).

Strabo informs us that ‘when they depart from the battle they hang the heads of their enemies from the necks of their horses, and when they have brought them home, nail the spectacle to the entrance of their houses…’ (Strabo IV, 4,5). Amongst the Celts the human head ‘was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of  the emotions, as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world’ (Jacobstahl P. Early Celtic Art. Oxford. 1944; see also Mac Congail 2010: 173-175). The severed head is also one of the main core symbols on Celtic artifacts and coins from the Balkans in the 4th – 1st c. BC.

In this context, one of the most interesting types of glasswork produced by the Celts, apparently from Phoenician prototypes, were ‘Face/Head Beads’. These have been found at a number of Celtic burials and other sites from central (Germany, Switzerland etc.) and eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria etc.).

Hung

Celtic glass ‘Janus’ Face Bead from Mezönyarad (Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén), Hungary (3rd c. BC)

Moravia 3 c. BC

Celtic face bead from Moravia, Czech Republic (3 c. BC)

 

A wonderful example of this type of face bead from Bulgaria comes from the Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region), which has direct parallels in examples discovered at Celtic sites in the Czech Republic and Romania. Similar artifacts have been unearthed in recent years during excavations at other sites in Bulgaria such as Appolonia Pontica/Sozopol, Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region), Burgas, Kavarna, etc.

Bulg 1

Face Bead from Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region, Bulgaria)

Bulg 2

Glass bead and ‘face bead’ from Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region, Bulgaria)

 

Also interesting, from an artistic perspective, is a gold ‘Janus head’ pendant executed in a repossé technique and decorated filigreé and granulation, discovered in the Shumen region of northeastern Bulgaria, and dated to the same period. From a morphological and stylistic perspective the closest analogies are the Celtic face beads found among the Celts of central and eastern Europe, examples of which come from sites such as Mangalia, Piscolt and Vác, as well as the aforementioned sites in Bulgaria (Rustoiu 2008).

 

Jan head

Gold Celtic ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, northeastern Bulgaria (4th/3rd c. BC)

 

As with many aspects of Celtic art, the tradition of producing face beads continues much later in the Insular sphere, as attested to by many wonderful examples of glass face beads dating to the late Iron Age discovered in Ireland.

Late Iron Age glass 'face bead' from Antrim, Ireland. Such Celtic beads emerged in the early Iron Age, apparently based on Phoenician prototypes. 

Late Iron Age glass face bead from Antrim, Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

THE DANUBE TORC – An early Balkan Celtic gold torc decorated in the “Vegetal Style” from Montana, Bulgaria

UD: Feb. 2020

 

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 (Italy), in the territory of the Senones, is a closely related piece to the Bulgarian example.

Collare celtico in oro da Filottrano, IV sec. a. C., Ancona, Museo Archeologico Nazionale

The Celtic gold torc from Filottrano (4 c. BC)

 

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)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/the-mechanism-of-dreams-vegetal-style-and-the-silivas-helmet/

 

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)

 

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

Military equipment from the burial of a Celtic / Scordisci cavalry officer from Montana, Bulgaria (2/1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/scordisci-swords/

 

 

 

 

 

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Mac Congail

Κόραλλοι – The Celts in Eastern Bulgaria

 

“Who can I recite my work to here, but yellow-haired

Coralli, and the other tribes of the barbarous Danube?”

(Ovid, Ex Ponto. Book EIV.II To Cornelius Severus: A Fellow Poet)

 

Ovid’s unenthusiastic audience during his exile on the Pontus, the Celtic Coralli/Κόραλλοι tribe (Julian C. Histoire de la Gaule I 303 n. 3, Kazarov 1919:67, Domaradski 1984:111, Duridanov 1997 with cited lit.), were one of the barbarian peoples who constituted the unique

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/36347100/CORALLI_-_Celtic_Traces_in_Eastern_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BALKAN CELTIC SERPENT-HEADED BROOCHES

 

Some of the most exquisite European Iron Age jewelry pieces were produced by the “barbarian” tribes on the Balkan peninsula between the 4th and 1st century BC. During this period Celtic craftsmen, working in a variety of mediums, drew heavily on both Scythian and Hellenistic art; a process which culminated in a distinctive Balkan Celtic style.

Although multiple mediums were used, the genius of Celtic craftsmen of this period is to be most clearly observed in silver treasures produced by the Scordisci tribes, such as those from Hrtkovci, Židovar, Čurug etc...

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/35771383/BALKAN_CELTIC_HINGED_SERPENT-HEAD_BROOCHES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celtic Warrior Burials and Coin Hoard from Dolj County (Romania)

 

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/

 

THE CELTIC EVIL EYE

 

The belief in the ‘Evil Eye’ is present in many ancient cultures, and literary evidence attests to it in the eastern Mediterranean for millennia starting with Hesiod, Callimachus, Plato, Diodorus Siculus, Theocritus, Plutarch, Heliodorus, Pliny the Elder, and Aulus Gellius. It is also represented in Celtic mythology, notably in the form of the Fomorian giant Balor of the Evil Eye . Of interest in the present context are the glass nazars, or ‘magical’ charms, used to ward off the evil eye, particularly popular in the Balkans and today’s Turkey…

 

Full Article:

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/the-celtic-evil-eye/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE MEZEK SYNDROME – Bogdan Filov and the Celtic Chariot Burial from Mezek in Southern Bulgaria

 

The Celtic chariot burial from the Mal Tepe tomb at Mezek in the Haskovo region of southern Bulgaria is one of the most significant Celtic finds from the Balkans, in terms of the artifacts themselves, and the nature and chronology of the burial. However, from the outset the site has also been a prime example of the ugliest aspects of archaeology on the Balkans…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/33277322/THE_MEZEK_SYNDROME_Bogdan_Filov_and_the_Celtic_Chariot_Burial_from_Mezek_in_Southern_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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