CHASING DEMONS – Celtic Ritual Rattles

UD: June 2019

 

The use of rattles in folk dances and rituals is recorded in cultures throughout the world, either hand-held or attached to ceremonial costumes to dictate the rhythm of ritual dances, and to summon or repel supernatural beings or demons.

 

irish rattles g

Globular or pear-shaped rattles from Dowris (Co. Offaly), Ireland  (c. 850 BC)
These three rattles, or ‘crotals’, were part of a large find of bronze metalwork made in Dowris bog in the mid-nineteenth century, which included weapons, tools and elaborate sheet metal vessels.
(See Eogan E. (1983), The hoards of the Irish Later Bronze Age (Dublin)

 

a - a -a - Late Bronze Age rattle ceramic vogelförmige Tonrassel aus Ichstedt, Ldkr. Kyffhäuserkreis

Bird-shaped ceramic rattle from Ichstedt (Ldkr. Kyffhäuserkreis), Germany (Late Bronze Age)

 

 

In Celtic Europe rattles appear in the Bronze Age, and by the La Têne period are recorded at sites throughout the continent. Logically, regional variations are to be observed in decoration and form, and rattles of both ceramic and metal have been discovered.

 

Spanish

Decorated ceramic rattle from a Celtic (Vaccean) burial at the necropolis of Las Ruedas (Pintia), north-central Spain (2 c. BC)

Celtic rattles discovered in the Vaccean environment from the northern Iberian plateau have been dated between the end of the 3rd century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD.

(see: Sanz Minguez C., Romero Carnicero F., De Pablo Martinez, R., Górriz Gañán C., Vaccean
Rattles. Toys or Magic Protectors?, in Jiménez Pasalodos Raquel, Till R., Howell M. (eds.),
Music and Ritual: Bridging Material and Living Cultures, Berlin, p. 257–283)

 

 

With eastern expansion, from the 4th century BC onwards, rattles also begin to appear at Celtic sites across eastern Europe. Examples include those from Bucsu in Hungary, Hanska-Toloacă in the Republic of Moldova, Buneşti-Avereşti in eastern Romania, Novo Mesto in Slovenia, Zvonimirovo in Croatia, Čurug in northern Serbia and Kabyle in Bulgaria (Rustoiu A., Berecki S. (2015). A further example of such has recently been published from a Celtic burial at Fântânele – Dâmbu Popii in Romania, dating to the 3rd c. BC.

 

rattle fan romania

The egg-shaped ceramic rattle from a Celtic burial at Fântânele

(After: Rustoiu A., Berecki S. (2015) The Magic of Sounds. A Ceramic Rattle from the La Tène Grave No. 1 at Fântânele – Dambu Popii and Its Functional and Symbolic Significance. In: Representations, Signs and Symbols. Proceedings of the Symposium on Religion and magic. Cluj-Napoca 2015. p. 259-274)

 

 

Ceramic rattle from the Celtic (Scordisci) settlement at Čurug (Vojvodina), Serbia (2-1 c. BC)

 

 

Rattles have been discovered in the burials of both Celtic adults and also in funerary contexts belonging to children or youngsters, logically indicating that they were regarded as having a protective and preventive function, regardless of the gender or age of the entombed.
An example of the manner in which such metal rattles were used in Celtic music and dance is provided by the modern custom of “Căluş” or “Căluşari” from Romania, which is a male dance related to pre-Christian solar cults. In this case, the rattles are strapped to the legs of the dancers and dictate the dance rhythm (op cit). Metal rattles quite similar to those used in today’s folk costumes have been discovered in Balkan Celtic funerary inventories, for example in Celtic warrior burials # 4 and 12 from Zvonimirovo in Croatia in which the rattles were, as in modern Romanian and Bulgarian folk dances, attached to the garment or the belt.

 

zvonimirovo rattle and romania g

Metal rattle strapped on the leg of a modern “Căluşar” dancer from Romania, and a similar rattle discovered in a warrior burial (# 4) from the Celtic cemetery at Zvonimirovo, Croatia (2 c. BC)

 

( On the Celtic burials from Zvonimirovo see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-celtic-burials-at-zvonimirovo-croatia/ )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONDS OF BLOOD – Inter-Ethnic Marriage in the Iron Age

a-a-a-a-a-a-img_0143

 

 

A number of exceptional archaeological discoveries from southeastern Europe have thrown new light on the social and cultural relations between the various ‘barbarian’ peoples who inhabited this region in the pre-Roman period…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/10087747/Bonds_of_Blood_-_On_Inter-Ethnic_Marriage_in_the_Iron_Age

 

 

bonds-illustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘BARBARIAN’ MASTERPIECES – Balkan Celtic Jewelry Boxes

UD: November 2019

 

zid jew bo detail

Some of the most spectacular Celtic archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar (Banat region) in north-eastern Serbia, which has yielded a vast array of artifacts of various materials, mostly dating to the 2/1 centuries BC.

zidovar opp hill

The hill at Zidovar – site of an important Celtic (Scordisci) hillfort from 3-1 century BC

 

Zidovar trio

Silver finger rings, brown bear tooth talisman, and silver bird pendants from the Zidovar hillfort (2/1 c. BC)
(See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/celtic-scordisci-bird-pendants/)

 

Among the most exquisite artifacts from Zidovar are 2 lavishly decorated silver jewelry boxes, and the lid of a third such box decorated with 4 spokes, thus constituting a solar/Taranis wheel.

jew bo lid

Silver lid of a jewelry box from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)

(see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/a-taranis-belt-buckle-from-dalj-eastern-croatia/)

zido jew bo 1

Silver jewelry box from Zidovar

 

Copy of j box X

Construction of the complete jewelry box from Zidovar

All 3 jewelry boxes have a high percent of silver (average values over 95 wt%). Copper is the main alloying element (average values from 1.5–4 wt%). Lead contributes less then 1 wt%, and tin was not detected in the metal of any of the boxes.

(after Živković J., Rehren T., Radivojević M., Miloš Jevtić M. and Jovanović D. (2014) XRF characterisation of Celtic silver from the Židovar treasure (Serbia). In: UNDER THE VOLCANO. Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Metallurgy of the European Iron Age (SMEIA) held in Mannheim, Germany, 20–22 April 2010. p. 157-174)

 

The chain used on the jewelry box is also noteworthy. These are of the ‘Foxtail’ type, similar examples of which are to be found in a number of necklaces from Zidovar and other Balkan Celtic sites.

Zidovar chains

Scordisci ‘Foxtail’ necklaces from Zidovar
(see also: https://www.academia.edu/7915664/Celtic_Foxtail_Necklaces )

 

Such chains are believed to have developed from Hellenistic prototypes, and the merging of Hellenistic and Celtic artistic models and influences on the Balkans from the late 4th century BC onwards resulted in a spectacular fusion of forms culminating in unique compositions in glass, ceramic and metal.

 

bland kantharos

Celtic kantharos of the ‘Danubian Type’ with anthropomorphic decoration from Blandiana, Alba County, Romania (3rd c. BC). Such kantharoi were developed by the Balkan Celts from Hellenistic prototypes.

(see: https://www.academia.edu/5992553/Late_La_T%C3%AAne_Ceramic_from_Bulgaria)

 

 

h.

Celtic gold ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)
(see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/the-archaeology-of-heads/)

 

zid jew bo detail

Full view of the Celtic jewelry box with ‘Foxtail’ chain from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)

 

The sheer amount and diversity of artifacts discovered at Zidovar logically indicates that this area was one of the key centers for the production of Balkan Celtic jewelry in the late Iron Age. From a wider perspective, the level of technical accomplishment and craftsmanship to be observed on these and other recently discovered Balkan Celtic works of art is on a par with anything produced by ‘classical’ cultures, and the treasures from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar once again testify to the artistic and material sophistication which had been achieved by European Celtic society prior to its systematic destruction by Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hohlbuckelringe (Celtic Bronze Anklets) and Eastern Expansion

hohl-1

 

 

 

The most distinctive of personal ornaments, the hohlbuckelringe (bronze anklets) worn by Celtic women are also one of the most significant archaeological markers of Celtic expansion into eastern Europe and Asia-Minor in the 3rd c. BC…

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/7212191/On_Hohlbuckelringe_as_a_Marker_of_Celtic_Eastwards_Expansion

 

 

 

 

Bronze ankle rings, hollow cast, with ornament knobs, 3rd century BC, from Aholming ( Vilshofen - Bavaria ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.academia.edu/7212191/On_Hohlbuckelringe_as_a_Marker_of_Celtic_Eastwards_Expansion

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Warrior Burials and Coinage from Dolj County (Romania)

UD: Feb. 2019

 

desa d.

“Part of this region (Thrace) was inhabited by the Scordisci … a people formerly cruel and savage…”.

(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)

 

 

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.
The village of Desa is situated on the Danube and although a large amount of Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials have been recorded south of the river, especially in western Serbia and northwestern Bulgaria, such discoveries in this part of Romania have hitherto been relatively sparse. Thus the Desa burials are of particular significance.

desa s

Round shield umbo from the Scordisci warrior burials at Desa (2nd c. BC)
(Illustrations from the excavations provided by the Desa Archaeological Site)

 

mon

Material from a Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, northwestern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)
(See: https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria)

 

The Celtic burials at Desa discovered during the 2013 excavations yielded a wealth of archaeological material which included, besides the cremated remains of the warriors, spearheads, an iron cleaver, shield umbos, nails, buttons/clasps, etc. A H-shaped horse bit discovered beside a round shield umbo, similar to examples found in Scordisci burials at Montana and Pavolche in nearby northwestern Bulgaria, logically indicates that, as in the latter cases, the Desa warriors were Celtic cavalry officers.

 

desa um. bt

Round shield umbo and H-shaped horse bit from the Desa burials (2nd c. BC)

 

dal . u.

Round Celtic shield umbo from Dalgopol, northeastern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)

 

A further interesting discovery from the Desa burials (dated 200-150 BC) was a button fashioned in the form of a miniature shield umbo, also discovered among the warriors remains.

desa min.

Button in the form of a miniature shield umbo, cremated bone and a nail from the shield umbo found in the Celtic burials

desa d.

Weapons and other artifacts in situ at the Desa burials

 

 

 

 

Update: 

 

A recent find of Balkan Celtic silver tetradrachms discovered in a vineyard near the village of Motoci, also in Dolj district, has provided further evidence of Celtic presence in this area during the period in question (2nd c. BC). The hoard, consisting of 10 tetradrachms, is the latest discovery of this specific type of Celtic coinage to be recorded in southwestern Romania. A further 20 such coins are stored in the local museum in Vâlcea, slightly to the north of Dolj.

 

dolj-hoard

The Celtic hoard from Motoci (2nd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MECHANISM OF DREAMS – Celtic Vegetal Style Art

UD: Jan. 2020

 

 

“…the mechanism of dreams where things have floating contours and pass into other things”.

(Jacobsthal 1941)

 

 

SILIVAS hel

 

The Celtic helmet from Silivaş (Transylvania) was first published in 1925 as part of the inventory of a warrior burial which also included two spearheads, a sword, dagger, brooch and a ‘sickle’ (actually a curved dagger), all of which had previously been in the private collection of Count Teleki Dromokos of Transylvania.

roska 1925

Inventory of the Celtic Burial from ‘Silivaş’, after Róska 1925*

 

The helmet itself is of a type with neck-guard (eisenhelme mit angesetztem Nackenschutz) common among the Celts at the end of the 4th/beginning of the 3rd c. BC (LT B2). Finds of such helmets are concentrated in the alpine region of western Austria and northern Italy, from where they circulated to the east and west (Rustoiu 2013). The most spectacular examples of such helmets include those from Agris and Amfreville in France, decorated with gold and coral.

Agris helmet

a - a a- -a det agris helmet

The Agris Helmet and detail of decoration

a - a a- -a det MECHANISM

Detail of the Ram-Horned Serpent on the cheek-piece of the Agris Helmet

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/cernunnos-and-the-ram-headed-serpent/

amfreville 1

The Amfreville Helmet

amfreville det.

Detail of the decoration on the Amfreville helmet

 

VEGETAL / WALDALGESHEIM STYLE

The helmet from “Silivaş”* is ornamented on the neck-guard with vegetal elements specific to the so-called Waldalgesheim or Vegetal Style.

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 (Harding 265).

 The vegetal decorative details on the neck-guard of the helmet from Silivaş 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).

Siliv. ng detail

The neck-guard of the Silivaş helmet. Detail of decoration

A further fine example of the vegetal style decoration on the Balkans is to be observed on the Celtic gold torc from Gorni Tsibar (Montana region) in north-western Bulgaria, which dates from the same period as the Silivaş helmet.

Danube Torc Bulgaria

Celtic gold torc decorated in the Vegetal Style, from Gorni Tsibar, northwestern Bulgaria

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

 

Celtic bronze torc, beautifully decorated in the Vegetal Style, from the Laon area (Picardy) of France (3 c. BC)

 

 

 

*In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that the most recent research on the Silivaş burial has indicated that the helmet and associated material did not in fact originate from Silivaş, but was most probably discovered in a Celtic burial in the Turda area, also in Transylvania, while the brooch and curved dagger came from a Celtic burial either in another part of Transylvania, or from the Scordisci area in today’s northern Bulgaria (for discussion see Rustoiu 2013).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Eastern Celtic helmets of the Novo Mesto type see:

https://www.academia.edu/5463297/The_Power_of_3_-_Some_Observations_On_Eastern_Celtic_Helmets

On Celtic helmets of the Montefortino type in Eastern Europe see:

https://www.academia.edu/4835555/Gallo-Scythians

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

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

Jacobsthal P.F. (1944) Early Celtic Art. Oxford.

Roska M. (1925) Keltisches Grab aus Siebenbürgen.  In:  PZ, 16, 1925, p. 210-211.

Rustoiu A. (2013) Wandering Warriors. The Celtic Grave from “Silivaş” (Transylvania) and Its History. In: Terra Sebus. Acta Musei Sabesiensis, 5, 2013, p. 211-226

Schaaff U. (1990) Keltische Waffen. Mainz.

 

 

 

Mac Congail

MULTIPLE BURIALS AND THE QUESTION OF CELTIC SUTTEE

UD: April 2019

 

The practice of suttee (Sati) – the ritual sacrifice, willingly or otherwise, of a man’s wife upon his death – is well testified to in ancient sources with both Greek and Roman authors describing this horrific custom (Plutarch, Moralia, p. 499c.; Aelian, Varia Historia, 8. 18; Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5. 27, 78; Propertius, 4. 12. 15–22; Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri, 2. 6. 14).

The Mahasati (the great Sati) or the Sahagamana (joint departure) system of cremating a woman alive on the death of her husband is an ancient custom in India, and Sati appears in both Hindi and Sanskrit texts, where it is synonymous with ‘good wife’, the term suttee being commonly used later by Anglo-Indian writers…

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/5275216/Multiple_Burials_And_The_Question_of_Celtic_Suttee

 

Intro. illus.

 

 

 

.