Silver Serpent-Head Bracelet from the Čurug Hoard

 

Silver Serpent-Head Bracelet decorated with solar symbols, from the Balkan Celtic treasure discovered at Čurug in northern Serbia (late 4th / early 3rd century BC)

 

Čurug sikver braclet

 

Full information and more images of the Čurug Treasure:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/curug-a-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-vojvodina-northern-serbia/

 

CELTIC SYRMIA

 

 

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Syrmia region of modern Serbia*, a fertile area of the Pannonian Plain situated between the Danube and Sava rivers, has yielded a massive amount of archaeological material pertaining to the Celtic Scordisci Federation who inhabited this region in the pre-Roman period. These discoveries include some of the most spectacular Balkan Celtic hoards, such as those from the Celtic hillfort at Židovar and the Scordisci settlement at Čurug, as well as extensive finds from Celtic sites such as Kupinovo.

 

The spectacular Celtic hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara). (2-1 century BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/the-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-zidovar-serbia/

 

 

The Balkan Celtic silver hoard from Čurug

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/curug-a-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-vojvodina-northern-serbia/

 

Detail of anthropomorphic decoration on the pommel of an iron sword, and scabbard decorated in the “Hungarian Sword Style”,  from a Scordisci burial complex at Kupinovo (Syrmia), Serbia (3rd c. BC)

(after: Drnić I. (2015) Groblje latenske culture/A La Têne Culture Cemetery. Arheološki muzej u Zagrebu, 2015)

 

 

While the aforementioned finds, discovered during regulated excavations, clearly indicate the economic and political importance of the Syrmia region within the territory of the Scordisci Federation, other discoveries made in a less professional manner suggest that the officially documented data is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. As with all areas of the Balkans, the vast majority of archaeological material registered in this region has been uncovered ‘accidentally’ by locals, providing invaluable evidence concerning the Scordisci tribes who inhabited large areas of today’s Serbia, eastern Croatia, south-western Romania and northern/western Bulgaria in the late Iron Age.

A good example of this phenomenon is the case of a Celtic warrior burial disturbed by a local farmer close to the modern town of Sremska Mitrovica in Syrmia.

 

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011 = Tapavički-Ilić M., Filipović V., A Late Iron Age Grave Find from Syrmia. In:  Iron Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin. Poceedings of the International Colloquium from Târgu Mureş, 7–9 October 2011. 453-559)

 

In this case, the cremation burial was accompanied by a bronze ‘kettle’, a bronze simpulum, a pair of iron snaffle-bits, a bronze fibula, an iron knife, a belt buckle of the Laminici type, a scabbard decorated with geometric ornaments, and two spears (one ritually killed). A sword from the grave had been removed, and presumably sold, before the material was presented to archaeologists. There is no information about the sword itself, so one cannot tell whether it was a long one, typical of the Late Iron Age, or a shorter one, developed during the last decades of the 1st century BC by the Balkan Celts. Examples of the latter have been found at sites in Serbia and in Bulgaria, such as the Taja site in the Balkan mountains where burials contained examples of both types of late Iron Age Celtic swords.

A number of interesting features are to be noted in the Sremska Mitrovica burial. All of the finds have close parallels with material from Balkan Celtic burials from the same period (late 2nd / 1st c. BC). Two iron spurs with button-shaped endings, which belong to the first variant of the La Tène spur type 1 in Serbia, chronologically belong to the 1st century BC. What makes this find of spurs special is that so far in the Central Balkans only one more pair of Celtic spurs have discovered as grave goods – from a Celtic burial at Popica in Bulgaria. Usually, only a single spur is encountered (Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović op cit.). The bronze kettle discovered has analogies in Scordisci territory along the Danube in Serbia and in examples from Romania (Tigănesti, Bobaia, Vedea, Costești and Pescari), all dated to the 1st century BC.

An iron knife with a straight blade is also noteworthy. This knife is in contrast to the typical Celtic/Scordisci fighting knives (daggers), which possess a massive bent blade and a short handle. Thus, the type of knife found at Sremska Mitrovica was not a fighting knife/dagger, and the bronze earring-like ornament on its handle indicates that it belonged to a female. Also noteworthy in this burial is the deliberate bending/deformation of the spearhead before being placed in the grave – once again confirming that the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ was a common religious practice among the Balkan Celts in the late Iron Age.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Celtic burial under discussion is the presence of female articles in the grave. Objects such as the knife, ‘Laminci’ belt buckle and fibula belong to a woman, in contrast to the weapons and spurs which are obviously from a male burial. This has led archaeologists to conclude that we may be dealing with the double cremation burial of a warrior accompanied by his wife. The circumstances which could have led to such a double burial, which dates to the period of the Scordisci Wars, can only be guessed at.

 

Ritually ‘killed’ sword from a Celtic warrior burial at Kupinovo (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On “Accidental Archaeology” and Celtic material from this part of the Balkans see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/scordisci-swords/

 

*This article only covers the Serbian part of Syrmia. Celtic/Scordisci finds from the  Vukovar-Srijem area of Eastern Croatia are dealt with elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

Čurug – A Balkan Celtic Treasure From Vojvodina (northern Serbia)

UD: June 2019

 

The Vojvodina (Српска Војводина) region of today’s northern Serbia has yielded a vast amount of archaeological material dating from the second half of the 4th to the 1st century BC pertaining to the Balkan Celtic (Scordisci) population who inhabited this part of Europe in the pre-Roman period.

 

Female inhumation burial, one of 18 Celtic burials discovered at Zrenjanin in eastern Vojvodina, Serbia. The burials, from the late 4th c. BC, relate to the first phase of Celtic settlement in this part of Europe.

 

The spectacular Celtic hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum (settlement) on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara), in the Vojvodina region of modern Serbia. (2-1 century BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/the-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-zidovar-serbia/

 

 

According to the archaeological data, one of the most important Celtic settlements in this region was that at the village of Čurug, situated in the lowlands of the south-eastern part of the Bačka area of the Vojvodina region.

 

Lead solar/ Taranis votive wheel from Čurug (2-1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/taranis-the-thunder-god/

 

 

Ritual ceramic rattle discovered at Čurug (2-1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/chasing-demons-celtic-ritual-rattles/

 

 

While most of the Celtic material recorded at Čurug dates to the late Iron Age/ immediate pre-Roman period, the most spectacular find, a hoard of silver jewelry, dates to the earlier period of Celtic expansion into the Balkans, i.e. the late 4th / early 3rd c. BC.

 

The Balkan Celtic silver hoard from Čurug

 

 

As with other major Balkan Celtic treasures from the area of modern Serbia (Hrtkovci, Židovar, etc.), the Čurug hoard consists of wonderfully executed silver jewelry – bracelets, finger- and arm-rings, as well as fibulae, notably the distinctive hinged serpent-head fibulae (below). The latter have been recorded in other Balkan Celtic hoards of this period and, as with numerous other examples of eastern Celtic jewelry, bear eloquent testimony to artistic influences of the native Balkan and Hellenistic cultures in Balkan Celtic art of this period.

 

Hinged serpent-head fibulae from the Čurug hoard

 

 

The origin of the silver that the Balkan Celts used for producing jewelry and minting silver coins has not yet been established with any degree of certainty. However, it is likely that a substantial amount came from the silver / lead mine at Kosmaj near the large Celtic settlement of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TARANIS – The Celtic Thunder God

UD: Jan. 2019

“And those who pacify with blood accursed

Savage Teutates, Hesus’ horrid shrines,

And Taranis’ altars cruel as were those

Loved by Diana, goddess of the north”.

Lucanus (Pharsalia, Book 1)

gdd tar

The three Celtic deities best known from classical sources are Teutates, Esus, and Taranis. Teutates is identified with Mars or Mercury, and receives as human sacrifice drowned captives and fallen warriors. Esus too is identified with Mercury, but also with Mars, and he accepts as sacrifice prisoners who are hanged on trees and then dismembered.

The Celtic ‘Thunder-God’ – Taranis, who is also known from nine inscriptions found in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, France and Belgium, and figures as the character of Taran in the Cymric (Welsh) Mabinogi of Branwen ferch Llŷr, is identified with Jupiter, as a warlord and a sky god. Human sacrifices to Taranis were made by burning prisoners (Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010).

Taranis (with wheel and thunderbolt) (0.103 m.)

(Le Chatelet, Gourzon, (Haute-Marne), France)

 

 

Noteworthy is the fact that the main Celtic God, Lugh/Lugus, is not mentioned by Lucanus (op cit), leading to the suggestion of Rübekeil (2003:38), in view of his hypothesis of a Celtic origin of the Germanic god Odin, that Lugus refers to the trinity Teutates-Esus-Taranis considered as a single god (Rübekeil L. Wodan und andere forschungsgeschichtliche Leichen: exhumiert, Beiträge zur Namenforschung 38 (2003), 25–42).

 Based on writings in the ninth century comment on Lucan, the Berne Scholia, and descriptions in Caesar’s De Bello Gallica, Taranis has been identified as the deity to whom both Julius Caesar and Strabo describe human sacrifices being offered by being burnt alive in ‘wicker men’. The Berne Scholia also describes Taranis as a ‘master of war’, and links him with the Roman deity Jupiter. Taranis’ name is derived from the Proto-Celtic root  *torano- ‘thunder’ [Noun] (GOlD: Olr. torann – ‘thunder, noise’ W: MW taran [f] ‘(peal of) thunder, thunderclap’, BRET: OBret. taran gl. tonitru, MoBret. taran [m] CO: OCo. taran gl. tonitruum, MCo. taran).

statue-de-jupiter-taranis-la-main-droite-une-roue-a-dix-raies-attribut-gaulois-et-ayant-a-sa-gauche-un-aigle-oiseau-de-jupiter-musee-lapidaire-davignon

Jupiter Taranis – Roman era statue of Taranis syncretised with Jupiter, with eagle and solar/Taranis wheel (attributes of the respective deities) in the  Musée lapidaire d’Avignon.

The Gaulish word for ‘thunder’ is preserved in the Gasconian dialect of French (taram). The Celtic forms are best explained by a metathesis *tonaro- > *torano-. The unmetathesized form is perhaps attested as the OBrit. Theonym Tanaro and in the old name of the river Po, Tanarus ‘thundering’. (REF: LEIA T-l13, GPC III: 3447, Delamarre 290, Deshayes 2003: 714; See Matasovic R., Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leinen/Boston 2009. P. 384, with relevant lit.).

a - a Fragment of bone with insc. to Taranis in a C-et script from Sottopendonda Italy 4-3 c. BC

Fragment of bone with inscription to Taranis in a Celto-Etruscan script, from Tesero di Sottopendonda (Trente) Italy (4/3 c. BC)

THE WHEEL OF TARANIS

Bronze applique,  decorated with zoomorphic/bird figures and solar/Taranis wheels, discovered in the Forest of Moidons (Burgandy), France

(6th c. BC)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-boii-tótfalu-type-w.-hungary-2c.-bc.jpg

Stallion with 3 penises, under Taranis wheel – reverse of a Celtic issue of the Tótfalu type from western Hungary (2c. BC)

Associated with the Celtic Thunder God is the Solar Wheel or Wheel of Taranis. The wheel was an important symbol in Celtic polytheism, associated with a specific god, known as the wheel-god, identified as the sky-, sun-, or thunder-god, whose name is attested to as Taranis by Lucanus (op cit). Numerous representations of the Wheel of Taranis are found on coins and other artifacts across Celtic Europe, from Britain in the west to Thrace in the east:

8-spoked votive wheels (rouelles / bronze), thought to correspond to the cult of Taranis. Thousands of such wheels have been found in sanctuaries and other sites across Celtic Europe.

(Musée d’Archéologie Nationale, France)

8-spoked (lead) votive Taranis wheel from the Celtic (Scordisci) settlement at Čurug, Vojvodina Province, Serbia (2-1 c. BC)

gold-beads-and-pendants-from-necklace-in-a-bog-near-szarazd-regoly-hillfort-late-2nd-c-bc-szarazd-regoly-tolna-county

Gold beads and pendants, including solar/Taranis wheels, from the Celtic Szárazd-Regöly hoard, discovered in a swamp near Regöly hillfort (Tolna), Hungary

(1st c. BC)

Gaul. Aedui tribe. (Circa 80-50 BC)

AR Quinarius. Helmeted head of Roma left /  horse prancing left, Wheel of Taranis below.

thasos-taranis-rev

Reverse of a Balkan Celtic tetradrachm from central Bulgaria. Note the solar/Taranis wheel in the top left corner.

(1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria

1 c. BC CALÈTES (Pays de Caux) Quart de statère, de Bordeaux-Saint-Clair - électrum - 1 c. BC OBVERSE

Obverse of a quarter stater of the Caletes tribe with solar/Taranis wheel on the subjects face, discovered at Bordeaux-Saint-Clair (Haute-Normandie), France (1 c. BC)

Belgic Gaul, Treviri AV Stater. ca. 60–30/25 BC.

Celticized horse rearing left, in upper field star, V with dotted border, & cross with four annulets between arms, pellet-cross under belly, star under tail; Wheel of Taranis, two stars & globule in front, above a row of pellets, herringbone pattern, solid line above which three stars.

THUNDER ON THE BALKANS

In southeastern Europe a range of Celtic artifacts have also been found which depict the Wheel of Taranis. The Celtic deity holding the solar wheel is represented, for example, on Plate C of the Gundestrup Cauldron thought to have been produced by the Thraco-Celtic Scordisci tribes in northwestern Bulgaria in the late 2nd c. BC. Artifacts depicting the Wheel of Taranis in this region range from Celtic coins dating from the 3rd c. BC onwards, to Romano-Celtic artifacts from the same region dating to the 3rd/4th c. AD.

Taranis with Wheel as depicted on plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron

In the 20’s of the 2nd c. BC the Scordisci tribe in Thrace came under attack from the north. An expansion of the Germanic Cimbri tribe was finally repulsed near the Celtic settlement of Singidunum (Belgrade), and the Cimbri migrated further west (Rankin D. Celts and the Classical World. New York 1987:19 ). It is likely that it was during these events that the most famous of Scordisci treasures, the Gundestrup cauldron, was looted and carried off by the Cimbri (Bergquist A.K., Taylor T.F. The Origin of the Gundestrup Cauldron, Antiquity, vol. 61, 1987. 10-24).

See also:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

Celtic tetradrachms from the Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia) –  2nd / 1st c. BC. Note the Wheel of Taranis in front of the horseman on the reverse. A large number of tetradrachms found in this hoard bore the symbol of the Taranis Wheel (Nos. 45 – 64).

(After Kos P., Mirnik I. The Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia). In The Numismatic Chronicle 159 (1999)

a - Taranis b buck

Celtic belt buckle of the Laminci type with Taranis Wheel from Dalj, eastern Croatia (1 c. BC)

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

Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. Serbia/Bulgaria (2/ 1 c. BC)

Laureate head right / Horse trotting left. Wheel of Taranis above

Evidence for the worship of Taranis across Europe, and the depiction of the Solar Wheel associated with this Celtic deity on coins and other artifacts, is particularly important as it again illustrates that although regional differences existed between the pan-Celtic peoples in terms of material culture, certain core religious beliefs and iconography were shared, and remained constant despite temporal and geographic dispersion.

Mac Congail