UD: August 2016
The area of present day Poland is not generally associated with the Celtic culture, yet in recent years the amount of Celtic archaeological material discovered in this part of Eastern Europe has increased significantly. This increasing body of evidence indicates that the role played by the Celts in shaping the culture of Poland in the late Iron Age and early Roman period is much greater than previously thought.
Celtic sword with openwork scabbard discovered in 2011 in a forest near Rzeszów, southeastern Poland
(1st c. BC)
In the first half of the 3rd c. BC (the end of the La Têne B period), the same period as the massive expansion into the Balkans, groups of Celts began to arrive in southern Poland (Woźniak 1996). Evidence of Celtic settlement on the territory of today’s Poland has thus far been found in the Middle Silesia region, the Glubczyce Highlands, Lesser Poland, and in areas of the upper San river valley on the border with Ukraine. In Poland, as in other areas of Eastern Europe during this period, the arrival of the Celts logically brought them into contact with local cultures, quickly resulting in mutual cultural exchange, and the formation of new ethnic groups. A good example of this is to be seen at the Pelczysha site near Krakow of the so-called Tyniec group that existed between circa 270-30 BC, and which developed as a result of contact between the Celts and the local population (Rudnicki 2005).
Fragments of glass bracelets from the Celtic settlement at Pelczyska, southern Poland (2/1 c. BC)
Celtic one-eighth stater (1-2), stater (3-4) and painted pottery from site 2 at Modlniczka, Krakow region.
(After Bryska-Fudali et al, 2009)
Ritually ‘Killed’ Celtic Sword from Korytnica, (Świętokrzyskie province), south-central Poland
Celtic hohlbuckelring (bronze anklet) from Pakoszówka near Sanok in south-eastern Poland (3/2 century BC)
Coins and metal artifacts, including zoomorphic figurines, from the large Celtic settlement at Nowa Cerekwia (Upper Silesia), southern Poland (3-1 c. BC)
(Found by Igor Murawski and Anna Brzezinska in 2005)
Excavations at the Nowa Cerekwia in 1936, and ceramic kiln discovered at the site in 1925
Besides the aforementioned areas of Celtic settlement in southern Poland, recently published evidence has also established a significant Celtic presence in the Kalisz area of central Poland – one of the most unexpected developments in Polish archaeology in recent years (Rudnicki et al, 2009).
The most interesting feature of Celtic settlement in the Kalisz area has been the identification of an economic and coin production centre (loc cit) – only the second such (after Rousse in n.e. Bulgaria – see ‘Mediolana’ article) to be identified in Eastern Europe. The Celtic coin discoveries in this area represent one of the largest concentrations in Poland, ranking only after the enclave at Nowa Cerekwia in the Glubczyce Highlands in terms of Celtic coins discovered.
Celtic Coins from the Kalisz Area
(after Rudnicki et al 2009)
All of the Celtic coins found at three sites in the Kalisz area belong to the minting system of the Boii tribe but, with one exception, they were not produced at the great Boii mints of Bohemia, Moravia or southwestern Slovakia, and have therefore been assigned to a new group of Polish Celtic coins – the Kalisz group (loc cit). Also noteworthy is the fact that the coinage from Kalisz was issued comparatively late, i.e. late 1st c. BC/first half of the 1st c. AD, which logically indicates that the Kalisz area was still a significant Celtic economic and political centre during the early Roman period (loc cit).
(after Rudnicki et al 2009)
Also of particular interest is the discovery of coinage of the Huşi-Vovrieşti type attributed to the Bastarnae tribes (Preda 1973: 111 – 131) in southern Poland (Rudecki 2003). The typical feature of this type of coinage, as with other types of Celtic ‘imitations’ of the coinage of Philip II of Macedonia in Eastern Europe (see numismatics section), is the wide differentiation of stylistic images on the coins, from relatively faithful imitations of the prototypes to variants with extremely schematic images. In Poland tetradrachms of this type have been found exclusively in areas of Celtic settlement in the south and southeast of the country, indicating trade and cultural contact between the Polish Celts and the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae to the southeast (on which see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/face-of-a-stranger-a-female-burial-from-little-poland/).
Bastarnae Huşi-Vovrieşti type tetradrachms from Pelczyska (55 km northeast of Krakow)
(after Rudnicki 2003)
Archaeologically confirmed areas of Celtic settlement in Poland (according to data published before November 2014)
Bryska-Fudali M., Przybyla M. M., Rudnicki M. Celtic Coins Found At Site 2 In Modlniczka, Dist. Cracow. In: Sprawozdanie Archaeologiczne 61, 2009. P. 273 – 295.
Preda C. (1973) Mondedele geto-dacilor. Bucureşti.
Rudnicki M. (2003) Celtic Coin Finds from a Settlement of the La Têne period at Pelczyska. In:
Polish Numismatic News VII, 2003. P. 1-24.
Rudnicki M. (2005) A Late La Téne Inhumation Grave from Pelczyska: Comments on the Cultural Situation in the Upland Area of Little Poland (with an analysis of the anatomical remains by Karol Piasecki). In Celts on the Margin – Studies in Euopean Cultural Interaction 7th Century BC – 1st Century AD. Krakow 2005. p. 195 – 206
Rudnicki M, Milek S., Ziabka L., Kedzierski A., (2009) Mennica Celtycka Pod Kaliszem. In: Wiadomosci Numizmatyczne, R. LIII, 2009, z. 2 (188). P. 103-145
Rudnicki M., Miłek S. (2011) New Evidence on Contacts Between Pre-Roman Dacia and Territory of Central Poland. AAC 46. P. 117–143.
Woźniak Z. (1996) Neue Forchungsergebnisse über die jüngere Laténezeit in Südpolen, Arheološki Vestnik 47, Ljubljana 1996, p. 165-172