Tag Archive: La Tene Bulgaria


 

 

The Gauls, who had been left behind by their general Brennus, when he marched into Greece, to defend the borders of their country, armed fifteen thousand foot and three thousand horse (that they alone might not seem idle), and routed the forces of the Getae and Triballi…”.

(Justinus, Prol. XXV,1)

 

 

In the Sboryanovo Archaeological Reserve in northeastern Bulgaria are situated the remains of an ancient city which became the political and religious center of the powerful Thracian Getae tribe during the 4th century BC. The most spectacular of a number of ancient tombs at the site, which has been identified by Bulgarian archaeologists as “Dausdava” – The City of Wolves….

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/32172303/FALL_OF_THE_CITY_OF_WOLVES_A_Celtic_Chariot_Burial_from_Sboryanovo_in_n.e._Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UD: May 2017

 

 

CHENS-SUR-LÉMAN (HAUTE-SAVOIE) lt 4th - early 3rd c. BC Scabbard detail

 

 

“The other order is that of the knights. These, when there is occasion and any war occurs …, are all engaged in war. And those of them most distinguished by birth and resources have the greatest number of vassals and dependents about them”.


(Caesar. Gallic War. 6.15)

 

 

 

 

 

One of the genuinely pan-European elements in early La Tène art is the dragon-pair motif, which is found on the upper end of the front-plate of Celtic scabbards from south-eastern Britain to the Balkans, with further examples from south of the Alps and Iberia (Stead, 1984, Megaw 2004, Megaw and Megaw 1989, Ginoux 1995). Comprising a pair of opposed S-shapes with zoomorphic heads facing inwards, the beasts represented are highly schematic, and have sometimes been thought of as griffons rather than dragons.

 

 

hamm drag 1 g.

Dragon-pair decoration on a Celtic iron scabbard discovered in the nineteenth century in the river Thames at Battersea and Hammersmith, London (Stead:1984). A further example was also found in the Thames, and a derivative of the dragon-pair motif at Fovant (Wiltshire), also in England (Jope 2000:278).

 

Scabbard fragment with Dragon Pair decoration discovered in the Celtic hillfort at Ensérune (near Nissan-lez-Ensérune), France

 

 

Although earlier studies (Jacobsthal (1944:46, De Navarro 1972:229) saw these motifs as evidence of orientalizing influences in early Celtic art, or even as a direct Scythian introduction into eastern Central Europe, subsequent discoveries in the west have now rendered this view obsolete. The earliest incidence of a dragon-pair has conventionally been the example from an old and never fully published burial from Saint Jean-sur-Tourbe in the Marne, which should belong to an early La Tène phase (Harding 2007).

 

 

CHENS-SUR-LÉMAN (HAUTE-SAVOIE) lt 4th - early 3rd c. BC Scabbard
CHENS-SUR-LÉMAN (HAUTE-SAVOIE) lt 4th - early 3rd c. BC Scabbard detail
Celtic sword in scabbard with dragon-pair motif, and detail of decoration – from a recently discovered Celtic warrior burial at Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie), France (late 4th/early 3rd c. BC)

(after Landry, Blaizot 2011)

 

2 - 2 - Wöllersdorf-Steinabrückl - Dragon pair 3 c. BC

Celtic scabbard with dragon-pair motif recently discovered in a warrior burial at Wöllersdorf-Steinabrückl (Niederösterreich), Austria (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

Dating to the late 4th/3rd century, dragon-pair scabbards are also well represented in Eastern Europe, in association with the Hungarian scabbard style, as at Halimba, Jutas 3, Kosd, and Szob (Harding 2007). Other examples have been registered at Celtic warrior burials in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and Pisçolt in Romania (Megaw 2004, Szabó and Petres, 1992, Pl. 96). Interestingly, a variant of the ‘Dragon Pair’ motif is also to be found on a bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata Fortress (Schumen region) in north-eastern Bulgaria, also dating to the 3rd c. BC.

 

 

dp schumen

Bronze chariot fitting with ‘dragon-pair’ motif from Bobata fortress (Schumen), Bulgaria

 

(see: https://www.academia.edu/5420363/THE_TYLE_EXPERIMENT)

 

 

 

 

The pan-tribal nature of the dragon-pair scabbards, a unique phenomenon in Celtic Europe, logically raises the question of whether this motif had a significance beyond simply an artistic device. That a distinct warrior class/elite existed in Celtic society is a well documented fact, and the possibility exists that the dragon-pair insignia, which cross geographical and tribal borders, represented a special group within this warrior class, i.e. a pan-European order of elite warriors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the ‘Warrior Elite’ in Celtic society see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/the-warrior-elite/

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

de Navarro, J. M. (1972) The Finds from the Site of La Tène, Vol. 1, Scabbards and the Swords Found in Them, London, British Academy, Oxford University Press.

Ginoux, N. (1995) ‘Lyres et dragons, nouvelles données pour l’analyse d’un des principaux
thèmes ornementaux des fourreax latèniens’, in J. J. Charpy (ed.) (1995): 405–12.

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

Jacobsthal, P. (1944) Early Celtic Art, 2 vols, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Jope, E. M. (2000) Early Celtic Art in the British Isles, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Landry C., Blaizot F. (2011) Une Sépulture De Guerrier Celte À Chens-Sur-Léman (Haute-Savoie). In: Revue Archéologique de l’Est, t. 60-2011, p. 147-171

Megaw, R. and Megaw, J. V. S. (1989) ‘The Italian Job: Some Implications of Recent Finds of Celtic Scabbards Decorated with Dragon-pairs’, Mediterranean Archaeology, 2: 85–100.

Megaw J.V.S (2004) In The Footsteps of Brennos? Further Archaeological Evidence for Celts in the Balkans. In: Zwischen Karpaten und Agais. Rahden /Westf. p. 93-107

Stead, I. M. (1984) ‘Celtic Dragons from the River Thames’, AntJ, 64: 269–79.

Szabó, M. and Petres, É. F. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Tène Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin, Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: August 2016

 

 

Taranis buckle

 

 

 

The area around the village of Dalj (Osijek-Baranja County) near the confluence of the Drava and Danube rivers in eastern Croatia, has yielded a wealth of archaeological material indicating that Dalj was an important area of Celtic settlement in the middle-late Iron Age. 

 

 

 

DAlj

Bronze anthropomorphic figurine with penis and breasts, from the Celtic settlement at Dalj (4th – 3rd c. BC). An almost identical figurine, but portrayed with a torc, has been discovered at Prašník (Trnava reg.) in western Slovakia

 

 

 

 

 

In the year 1906 a pair of Celtic (Scordisci) belt buckles were found at the site of a destroyed Celtic necropolis at the Busija site in Dalj. Dating to the 1st c. BC, the buckles are of a specific kind called the Laminci type, the main characteristic of which is their construction, consisting of an iron plate with a button hook on the front side, on which a punctuated bronze sheet was attached with pins (Drnić 2009).

This buckle type was worn by Celtic females, and examples have been found over a wide area among the Celtic and Celto-Scythian (Bastarnae) tribes from Southern Pannonia and Romania to Ukraine (Drnić 2009), as well as Slovenia (Knez 1992:62, T. 65: 1–5), Hungary (Kovacs 1982:145-146), Serbia (Drnić op cit) and Bulgaria (Babeş 1983:207).

The decoration on such buckles generally includes different combinations of double or triple garlands, horizontal and vertical lines, concentric circles, fishbone motives, and spherical bulges. The ornament on the first Dalj buckle fits into this pattern, being decorated with two triple garlands and three spherical ornaments within the circles.

 

 

Buckle 2

 

The decoration on the second buckle from Dalj is a unique composition based around a core central symbol. In the corners of the buckle four triple garlands were placed with smaller concentric circles in between (two circles between the central motive and the lower side of the buckle remain visible).

 

Taranis buckle

 

 

The central decorative composition on the second Dalj buckle is particularly interesting. Consisting of a ‘cross within a circle’, the symbol is in fact a ‘Taranis Wheel’ which, while not hitherto found on other buckles of the Laminci type, is a common symbol on late Iron Age Celtic artifacts, and is to be found, for example, on numerous Scordisci coin issues from Serbia and Croatia dating from the same period (2nd/ 1st c. BC).

 

 

 

scor tar
Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. (Serbia 2nd – 1st c. BC)
(Laureate head (of Zeus?) right / Horse trotting left. Taranis Wheel above)

 

 

 

 

rib ho
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.
(After Kos, Mirnik 1999)

 

 

 

 

In the late Iron Age the multi-spoked Solar Wheel, associated with the Thunder God Taranis, is gradually replaced by a simplified 4 spoke version, depicted on numerous Celtic works of art from this period. It also appears likely that this simplified Taranis Wheel forms the basis for the ‘Celtic Cross’ in later Early Christian art.

 

 

 

Rat

Lead amulet with Taranis Wheels from Ratiaria (modern Archar) northwestern Bulgaria.
(See also https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/taranis-the-thunder-god/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Babeş M. (1983) – Paftalele Latène târzii din sud-estul Europei. Zusammenfassung: Die spätlatènezeitlichen plattengürtelhaken südeuropas. SCIVA, 34/1983,3, p.: 196–221

Drnić I. (2009) Dvije pojasne kopče tipa Laminci iz Dalja, VAMZ, 3.s., XLII 305–319

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

Knez, T. (1992) Novo mesto II, keltsko-rimsko grobiste Beletov vrt. Novo mesto II, keltisch-römisches Gräberfeld Beletov vrt. Novo Mesto, 1992

Kovacs, T. (1982) Latènezeitliches Gürtelblech Südlicher Herkunft in Ungaren. Savaria, 16/1982:145–159

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Ceramic from Bulgaria

blan. h

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During the eastwards expansion of the 4th/early 3rd c. BC, the Celtic tribes absorbed many elements of the local material cultures – Scythian, Hellenistic, Thracian etc. This is particularly true of ceramic, where local models and forms rapidly become part of the Balkan Celtic material culture. Evidence of this is to be observed…

 

 

Full Article:

https://www.academia.edu/5992553/Late_La_Tene_Ceramic_from_Bulgaria

 

 

 

bd urn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: March 2017

 

 

 

 

 

The recent publication of results from large-scale excavations in sub-Balkan Thrace marks an important step forward in Bulgarian archaeology, and has finally provided us with objective scientific data on the geo-political status quo and ethnic composition in this part of Europe in the late Iron Age. These extensive excavations, carried out at a number of sites in Central Bulgaria, especially in the Chirpan Heights area, has yielded material that has prompted local archaeologists to finally conclude that in the late Iron Age “this region was in fact inhabited by a Celtic (Celto-Thracian) population” (Tonkova et al 2011 = Трако-римски династичен център в районна Чирпанските възвишения Тонкова M. (ed.) София, 2011).

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Serdi/Serdica

 

UD – June 2015 

 

 

 

 

 

Although Celtic presence in the area of today’s Bulgarian capital, Sofia, is testified to by numismatic and archaeological evidence from the La Têne B period (early 3rd c. BC), it is not until the 2nd half of the 1st c. BC that the Serdi tribe enters written history (on the Celtic Serdi tribe see also Kazarov, 1910, 1919; Gerov 1967, 1968; Boardman J., Edwards I.E.S., Sollberger E., Hammond N.G.L. 1992: 600; Duridanov 1997).

 

 

In 29 BC the Roman general M. Licinius Crassus, after defeating the Bastarnae in the area of today’s northwestern Bulgaria, was attacked on his retreat towards Macedonia by the Scordisci Serdi and Meldi tribes, through whose territory he passed (Dio Cass. 51,25-27; on the reading of Meldi in Dio Cass. see Kazarov 1910). The following year (28 BC) Crassus returned with another army and ‘punished’ the Meldi and Serdi for their attacks on him the previous year. Another branch of the Scordisci, the Artacoi, also appear for the first time during these events, and during the second half of the 1st c. BC large numbers of the Celtic population of western Bulgaria, including the Serdi, migrated eastwards into the central Thracian Mountains (Haemus/Balkans) in order to escape the Roman advance (see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/ )

 

 

 

Inscribed cult relief bearing a dedication to the Celtic tribal God Scordus (Sofia region 4th – 3rd c. BC) (After Manov 1993)

 

 

 

Between the Danube and Balkan mountains, topographical and archaeological evidence has identified the Celtic settlements of Burgaraca (Chekanchevo, Sofia region) (Beševliev 1968:416; Gerov 1968:355; Duridanov 1997:138; Mac Congail 2008:39); northwest of Sofia lay the Celtic settlement of Meldia (Dragoman, Sofia district) (Kazarov 1910: 22; Mac Congail 2007:299; Falileyev A. 2010 DCCPN); the settlements of Magaris and Magimias in the Tran district west of Sofia, where also lay the Celtic area of Loukonanta (the Valley of Lugh)(Duridanov 1997:135; Mac Congail 2008:39; Falilevev 2009:281).

In the Kavetzos area (north of Sofia in the hills between Vratza and Berkovica) two Celtic settlements have been identified – Άρχοϋνες / Arkounes (Falileyev 2009; 2010; cf. also Beševliev 1970:22; Duridanov 1997: 134-35) and Douriis/Δουρίες (Beševliev 1970:22; Duridanov 1997:135; Mac Congail 2007: 298, 2008:39; Falileyev 2009: 281). Slightly to the north were the Celtic settlements of Tautiomosis and Vorovum (today’s Kravoder, Vratza region) (Falileyev 2009: 282). As mentioned, the Bulgarian capital Sofia (Serdica) has long been identified by both Bulgarian and international academics as a settlement of the Celtic Serdi tribe (Kazarov 1910, 1919, 1926; Gerov 1967, 1968; Duridanov 1997; Boardman, Edwards, Sollberger, Hammond 1992, Mac Congail 2008).

 

 A substantial amount of Celtic (La Têne) archaeological  (and numismatic) material testifies to Celtic presence in the Sofia area from the 2nd half of the 4th c. BC until the Roman period. This includes La Têne material found at the villages of Aldomirovzi and Slivnitza (both Slivnitza district, Sofia region – Domaradzki 1984 – Домарадски М., Келтите на Бaлканския полуостров. София 1984), Ravno Pole (Elin Pelin district – see ‘Sacrifical Daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article), Jana (Kremikovzi district – Domaradzki op cit.), Lakatnik (Svoge district – loc cit), Muchovo (Ichtiman district – Domaradski 1984:147; Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010: 57-58), and Dragoman (Dragoman district – loc cit) – all in the Sofia region.

 

 

 

Plan of the Celtic cult complex from Muchovo, Ichtiman district (Sofia region). This structure, with dimensions of 3.5 x 2.5 m., bears all the hallmarks of a ‘Tower of Silence’, where corpses were exposed to be devoured by scavengers and birds of prey, in line with Celtic religious practice.

(Drawing after Domaradski 1984)

 

 

 

 

Particularly interesting is the concentration of Celtic material discovered in the Gorna Malina district of Sofia, where La Têne material has been found at the villages of Markazevo (Domaradzki 1984), Gorna Malina itself, and at Bailovo. Among these finds one should note the La Têne B sword from Bailovo, the earliest Celtic sword yet found in Bulgaria, and therefore relating chronologically to the first stage of Celtic migration into this part of the Balkans (late 4th c. BC), and a Celtic shield of the Karaburma type from Gorna Malina (loc cit). A Celtic warrior burial complete with a (ritually bent) La Têne sword, spear and Celtic ceramic was also discovered in the Poduaine area of Sofia City at the beginning of the 20th c.  (Кацаров Г., България в древността. Историко-археологически очерк.  Популярна археологическа библиотека, No. 1. София 1926. P. 41).

 

 

 

 

Celtic zoomorphic ram figurine/attachment from Celtic ceramic (firepot) found at Boznik, Pernik region to the west of Sofia. Such ceramic has been located in the Sofia region at the villages of Jana and Muchovo, and in the Poduaine area of Sofia City.

see: https://www.academia.edu/5046182/Zoomorphic_Cult_Firepots

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic numismatic material discovered in the Sofia region ranges from Celtic Paeonia type tetradrachms (4th – 3rd c. BC) from the Pernik, Breznik and Kovachevtsi areas to the west of Sofia (Мушмов Н. (1912) Антични монети на Балканския полуостров. София; Forrer R. (1908)  Keltische Numismatik der Rhein und Donaulände; Gaebler H. (1935)  Die antiken Münzen von Makedonia und Paionia. – In: Die antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands, III, 2. Berlin; see also numismatics section 11), Scordisci coinage dated between 270-250 BC from the village of Ogoia (IGCH #435; Dimitrov 2010: 55-56); Celtic Philip III and II type tetradrachms and drachms (III – I c. BC) have been registered at the village of Chavdar (Sofia region) and the environs of Sofia city. Another large hoard of  Celtic ‘Philip III’ type coins  has been recorded from the village of Vrachesh, in the Botevgrad district (western Sofia Region) (Gerassimov, T. Kolektivni nachodki na moneti, IAI, XVII, 1950, 322), close to the aforementioned concentration of Celtic archaeological material around the Gorna Malina area.

Celtic Strymon/Trident bronze issues, and Celtic ‘Thasos type’ tetradrachms have also been found in the Sofia area, both of the latter types dating to the II-I c. BCParticularly noteworthy is a massive hoard of Celtic ‘Thasos’ coins discovered at the village of Churek (Elin Pelin district, Sofia region). The sheer size of this hoard, which included over 7 kilograms of silver tetradrachms (Филов, Б. 1913; Head, B. 1967:266; Мушмов Н.1912: 5651 and 3940; see numismatics section 2 with relevant lit.), suggests that this type of Celtic coinage was produced in the Sofia area by the Celtic Serdi tribe in the II – I c. BC, although indications are that Sofia/Serdica itself was not a significant settlement during this period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail