Tag Archive: La Tene Burial


b-claw-warrior

 

 

“…the Gauls on the Danube who are called Bastarnae, an equestrian host and warlike”.

(Plut. Aem. 9.6)

 

 

 

Discovered by locals in 2011 near the village of Mana (Orhei district) in Moldova, and subsequently investigated by archaeologists, the Mana III burial represents a unique archaeological find from this part of Moldova and provides invaluable information on the Celtic/Celto-Scythian population which inhabited this part of Europe in the immediate pre-Roman period.

 

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Location of Mana

 

 

 

The cremated remains of the deceased had been placed in a bronze vessel, and subsequent forensic analysis of the remains from the burial pit (58×63 cm; depth 78 cm) established that the body was that of a boy warrior, aged between 14-16 years old. During the cremation process the body had been subjected to temperatures reaching 900 degrees C.

 

burning

(Illustrations after Tentiuc I., Bubulici V., Simalcsik A. (2015) A cremation burial of a horseman near the village of Mana (the Orhei district) (Un mormânt de incineraţie al unui călăreţ războinic descoperit lângă satul Mana (Orhei). In: Tyragetia. Archeologie Istorie Antică, Vol. IX [XXIV] nr. , pp. 221-248. Chişnău 2015)

 

 

 

“… to the Maeotic Lake on the east, where it bordered on Pontic Scythia, and that from that point on Gauls and Scythians were mingled”.

(Plut. Marius: 11: 4—5)

 

 

Besides the aforementioned bronze situla in which the cremated remains were placed, burial goods in the pit included a ceramic bowl of a type specific to the so-called Poieneşti-Lucaşeuca culture associated with the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae tribes, an iron spiral bracelet and military equipment consisting of a La Tène iron sword/scabbard, spearhead, shield umbo and spurs. Noteworthy is the fact that the La Tène weapons were all ritually ‘killed’, i.e. bent or otherwise deliberately deformed in the well documented Celtic fashion, indicating that although the Bastarnae tribes had become a complex mix of Celtic and Scythian cultures by the late Iron Age, their material culture and religious rites remained strongly Celtic in nature (Tentiuc et al 2015).

 

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Ritually killed spearhead from the Mana III burial

 

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Iron Sword from the Mana III Burial

 

 

 

 

The Bear Claw Cloak

 

According to forensic evidence, the boy warrior had been dressed in a bear hide worn as a cloak which was also incinerated during the subsequent cremation process. This was confirmed by the presence of ten bones among the remains which have been identified, taxonomically and anatomically, as distal/terminal phalanges (corresponding to claw) of a mature bear – Ursus arctos. The presence of only two claws indicates that the bear hide had been used as a cloak (loc cit).

 

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Cremated remains of the Bear Claws from the Mana Burial

 

 

 

 

‘…the Bastarnæ, the bravest nation of all’.
(Appianus, Mithridatic Wars 10:69)

 

Although the exact circumstances in which the boy warrior from Mana met his fate will probably never be known, the chronological context in which he was buried (first half of the first century BC) suggests a number of possibilities. During the Mithridatic Wars the Balkan Celts and Bastarnae supported the Pontic leader against Rome (App. Mith.: 69, 111; Justin. 38: 3, Memn. 27: 7; McGing 1986: 61; see Choref, Mac Gonagle 2015). At the Battle of Chalcedon, for example, the Bastarnae dealt a severe blow to the Romans – “In the land battle the Bastarnae routed the Italians, and slaughtered them” (App. Mith. 71; Memn. 27:7), and the Celto-Scythian tribes remained loyal to Mithridates until his final defeat in 63 BC.

Even after the end of the Mithridatic Wars, the Balkan Celts and Bastarnae continued to resist Roman expansion on the Lower Danube and Pontic region. In 61 BC a “barbarian” coalition, led by the Bastarnae, dealt a spectacular defeat to the Roman army of Gaius Antonius Hybrida (“the Monster”) at the Battle of Histria (Choref, Mac Gonagle op cit.). Besides the conflict with Rome, there exists the possibility that the Mana warrior fell defending his people against the Thracian Getae tribe who, under their leader Burebista, launched a genocidal campaign against their neighbors (Celtic, Greek and Bastarnae) towards the mid 1st century BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Bastarnae see also Choref/Mac Gonagle 2015:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/celto-scythians-and-celticization-in-ukraine-and-the-north-pontic-region/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 UD: April 2016

 

 

 

 

A recently published Celtic warrior burial from Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia has shed new light on the Scordisci tribes who inhabited large areas of today’s Serbia and northern/western Bulgaria in the late Iron Age. The burial, which was disturbed by a local farmer, was found in the Syrmia region, most probably close to the modern town of Sremska Mitrovica.

 

 

 

 

 

(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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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 ((see https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/killing-the-objects-3/).

 

 

 

 

Ritually ‘Killed’ Spearhead from the Sremska Mitrovica burial

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011)

 

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/the-death-of-spears-ritual-deposition-of-celtic-spears/

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Reconstruction of the Celtic Burial from Sremska Mitrovica

(after Tapavički-Ilić, Filipović 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail