The Balkan Celtic Fortress and Ritual Pits at Krševica (Southern Serbia)

UD: Jan. 2019

KALE AIR

The Kale (Turkish for fortification) at Krševica near Bujanovac in southern Serbia is situated at a strategic location where the slopes of the Rujen mountain descend towards the Vranje basin and Južna Morava valley. This exceptional strategic position had been used in the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages, but the Hellenistic settlement with acropolis was established at the turn of the 5/4 century BC. Finds of coins of Philip II, Alexander III, Cassander, and Demetrios Poliorketes correspond in general to the chronological span of the Hellenistic settlement which was the northernmost Ancient Macedonian city, and has been identified with the ancient city of Damastium, mentioned in classical sources (Popović P. 2006).

 

map k.

Location of Krševica

KALE acropolis

The Acropolis at Krševica – Central plateau with complex of buildings

(Illustrations after Popović 2006 = Popović P. (2006) Central Balkans Between the Greek and Celtic World: Case Study Kale-Krševica. In: In Homage to Milutin Garašanin. SASA Special Editions. Belgrade 2006. P 523-536)

 

 

Extensive archaeological excavations at the Krševica site have revealed a unique site in the Južna Morava valley where the significant remains of two civilizations – Greek and Celtic – have been encountered. The most massive layers with buildings, ramparts and other structures, as well as abundant finds of imported and local pottery made after Greek prototypes, date from the 4th and early 3rd  century BC.

Suburbium x

Suburbium, platform with ramparts and buildings at Krševica

hellen cer m Kale 4th-early 3rd c. BC

Hellenistic Ceramic from Krševica – 4th / early 3rd century BC

With the Celtic expansion into the central Balkans during the late 4th /early 3rd century BC, and the resulting collapse of the Macedonian state, the settlement at Krševica fell under Celtic control (Popović 2006, Mac Gonagle 2015). Archaeological evidence from the site indicates that this transition was a relatively peaceful one, and no significant economic or social disruption is to be observed.

On the Celtic Conquest of the Central and Eastern Balkans see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/the-celtic-conquest-of-thrace-280279-bc/

Celtic 1 Kale - 2-1 c. BC

La Tène Ceramic from the Celtic/Scordisci layers at Krševica (2/1 century BC)

A considerable amount of the ceramic consists of vessels characteristic of the late La Tène production from the territory of the Celtic Scordisci tribes. Besides standard forms, like ‘S’ shaped bowls, pseudo-kantharoi  etc., excavations also uncovered vessels traditionally referred to by Bulgarian and Romanian archaeologists as ‘Thracian-Dacian types of cups’ (bottom left above), which are actually Celtic lamps (Vagalinski 2011:204).

See also:

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

la tene pits Kale Krsevica

Excavation of one of the Celtic ritual pits at Krševica

Celtic 2 Kale Krševica -pits - 2-1 c. BC - near Bujanovac (southeast Serbia)

La Tène ceramic from one of the ‘ritual’ pits at Krševica

The pits were of cult character and according to the main characteristics of the finds they date from the final decades of the second and the beginning of the first century BC.

With the gradual Roman expansion into this region during the late 2nd / 1st century BC, and the resulting war of resistance by the local tribes, Krševica became of particular strategic importance. During this brutal conflict, the fortress was used by the Scordisci Federation, in conjunction with other members of the ‘barbarian coalition’, including the Free Thracian tribes and Dardanians, as a staging-post for frequent attacks/raids on Roman occupied territory to the south. This final phase ended with the defeat of the anti-Roman coalition led by the Scordisci towards the end of the 1st century BC, and the subsequent consolidation of Rome’s control in the area.

On the Scordisci Wars see also:

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

Mac Congail

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CELTIC BUDAPEST – The Burial Complex from Csepel Island

I B ci

 

 

Over the past century a large amount of epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological material relating to the Celtic Eravisci tribe has been uncovered in the Budapest region of modern Hungary. However, until recently the vast majority of this material has dated to the immediate pre-Roman and Roman periods (i.e. 1st century BC onwards), while little has been known of the earlier Celtic presence in this area.

 

Eravisci - stove

Clay stove from a Celtic house (#9) at Budapest-Gellérthegy (1st c. BC)

 

Eravisci -Late La Tène pottery workshop at Békásmegyer

Ceramic from a Late La Tène pottery workshop at Békásmegyer (Budapest  – 1 c. BC)

 

 

Eravisci 1 c. BC --ilver denarius. Imitating Roman Republican denarius of L. Roscius Fabatus.

Celtic (Eravisci) denarius from the Budapest area (1st. century BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSEPEL ISLAND

 

 

In light of the above, of particular interest have been the systematic excavations carried out over the past decade at the Csepel Island site on the Danube in Budapest. The site, better known as the personal domain of the Hungarian ruler Árpád after the migration of Hungarians into Pannonia in the early 10th century, and which remained a favourite resort of the Hungarian kings into the Middle Ages, has also proved one of the most significant Celtic sites in Eastern Europe.

 

 

Comp x.

Ceramic, bronze fibula and hohlbuckelring (bronze anklet) from the Celtic burials at Csepel Island (late 4th-3rd c. BC)

 
(On Hohlbuckelringe see:
https://www.academia.edu/7212191/On_Hohlbuckelringe_as_a_Marker_of_Celtic_Eastwards_Expansion )

 

 

 

 

 

The Celtic burial complex at Csepel Island was in use from the La Têne B1 – C1 period, i.e. from the 2nd half of the 4th until the late 3rd c. BC, and excavations at the site have uncovered 107 Celtic burials, both inhumation and cremation, dating to this period (Horváth 2012).

 

 

I B ci

Celtic inhumation burial from Csepel Island (late 4th / early 3rd c. BC)

 

warrior b. 149

Grave goods from a Celtic warrior burial (#149) at Csepel Island:
1. Fragment of shield boss; 2. Body of shield; 3. Suspension chain; 4. Spearhead; 5. Sword/scabbard

(after Horváth M.A. (2014) A Decorated La Tène Sword from the Budapest–Csepel Island. –
https://www.academia.edu/9541006/Horv%C3%A1th_M._A._A_Decorated_La_T%C3%A8ne_Sword_from_the_Budapest_Csepel_Island_IN_Berecki_S._ed._Iron_Age_Crafts_and_Craftsmen_in_the_Carpathian_Basin_BMM-SA_VII_Mega_2014_p._161-170 )

 

 

 

 

Of particular interest is cremation burial #6 at the site, analysis of which has indicated that the deceased was deposited in a large chamber constructed of timber. Such Celtic burials have been previously recorded in Hungary and Slovakia but, due to practical and environmental factors, have rarely been studied in detail.

 

 

cremation grave 6

Cremation burial #6 at Csepel Island (3rd c. BC)

 

cremation grave 6 recon.

Graphic reconstruction of the burial based on the archaeological data

 

( After Horváth 2012 (in Hungarian) – https://www.academia.edu/6969233/S%C3%ADrszerkezet_rekonstrukci%C3%B3s_k%C3%ADs%C3%A9rlet_egy_La_T%C3%A8ne_kori_temetkez%C3%A9s_kapcs%C3%A1n._Versuch_der_Grabrekonstruktion_eines_lat%C3%A9ne-zeitlichen_Begr%C3%A4bnisses._Budapest_R%C3%A9gis%C3%A9gei_XLV_2012._91-110 )

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Celtic cremation burials from Hungary see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/celtic-death/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late La Têne Celtic Ceramic from Bulgaria

UD: December 2018

blan. h

.
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

.

THE CULT OF THE HUMAN HEAD IN CELTIC EUROPE

UD: Feb. 2019

 

 

“Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world.”

 (Jacobsthal 1944)

 

2 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - La Tarasque de Noves 1 c. BC - The Tarasque de Noves anthropophagous statue, displayed in the Musée Calvet in Avignon, is attributed to the Cavares.

 

“… they hang the heads of their enemies from the necks of their horses, and, when they have brought them home, nail the spectacle to the entrances of their homes”.
(Strabo IV, 4:5)

 

“Trophy Skull” from the Celtic settlement at  Kobern-Gondorf (Rhineland-Palatinate), Germany

(1st c. BC)

 

Human head (sandstone) discovered at the gate of the Celtic hillfort / oppidum at Závist in southern Prague. (Analysis has shown that the sculpture is complete, i.e. the head did not come from a statue). Such stone heads have been discovered in Celtic settlements and cult sites across Europe.

(2-1 c. BC)

No photo description available.

Limestone sculpture from Mšecké Žehrovice in the Czech Republic

(1 c. BC)

 

 

In the year 1904 a rather strange artifact was discovered at an ancient burial site near the village of Deta (Timiş county), Romania. The ceramic head (0.30 – 0.35 cm in height) represents a bald male with neither facial hair nor eyebrows, a straight nose and a pointed chin (fig. 1).

Deta 2

Fig. 1 – The Deta Head

(after Rustoiu 2012)

 

Initially interpreted as part of a statue, and identified as ‘Prehistoric’ and ‘Bronze Age’, it has subsequently emerged that the Deta head, now dated to the late Iron Age (LTC1), comes from a Celtic kantharos of the ‘Danubian Type’, and represents one of many such Celtic anthropomorphic decorative elements / artifacts from this period recorded in south-eastern Europe.

The Danubian kantharoi represent a ceramic category adopted by the eastern Celts from a range of vessels specific to the Mediterranean region, and appear to have had special religious functions. 3 main types of Celtic kantharoi developed during this period (LTB2 – C1) – the 1st type consisting of close copies of Hellenistic originals, the 2nd type resembling local bowls to which 2 handles were added, and a 3rd type of large bi-truncated vessels, also with added handles (loc cit).

 

 

Bland. B

 

Bland 1

Fig. 2 – Celtic kantharos with anthropomorphic decoration from Blandiana, Alba County, Romania

(after Rustoiu, Egri 2010)

 

 

a - Csepel Island pseudo-Kantharos - warrior burial 3rd c. BC - good

Kantharos with anthropomorphic handles from a Celtic warrior burial (#149) at Csepel Island, Budapest

(3rd c. BC)

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/celtic-budapest-the-burial-complex-from-csepel-island/

 

 

 Variants of such vessels continued to be produced by the Balkan Celtic population right up to the Roman conquest at the end of the 1st c. BC, as has recently  been confirmed by examples such as that used as a funeral urn in the female Celtic burial (#10) at the Bratya Daskalovi site (Stara Zagora region) in south-central Bulgaria which has been dated to the late 1st c. BC (Tonkova et al 2011). Such kantharoi, dating to the late 2nd/ 1st c. BC, have also been recorded at cult centres in Thrace, such as that at Babyak in the western Rhodope mountains of s.w. Bulgaria. At the latter site the kantharoi, along with other artefacts including metal objects and zoomorphic cult firepots, were ritually ‘killed’ in the typical Celtic fashion.

Other Celtic vessels with anthropomorphic decoration from s.e. Europe include examples such as the kantharos from burial #23 at Belgrad-Karaburma, and vessels from Kósd, Kakasd, Csepel Island, Balatonederics, Rogvágy, Levice, Blandiana, etc. The Deta head has particularly close stylistic parallels in 2 heads from vessels discovered at Kósd (Hungary) and a head from a limestone stele discovered at Ciulniţa (Romania), while the stone ‘Janus’ heads from the Roquepertuse site in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur région of southern France bear distinct similarities to these eastern Celtic examples (Rustoiu op cit.).

 

 

Baslatonederocs – Keszthely, Hungary, III century BC kantharos antropomorphic decoration

Upper end of handle on a pot from Balatonederics (Hungary) – 3rd c. BC

 

Kosd n.

Fig. 3 – Anthropomorphic representations on the beakers from Kósd

(after Rustoiu 2012)

 

 

Ciuln hed

Fig. 4 – Head from a Limestone stele from Ciulniţa

(after Teleagă 2008)

 

Roque.

Fig. 5 – ‘Janus’ Heads from Roquepertuse

 

 

J

The two-faced pre-Christian deity on Boa Island (Fermanagh), Ireland

 

Winged head on the obverse of a Celtic tetradrachm from western Hungary (late 2nd c. BC)

Bronze Celtiberian fibula from Lancia/Villasabariego (Castile and León), Spain. Note the decapitated head below the horses face.

(3/2 c. BC)

 

 

Further stylistic analogies to the aforementioned ceramic heads from Deta, Kósd, and the stone head from Ciulniţa  have been identified (Rustoiu 2012) in a gold ‘Janus’ head pendant from the Schumen region of north-eastern Bulgaria, and a ceramic head dated to the same period (late 4th/ 3rd c. BC) from Seuthopolis in the so-called ‘Valley of the Thracian Kings’, as well as in the glass ‘face beads’ which became common in eastern Europe during the same period (loc cit; fig. 7 – 9).

 

 

Fig. 6 – Gold Celtic ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, north-eastern Bulgaria

(3 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/%ce%ba%cf%8c%cf%81%ce%b1%ce%bb%ce%bb%ce%bf%ce%b9-the-celts-in-eastern-bulgaria/

 

C T. 1

Fig. 7 – Celtic ‘Face Beads’ from Romania

1: Mangalia 2: Pişcolt

 

Such glass ‘face beads’ have been unearthed in recent years during excavations at a number of sites in Bulgaria, such as Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region), Appolonia Pontica (Sozopol), Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region), Burgas, Kavarna (Dobruja region), etc.

 

Th. gl. 1

Fig. 8 – Glass ‘Face Bead’ from Mogilanska Tumulus (Vratza region, Bulgaria)

 

 

Th. g 2

Fig. 9 – Glass ‘face bead’ from Mavrova Tumulus (Starosel, Plovdiv region, Bulgaria)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/the-celtic-evil-eye/

 

 

 Previously ascribed to contact between the Hellenistic areas and the Celts of the Tyle state in eastern Bulgaria (Szabó 2000:11), it has subsequently emerged that in fact these appear earlier in the Celtic environment, as has been conclusively proven by examples discovered in burials # 191 and 202 (LT B1) or # 1, 16, 191, and 194 (LTB2) from Piscolţ in Romania (Rustoiu 2012).

 

 

2 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - La Tarasque de Noves 1 c. BC - The Tarasque de Noves anthropophagous statue, displayed in the Musée Calvet in Avignon, is attributed to the Cavares.

La Tarasque de Noves. Anthropophagous statue from Noves in the Bouches-du-Rhône, France.

A dismembered limb hangs from its snarling mouth, and clutched in each front claw is a human skull. The statue is attributed to the Cavares tribe (/tribal federation), meaning “The Giants”.

(1st century BC)

 

 

Bronze applique in the form of a human head from a Celtic chariot burial at Roissy (Val-d’Oise), France

(3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Jacobsthal P. (1944) Early Celtic Art. Oxford

Rustoiu A., Egri M. (2010) Danubian Kantharoi – Almost Three Decades Later. In: Iron age Communities in the Carpathian Basin. Proceedings of the International Colloquium from Târgu Mureş, 9-11 October 2009.Cluj-Napoca 2010. P. 217-287

Rustoiu A. (2012) The Ceramic Human Head from Deta (Timiş County). About the La Têne Vessels with Anthropomorphic Decoration from the Carpathian Basin. In: Analele Banatului, S.N., Arheologie-Istorie, XX, 2012. Pp. 57-72

Teleagă E. (2008) Griechische Importe in den Nekropolen an der unteren Donau. 6 Jh. – Anfang des 3 Jh. v. Chr., Marburger Studien zur Vor- und Frügeschichte, Bd. 23, Rahden/Westf.

Тonkova, Gotcheva (2008) = Тонкова, М. и Гоцевa  A.. Тракийското светилище при Бабяк и неговата археологическа среда. София

Tonkova et al (2011) = Трако-римски династичен център в районна Чирпанските възвишения Тонкова M. (ed.) София

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LADY IN THE OVEN – Mediolana and the Zaravetz Culture

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LADY IN THE OVEN

 

 

The most extraordinary ancient ‘burial’ to be discovered in recent years is that of a woman found in a pottery kiln near the Celtic settlement of Ablana (by the village of Krivina, Rousse region) on the Bulgarian Danube. This burial is remarkable for a number of reasons, foremost among them its situation – in a large pottery kiln – symbolic of the thriving barbarian culture which inhabited this region in the Late Iron Age, and also for the nature of the burial – archaeological testimony to the brutal fashion in which this culture was destroyed.

 

 

WMN OVEN

 

 

 

 

 

Ru. map

 

 

 

 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXT

 

 

 

MEDIOLANA

 

 

Recent discoveries of Celtic archaeological sites and material from the Rousse area (and northeastern Bulgaria in general) have confirmed previous linguistic and numismatic evidence that this area was one of the key Celtic economic and political centers in late Iron Age Thrace. From an economic perspective, the most significant Celtic center on this stretch of the Danube was situated at Mediolana (modern Pirgovo, Rousse region) (see ‘Celtic Settlements in n. Bulgaria’ article). Mediolana was strategically situated near the confluence of the Danube and the Lom river, the latter connecting Mediolana with Celtic settlements in the interior such as Abritu (Razgrad). A vast amount of Celtic archaeological and numismatic material has been discovered in the vicinity of Pirgovo/Mediolana over the past century, including separate hoards of Celtic coins found in 1910, 1938, 1979, and 2008 around the village (see Numismatics section, especially ‘Little Metal Men’ article, with relevant lit.), clearly indicating that Mediolana/Pirgovo was a key Celtic economic and coin production center in the pre-Roman period.

 

 

 

Mediolana Td.

Celtic tetradrachms of the Sattelkopfpferd type from Pirgovo/Mediolana, Russe Region (from the 1978 hoard)

 

 

 

 Further hoards of Celtic coins discovered in the Rousse area include 4 hoards found in the area of Rousse city (Gerassimov 1966:213; Preda 1973:209, # 36;  Draganov 2001:40; Gerassimov 1966:213; Preda 1973:209, # 35; Gerassimov 1979:138;Jurukova 1979:60; Prokopov 2006, # 260), as well as from the villages of Slivo Pole (Gerassimov 1969:234; Preda 1973:240, no. 47) and  Nikolovo (Gerassimov 1952, 403-404; Preda 1973:240, # 44) (both beside the Celtic settlement of Tegris), Belyanovo (Gerassimov 1963:257; Draganov 2001: 40)(beside the Celtic settlement of Ablana), Ostritsa (Gerassimov 1962:231; Draganov 2001:40) and Pepelina (Gerassimov 1966:213; Preda 1998:219) (both on the Lom river, slightly to the south of the Celtic settlement at Pirgovo/Mediolana), Mechka (Moushmov 1932:314) (beside Mediolana), and Pissanets (Shkorpil, 1914:49, fig. 46.2; Gerassimov, 1939:344).

  The recent publication of a ‘mother matrix’ for the production of Celtic coinage of the ‘Sattlekopfpferd’ type discovered in the Rousse region confirms large-scale Celtic coin production in this area.

 

 

 

Ru. MM

The ‘Mother-Matrix’ for production of Celtic “Sattelkopfpferd” tetradrachms from the Rousse area (late 2nd / early 1st c. BC)

(see ‘Mother Matrix’ article)

 

 

 

 

THE ZARAVETZ CULTURE

 

 Further Celtic settlements on this short stretch of the Danube included Ablana (today’s Gorno Ablanovo) to the west of Mediolana, and Tegris (today’s Marten) and Appiaria  (placed XIV and IX Roman miles from Tegris(respectively TP and IA), to the east of Mediolana (see ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article). As with Mediolana, Ablana was situated at a vital strategic point – in this case near the confluence of the Jantra river with the Danube. Extensive Celtic archaeological and numismatic material discovered along the courses of both the Lom and Jantra rivers indicate that these were vital trade arteries connecting Celtic settlements on the Danube with those in the interior (see below).

  A high concentration of La Têne and Celtic numismatic material has been registered in northeastern Bulgaria, particularly in the aforementioned Rousse region on the Danube, and in the Veliko Tarnovo, Targovischte, Schumen, Razgrad and Western Varna regions (see Numismatics and Archaeology sections, especially ‘New Material 1 – 2’ articles).

 

 

Var. weap

Celtic Burial Artifacts from North-Eastern Bulgaria (Varna Archaeological Museum)

(see ‘Killing the Objects’ article)

 

 

 

 It should be noted that this concentration of La Têne and Celtic numismatic evidence also coincides exactly with the area of distribution of the Celtic Zaravetz lead and bronze coinage, indicating  that whereas the area further to the east and northeast was dominated by the Peucini Bastarnae (see ‘Bastarnae’ and ‘Peucini’ articles), this area was settled by different Celtic groups. Concentrations of the Zaravetz type coinage, in combination with the other types of Celtic coinage and La Têne material, in the Veliko Tarnovo/western Schumen region, such as that discovered in the cultural layers at Zaravetz hillfort (Veliko Tarnovo) indicate that this area, connected to the Danube settlements by the Jantra river, was also a key Celtic political and economic center in the late Iron Age.

 

 

 

VTF

Bronze Celtic fibula with zoomorphic ring from Veliko Tarnovo  (After Mircheva 2007)

 (see ‘New Material 2’ article)

 

 

 

Zarav coin

(see Numismatics section 8)

 

 

VAr. BAFM

 

Mould for the production of Celtic ‘Battle-Axe’ fibulae from northeastern Bulgaria – Varna regional Museum

(see ‘New Material 2’ article)

 

 

This mould is similar to another found in the Vratza region of northwestern Bulgaria. It is dated to the 1st c. BC, and was used for making Middle La Têne fibulae. A silver Celtic fibulae from Gorni Dabnik (Pleven region, Bulgaria) is very similar to the form produced by the Varna and Vratza moulds. It belongs to a certain type of nodular ‘battle-axe’ fibulae.

 

 

 

 

It appears that the main Celtic group in this area of Bulgaria were the Coralli (see ‘Coralli’ article). Another Celtic group, the Aboulonsoi, who were settled in the area between Tutrakan (Trasmarisca) and Razgrad (Abritu) (see ‘Celtic Settlements in n. Bulgaria’ article), were probably a sub-group of the Coralli. La Têne material in eastern Bulgaria, as far south as the valley of the Kamchya river in the w. Varna region, and sites such as the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo (Schumen region) have long been attributed to the Coralli (Domaradski 1984; on the Coralli tribe see ‘Coralli’ article, with relevant lit.).

 

 

 

Kal. A

Material from the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo, Shumen region

               (After Megaw 2004 – see ‘New Material 2’ article)

 

 

 

 

Sch. M

Mould for the production of La Têne fibulae – Schumen region

(After Mircheva 2007 – see ‘New Material 2’ article)

 

The mould was used to produce fibulae of the type found at the Celtic burial site at Kalnovo, others found in Serbia, and another example from north-eastern Bulgaria, now in the Varna museum

 

 

 

 

 

Sh. Jan

Gold Celtic ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, northeastern Bulgaria

(after Rustoiu A. 2008)

(See ‘The Mezek Syndrome’ article with relevant lit.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boba. C

Bronze Celtic chariot fitting from Bobata fortress, Schumen region

 

(see ‘ New Celtic Material 1’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

KRIVINA/ABLANA

 

One of the most fascinating sites to be discovered in recent years in this part of Bulgaria is the Celtic settlement at Chichov Elak on the Danube, again in the Rousse region of northeastern Bulgaria (Vagalinski L. A new Late La Tène pottery kiln with a bread oven on the lower Danube (northern Bulgaria) In: The Eastern Celts. The Communities between the Alps and the Black Sea.  Božič D. (ed) Koper -Beograd 2011. p. 219-226). This site, which lay to the west of Mediolana, is near the modern village of Krivina, and in immediate proximity to the Celtic settlement of Ablana. It is again situated at a strategic location – on the confluence of the Danube and the Jantra river (now 2km. east of the Jantra, before the construction of a dam in the 1920’s the river reached the northern end of the village), thus connected via the Jantra to Celtic settlements in the interior.

 

 

Kiln map

 

Location of the Chichov Elak Site

 

 

 

 

The recent excavations at Chichov Elak (carried out by Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (NIAMBAS), illustrates that this was not just a trading post, but an important Celtic economic centre in its own right, as the discovery of a bread oven and a large ceramic kiln at the site indicates. The kiln, which is dated roughly to the end of the 1st c. BC/beginning of the 1st c. AD, is especially noteworthy for a number of reasons. It’s unusually large size reveals a high capacity of manufacture, i.e. the mass production of Celtic ceramic, which included late La Têne painted ware. This type of ceramic was popular among the Celtic tribes from Normandy to southwest Germany in the west, to the Scordisci in the east, and especially along the Danube (Břeň 1973, Andrews 1991, Sladič 1986 note 90, Cumberpatch 1993, Vagalinski 2011 with relevant lit.), and is usually found in large settlements such as the Celtic oppida. It was produced by professional potters, and used by people of high social status. It is usually found together with late La Têne burnished pottery – exactly the case with the Celtic site at Krivina.

 

 

Kiln A 1

A.

 

 

Kil A 2

 

B.

 

 

Pottery Kiln (A) with detail of the flue (B)

 

(after Vagalinski 2011)

 

 

 

The kiln was dug into the hillside, and the Celtic potters used the hardness and the firmness of the thick loess layer, shaping the furnace (combustion chamber) and the flue (fire-tunnel) in it. The kiln is circular in form – the maximum diameter of the grate is 2.45 m (along the 45-225º axis), 2.40 m  (along the north-south axis or 0-180º), 2.34 m (along the east-west axis or 90-270º), and 2.27 m (along the 135-315º axis). The height of the furnace from the kiln foor to the upper end of the support wall is 0.75 m.

 

 

 

 

 

Both handmade and wheel-thrown pottery were found at the site. The handmade pottery included jars and cup-like vessels. It has also emerged that the latter, which have been referred to by Bulgarian and Romanian archaeologists as ‘Thracian-Dacian types of cups’, are actually Celtic lamps (Vagalinski 2011:204).

 

 

 

 

Kr. Cr

 

A Handmade Jar and Painted Pottery found in the Pottery Kiln

 

 

 

 

 

The final phase of this Celtic settlement/economic complex is roughly dated to the end of the 1st c. BC, and in the eastern part of the kiln was found the body of a female. The skeleton, of a woman of 35-40 years of age, was 1.66 m. long, and its location and absence of any burial goods indicate that this was not a burial per se, but that the woman’s body was simply discarded in the oven. The dating of the ‘burial’ coincides with the end of the barbarian Zaravetz culture, and the beginning of the Roman period in this region.

 

 

 

WMN OVEN

The Female Body found on the Kiln’s Grate

(after Vagalinski 2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Krivina site is the latest example of the growing contradiction in Bulgarian archaeological science. The only ceramic production center to be found in ‘Late Hellenistic Thrace’ is a Celtic complex for the mass production of La Têne ceramic (Vagalinski, op cit). This once again highlights the Celtic presence in late Iron Age Thrace and, together with other discoveries in the Rousse region, and the large amounts of Celtic numismatic and La Têne material recorded in north-eastern, north-central, north-western, south-central, and south-western Bulgaria (see Archaeology and Numismatics sections), clearly illustrates that the territory of today’s Bulgaria in the pre-Roman period was inhabited by a population that had a significant (in many areas, dominant) Celtic element.