Tag Archive: lead coins

Est coins -j





Although extensive archaeological material from western Ukraine testifies to significant Celtic settlement in the region from the 3rd c. BC onwards (Kazakevich 2012), published finds of Celtic coinage from this region has hitherto been confined to the Upper Tisza and Dneister Estuary areas.









In the occupation layers at the Celtic settlement at Gut (Garazdivka, Beregivs’ kyj district) over 100 Celtic coins of the ‘’Philip II type’’ were discovered in a ceramic vessel, among them examples of the Huşi-Vorieşti type attributed to the Celto-Scythian Bastarnae (loc cit). The latter type have recently  been discovered in hoards along with other Celtic coins at sites such as Pelczyska in southern Poland (Rudnicki 2003; See ‘The Celts in Poland’ article) and the examples from Gut are further evidence of the close political and economic links between the Bastarnae and other Celtic tribes north of the Carpathians.



Hus v.

Bastarnae Huşi-Vovrieşti type tetradrachms from Pelczyska

(after Rudnicki 2003)




 At the Mala Kopanya hillfort (Vynogradivs’kyj district), in addition to a large amount of Celtic material including 7 ritually ‘killed’ late La Têne swords (Kazakevich 2012) a substantial amount of Celtic coins of the ‘Philip II types’ have been documented.




Mala j.

Celtic ‘Philip II’ type coins found during the 2011 excavations at Mala Kopanya. The coins are of types associated with the Transylvanian Celts (Göbl var. 254/269/ 269.1/ 269.9)



 Interesting is the discovery at the site during the excavations in 2011 of a number of Roman Republican denars (4 examples) and drachms of the Illyrian colonies of Dyrrachium (x3) and Appolonia (x4). Large amounts of coins of these Illyrian towns have been recorded in the territory of the Celtic Scordisci in today’s western Serbia and northern Bulgaria and it is thought that these reached the Balkan interior and the Danube region as a direct result of the historically recorded Celtic campaigns against the Romans in the western Balkans in the 2nd decade of the 1st c. BC.  (see ‘The Mystery of the Illyrian Cows’ article). Their presence in the Upper Tisza region is therefore clear evidence of extensive trade contacts between the Scordisci in Thrace and the Celts of western Ukraine.




Illyr j.

Drachms of the Illyrian Colonies Dyrrachium and Appolonia discovered during the 2011 excavations at Mala Kopanya





 At the largest Celtic settlement in western Ukraine, on the Galish and Lovachka hills near Mukacheve, along with a substantial amount of other Celtic archaeological material (Iron weapons, tools, pottery etc.) ‘more than 30’ Celtic coins of the Macedonian types (Philip II and III ‘imitations’) have been discovered. These include examples of the Kopf ohne kinn/Rad, w-reiter, Vogel auf Zweig, Vogel auf Helm, Schnurrbart/Rosette, Audoleontyp, Audoleon monogram, Reiter mit Kurzen Armen, Armloser Reiter, Schild + Kranz, and Schild + Schwert types (Kazakevich op cit).





Celtic Tetradrachm of the ‘’Armloser Reiter’’ type










Most fascinating are a number of Celtic coins discovered in the Dneister Estuary area of Ukraine, which provide valuable new information on cultural and economic relations in the western Pontus (Black Sea) region in the immediate pre-Roman period. For example, 7 Celtic coins currently in the numismatic collection of the Odesa Museum were discovered in the Dneister Estuary area. These consist of a gold 1/8 stater, a silver didrachma, a silver drachma, and 4 lead ‘drachms’.




Est coins -jCeltic Coins from the Dneister Estuary area


(Odesa Museum, Numismatics Collection)





 Most surprising is the fact that, with the exception of the 1/8 gold stater, all of these Celtic coins are of types minted in the area of today’s northern Bulgaria in the 2nd/ 1st c. BC.

 The first of these coins is of the silver “Sattelkopfpferd” type , which recent studies have shown were mass produced by the Celtic tribes of northeastern Bulgaria, with the main production center being in the Rousse area around the Celtic settlement of Mediolana (Pirgovo) on the Danube (Paunov 2012; see also ‘Deus Ex Machina – Celtic Hoards from Thrace’, ‘Mediolana and the Zaravetz Culture’, and ‘The Mother Matrix’ articles).




Dni, Sat

Celtic ‘Sattelkopfpferd’ silver Issue from the Dneister Estuary

(Odesa Numismatics Museum)




Celtic Silver Sattlekopfpferd type coins from the Pirgovo / 1977 hoard, Rousse region, n.e. Bulgaria

(Regional Historical Museum Russe)





rou. mat

A cast bronze die (matrix) for Celtic coinage of type Sattelkofpferd from northeastern Bulgaria

(Rousse Numismatic Museum (see ‘The Mother Matrix’ article with cited lit.)




Despite its poor condition, the second example can be identified as a silver Drachma of the Philip III / Alexander III type. Large amounts of these coins were also produced by the Bulgarian Celtic tribes in the 2nd/ 1st c. BC. Finds of such coins in Thrace are concentrated between the Danube and Stara Planina (Balkan) mountains, with a further concentration in south-central Bulgaria in the Stara Zagora/Plovdiv area (Paunov 2012; see also ‘Coin hoards from Thrace’ article). The Dneister Estuary drachm would appear to be an earlier example of these Celtic imitations, produced around the end of the 2nd c. BC.




Dni. dr

Celtic Silver Drachma from the Dneister Estuary





Seg raz.

Celtic ‘Philip III type’ drachma from Razgrad, n.e. Bulgaria (late 2nd c. BC)

(see Numismatics sections 1 & 8)




Sg. br

Late examples of Celtic ‘Philip III type’ drachms (circa 50 BC) from Bratya Daskalovi, south-central Bulgaria










Celtic coinage from the Dneister Estuary also includes lead ‘drachms’ described as ‘’Philip II derivations’’. In fact, these are actually Celtic Zaravetz type coins imitating the coinage of the Greek Black Sea colony of Odessos (Varna).



Zaravet DneisterCeltic lead Zaravetz coins from the Dneister Estuary


(Odesa Museum, Numismatics Collection)





Zar 1 det.

Celtic lead Zaravetz Issue – Northeastern Bulgaria (2nd c. BC)

(See Mac Gonagle 2015)




The distribution and concentration of the Zaravetz bronze and lead issues indicate that they were produced by the Celtic tribes in the Veliko Tarnovo/ Schumen area of Northeastern Bulgaria between the 3rd – 1st c. BC. The lead coins, unlike the silver Celtic issues, had little intrinsic value (chemical analysis has shown a lead content of 98.25%), and therefore could only have circulated within the framework of a highly organized economic and political structure/state. The presence of these and other Celtic coins in the Dneister Estuary area logically indicates that the sphere of influence of the barbarian Zaravetz Culture stretched much further north than previously thought.











On the Celts and Celticization in Ukraine see:



















Literature Cited



Kazakevich G. (2012) Celtic Military Equipment from the Territory of Ukraine: Towards a new Warrior Identity in the pre-Roman Eastern Europe. In: Transforming Traditions: Studies in Archaeology, Comparative Linguistics and Narrative. Studia Celto-Slavica 6. p. 177- 212. Lódź.

Paunov E. (2013) From Koine To Romanitas: The Numismatic Evidence For Roman Expansion And Settlement In Bulgaria In Antiquity (Moesia and Thrace, ca. 146 BC – AD 98/117) Phd. Thesis. School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Cardiff University. November  2012.

Rudnicki M. (2003) Celtic coin finds from a settlement of the La Tène period at Pełczyska. In: Wiadomości Numizmatyczne 47/1 (Polish Numismatic News 7), 2003, 1-24.
















Mac Congail


















Mac Congail


In the early 1980’s excavations carried out at the Hill of Zaravetz (Zarevetz/Tsarevetz)  (Veliko Tarnovo) turned up unexpected results. Under the medieval Bulgarian capital, in what archaeologists expected to be layers pertaining to the Thracian culture, artifacts and habitation layers relating to a completely different culture began to appear. The settlement layers from the late Iron Age yielded La Têne material (Kvinto 1985) which clearly indicated that the site had been inhabited by a Celtic population. Subsequent excavations at the site in recent years have uncovered further material which confirms the earlier findings. (see ‘New Material (2)’ article)

   In the context of the present study of most interest are a number of coins found in the Celtic habitation layers at the site. In total 5 coins were uncovered – one bronze of Alexander III (the Great) and 4 ‘barbarian’ issues – 2 bronze and 2 lead. The barbarian coins were ignored in academic circles until further publications of such coins followed over the next decades. (Lazarov 1992; Burvarov 1994; Topalov 1999; Mac Congail 2008) It has subsequently emerged that these low value barbarian emissions provide invaluable information about the culture which inhabited northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age.

   The Celtic Zaravetz type coins are based on autonomous bronze emissions of the Greek colony of Odessos (Fig. 1) which had been previously dated generally to the  3rd – 1st c. BC. The fact that the Celtic ‘imitations’  (Fig. 2) have been found in an archaeological context which dates to the end of the 3rd – beginning of the 2nd c. BC logically dates the Greek prototype to the period prior to the end of the 3rd c. BC.



In terms of distribution the Zaravetz issues have been discovered in an area which includes most of present day northeastern Bulgaria, with a particularly high concentration in the Veliko Tarnovo area. (See map  n8) Besides the Zaravetz hillfort (map n8 #1), further examples have been recorded in Veliko Tarnovo itself (Lazarov 1992), the Hill(fort) at Rachovetz, 7 km. north of Veliko Tarnovo,( map n8#2; Burvarov 1994; Topalov, 1999, 160) and in the vicinity of the village of Samovodene, slightly to the west of Veliko Tarnovo (map n8 #3; Gerasimov 1934). Other finds have been recorded in northeastern Bulgaria at Byala (Russe region) (map n8 # 4; Mac Congail  2008: 46-48), Schumen (map n8 # 5; Lazarov 1992; Topalov, 1999, 260 – 270 and 310 – 313), Tutrakan (Silestra region) (map n8 #6 -Fig. 3), Razgrad (map n8 #7 – Fig. 4 ), Opaka (Targovischte region) (map n8 #8; Gerasimov 1979; Stoykov 2002-2003), as well as in large numbers from the western Varna region (map n8 #9; Lazarov 1992; Topalov 1999; Mac Congail 2008).



 The local Celtic coinage circulating in northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age therefore ranged from Celtic silver tetradrachmas of the Philip II and Thasos types, drachmas of the Philip III type, while the lower value coinage consisted of the aforementioned Zaravetz bronze and lead issues. This broad spectrum of coinage of differing intrinsic and economic value indicates a highly developed and organized economic system among the ‘barbarian’ population of this area in the pre-Roman period.


  From a scientific perspective the lowest value coins – the Zaravetz lead issues are most significant. (Chemical analysis has shown a lead content of 98.25%; Lazarov 1992: 20-21) Coins minted in lead are unknown in Europe in this period, and were produced neither by the Celtic culture nor in the Greco-Roman world. The Zaravetz leads as part of the coinage system in northeastern Bulgaria in the late Iron Age would therefore appear to be a unique numismatic phenomenon. 


  As has been pointed out (Lazarov 1992), such coins would not, because of their low intrinsic value, have circulated beyond the borders of the authority which issued them. The distribution of these coins therefore logically enables us to roughly delineate the extent of the Zaravetz Culture in the III-I c. BC period. Based on the present data at our disposal (topographic, historical and archaeological as well as numismatic – see ‘The Zaravetz Culture’ article – forthcoming) the influence of this ‘state’, which was in fact probably more a confederation of tribal groups, covered an area which extended to the Jantra river in the west, the Danube in the north, and the Stara Planina (Balkan) mountains in the south. In the east the Greek Pontus cities remained autonomous, but intense trade links between the latter and the Celto-Thracian state in the interior is indicated by numismatic data. The fact that the Zaravetz issues themselves are modeled on an Odessos bronze prototype further confirms these close economic links.

  Extensive trade links between the Zaravetz Celts of northeastern Bulgaria and the ‘Scordisci’ in the northwest of the country is confirmed by the circulation of Celtic Thasos, Philip II and Philip III issues throughout northern Bulgaria during this period. (see relevant sections) A similarly close economic relationship appears to have developed between the Celto-Thracian Zaravetz culture and the Bastarnae (Peucini) in the area of Scythia Minor (corresponding roughly to today’s Dobruja region in northeastern Bulgarian and southeastern Romania). (See ‘Bastarnae’ article – forthcoming) Discoveries of Celtic coins in Bastarnae territory, particularly in the Kavarna-Balchik-Silestra area, as well as archaeological data, indicates intensive trade and cultural contacts between the Bastarnae and the Zaravetz Celts, while the minting of Hellenistic type coins by the Bastarnae on which the royal title ‘Basileus’ is used (Fig 5/6), indicates that the latter, as was the case with the Greek cities on the coast, remained economically and politically independent – these relationships being  mutually beneficial from an economic perspective.







 * Does not include Celtic Paeonia ‘imitations’, coins of the ‘Tyle’ state or Bastarnae coins











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