Tag Archive: Scordisci weapons


UD: March 2017

 

Karabur sp

 

 

One of the most fascinating aspects of Iron Age European society is the deposition of weapons and other artifacts in various ritual contexts. This is particularly true of spearheads which have been found in Celtic burials and religious sites across the continent. In fact, such ritual deposition can be traced back to the European Bronze Age, with numerous examples recorded from across the continent.

 

 

a - -a -a -a Copper alloy socketed spearhead. Blade rapier-shapedBuckinghamshire,Taplow, river Thames - rapier shp rare - only 3 Brit 7 Irel - 1390 BC -1000 BC MBA

Socketed spearhead with rapier-shaped blade deposited in the River Thames at Taplow (Buckinghamshire), England. (Dated ca. 1,200 BC)

(See also Gibson G. (2013) Beakers Into Bronze: Tracing Connections Between Western Iberia And The British Isles 2800-800. In: Celtic From The West 2. Oxford 2013. pp. 71-100)

 

Spear water type 3

Celtic spearheads discovered in the River Sava between Slavonski Šamac, Croatia and Šamac, Republika Srpska/Bosnia and Herzegovina (2/1 c. BC)

On Celtic material from the Sava River see also:

https://www.academia.edu/5463297/The_Power_of_3_-_Some_Observations_On_Eastern_Celtic_Helmets

 

 

 

Another phenomenon frequently associated with such deposition is the ritual of ‘killing the objects’ – the deliberate breaking or bending of objects before deposition. While this custom is to be observed throughout the European Bronze and Iron Ages, its exact significance remains unclear, as does the question of why some objects are ‘killed’ while others in the same context are deposited intact.

 

srem

Ritually ‘killed’ spearhead and other artifacts from the burial of a Celtic (Scordisci) cavalry officer at Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia (1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-warrior-and-his-wife-a-scordisci-burial-from-serbia/

 

Ritually 'killed' iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain 5-4 c. BC

Ritually deformed iron spear (soliferreum) from the Celtiberian necropolis of El Altillo (Guadalajara), Spain (5/4 c. BC)

On ‘Killing The Objects’:

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

 

 

 

“STABBING DEATH”

 

In terms of weaponry, although all manner of Celtic military equipment is found in such ritual contexts most common are spearheads registered in numerous Iron Age Celtic warrior burials across Europe.

 

zvon

Ritually ‘killed’ sword/scabbard and spearheads in a Celtic warrior burial (LT 96) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-celtic-burials-at-zvonimirovo-croatia/

 

 

 

A fascinating phenomenon to be observed among the Balkan Celts in the later Iron Age, i.e. the period of the Scordisci Wars against Rome, is the custom of ‘stabbing’ spears into the warrior burials. The main assault weapon of the Balkan Celtic warrior, numerous cases of spears being stabbed into burials in this distinctive fashion have been recorded throughout the region, particularly among the Scordisci tribes in eastern Croatia, southwestern Romania, Serbia and northern Bulgaria.

 

 

zvon stabbed

Spearhead ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (LT 48) at Zvonimirovo (Croatia) (2nd c. BC)

 

Karabur sp

Celtic spear ‘stabbed’ into a Celtic warrior burial (#11) at Karaburma (Belgrade), Serbia (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

The spear treated in this fashion from burial #11 at Karaburma is of a very specific Balkan Celtic type (Drnić type 3), dating to the 1st century BC, with two grooves on both sides of the blade. Examples of such have been discovered in Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burials stretching from Slavonski Šamac and Otok near Vinkovci in eastern Croatia (Map #1,2), through Serbia and southwestern Romania to Borovan and Tarnava in northwestern Bulgaria (Map # 11,12)*.

 

 

Map

Distribution of recorded finds of Balkan Celtic Type 3 spearheads in eastern Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria (1st century BC)

https://www.academia.edu/19901603/La_T%C3%A8ne_spearheads_from_south-eastern_Pannonia_and_the_northern_Balkans_typology_chronology_ritual_and_social_context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Celtic / La Têne material within the modern borders of Bulgaria and Romania is still attributed by many Thracologists to the ‘Padea-Panagjurski Kolonii group’ – a pseudo-culture invented by communist scientists in the 1970’s as part of the Protochronism process.

See:

https://www.academia.edu/27923462/On_Communism_Nationalism_and_Pseudoarchaeology_in_Romania_and_Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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koinare - Copy

 

 

 

 

The village of Koynare (Pleven region) is situated on the left bank of the Iskar river in north-western Bulgaria, an area which over the past century has yielded probably the highest concentration of Iron Age warrior burials in Europe – the vast majority discovered ‘accidentally’ by the local population (Domaradski 1984, Torbov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013).

 

 

 

Koyn map

Finds of Celtic weapons and location of Koynare in north-western Bulgaria

(afte Paunov 2013)

 

 

 

The late Iron Age burial at Koynare has been dated to the La Tene D1 period (1st c. BC), and included material typical of a Balkan Celtic warrior burial of this period – La Tene sword/scabbard, circular shield umbo, spearheads, dagger (sica), and a H-shaped horse bit (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).

 

 

 

SWORD/SCABBARD

 

Discovered together with fragments of its scabbard, the Koynare sword is one of over 60 examples of Celtic La Tene C2/D swords to have been discovered in the area of north-western Bulgaria between the Timok and Iskar rivers alone. These swords are identical to the Belgrade 2 / Mokronog 2-4, and Belgrade 3 / Mokronog 5-6 type Celtic swords from Scordisci burials in neighboring Serbia (Torbov 2000, Mac Gonagle 2013).

 

 

SHIELD UMBO

 

The circular shield umbo from Koynare is of the Novo Mesto type. Further examples of this specific type of Celtic shield have been recorded in north-western Bulgaria at Montana, Kriva Bara (Vratza reg.), Pleven etc. (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).

 

 

Mon shield

Celtic (Scordisci) shield umbo from Montana, north-western Bulgaria (late 2nd c.  BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPEARHEADS

 

In terms of typology, the spearheads from Koynare have direct parallels in Balkan Celtic burials at Turnava and Biala Slatina (both Vratza reg.), and Montana in north-western Bulgaria, as well as an example from Portilor de Fier (Mehedinti) Romania – all similarly dated to the La Tene D1 period (loc cit). Spearheads are found in the vast majority of Balkan Celtic burials from this period. The presence of two examples, as at Koynare, is exceptional, but by no means unique. Such is the case, for example, with the recently discovered Scordisci warrior burial from Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia), which included two spearheads, one ritually ‘killed’.

 

 

 

Rit serb

 

(Ritually ‘killed’) spearhead from a Scordisci burial at Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia/1st c. BC)

 

(see Balkancelts ‘The Warrior and His Wife’ article, with relevant lit.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CURVED DAGGER

 

 

Curved daggers (sica) are a frequent part of the inventory of late Iron Age Scordisci warrior burials from the territory of modern Serbia, southern Romania and northern Bulgaria. For example, at the Scordisci necropolis at Karaburma (Belgrade) 7 such curved daggers, dating from the La Tene C2-D1 period, have been registered (burial nos. 13, 25, 32, 35, 66, 97, 112) (Todorovic 1972). Decorated daggers of this type, as the Koynare example, are most commonly found in Celtic burials from northern Bulgaria and Oltenia (southern Romania) (Luczkiewiez, Schonfelder 2008).

 

 

 

mon dagg

Celtic dagger (sica) from Montana, n.w. Bulgaria, decorated with mirored bird symbols

 

(See Balkancelts ‘Sacrificial Curved Daggers’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

HORSE BIT

 

The H-shaped horse bit discovered at Koynare suggests that, as in the case of Celtic burials such as those from Pavolche and Montana in north-western Bulgaria, or the recently discovered Scordisci burials from Desa in Romania, the individual in the Koynare burial was a Celtic cavalry officer.

 

Desa h-b

H-Shaped horse bit and circular shield umbo from the Scordisci burials at Desa, Romania

(See Balkancelts ‘Desa’ article)

 

 

 

 

 

As at Koynare, the vast majority of Celtic burials from north-western Bulgaria date to the La Tene C2/D period – i.e. from the time of the Scordisci Wars with Rome in the late 2nd/1st c. BC, reflecting the high level of militarization in Celtic society in this area during the period in question.

 However, the fact that only warrior burials have been discovered from this period, and those ‘accidentally’ by the local population, reflects a chronic lack of research at Celtic sites in the area, resulting in a continuing distortion in Bulgarian archaeological science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cited Literature

 

 

Luczkiewiez P., Schonfelder M. (2008) Untersuchungen Zur Ausstattung Eines Spateisenzeitlichen Reiterkriegers Aus Dem Sudlichen Karpaten Oder Balkanraum. Sonderdruch aus Jahrbuch des Romisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 55. Jahrgang 2008. p. 159-210

Mac Gonagle B. (2013) https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

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

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. 2013)

Szabó M., Petres E. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Têne Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin. Inv. Praehist Hungariae 5 (Budapest 1992)

Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma, I, Beograd.

Tорбов Н. (2000) Мечове от III- I в. пр. Хр. открити в сиверосападна България. In: Исвестия на музеите в сиверосападна България. т. 28. 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(UD: Feb. 2017)

 

 

Of the later Celtic material from Thrace, most remarkable is a dense concentration of La Têne C/D swords recorded over the last 100 years between the Timok and Iskar rivers in today’s northwestern Bulgaria (Popov 1922, 1924; Mikov 1932/33, 1933; Velkov 1957; Milchev 1958; Nikolov 1965, 1981, 1990, 1993; Alexandrov 1975, 1983; Wozniak 1975; Werner 1977; Petrov 1978; Tacheva-Hitova 1978; Domaradski 1984; Torbov 2000 with cited lit.; see also Paunov 2012). By the end of the 20th century over 60 of these swords had been registered in this area of northwestern Bulgaria alone – the largest concentration of such Celtic material in Europe….

 

FULL ARTICLE:

https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria

 

M. 1 Pa. N.W.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: September 2017

 

 

 

Bulbuc - Alba County decorated killed iron dagger

 

 

 

Among the most interesting artifacts related to the Celtic culture on the Balkans are curved iron daggers discovered in burials and other sites from the later Iron Age (3rd c. BC – 1st c. AD). These daggers, adopted from the local sica type, are most often found in warrior graves as part of their weapons – together with La Têne swords, shield umbos, etc. (see below).

A large number of these have also been discovered in the territory of the Scordisci in today’s Serbia, which, as in the case of the Bulgarian daggers outlined below, mostly date from the 2nd c. BC to the 1st c. AD (Majnarić-Pandžić 1970, pl. 24/10, 28/5, 46/6; Todorović 1972 pl. 11/1, 13/1, 17/4, 29/2, 34/6, 36/1; Božić 1981 p. 328, no. 75-76 pl. 3/36, 37, 9/9; Dizdar, Potrebica 2005 p. 60-62, map 1). These come particularly from the Iron Gates region, but also from other Celtic sites such as the mass burial at Slana Voda in south-western Serbia.

 

 

Celtic (Scordisci) curved daggers (sica) with Rayed Suns and Triangle motifs from Mala Vrbica (Serbia)

 

 

 

 

Examples of similar curved daggers have also been discovered at Celtic sites in the western Balkans. For example, the prehistoric section of the archaeological museum in Zagreb has a number of Celtic (La Têne) daggers whose mutual characteristic is the curved blade. These curved daggers in Croatia (Sisak, Zagreb and Prozor) have analogies from the Obrovac area, Strtemec near Bela Cerkev and Ljubljanica in Slovenia and among the examples from the necropolis Jezerine in Pritoka on the Una river, south of Bihać in Bosnia (Belen-Latunić 2006). Further examples have also been found in Celtic burials in Slovakia (Nešporova 2002, p. 141, 314, fig. 101/2). Recent discoveries from Celtic burials at Mali Bilač in the Pozega Valley in Croatia have close analogies in those from the cemeteries of the Scordisci, who controlled the eastern part of the Požega Valley, which was connected with the central Sava Valley (Dizdar, Potrebica 2014). At the Scordisci necropolis at Karaburma (Belgrade) 7 such curved daggers, dating from the LT C2-D1 period, have been registered (burials 13, 25, 32, 35, 66, 97 and 112) (Todorović 1972).

 

 

 

 1- 1 -1 - Machaira sica

 

Balkan Celtic machaira (Iron/Bronze NMS Inv. # B 5051 ) from the Ljubljana Marsh near Volar, and long curved knives (Iron, Iron/Bronze – FP, ZN 260/3; NMS # V445) from the Ljubljanica river near Bevke, Slovenia

 

On the Balkan Celtic Machaira:

https://www.academia.edu/24234744/THE_BALKAN_CELTIC_MACHAIRA

 

 

 

 

 

 The typical Balkan Celtic warrior burial of this period was accompanied by a La Têne sword/scabbard (in the La Têne C2 period of the Belgrade 2 – Mokronog 2-4 types, and in the La Têne D period of the Belgrade 3 – Mokronog 5-6 types), either one or two spearheads, a shield, belt buckle, and spurs.

 

 

 

Grave goods from the Scordisci warrior burial at Montana, North Western Bulgaria

(RGZM – Inv. # 0.42301/01-08)

 

 

 

mont illust

Detail of the Celtic curved dagger (Sica) from the Montana burial. Note the mirrored ravens and solar motifs

(RGZM – Inv. # 0.42302/04)

 

 

 

 

Bulbuc - Alba County decorated killed iron dagger

Ritually ‘killed’ iron Celtic dagger recently discovered by treasure hunters at Bulbuc (Alba County), Transylvania (late 2nd/early 1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAVEN DAGGERS

 

 From a typological perspective, the Celtic curved daggers from the northern Balkans are uniform. They vary between 25 and 35 cm. in length, and in all cases have a ‘blood channel’. The only slight variation is that in some cases (e.g. Altimir, Komarevo, Barkachevo, Sofronievo, Panagurischte Kolonii and Prisovo in Bulgaria, and Piatra Craivii, Izvoru, Radovanu or Dubova in Romania) the blood channel is deeper.

Although in many cases the blade’s decoration has been erased as a result of the advanced state of degeneration, a significant number are well enough preserved to allow us to document the most frequent symbols. The basic decorative elements on the daggers are triangles, the punched circle (‘RA’ symbol), rayed sun symbols, opposed birds of prey (ravens) and the spoked wheel – all common elements on Celtic artifacts and coins on the Balkans in the late Iron Age (See Balkancelts ‘Taranis’ and ‘Catubodua’ articles). It should also be observed that in the Celtic burials these daggers are often found among the bones of sacrificed animals, indicating a ritual/sacrificial function. This would appear to be confirmed by the fact that the religious symbols – rayed suns, ravens, etc. are to be found exclusively on the same edge of the blade as the ‘blood channel’.

 

 

 

 aa - x serb

Hoard of Celtic (Scordisci) jewelry and weapons, including a curved dagger/sica decorated with conjoined solar symbols, recently discovered on the southern slopes of the Rtanj mountain, near Vrmdza in eastern Serbia

(After Милојевић П., Милановић Д. 2015)

 

 

 

 The spatial distribution of these daggers in Bulgaria is particularly significant. From the northeast of the country examples have been found at Kamburovo (Targovischte region) (Borangic 2009), Ezerche (Razgrad region) (Radoslavova 2005), Varna (Georgieva 1992), and at Veliko Tarnovo, as well as Prisovo and Vinograd in the Veliko Tarnovo region (Wozniak 1974; Torbov 1997, 2005; Borangic 2009; Mac Congail 2008, 2010). The Kamburovo and Vinograd daggers were associated with La Têne swords, spearheads, spurs and Celtic H-shaped horse bits similar to those found at Celtic burial such as those from Montana or Pavolche (Vratza region).

Further examples of Celtic curved daggers from central and western Bulgaria have been discovered at sites such as Pautalia, Plovdiv, Bogomilovo (Stara Zagora region), Panagurischte Kolonii (Pazardjik region), and Ravno Pole (Sofia Region) (Torbov 1997, 2005, Borangic 2009; Mac Congail 2010). As well as in Celtic burials, such daggers have been found as votive offerings at cult sanctuaries such as Babyak in the w. Rhodope mountains – ritually ‘killed’ in the distinctive Celtic fashion (see ‘Killing the Objects’ article). Particularly interesting is the case of the Byalata Chishma and Atanasza sites in the Taja area of the Balkan (Stara Planina) mountains where curved daggers have been found in Celtic burials together with La Têne swords, shield umbos, spearheads etc., the majority again ‘killed’ in the typical Celtic fashion. At the Taja sites curved daggers have been found in burials dating from the 3rd – 1st c. BC, but also in later Celtic burials from the 1st – 2nd c. AD, i.e. the Roman period.

 

 

koynare

Grave goods, including curved dagger, from a Celtic (Scordisci) warrior burial at Koynare (Pleven region), Bulgaria (1st c. BC)

( see: https://www.academia.edu/7888751/A_Late_La_Tene_Warrior_Burial_From_Koynare_Bulgaria_ )

 

 

 

 

 It is from northwestern Bulgaria that the vast majority of Celtic curved daggers have originated. From the area of northern Bulgaria between the Timok and Iskar rivers 82 of these curved knives have so far been found, the majority associated with other La Têne material – swords, shields, spearheads, etc. Over 60 La Têne swords have been found in the same area of north-western Bulgaria (see https://www.academia.edu/5385798/Scordisci_Swords_from_Northwestern_Bulgaria).

 

 Finds from this region include examples from Karpachevo (Lovech region) (Popov, 1928-1929, p. 282, fig. 146/a), Lom, Montana, Stubel and Kriva Bara (Montana region), Teteven (Lovech region), as well as Pleven, Chomakovzi, Gigen (ancient Oescus), Rezeletz and Koynare, all in the Pleven region (Wozniak 1974; Torbov 1997, 2005; Borangic 2009; Mac Congail 2010). Particularly noteworthy is the concentration of such daggers in the Vratza region of present day Bulgaria, where examples in have been recorded from sites such as Oryachovo, Osen, Mezdra, Kostalevo, Vratza, Vurbeschnitza, Ohoden and Pavolche. (Nikolov 1965; Wozniak 1974; Torbov 1997, 2005; Borangic 2009; Mac Congail 2010).

 

 

The archaeological data clearly illustrates that the local curved dagger (sica) was rapidly adopted by the Celtic tribes upon their arrival in the Balkans, and their presence in numerous Celtic burials from this period (3rd c. BC – 1st c. AD, in isolated cases later), accompanied by La Têne swords, scabbards, shields etc. provides irrefutable proof that the sica became an intricate element of Balkan Celtic weaponry. Its spatial distribution – from Croatia in the west to the Black Sea in the east, and from Transylvania in the north to Galatia in the south – indicates that it was popular among the diverse Celtic tribes across southeastern Europe and Asia-Minor. Furthermore, the decoration and typology of these weapons indicate that they had not only a practical purpose, but also a ritual/religious significance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Alexandrov G. (1984) Montana-eine thrakisch-römisch Stadt”, in Dritter Internationaler Thracologischer Kongress, Sofia, 1984, p. 218-231.

Belen-Latunić D. (2006) Late La Téne Knives of the Pritoka-Bela-Cerkev Type, In: Journal of Dalmatian archaeology and history, vol. 1, no. 99, December 2006, P. 63 – 70

Borangic C. (2009) Sica- Tipologie Şi Funcţionaliţe, NEMUS, IV, 7-8, 2009. P. 22-74

Božić D. (1981) Relativna kronologija mlajše železne dobe v Jugoslovanskem Podonavju. In: Arh. Vest. 32, 1981. p. 315-347

Dizdar M., Potrebica H. (2005) The late La Têne culture in central Slavonia (Croatia). In: Dobrzanska H., Megaw V. Poleska P. (eds.) Celts on the Margin. Studies in European Cultural Interaction (7th century BC – 1st century AD) Kraków 2005. P. 57 – 66

Dizdar M., Potrebica H. (2014) Kasnolatenski Ratnicki Grob iz Maloga Bilaca (Pozeska Kotlina, Hrvatska). In: Studia Praehistorica in Honorem Janez Dular, Opera Instituti Archaeologici Sloveniae 30, 2014, 355–376

Emilov, J. (2007) La Tene finds and the indigenous communities in Thrace. Interrelations during the Hellenistic period. – Studia Hercynia 11, 57-75

Georgieva M. (1992) Grabfunde in der Umgebung von Varna. In: Bulletin de Musée National de Varna, 28 (43), 1992, p.73-80

Gerov B. (1967) Untersuchungen über die westthrakischen Länder in römischer Zeit. II Teil – Annuaire de l’Université de Sofia. Faculté des letters. Tome I. XI, 1. P. 1-102.

Gerov B. (1968) Keltische Spuren in Westthrakien. In: Studien zur Geschichte un Philosophie des Altertums. Akademiai Kiadó, Budapest. P. 3349 – 355

Holder A. (1896-1910) Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz. I-III. Leipzig.

Кацаров Г. (1919) Келтите в стара Тракия и Македония, СИБАН 18, кл. ист. Фил. 10, София, 1919, 41-80

Кацаров Г. (1926) България в древността. Историко-археологически очерк.  Популярна археологическа библиотека, No. 1. София

Kull B. (2002) Torques, Schwert und Silberschätze. Eisenzeitliche Ferbeziehungen zwischen Iberischer Halbinsel, Balkan und östlichem Mittelmeerraum, in: PZ, 77, 2002, p. 189-2003.

Mac Congail B. (2007) Belgae Expansion into South-Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor (4th – 3rd c. BC) In: PRAE, In honorem Henrieta Todorova. P. 295 – 302. Sofia

Mac Congail B. (2008) Kingdoms of the Forgotten. Plovdiv (attached Pdf.)

Mac Congail B., Krusseva B. (2010) The Men who Became the Sun – Barbarian Art and Religion on the Balkans. Plovdiv

Majnarić-Pandžić N. (1970) Keltsko-latenska kultura u Slavoniji I Srijemu, Vinkovici.

Милојевић П., Милановић Д. (2015) ДЕПО ЛАТЕНСКИХ МЕТАЛНИХ ПРЕДМЕТА СА JУЖНИХ ПАДИНА ПЛАНИНЕ РТАЊ. In: Етно-културолошки ЗБОРНИК, књ. XIX, Сврљиг 2015

Nicolaescu-Plopşor C.S. (1945-1947) Antiquités celtiques en Olténie. In: Dacia 11-12, 1945-47. P 17-33

Nikolov B. (1965) Trakiiski pametnići v Vračansko. In: Isvestija-Sofia, 28, 1965, p. 163-202

Nešporova T. (2002) Nálezy z Košece-Nosdrovic. In: Archeologické vyskumy a nálezy na Slovensku v roku 2001. Nitra. P. 141-142

Popov R. (1928-1929) Novootkriti pametnici ot zeleznata epoha v Balgarija, Izvestija, Sofia, 5, 1928-1929, p. 273 – 290

Radoslavova, G. (2005) Văorăženie na boini – edna nahodka ot s. Ezerče, Razgradsko, p. 277-283. In: Trakija i okolnijat svjat. Haučna konferencija, Šumen, 2004. Sofia.

Szabó M., Petres E. (1992) Decorated Weapons of the La Têne Iron Age in the Carpathian Basin. Inv. Praehist Hungariae 5 (Budapest 1992)

Sirbu V., Dacian settlements and necropolises in SW Romania (2nd c. B.C. – 1st c. A.D.) in: The Society of the Living – The Community of the Dead (from the Neolithic to the Christian Era), Proceedings of the 7th International Colloquium of Funerary Archaeology.)

Theodossiev N. (2005) Celtic Settlement in North-Western Thrace during the Late Fourth and Third Centuries BC: Some Historical and Archaeological Notes. In: Dobrzanska H., Megaw V., Poleska P. (eds.) Celts on the Margin: Studies in European Cultural Interaction VII BC – I c. AD. Essays in Honor of Zenon Wozniak. Krakow 2004.

Todorović J. (1972) Praistorijska Karaburma, I, Beograd.

Торбов Н. (1997) Криви тракийски ножове от III пр. Хр. – I в. открити в сиверосападна България. In: Исвестия на музеите в сиверосападна България. т. 25. 1997.

Торбов Н. (2000) Мечове от III- I в. пр. Хр. открити в сиверосападна България. In: Исвестия на музеите в сиверосападна България. т. 28. 2000.

Torbov N. (2005) Curved Thracian Knives from North-Western Bulgaria, in: Heros Hephaistos, Studia in Honorem Liubae Ognenova – Marinova. Veliko Tarnovo, 2005. P. 358 – 367

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Zotović R. (2007) Social and Cultural Aspects of the burial ‘Krajčinovićiv’ -Slana Voda (South-West Serbia, Mid II c. BC). Acta Septemcastrensis, VI, 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHIELDS

Mac Congail

 

 

“One must have evidence, because knowledge is not mere true belief”.

 

(Butcharov. The Concept of Knowledge)

 

 

 

Perhaps the most iconic of Celtic Iron Age weapons, in its classic form the Celtic shield consisted of an ovoid shield board with a long, spindle-shaped umbo with a spine extending vertically along the shield board. Both Greek and Roman art depicted the oval shield with the spindle boss as an identifying feature of the ‘barbarian’ Celt’s shield (see ‘Shield Coins’ article). Since the main components of these shields are organic, surviving archaeological evidence is limited.

Such shields are known from approximately the 6th century BC to the early centuries AD through artwork, scattered remains of fittings, and in a few rare instances, wholly preserved shields, such as those from the site of La Têne itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The earliest evidence for Celtic shields on the territory of today’s Bulgaria dates to the second half of the 4th c. BC when warriors on the friezes of the Kazanlak / Seuthopolis tomb are depicted with the distinctive oval Celtic shields (Domaradski 1984, Mac Congail 2008, Emilov 2010). Celtic presence in this area at this early stage is confirmed by La Têne B artifacts from the villages of Ivanski, Malomir, Sveschtari (Dom. 1984:134, 138; Mac Congail 2010:51) and from the Schumen/Veliko Tarnovo areas (see ‘New Material 1 + 2’ articles). Depictions of Celtic oval shields also appear on a number of coins minted by the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in eastern Thrace in the 3rd c. BC (See ‘Shield Coins’ article).

  Such shields have been registered in eastern Bulgaria at sites such as Kamburovo (Targovischte region – Novo Mesto 169 type) (Domaradski 1984; Emilov 2010), the Celtic warrior burials at Kalnovo (Schumen region) (Atananassov 1992; Megaw 2004), and in the chieftains burials at Sashova and Fomus tumuli near the Shipka pass (Manov 2010). Further La Têne shields, but dating to the Roman period, have been found at the Taja site, to the west of Sevtopolis (See below).

 

  As with finds of La Têne swords, scabbards, chainmail etc., the majority of Celtic shields found in Bulgaria have been discovered in the west of the country. At Gorna Malina in the Sofia region a Celtic shield of the Karaburma type has been registered (Emilov 2010). Also from the Gorna Malina area (Bailovo) comes the earliest Celtic sword from Bulgaria, which dates to the La Têne B2 period (see ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article). To the southwest of the Bulgarian capital an oval Celtic shield was found in 1989 in a burial at Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region) which had been disturbed by ‘treasure hunters’. Associated with this Celtic shield was an inscribed Macedonian shield, suggesting that the burial is related to the first phase of Celtic expansion into the area at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. (Manov, Staikova 1992).

  Also noteworthy from the aforementioned Dolna Koznitza site is a bronze frontlet and other artifacts executed in the distinctive Celtic Plastic style common from the 4th c. BC. The frontlet with a 3 dimensional head above opposing rams heads, as with other Celtic works of art from this period found in Bulgaria, such as the Mezek chariot attachments or the golden Janus heads from Schumen, conforms exactly to the definition of this Celtic art style – ‘protruding, non-representational relief ornament cast in bronze and demonstrating a particular type of abstraction of human and animal heads’ (Megaw 2001: 139, 140-141,144).

 

 

 

Celtic Bronze frontlet from Dolna Koznitza (Pernik region, Bulgaria)

 

 

 

NORTHWESTERN BULGARIA

 

 

As with the majority of La Têne material dating to the II – I c. BC, it is northwestern Bulgaria which has yielded the majority of finds of Celtic shields. Novo Mesto 169 type shields have been found at Koynare (Pleven reg.) and at Smochan and Dojrentsi in the Lovech region (Emilov 2010; on other Celtic material from these sites see ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ and ‘Chainmail’ articles) In the Montana/Vratza regions Celtic shields (umbos), all accompanied by La Têne D swords of the Belgrad 3/Mokronog 5-6 type (Torbov 1997, 2000), and other La Têne material consistent with similar Scordisci burials across the border in Serbia, have been recorded at Kriva Bara (Montana region), where the recent publication of La Têne ceramic confirms Celtic settlement until at least the 1st c. AD (Vagalinski 2007), as well as at Dobruscha, Varbeschnitza, Galiche and Tarnava in the Vratza region (Torbov op cit).

 Particularly interesting is the Germanic (Bastarnae) influence in the construction of the Tarnova shield (Domaradski 1984: 144), which may relate this burial to the battles between the Roman forces of Crassus and his ‘Dacian’ allies and the Bastarnae/Scordisci in 29/28 BC. The presence of the Bastarnae in this area of northern Bulgaria is also confirmed by other archaeological evidence (e.g. from the Panagurischte Kolonii site – see  ‘Sacrificial daggers, Swords and Settlements’ article), topographical traces (see  ‘Celtic Settlements in Northern Bulgaria’ article), as well as extensive finds of Bastarnae coins of the Huşi Vovrieşti type found in north-central and north-western Bulgaria (See Numismatics section, and Mikolajczyk 1984). Thus, while the majorty of Celtic material from this part of Bulgaria is connected to the Scordisci tribes (Serdi, Meldi, Artacoi), some of it, such as the Tarnova burial, may be associated with the Celto-Germanic Bastarnae tribes (see Bastarnae article).

    Besides the aforementioned burials, Celtic Novo Mesto 169 type shields are also depicted on the silver Scordisci treasures from Galiche and Jakimovo (Emilov op. cit.). At the latter site recent publication of La Têne ceramic, similar to that found at Kriva Bara and underneath the Roman Castra Martis at Kula in the Montana region, confirms Celtic settlement at that site until at least the 1st c. AD. (Vagalinski 2007). The Scordisci treasures from Jakimovo and Galiche will be dealt with separately.

 

 

 

 

Depiction of a Celtic (Scordisci) chieftain on a sliver/gilt plate from the Jakimovo treasure (Northwestern Bulgaria) II – I c. BC

 

 

 

TAJA

 

 The latest Celtic shields found on the territory of today’s Bulgaria have been discovered at the Atanasza site near the village of Taja in the Balkan mountains. Celtic presence in this area of the central Balkans from the 3rd c. BC until the 3rd / 4th c. AD is testified to by a large amount of Celtic material from the Sevtopolis/Kazanlak area, as well as from the villages of Kran, Dolno Sahrane, and from the Shipka Pass area to the northwest of Sevtopolis (e.g. Sashova and Fomus tumuli) (Manov 2010). This material is to be related to the Celtic Artacoi tribe who inhabited this area from the late Iron Age until the Early Christian period (see Artacoi article – forthcoming).

 

 At the Taja site two La Têne shield umbos were found in ‘rich’ warrior burials (Tumulus # 3, burial # 1 + 3; other burials yielded typically only ceramic or ceramic and a single spearhead). The shield umbo from burial # 3 was associated with a Middle La Têne sword and scabbard (Group B according to De Navarro’s classification) (Domaradski 1993), while the shield itself is characteristic for the La Têne D period, similar to the aforementioned examples from northwestern Bulgaria. Associated ceramic dates this burial to the 1st / 2nd c. AD. Burial # 1 yielded a further La Têne iron shield umbo, as well as a La Têne sword and accompanying scabbard of the Noric tradition (Werner 1977; Domaradski op cit.). Both the Celtic sword and shield show modifications based on Roman models of the 1st / 2nd c. AD, while the burial itself dates to the late 2nd / 3rd c. AD (Domaradski op cit). Weaponry and other material from the site were killed in the distinctive Celtic fashion, a custom also to be observed in this area at Celtic burials from Sevtopolis, and at sites such as Skalsko and Chervenvruh (see ‘Killing the Objects’ article) from the 3rd c. BC until the Early Christan period (3rd / 4th c. AD).

 Settlement at the Taja site began not earlier than the late 2nd / 1st c. BC, i.e. within the framework of the Scordisci Wars, and the movement of a Celtic population into this mountainous area during this period is to be related to the Roman advance into western Thrace. Two separate Roman campaigns were undertaken against the Celtic Artacoi tribe in this area, in 29/28 BC by Crassus and in 23/24 AD by Sabinius (see ‘Artacoi’ article – forthcoming), but archaeological evidence from the central Balkan mountains of Bulgaria indicates the survival of a Celtic population in this area into the Early Christian period.

 

 

 

Map Sh. 1

Distribution of Recorded Celtic Shields in N.W. Bulgaria

 

 

* Provisional (April 2012). Map includes only La Têne weaponry, other Celtic material from this area will be dealt with separately

** Celtic coinage does not include Celtic Paeonia issues or Bastarnae coins

 

 

 

 

 

Literature

 

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Christov Iv., Rock Sanctuaries of Mountain Thrace. V. Tarnovo. 1999

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