Tag Archive: Thracology



“On their heads they put bronze helmets which have large embossed figures standing out from them and give an appearance of great size to those who wear them; for in some cases horns are attached to the helmet so as to form a single piece, in other cases images of the fore-parts of birds or four footed animals”.

Diodorus Siculus (on Celtic helmets) (History V.30.2)




While horned helmets among the Celtic tribes are well documented in artwork and coins from the period, actual archaeological confirmation of the existence of this particular type of helmet has been rare. Indeed, until now it was thought that the only known example from Iron Age Europe was the Waterloo Helmet found in the River Thames in London, which is ceremonial in nature and differs greatly from Celtic horned helmets depicted elsewhere.


Bronze ceremonial horned helmet with repoussé decoration in the La Tène style, discovered in the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge, London

(ca. 100 BC)


Bronze statue of a naked Celtic warrior with horned helmet and torc. Originally from northern Italy, and presently in the Antikensammlung (SMPK), Berlin

(3rd c. BC)




However, despite the belief that the Waterloo Helmet was the only example of such from Iron Age Europe, a further example is to be found in the bronze horned helmet discovered near the modern village of Bryastovets (Burgas region) in eastern Bulgaria.


The Bryastovetz Horned Helmet from Eastern Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)

 (After Fol A., Fol V. (2008) The Thracians. Sofia; Fol, a former Communist minister, member of the Secret Police, and founder of the Institute of Thracology, incorrectly places the village of Bryastovets in the Targovischte region of northern Bulgaria (!) ) *


Location of  Bryastovetz





In the Balkan context Celtic warriors wearing such horned helmets also appear on two panels of the Gundestrup cauldron, which is believed to have been produced in northwestern Thrace in the late 2nd c. BC by the Scordisci tribes:


Scenes from the Gundestrup cauldron (plates C and E) depicting Celtic warriors wearing horned helmets

See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/the-gundestrup-ghosts-hidden-images-in-the-gundestrup-cauldron/



 The area of today’s eastern Bulgaria where the Bryastovetz helmet originates was located within the territory of the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state in the 3rd c. BC, and is rich in Celtic numismatic and archaeological material from this period. Celtic tribes are also recorded in this area of s-e Thrace in the 2nd century BC (Appianus, Syriaca 6.22), and it appears likely that the helmet originated from a Celtic warrior burial in the area, most probably an aristocratic burial associated with the Celtic ‘Tyle’ state of the 3rd c. BC.



Sadly, as with many Celtic artifacts from Bulgaria, although illustrations of this helmet have been published in a number of popular books on ‘Thracian Treasures’, it is not on display to the public, nor has it been made available for wider academic study. Officially, this unique Celtic treasure is now in the National Museum in Sofia under inv. # 3454. One can only hope that this is indeed the case…












*On Alexander Fol and ‘Thracology’ see:



On the Celtic Tyle State see:





















“Who can I recite my work to here, but yellow-haired Coralli, and the other tribes of the barbarous Danube?” 
(Ovid, Ex Ponto. Book EIV.II To Cornelius Severus: A Fellow Poet)
The Hill of Zaravets (Tsaravets) overlooks the town of Veliko Tarnovo in today‟s northeastern Bulgaria. Situated on the strategically important Jantra river which links it to the Danube, Zaravetz is best known…














New Bitmap Image 1 PAUNOV



Full text of the magnificent work of Dr. Evgeni Paunov of Cardiff University – 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) – an overview of all the available ancient numismatic evidence from the territory of modern Bulgaria relating to the period between the 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD.


Besides an expansive study on all ancient coinage from this region pertaining to the period in question, for the first time since the Communist Period numismatic material relating to the later Celtic presence/settlement in Bulgaria  (2-1 century BC) is also presented in a comprehensive and objective manner:




Full Text:





New Bitmap Image 1 PAUNOV 2














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:





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.



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



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’:







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.



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





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)*.




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















*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.











Mac Congail












Tha 1 int. c








Tha 1 bl








Celtic Ceramic from Bulgaria

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:





bd urn













UD November 2014



FPt R1



Since the first half of the 20th century a series of strange ceramic objects, consisting of zoomorphic representations of animal heads – snakes, horses, rams, etc., have been discovered at sites across Bulgaria (Mikov 1932-33, Gerasimov 1960). These artifacts, associated with other Celtic material (‘eye beads’, glass bracelets, daggers, fibulae etc.; see below), and decorated with familiar La Têne motifs – herring-bone, concentric circles/solar symbols, s-scrolls etc., appear most often at cult complexes and burials – indicating that they had a religious function.

Recent excavations in southwestern and south-central Bulgaria have enabled us to definitively date these objects, and the associated ‘Zepina’ type pottery to the 3rd – 1st c. BC (Tonkova, Gotcheva 2008, Tonkova et al 2011), and to finally determine the real function of these mysterious ‘cult objects’.




BD c.

Celtic ‘Zepina Type’ ceramic from Bratya Daskalovi (Stara Zagora reg.), south-central Bulgaria (see http://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace)



Sl fp

Zoomorphic ‘Cult Object’ from Sliven region, Bulgaria

(Sliven regional Museum)





Information from these latest excavations have also enabled us to clarify the real nature of these artifacts. It has transpired that they are not in fact ‘cult objects’, but zoomorphic attachments from the lids of small portable fire-pots, which were used to carry fire to the cult complex. The significance of this practice is still unclear, but they appear to have been found mostly in areas of the sanctuaries where artifacts associated with women (household objects, jewelry, etc.) predominate (Tonkova, Gotcheva op cit.).





P fp

Celtic zoomorphic Ram figurine/attachment from Boznik (Pernik region), western Bulgaria (History Museum of Pernik)





From a geographical perspective most of these firepots come from the upper Maritza and Struma/Mesta river valleys, and the Sofia plain, i.e. the zoomorphic fire-pots and associated ‘Zepina’ pottery are concentrated in sites in western and south-western Bulgaria: Batak, Belovo, Sv. Ilia and Ostretz Peak (both near Velingrad), Streltcha, Zepina fortress (Dorkovo), and Patelenitza (Pazardjik region); Babyak, Belitsa, and Kochan in the Blagoevgrad region; Kyustendil, Boznik (Pernik region); Poduaine, Muchovo and Jana in the Sofia region. Other finds of these zoomorphic lids and the ‘Zepina type’ pottery from other areas of Bulgaria include examples from Kazanlak/Seuthopolis, Targovischte, Plovdiv, Rousse, Skalsko (Gabrovo region), and Sliven (Mikov 1932-33, Gerasimov 1960, R a d o n o v, 1965, Domaradski 1984, Katincharova 2005). The latter examples, while fewer in number, confirm that these were not confined to the Celtic tribes of western Bulgaria, but were in use in other parts of the region.




Bd urn

Ceramic vessel of the ‘Zepina Type’ used as a funerary urn in a Celtic female burial at Karakochovata Tumulus, Bratya Daskalovi, south-central Bulgaria

(see http://www.academia.edu/4107842/The_Celts_in_Central_Thrace)




Recent finds of Celtic ceramic of this type in Thrace include examples from the Unatzi site (Pazardjik reg.), also in central Bulgaria, which was, as at Bratya Daskalovi, found together with a bronze La Têne fibula of the Jezerine type, and from the Celtic chieftain’s burial at Sashova Tumulus near the Shipka Pass, where this type of ‘Cult’ ceramic was discovered together with a gold fibula, torc, Celtic sword, etc. (see http://www.academia.edu/4126512/Sevtopolis_and_the_Valley_of_the_Thracian_Kings).



Bd fib.

Bronze La Têne Fibula of the Jezerine type from the central Celtic burial at Karakochovata Tumulus, Bratya Daskalovi.


The fibula is of great importance for the dating of the complex. This type of late La Têne fibula first appears between 40-30 BC and is most common in the period between 30 and 10 BC (Rustoiu 1997). It is worth noting that the other jewelry from the burial is of types typical of the Scordisci and other Balkan Celts during this period (Tonkova op cit).




It should also be noted that the concentration of the firepots in the western Rhodope mountains/Mesta Valley region also corresponds with the circulation of Celtic Strymon/Trident coinage which dates to the same period  (http://www.academia.edu/4067834/Bandit_Nation_-_The_Bogolin_Hoard) – logically indicating that they were produced by the same tribes.





FP reconst.


Zoomorphic lid, and reconstructed  fire-pot from Babyak (Blagoevgrad region), s.w. Bulgaria) (after Tonkova, Gotcheva 2008).










Download Pdf. version of this file:











Sources Cited



Gerasimov T. (1960) Keltski kultovi figuri ot Bulgariia. Izvestiia na Arkheologicheskiia institut (IAI) 23. Sofia: BAN, pp. 165–204.

Катинчарова Д. (2005) Аpхеологически проучвания на обект “Свети Илия” край  Велинград през 2004. In: Археологически Институт с  Музей – БАН. Археологически Открития и Разкопки през 2004 г. XLIV. Национална Археологически Конференция София 2005

Mikov V. (1932–1933). Keltski nakhodki u nas. Bulgarska istoricheska biblioteka V: 1. Sofia

R a d o n o v  Z. (1965) Kultovi pametnici v Okryzhnija muzej v Pernik. Arheologia,VII, № 4, 47 – 53

Rustoiu A. (1997) Fibulele din Dacia Preromana (sec. I i.e.n. – I e.n). Bucuresti .

Тонкова, М. и Гоцев  A. (2008) Тракийското светилище при Бабяк и неговата археологическа среда. София.

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











Mac Congail






















The personal names of a population recorded in a region during a given historical period are perhaps the best indicator of the linguistic and historical culture of the population that inhabited that region. What does this linguistic evidence tell us about the ethnic origin of the population of today’s Bulgaria in the centuries after Christ? …



Full Article:




Carasura i.











UD: October 2016



“the avengers of murder overwhelmed them sooner than the enemy, and the ghosts of the slain rising up before their eyes …”.

(Justinus: Epitome of Pompeius Trogus’ “Philippic histories” Book 26:2)




One of the key turning points in ancient history was the Battle of Lysimachia in 277 BC, in which the Macedonian forces of Antigonus Gonatas destroyed the Celtic armies which had been sweeping through southeastern Europe, thereby halting the barbarian expansion in the region, and saving the ’civilized’ world from destruction (Fol et al, Ancient Thrace, 2000, Delev 2003, Boteva 2010, Emilov 2010, Dimitrov 2010, Stoyanov 2010, Megaw 2004, 2005, Emilov/Megaw 2012).

Or was it?

For centuries the Battle of Lysimachia has been presented to us as one of the most important events in the ancient history of southeastern Europe. However, an analysis of the geo-political context and ancient sources on this period…







Anti. AR








UD: August 2016






Decebalus (originally Diurpaneus), is rightly remembered as the greatest of Dacian leaders, who led his peoples’ prolonged resistance to Rome, which would eventually lead to him making the ultimate sacrifice. The tragic death of this exceptional ruler in 106, after almost 20 years of struggle, marked the end of Dacian statehood.




Decebalus' suicide, from Trajan’s Column (Scene CXLV)

Decebalus’ suicide, from Trajan’s Column (Scene CXLV)




However, who was Decebalus, and where did he come from? An analysis of this leader’s name and ancestry reveals evidence which casts new light on Decebalus himself, and once again poses the question – who were the “Dacians”?



The first fact to consider is that the name Decebalus, besides sources referring to the Dacian leader, is recorded in a large number of inscriptions from the Roman period – from Italy (CIL 6, 25572 (Roma): Decibalus; AE 1954,83 (Roma): Decibal(us); AE 1989,299 (Asisium=Assisi, Umbria): Decibalo; AE 1945,35 (Ostia): Decibali; CIL 15,2797 (Roma): Deceb[alus]), Thrace (CIL 3,7477 (Durostorum=Silistria, Moesia Inf.): Decibalm; AE 1998, 01141: (Sacidava, Moes.Inf.): Decibali; CIL 3,7437 (from Lăžen near Nicopol): Decebali; IGLNovae nr.82 (Novae, Moesia Inf.): Decebalo), Macedonia (AE 1985, nr.721 (Philippi): Decebalu(m), Pannonia (CIL 3,4150 (Savaria=Szombathely, Pannonia Sup.): Decibalus), Gaul (1964, 144f (Blain, Lugdunensis): Decibal(us) 1964, 144f (Blain, Lugdunensis, Franţa): Decibal(us), and Britain (CIL 13,10013: Decibal(us), i.e. with the exception of the famous Dacian leader, all recorded examples of the name Decebalus come from outside Dacia.



Another fact to consider is that names ending in the element –balus occur only twice in the Balkans in the pre-Roman period. The first example is encountered in Cambaules, a Celtic chieftain who led a raid in Thrace at the beginning of the 3rd c. BC (Paus. X 19:5), and the second – Kersebaules, a king of the Celtic Tyle state in eastern Thrace in the first half of the 3rd c. BC. (cf. also Celtic : Άνδοβάλης, Άνδοννόβαλλος, etc. – Evans 1967: 147-148, and Balanus, Balarus, Balio etc. Holder AC 1 334-336; the first element in the name of Decebalus has long been attributed to the PIE *dekm- (‘ten’) (cf. Sanskrit daśabala); Cf. PC *dekam ‘ten’, Olr. deieh, MW deg, MBret. dek, MoBret. Deg; Matasovic 94). Thus, this ‘Dacian’ element occurs in the pre-Roman period in the region exclusively in the names of Celtic leaders.




a - kersi

Kersebaules Tetradrachma. Inscription: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΚΕΡΣΙΒΑΥΛΟΥ

(ca. 270 BC)







In The Name Of The Father…



The key to the ethnic origin of Decebalus is to be found on the famous inscription on a large ceremonial vessel, discovered at Sarmizegetusa. This is the only ‘Dacian’ inscription, and reads:
– meaning ‘Decebalus, son of Scorilo’  (Nandris 1976, Georgiev 1977, Duridanov 1985; Asenova 1999; Boïadjiev 2000).





The Decebalus per Scorilo inscription


The Decebalus inscription was stamped on a huge vase twenty-four inches (0.6 meter) high and forty-one inches (1 metre) across. It is stamped in mirror-writing, in the Latin alphabet.




In the case of the name of Decebalus’ father, Scorilo (Scorylo dux Dacorum – Front 1. 10.4, from which Iord. Get. Coryllus rex Gothorum – Detschew 1957:460; on the variant Scorus, see Mac Congail 2008), further examples of the name are found exclusively beyond Dacia. The first example comes from Kostolac in eastern Serbia, in the territory of the Celtic Scordisci (Scorilo – CIL 3, 14507), while in the second example (from Pannonia) (CIL 3, 2328) – Scorilo Ressati libertus – not only Scorilo, but also Ressatus, who was a potter of the Eravisci tribe (Maróti 1991), are both Celtic names (Holder AC 2, 1405).

Recent research by Romanian academics has found no evidence of a separate Dacian anthroponomastic system, i.e. distinct from Thracian and Celtic (Varga 2010), and the evidence outlined above indicates that the only ‘Dacian’ inscription is actually comprised of two names of Celtic origin, providing further proof that research into the ancient Thracian/Dacian language(s) since the communist period has systematically included Celtic data, logically rendering all such research invalid.


In the present context the linguistic evidence, chronological context, and spatial distribution of the names of both Decebalus, and his father Scorilo, clearly indicate that both were of Celtic (or Celto-Scythian/Bastarnae) origin, and is further proof that the concept of a separate ‘Dacian’ ethnicity and language is largely the product of 1970’s protochronism/nationalism.*











*On the political manipulation of Romanian (/Bulgarian) archaeology see:


On the use of linguistics in this process:




















Asenova, P. (1999). Bulgarian in Handbuch der Südosteuropa-Linguistik. Wiesbaden
Boïadjiev D. (2000) Les Relations Ethno-Linguistiques En Thrace Et En Mesie Pendant L’Epoque Romaine. Sofia
Du Nay A. (1996): The origins of the Rumanians: the early history of the Rumanian language, Buffalo
Duridanov I. (1985) Die Sprache der Thraker, Neuried: Hieronymus
Detschew D. (1957) Die thrakischen Sprachreste. ÖAW, Phil.- hist. Kl. Schriften der Balkankomission, Linguist. Abteilung XV. Wien
Duridanov I. (1997) Keltische Sprachspuren in Thrakien und Mösien. Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie. Band 49-50
Evans D.E. (1967) Gaulish Personal Names: A Study of some Continental Celtic Formations. Oxford
Felecan O. A Diachronic Excursion into the Anthroponymy of Eastern Romania. Philologica Jassyensia, An VI, Nr. 1 (11), 2010, p. 57–80
Georgiev V. (1977) Trakite i techniat ezik. Sofia. = Георгиев, Вл. 1977. Траките и техният език. София
Georgiev V. (1983) “Thrakish und Dakisch”, in: Temporini, Hildegard (ed.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt. Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung, 1148–1194, Berlin / New York
Holder A. (1896-1907). Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, Bd. I-III – Nachdruck Graz 1961-1962
Mac Gonagle B. (2008) Thracian and Celtic Anthroponymy – A comparative study. In: Mac Congail B. Kingdoms of the Forgotten. Celtic expansion in south-eastern Europe and Asia-Minor – 4th – 3rd c. BC. Plovdiv. P. 131-163

Mac Gonagle B. (2012) https://www.academia.edu/3292310/The_Thracian_Myth_-_Celtic_Personal_Names_in_Thrace
Maróti É. (1991) A római kori pecsételt kerámia és a Resatus kérdés. Studia Comitatensia 21. 365-427
Nandris, J. (1976) The Dacian Iron Age A Comment in a European Context in Festschrift für Richard Pittioni zum siebzigsten Geburtstag. Wien
Varga R. (2010) The Military Peregrini of Dacia: Onomastical and Statistical Considerations. Analele Universităţii Creştine „Dimitrie Cantemir”, Bucureşti, Seria Istorie – Serie nouă, Anul 1, Nr. 4, 2010, p. 108-116









Mac Congail