Tag Archive: Zidovar treasure


CELTIC SYRMIA

 

 

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Syrmia region of modern Serbia*, a fertile area of the Pannonian Plain situated between the Danube and Sava rivers, has yielded a massive amount of archaeological material pertaining to the Celtic Scordisci Federation who inhabited this region in the pre-Roman period. These discoveries include some of the most spectacular Balkan Celtic hoards, such as those from the Celtic hillfort at Židovar and the Scordisci settlement at Čurug, as well as extensive finds from Celtic sites such as Kupinovo.

 

The spectacular Celtic hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara). (2-1 century BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/the-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-zidovar-serbia/

 

 

The Balkan Celtic silver hoard from Čurug

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/curug-a-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-vojvodina-northern-serbia/

 

Detail of anthropomorphic decoration on the pommel of an iron sword, and scabbard decorated in the “Hungarian Sword Style”,  from a Scordisci burial complex at Kupinovo (Syrmia), Serbia (3rd c. BC)

(after: Drnić I. (2015) Groblje latenske culture/A La Têne Culture Cemetery. Arheološki muzej u Zagrebu, 2015)

 

 

While the aforementioned finds, discovered during regulated excavations, clearly indicate the economic and political importance of the Syrmia region within the territory of the Scordisci Federation, other discoveries made in a less professional manner suggest that the officially documented data is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. As with all areas of the Balkans, the vast majority of archaeological material registered in this region has been uncovered ‘accidentally’ by locals, providing invaluable evidence concerning the Scordisci tribes who inhabited large areas of today’s Serbia, eastern Croatia, south-western Romania and northern/western Bulgaria in the late Iron Age.

A good example of this phenomenon is the case of a Celtic warrior burial disturbed by a local farmer close to the modern town of Sremska Mitrovica in Syrmia.

 

(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)

 

In this case, 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.

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.

 

Ritually ‘killed’ sword from a Celtic warrior burial at Kupinovo (3rd c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On “Accidental Archaeology” and Celtic material from this part of the Balkans see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/scordisci-swords/

 

*This article only covers the Serbian part of Syrmia. Celtic/Scordisci finds from the  Vukovar-Srijem area of Eastern Croatia are dealt with elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Presented by Greek and Roman ‘historians’ as mindless savages, recent archaeological evidence from the central Balkans has thrown a completely different light on the Celtic Scordisci tribes who dominated this part of Europe from the 4th century BC until the Roman conquest. Most spectacular of these discoveries has been the hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum (settlement) on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara), in the Banat (Vojvodina) region of modern Serbia.

 

 

FULL ARTICLE:

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/silvermasters-the-balkan-celtic-treasure-from-zidovar-serbia/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“… a people … cruel and savage, and, as ancient history declares, accustomed to offer up their prisoners to Bellona and Mars, and from their hollowed skulls greedily to drink human blood”

(Ammianus Marcellinus Book 27: iv,4)

 

 

 

 

 

Zidovar m illust

 

 

 

Presented by Greek and Roman ‘historians’ as mindless savages, recent archaeological evidence from the central Balkans has thrown a completely different light on the Celtic Scordisci tribes who dominated this part of Europe from the 4th century BC until the Roman conquest. Most spectacular of these discoveries has been the hoard from Židovar, a Celtic oppidum (settlement) on the eastern border of the Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peščara), in the Banat (Vojvodina) region of modern Serbia.

 

zidovar opp hill

The Hill at Židovar today

 

 

Zid intor.

Silver bird pendants from the Židovar hoard

 

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/celtic-scordisci-bird-pendants/

 

 

Zidovar chains

“Foxtail” chains from the hoard

 

https://www.academia.edu/7915664/Celtic_Foxtail_Necklaces

 

 

 

Although excavations have been carried out at the site since the 1940’s, it was not until 2001 that the most spectacular discovery was made. Dated to the late 2nd / early 1st century BC, the rich hoard included 134 amber beads, a bronze mirror (with high tin content) and two pendants fashioned from brown bear teeth.

 

 

Mirror

Bronze mirror from the hoard

 

Zid Amber beads

Amber beads from the Židovar treasure

 

Beartooth

Brown Bear Tooth Pendants

 

 

 

 

The most fascinating part of the hoard consists of 163 silver objects, including fibulae/brooches of the Jarak type. In addition to these, the jewellery group contained pendants of different forms, two rings, three chains and small lidded cylindrical boxes made of silver sheet and decorated in filigree and granulation technique. Two folding razors and a mirror form the group of toiletry accessories of the Židovar treasure.

 

 

a jew box

Jewelry Box from Židovar

 

All 3 jewelry boxes from the hoard have a high percent of silver (average values over 95 wt%). Copper is the main alloying element (average values from 1.5–4 wt%). Lead contributes less then 1 wt%, and tin was not detected in the metal of any of the boxes.

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/barbarian-masterpieces-celtic-jewelry-boxes/

 

Fibula

Silver Fibula of the Jarak type from the hoard

 

 

 

While archaeological finds of Scordisci silver are known from several hoards in Serbia, such as Kovin, Jarak, Hrtkovci and Karaburma, the Židovar hoard is of particular significance, having been discovered in a clear archaeological context.

 

 

Pendantys X

Silver pendants from the Židovar Hoard

 

 

 

The origin of the silver that the Serbian Celts used for producing jewelry and minting silver coins has not yet been established with any degree of certainty. However, it is likely that a substantial amount came from the silver-lead mine at Kosmaj near the Celtic settlement of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade).

 

 

a silver finger rings

Silver Finger Rings from Židovar

 

Folding RAZOR

Folding Razor from the Židovar Treasure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

zid jew bo detail

 

 

Some of the most spectacular Celtic archaeological discoveries in recent years have come from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar (Banat region) in north-eastern Serbia, which has yielded a vast array of artifacts of various materials, mostly dating to the 2/1 centuries BC.

 

 

 

zidovar opp hill

The hill at Zidovar – site of an important Celtic (Scordisci) hillfort from 3-1 century BC

 

 

Zidovar trio

Silver finger rings, brown bear tooth talisman, and silver bird pendants from the Zidovar hillfort (2/1 c. BC)
(See also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/celtic-scordisci-bird-pendants/)

 

 

 

 

Among the most exquisite artifacts from Zidovar are 2 lavishly decorated silver jewelry boxes, and the lid of a third such box decorated with 4 spokes, thus constituting a solar/Taranis wheel.

 

 

jew bo lid

Silver lid of a jewelry box from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)

(see also: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/a-taranis-belt-buckle-from-dalj-eastern-croatia/)

 

 

 

 

zido jew bo 1

Silver jewelry box from Zidovar

 

Copy of j box X

Construction of the complete jewelry box from Zidovar

 

All 3 jewelry boxes have a high percent of silver (average values over 95 wt%). Copper is the main alloying element (average values from 1.5–4 wt%). Lead contributes less then 1 wt%, and tin was not detected in the metal of any of the boxes.

(after Živković J., Rehren T., Radivojević M., Miloš Jevtić M. and Jovanović D. (2014) XRF characterisation of Celtic silver from the Židovar treasure (Serbia). In: UNDER THE VOLCANO. Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Metallurgy of the European Iron Age (SMEIA) held in Mannheim, Germany, 20–22 April 2010. p. 157-174)

 

 

 

The chain used on the jewelry box is also noteworthy. These are of the ‘Foxtail’ type, similar examples of which are to be found in a number of necklaces from Zidovar and other Balkan Celtic sites.

 

 

Zidovar chains

Scordisci ‘Foxtail’ necklaces from Zidovar
(see also: https://www.academia.edu/7915664/Celtic_Foxtail_Necklaces )

 

Such chains are believed to have developed from Hellenistic prototypes, and the merging of Hellenistic and Celtic artistic models and influences on the Balkans from the late 4th century BC onwards resulted in a spectacular fusion of forms culminating in unique compositions in glass, ceramic and metal.

 

bland kantharos

Celtic kantharos of the ‘Danubian Type’ with anthropomorphic decoration from Blandiana, Alba County, Romania (3rd c. BC). Such kantharoi were developed by the Balkan Celts from Hellenistic prototypes.

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

 

 

h.

Celtic gold ‘Janus Head’ pendant from Schumen region, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)
(see: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/the-archaeology-of-heads/)

 

 

 

 

 

zid jew bo detail

Full view of the Celtic jewelry box with ‘Foxtail’ chain from Zidovar (2/1 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

The sheer amount and diversity of artifacts discovered at Zidovar logically indicates that this area was one of the key centers for the production of Balkan Celtic jewelry in the late Iron Age. From a wider perspective, the level of technical accomplishment and craftsmanship to be observed on these and other recently discovered Balkan Celtic works of art is on a par with anything produced by ‘classical’ cultures, and the treasures from the Scordisci hillfort at Zidovar once again testify to the artistic and material sophistication which had been achieved by European Celtic society prior to its systematic destruction by Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail