Celts and Scythians Linked by Archaeological Discoveries

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Celts and Scythians Linked by Archaeological Discoveries

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The Celtic Hallstatt culture and the Scythian Vekerzug or Thracian culture are excellent examples that show how closely these two peoples interacted with one another. Historians and archaeologists label the people who established the Hallstatt Culture (700-450 B.C.) as either proto-Celts or just plain Celts. The culture, as represented by the grave goods of the Hallstatt aristocracy, is remarkably universal and distinct.

The Hallstatt Celts were innovative metal workers. Their iron weapons provided them with a distinct military advantage. Like the Scythians, they also brought with them an improved breed of horses that could run faster with great stamina in comparison to the horses already in northern-central Europe, giving them greater mobility.

Many of the richest Hallstatt burial places contain sturdy four-wheeled wagons that show a significant technical competency. Their spoke wheels were fitted with iron tires shrunken and nailed around the composite wooden rims. Their wooden yokes were decorated by patterns of bronze nail heads.

These artifact-rich sites seem to have been initially concentrated from the area of the Upper Danube to Bohemia. Later in the 500s B.C., however, the Celts’ Hallstatt cultural zone of control expanded to the west.

Significantly, vehicle burials were also a distinctive trademark of the Scythian culture. The late eighth and seventh centuries B.C. were a time of disruption and change not only at the headwaters of the Danube, but also in the Black Sea and Caucasus regions, where there were migrating tribes of Scythians.

The Hallstatt Celts’ lifestyle had many similarities to that of the Scythians. A Hallstatt sword in Vienna’s Natur-Historisches Museum has ornamentation that shows a Celt wearing profusely decorated trousers. This is comparable to the Scythian dress as pictured on the Chertomlyk vase (from the Black Sea area). This Vienna sword also depicts a tailcoat strikingly similar to Eastern Scythian apparel found by Russian archaeologists at Katanda in the southern Altai (Siberia). Another Celtic sword found at Port Bern, Switzerland, was stamped during its manufacture with a decoration of two standing horned animals flanking a tree of life—a classic Near Eastern, Scythian theme.

The archaeological evidence shows that the Celts and Scyths both freely shared and mingled. Russian and Eastern European excavations plainly reveal the blending of these two groups.

Most scholars also agree that it is evident that the Scythians of Eastern Europe maintained close relations with the Scythians still on the steppes in the east and the Hallstatt–La Tène Celts in the west.

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