Archaeologists unearth ‘exceptional’ 5th-century Celtic prince burial site in France
Iron Age Celtic prince’s tomb unearthed in small French town.
The ‘exceptional’ grave, crammed with Greek and possibly Etruscan artifacts, was discovered in a business zone on the outskirts of Lavau in France’s Champagne region.
The prince is buried with his chariot at the center of a huge mound, 130 feet (40 meters) across, which has been dated to the 5th Century BC.
A team from the National Archaeological Research Institute, Inrap has been excavating the site.
They recently dated it to the end of the First Iron Age – a period characterized by the widespread use of the metal. Its discovery could shed light on Iron Age European trade, researchers say.
The 2,500-year-old burial mound has at its heart a 14 square meter burial chamber, not yet opened, of an ancient royal.
‘It is probably a local Celtic prince,’ Inrap president Dominique Garcia told journalists on a field visit. The most exciting find, he said, was a large bronze-decorated cauldron that was used to store watered-down wine. It appears to have been made by Etruscan craftsmen from an area that is today in Italy.
The cauldron has four circular handles decorated with bronze heads that depict the Greek god Acheloos.
The river deity is shown with horns, a beard, the ears of a bull, and a triple mustache.
Eight lioness heads decorate the edge of the cauldron. The mausoleum contained a decorated ceramic wine pitcher made by the Greeks. Decorations on the vessel reveal the god Dionysus, lying under a vine and facing a woman.
The archaeologists also found remains of an iron wheel, from a chariot buried with the prince.
Another interesting discovery was a perforated silver spoon that was part of the banquet utensils, presumably to filter the wine.
The pieces ‘are evidence of the exchanges that happened between the Mediterranean and the Celts,’ said Garcia.
Inrap said the burial chamber is one of the largest recorded for this period. The end of the sixth and beginning of the fifth century BC was characterized by the rise of Etruscan and Greek city-states like Marseilles in southern France.
Mediterranean merchants, seeking slaves, metals, and other precious goods, opened trading channels with continental Celts.
The Celts gained valuable objects of Greek and Etruscan origin as a result of the trade. Many have been found in other mounds in Heuneburg and Hochdorf in Germany.