2,500-year-old Celtic tomb with richly adorned body may belong to a Prince or Princess
Someone very important to the Celts of northeast France was buried in a huge mound about 2,500 years ago, but the skeleton has deteriorated so much archaeologists are unsure whether the person is a man or woman. The person's high stature in society is clear from a stunning gold necklace, bracelets, and finely worked amber beads adorning the skeleton, as well as precious grave goods retrieved in the recently-discovered mound.
International Business Times reports that the body was found in a huge burial mound excavated earlier this year where researches also unearthed a chariot, a vase depicting Dionysus, and a beautiful Mediterranean bronze cauldron adorned with castings of the Greek god Achelous and lion's heads.
Archaeologists were exploring the site in preparation for construction of the new commercial center when they found the tomb. INRAP President Dominique Garcia said in March they thought the tomb belonged to a Prince because they found a giant knife in it. However, now that the body has been exhumed and examined, researchers say they cannot determine whether the individual was a Prince or Princess. Celtic women were also known to have fought in battles so the gender cannot be assumed merely from the presence of a weapon.
Archaeologists consider the biggest find to be the huge bronze cauldron that measures 1 meter in diametre. It has four handles decorated with the head of Achelous, a horned river god of the ancient Greeks. The cauldron also has eight heads of lionesses. In the cauldron was a ceramic oinochoe wine jug with a drawing of Dionysus under a grapevine. They said the wine set may have been a centerpiece of an aristocratic Celtic banquet. INRAP says it’s a Greco-Latin wine set and confirms exchanges between the Celts and people of the Mediterranean region.
The handles of a large cauldron in the tomb are decorated with the Greek river God Achelous (INRAP photo)
Archaeologists said the riches interred with the body in the burial mound's center suggest the person was a high-ranking aristocrat. The person was of the Hallstatt culture of central Europe's early Iron Age. The treasures of the tomb are “fitting for one of the highest elite of the end of the first Iron Age,” the French archaeological agency INRAP said in March . The agency said it is one of the most remarkable finds of the Celtic Hallstatt period of 800 to 450 BC.
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The prince or princess was buried with a wine jug with a drawing of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy. (INRAP photo)
"The tomb contains mortuary deposits of sumptuousness worth that of the top Hallstatt elites," INRAP said. "The period between the late 6th Century and the beginning of the 5th Century BC was characterized by the economic development of Greek and Etruscan city-states in the West, in particularly Marseilles. Mediterranean traders come into contact with the continental Celtic communities as they searched for slaves, metals and precious goods (including amber)."
The burial mound, called a tumulus, was on the edge of business park about to be developed in Lavau in the Champagne region. The 40 meter (131 feet) mound covers nearly 7,000 square meters (7,655 square yards) and was a surrounded by a ditch and palisade. The tomb was larger than the cathedral of nearby Troyes.
The huge burial mound of the prince and other personages (INRAP photo)
Today Celtic peoples are in Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Ireland. At one time, the Celts inhabited much of Europe. In 278 BC one band of Celts went as far east as Asia Minor and gave their name to Galatia. The Celts sacked Rome in 385 BC, but between 59 and 49 BC, Julius Caesar's legionnaires were victorious over Celtic tribes in Gaul, present-day France. “Although largely incorporated into the Roman Empire, the Celts continued to worship their own gods and goddesses right up to the time of the official adoption by the Romans of the Christian faith,” says the Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology.
Featured image: Remains of the body with the golden torc visible around the neck (Inrap photo by Denis Gliksman)
By Mark Miller