In France, ancient Celtic prince burial mound exposes chariot and trade

In France, ancient Celtic prince burial mound exposes chariot and trade

Credit: Denis Gliksman/INRAP
  • One of largest Celtic burial mounds.
  • Fragments of bones.
  • Pieces indicate high princely status.

On March 4, France’s National Archaeological Research Institute (INRAP) revealed a brand new Celtic burial mound in Lavau. Inside was a prince with unexpected burial pieces from the Mediterranean.

France 24 is reporting that the National Archaeological Research Institute (Inrap) discovered the burial tomb of what /4/be a Celtic prince. However, that’s not the surprising news.

While digging at an industrial zone in the small town of Lavau, located in the northern region of Yonne, archaeologists discovered a tomb of a previously unknown prince. Inrap began the excavation in October 2014, but did not reveal the contents of the 40-meter-wide burial mound until a press conference on March 4.

The official press release from Inrap announces “in the center of a tumulus 40 meter in diameter, the deceased and his chariot lay in the center of a vast, 14 square-meter funerary chamber, one of the largest recorded by archaeologists for this period at the end of the Iron Age (Hallstatt period).”

Photos show bones from the prince’s toes, as well. However, that wasn’t even the thrilling part—and really, how often is the burial site of a prince not the most sensational part of a story?

And it turns out the contents were even more exciting. Among the prince’s prized possessions were items only found in the Mediterranean region—indicating a functioning, well-established trade route.

The institute says “the most ostentatious objects comprise basins, a bronze ciste (bucket), fine pottery with a fluted decoration, and a large knife in its sheath” were all placed around the corner of the site.

Larger, unearthed items include an Etruscan crafted, bronze decorated cauldron used for watered-down wine during banquets and assemblies. Interestingly, Etruscans lived in what is now northern Italy and were frenemies of the Romans, so the trading route /4/have lasted nearly 840 miles—depending on if the craftsmen were in the expanded territories.

Along the handle of the cauldron is the head of Greek god Achelous, the river and fresh water god, which /4/indicate a push for good trade through the waterway system.

Celts “benefitted from this circulation and their elites accumulated numerous prestige goods” along the Loire-Seine-Saône-Rhine-Danube inter-fluvial zone. Achelous inclusion shows a knowledge of the local influential people to request an audience. And eight lioness heads decorate along the outer rim.

Also inside the cauldron was a Greek oenochoe pot with a gold finish base depicting “Dionysus lying under a vine facing a female.” It also implicates the local Celts’ fondness of Greco-Italian finery for banquets.

Other large Celtic cites include Heuneburg and Hochdorf, Germany, and Bourges, France.

France 24 claims Inrap President Dominique Garcia recently told visiting journalists these items “are evidence of the exchanges that happened between the Mediterranean and the Celts.” And noted that the rise of the Etruscans and Greek city-states in the sixth and fifth centuries BC helped motivate the need for barter and commerce. Especially in the Etruscan and Greek city-states near Marseille, France.

Pieces like the wine pitcher and cauldron were often used as what Garcia calls “kind of diplomatic gifts” when the merchants visited continental Celts. Similar to the way heads of state exchange gifts now, the idea was to butter up the regional power for access to precious metals/goods, slaves, and cooperation.

The preserved items allow the archeological community into Early Iron Age cultural insights found around the prince’s grave. From 1300 B.C. until 800 B.C., humans used the Lavau area for burial mounds and would place trenches around the plots, separating space from the living and deceased.

“During the Early Iron Age, they were succeeded by a warrior and his iron sword, along with woman decorated with solid bronze bracelets.” Until the Gallo-Romans unearthed the previous bodies and used the three-meters deep trenches for Antiquity burial sites, the area remained a quarantined sanctuary for the dead.

And the fine condition of the cauldron and pot lets the group use the latest technological and advancements without fear of ruining a valuable piece. The prince’s burial mound and possessions just /4/provide a lot of answers for questions plaguing the archeological community.

Sources: France 24, Inrap


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