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Giant Iron Age tomb discovered

Rresearchers find grave of Celtic prince containing one-metre bronze cauldron decorated with heads of Greek river-god

THE giant tomb of a Iron Age Celtic prince discovered just 100km from Paris in Champagne contains “exceptional” archaeological treasures “fitting for one of the highest elite of the end of the first Iron Age”.

Archaeologists from French national agency Inrap made the find under a 40m tumulus on the edge of a business park at Lavau. Covering nearly 7,000m2 and surrounded by a palisade and ditch, the tomb is larger than the cathedral in nearby Troyes.

Researchers were called in last October after preparation work for a new commercial centre uncovered the find, which dates from the fifth century BC. Agency president Dominique Garcia said it was probably the burial spot of a local Celtic prince as they had found a giant knife.

The major find so far has been a one-metre diameter giant bronze cauldron, with four circular handles decorated with the head of Acheloos, the horned Greek river-god, and eight lioness heads. Inside, a ceramic oinochoe wine jug is decorated with black figures and there is a drawing of Dionysos stretched under a vine.

Inrap says this Greco-Latin wine set is typical of what would have been a centrepiece of an aristrocratic Celtic banquet and was the northernmost found so far. Mr Garcia said it “confirmed exchanges between the Mediterranean and the Celts”.

Magnifique découverte d'une tombe princière celte. La France est riche de son héritage millénaire. Bravo à l'Inrap !— Manuel Valls (@manuelvalls) March 4, 2015

See more photos by clicking on this tweet from Prime Minister Manuel Valls

The researchers said on their Facebook page that the site was “At the centre of a 40m-diameter tumulus, with the prince and his chariot at the heart of a vast funeral chamber of 14m2.”

It was looking likely to be “one of the most remarkable finds from the so-called Hallstatt period [from 800BC-450BC]”.

At the time Mediterranean traders were extending their economic range seeking slaves and precious metals and jewels. The Celts who controlled the main communication routes along the Seine, Rhône, Saône, Rhine and Danube benefited from the exchanges to get prestigious objects.

Although parts of a skeleton have been found, the diggers have not so far identified the prince’s body. Other graves and funeral urns have been found on the site, including a woman’s body in a nearby grave, indicating a possible family link. Some of the ashes in the urns date back to 1400BC.

Work on the site is due to finish at the end of this month

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