On air
  • RFI English Live
  • RFI French Live

History France Prehistory Greek Marseille archaeology Mediterranean Champagne

Issued on • Modified

Fifth-century tomb containing Greek, Etruscan relics found in eastern France

The head of the river god Acheolos on the wine kettle discovered at Landau, east France © Denis Gliksman, Inrap

French archaeologists have unearthed an iron-age tomb dating back to the fifth century BC containing Greek and Etruscan objects showing that the local Celtic prince traded with the cities of the Mediterranean.

Discovered by a roundabout next to an industrial estate at Lavau in the eastern Champagne region, the tomb is an “exceptional” discovery, the national archaeology institute Inrap said on Wednesday.

It contains a kettle for wine, which was served diluted, a gold-encrusted jug, a sieve and other objects that lead the excavators to believe that the occupant was probably an important Celtic local leader, although the excavators have only just begun to uncover the skeleton.

The artefacts were not made locally.

In fact, they were made by Greeks or Etruscans, showing that the local people traded with Mediterranean cities such as Marseille, at the time a Greek settlement.

Dionysos and friend on the vase unearthed at Lavau © Denis Gliksman, Inrap

The kettle is decorated with the head of Greek river god Acheleos, while the god of wine, Dionysos, is portrayed with a woman on the jug, which is remarkably well preserved.

It is inlaid with gold, something the Greeks did not do for their own use but appear to have done to please the “barbarians”.

Near to the 40-metre-diameter tumulus, which turned out to house a 14-square-metre funerary chamber, is another tomb containing the skeleton of a woman.

“We know that the sepulchre was created before that of the prince,” the dig’s chief Bastien Dubuis told the AFP news agency. “But it is quite possible that the two are related.”

The find is one of the best-preserved relics of the Hallstatt period (800-450 BC).

Similar ones have been made at Hochdorf in Germany and Vix in the French region of Burgundy.