An Iron Age Celtic prince lay buried with his chariot at the center of a huge mound in the Champagne region of France, according to the country's National Archaeological Research Institute (Inrap).
Standing near the small village of Lavau, in northwestern France, the mound, 130 feet across, has been dated to the 5th century BC. The 2,500-year-old tomb has at its center a 150-square-foot burial chamber, housing the deceased and his chariot.
"This exceptional tomb contains unique funerary artifacts, which are fitting for one of the highest elite of the end of the first Iron Age," Inrap, who has been excavating the site since October last year, said in a statement.
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The major find so far has been a large bronze-decorated wine cauldron, most likely made by Greek or Etruscan craftsmen.
The cauldron measures about 3.2 feet in diameter and has four circular handles which are decorated with bronze heads that depict the Greek god Acheloos. The river deity is represented horned, bearded, with ears of a bull and a triple mustache.
More decorations are found around the edge of the cauldron. These include eight lioness heads.
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Inside the cauldron, the archaeologists found a ceramic wine vessel, called oniochoe, decorated with black figures. Decorations include the god Dionysus, lying under a vine and facing a woman.
"It's likely a banqueting scene, which is a recurring theme in Greek iconography," Inrap said.
The Greco-Latin wine set, the northernmost found so far, is typical of an aristocratic Celtic banquet.
The wine cauldron not only represents the deceased's wealth and power - it also reflects the growing interaction between the Celtic elites and the Mediterranean world, Inrap said.
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Between the end of the 6th century and the beginning of the 5th century BC, Greek and Etruscan city-states, in particularly Marseille, experienced strong economic growth.
Mediterranean traders, seeking slaves, metals and other precious goods such as amber, came into contact with continental Celts who controlled the main communication routes along the Seine, Rhône, Saône, Rhine and Danube.
The Celts greatly benefited from the exchanges.Some of their prestigious objects of Greek and Etruscan origin have been found in other monumental mounds in Heuneburg and Hochdorf, in Germany, and in Bourges and Vix, France.
Excavation at the site is expected to finish at the end of the month.
Image: Lioness head on the edge of the wine cauldron. Credit: Denis Gliksman/Inrap