Exceptional Gallic chariot tomb discovered in France

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A combined team composed of archaeologists from the Ardennes departmental archaeology unit and from Inrap is currently excavating a Gallic aristocratic tomb at Warcq (Ardennes). Curated by the State (Drac Champagne-Ardenne), this site is located on the route of the A304 motorway being constructed by the Dreal between Charleville-Mézières and Rocroi.

Exceptional Gallic chariot tomb discovered in France
Exceptional Gallic chariot tomb discovered in France
Exceptional Gallic chariot tomb discovered in France
Exceptional Gallic chariot tomb discovered in France
The excavation has currently revealed only the upper levels of this 15 square metre 
funerary chamber [Credit: © Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

Starting on 3 June for a three week period, archaeologists and an anthropologist have been working to uncover this chariot tomb. This type of aristocratic tomb emerges in the 7th century B.C. – during the first Iron Age – and ends with the end of the Gallic period. The oldest chariots have four wheels (like that found at Vix), while those from the second Iron Age have only two. The deceased person – who could be male or female – was generally inhumed on the chariot, which was an object of prestige and a symbol of social status. Champagne-Ardenne is famous for such tombs (particularly at Bourcq and Semide in the Ardennes), which are generally dated to the start of the second Iron Age (5th-4th century B.C.).

The excavation has currently revealed only the upper levels of this 15 m² funerary chamber. The chamber was covered with wood in the form of planks supported by a central span and with supports on the pit walls. Several elements of the chariot have already been revealed: the iron wheel bands, whose interiors are covered with gold leaf, probable hub decorations in bronze set with glass paste, and some planks. Finally, in the south east angle, decorative elements in bronze still connected to the wood of the shaft have been discovered. These atypical objects do not as yet enable an accurate determination of the chronology of the chariot tomb.Another rare feature is the discovery along the western wall of two small horses whose bones are still articulated.All of these elements appear to offer very few parallels with previously excavated chariot graves, emphasising still further the exceptional nature of this discovery.

The Ardennes departmental archaeology unit

The purpose of the Departmental archaeology unit of the Ardennes General Council is to reduce intervention times and to promote and communicate archaeological discoveries to the citizens of the department and to the scientific community. Employing 6 permanent agents, it was certified on 22 June 2009 by the Ministry of Culture and Communication forPress release23 June 2014the realization of diagnostic operations within the department, and for the excavation of Gallo-Roman and Medieval sites. This certification was recently renewed for 5 years, starting on 22 June 2014. Over the past five years, this departmental unit has realized 84 diagnostic operations across 458 hectares.

Source: Inrap [June 27, 2014]

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