| 5 May 2011
Celtic grave examined by German archaeologists
German experts are carefully taking apart a complete grave of a Celtic woman in the hope of finding out more about her way of life, 2,600 years ago, in their Danube heartland. She rested in peace until a few months ago when her grave was dug up in its entirety - all 80 tonnes of it - and transported on the back of a truck to Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. In the grave, too, was a child, presumed to be hers.
The archaeologists decided that removal of the whole grave would allow them to use the most modern resources of analysis, from computers to X-rays. What emerged was the lady, the child and their ornaments. Because of the amount of gold and amber jewellery, they are assumed to be important, a princess and the young prince or princess. It indicates that the early Celts had an aristocratic hierarchy, which has been a matter of dispute among archaeologists.
"It is the oldest princely female grave yet from the Celtic world," said Dr Dirk Krausse, who is in charge of the dig. "It is the only example of an early Celtic princely grave with a wooden chamber," he added.
The archaeologists are excited because this grave was preserved by the water-sodden soil of the region so that the oak of the floor was intact, for example, and that puts an exact date on it. The oak trees were felled 2,620 years ago, so, assuming they were felled for the grave, our lady died in 609BC. The grave had also not been robbed down those 26 centuries, unlike many others. This means that the jewellery is still there, particularly beautiful brooches of ornate Celtic design in gold and in amber.
Dr Krausse says the real Celtic heartland was actually in the region in the upper reaches of the Danube, from where the Celts could trade. "Celtic art and Celtic culture have their origins in south-western Germany, eastern France and Switzerland and spread from there to other parts of Europe," said Dr Krausse. They were then squeezed by the tribes from the north and the Romans from the south, so that today they remain only on the western edges of the continent.
The lady in the grave reveals the Celts to have been a rather stylish people with a love of ornament, examples of which are coming out of the mud of the grave. Nicole Ebenger-Rest has been doing much of the painstaking excavation and what excited her were specks of cloth or food or other organic matter which might reveal a way of life.
Edited from BBC News (2 May 2011)
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