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Ancient Greek wine jug found in Champagne

A Greek wine jug from the 5th century BC has been found at the burial site of a Celtic prince in the Aube region of southern Champagne.

Photo credit: Denis Gliksman, INRAP

Archaeologists from the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP) have been excavating the site in Lavau just outside of Troyes in the south of Champagne since October last year.

The princely tomb dates back to the famous Hallstatt period and is not only one of the largest of its type ever found but is also the furthest north Greek objects have ever been discovered.

The body of the prince and his chariot were unearthed at the centre of the 40-metre diameter mound and he was surrounded by luxury items such a bronze cauldron of Etruscan or Greek origin and, inside the cauldron, an intact Attic ceramic wine jug – otherwise known as an oinochoe, or oenochoe.

The jug depicts Dionysus in a banqueting scene, reclining on a couch beneath a vine and facing a woman. The cauldron, one metre in diameter, is decorated with the horned and bearded head of the river god Acheloos and the heads of eight lionesses.

Greek and Etruscan artefacts are often found in the tombs of Celtic nobles, similar examples have been discovered at sites in Germany, Switzerland and at Vix in the Côte-d’Or, but it is the furthest point in northern Europe that Greek culture is known to have spread.

Iron Age Celtic peoples are known to have prized wine as a trading item and the ruling elite drank copious amounts at great feasts.

As the Greeks and Etruscans founded their city states in southern France, northern Italy and even Spain from 600 BC onwards they actively sought trade with the local Celts and exchanged extremely valuable items such as wine and fine pottery for slaves, amber or metal, the Celts being renowned metal workers as finds from Hallstatt and the later La Tène cultures testify.

It is possible, that the jug and its accompanying wine might have come from the Greek city of Massalia, modern Marseille but tribes along the Loire, Seine, Saône, Rhine and Danube were frequently exposed to Greek trade items which might also change hands through further trade, gifting or warfare.

For more pictures from the dig and the artefacts found click here.


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