A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Bountiful Celtic Burials Volume 56 Number 3, May/June 2003
by Jarrett A. Lobell

A bronze pendant (left) recovered from the necropolis features a rare depiction of a human figure; her legs form a lyre, making this the earliest evidence for Celtic use of the instrument. It was found in the burial of a young woman (right). (S. Thouvenot/Inrap 2002)

A fifth-fourth-century B.C. necropolis found along the sandy banks of the Aisne River may be the final piece of the puzzle for archaeologists trying to identify a Celtic tribe in the Picardie region of northern France. Containing forty tombs, it appears to be the burial grounds for one or more villages in the area. Male burials contain weapons--swords, lances, and javelins--as well as some bronze personal items such as tweezers and razors. Women were buried with torques, bracelets, bronze earrings, and amber or colored glass beads. One large torque was decorated with coral, an exotic material that must have come from the Mediterranean. The most important find so far is a small bronze pendant of a woman whose legs form a lyre. Not only are depictions of people very rare in this period, but this is also the oldest known Celtic representation of the lyre, pushing back their knowledge of the instrument by two centuries.

The necropolis has much in common with other Celtic burial grounds discovered in the region, such as those at Bucy-le-Long, Chassemy, and nearby Ciry-Salsogne. This similarity of funeral practices and the presence and style of grave goods has enabled archaeologists to define a cultural group, perhaps under one chief, particular to the area. This excavation is a part of a large, multi-year project aimed at understanding the whole history of habitation of this area of Picardie, from the Neolithic to the present day.

© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America