Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Chariots Grounded at Paris Airport Volume 52 Number 6, November/December 1999
by Frédéric Lontcho

Two Celtic chariot tombs dating to 300 B.C. have been uncovered at Paris' Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport during runway construction. One belongs to a warrior, while the second, devoid of military paraphernalia, is perhaps the resting place of a priest; the bones of both individuals have disintegrated. The excavations, directed by Thierry Lejars of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and undertaken by the Association Française pour l'Archéologie, revealed that the warrior was laid to rest in a chariot pulled by two horses. He had been buried with an iron sword with sheath and a lance. A fibula, or dress pin, on his chest had perhaps been used to bind a garment; another, near his feet, possibly closed a shroud or a bag containing offerings. Bronze and lignite bracelets had decorated his left arm.

The second tomb, less than 30 feet from the warrior's, contained a more ornate chariot decorated with bronze appliqués that may have been used for ceremonial purposes. In the same tomb was the excavation's most exciting find: a finely wrought round plate measuring nearly eight inches across. It is unclear whether it was the cover of a rotted wooden container or a chariot decoration. Cast using the lost-wax technique, it features imaginary creatures in openwork relief. While no weapons were recovered, the tomb did yield the personal effects of its occupant: a bag of toilet articles that included a razor, and a purse containing a striped stone, a bronze disk, and an iron ring, possibly amulets. Eight other tombs from the same era were found near the chariot burials but held few artifacts.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America