Gauls military cemetery found in northern France

(ORDO NEWS) — During excavations in the village of Mersin-et-Vaux, archaeologists unearthed Iron Age burials damaged by shells and trenching during the First World War.

Specialists from the National Institute for Archaeological Protection Research (Inrap) of France have partially excavated a necropolis in Picardy. The work was carried out before the repair of the road surface in the village of Mersin-et-Vaux.

Archaeologists have found a burial site that was destroyed in the First World War. Apparently, this is part of the Iron Age necropolis.

The Gallic (Gauls were called some Celtic tribes that lived on the territory of modern France) community buried their dead there in the 5th-4th centuries BC.

Gauls military cemetery found in northern France 2
Plan of the excavated part of the necropolis: graves are marked in red, fences near two burials are shown in blue, and traces of shells and trenches are marked in gray

A total of 11 burials were unearthed, two of which are located inside the fence. One of them is round, the other is square. A trench and shell damage from the First World War destroyed both graves.

The end of the circular enclosure has been broken in its eastern part, and the quadrangular closed tomb has been cut at the northern wall.

The skull and the left side of the body of the deceased were torn off while digging a trench.

In addition, a pit without skeletal fragments was found in the same place, in which there were several vessels and two brooches, lying in the place where, presumably, there was a body.

The environment and silty infill, which are not very suitable for the preservation of bones, may explain the disappearance of the bone remains: most likely, this is also a grave. Then it turns out that archaeologists have found 12 burials.

The grave pits are evenly distributed and oriented along a common axis east-west and northeast-southwest.

Six graves are located on the edge of the site in a way that indicates that the necropolis continues beyond the explored area and contains even more burials.

Most of the dead were buried according to the rite of burial, and only one person was cremated. This is a normal practice for the Gauls of the Iron Age: in many of their cemeteries, cremated remains are found from time to time among people buried in the usual way.

Such differences in rites may be related to the status of the deceased, his/her lineage or causes of death.

Of the ten buried, nine are adults, and the only child is estimated to be seven to nine years old. The age and sex of the only cremated person has not been determined.

Anthropological analysis identified three women, four men, and the remains of four could not be reliably identified.

But two of the latter are buried with weapons characteristic of men. Jewelry of a female type was found in a child’s grave.

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The grave of a girl of seven or nine years old

Therefore, Inrap specialists believe that they have unearthed four female (including a children’s) and six male graves.

All were buried in clothes. Numerous food offerings and ceramic vessels are placed at the head of the bed.

Pieces of meat (pork, goat meat, less often beef) were placed in the grave, as well as several items reminiscent of everyday life. Men differ in weapons (sword, dagger, spearhead), and women in outfits.

Little jewelry was found in three female graves: the simplest bracelets and brooches. But in the nursery lay a necklace and a bracelet.

Their small size (for a girl of seven or nine years old) indicates that the deceased was from a noble family.

All men are buried with weapons. Most of them are with swords, in addition, there are daggers and spearheads.

Inrap researchers believe that the high proportion of male burials in this apparently small part of the necropolis indicates a possible delimitation of the main part of the burials.

This is also evidenced by only one children’s grave: according to modern ideas (based on excavations of other necropolises), in the Gallic communities of that time there was a fairly high infant mortality rate.

Unusually, weapons are found in all male graves. The Gauls, of course, fought a lot, but the main time of their conquests was the 6th century BC.

By the 4th century, expansion to the east, to the Rhine, was almost complete. That is, not every man of that time is necessarily a warrior.

Therefore, archaeologists assume that they have found a part of the necropolis, which we would now call a military cemetery.


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