Intact Tomb of a Celtic Noblewoman Found in Heuneberg
Photo by Patrick Seeger dpa/lsw
An intact aristocratic tomb of a Hallstatt-era woman was discovered in Heunenberg, Germany in December of 2010. Heuneberg (near Herbertingen in southern Germany) is a known center of Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, generally lumped together as “Celtic.” Excavations in and around the Heuneberg hillfort and the earlier middle Bronze-age (c. 15th to 12th century BCE) site began in the 1800s, and have resulted in a museum. The area is known for several cemetery mounds, many of which have revealed rich grave goods including imported Greek vessels, amber, gold, and a strikingly decorated local style of ornamented pottery, with scored lines and punching decorations carefully pigmented.
The December 2010 excavation discovered an intact four by five meters enclosed tomb, complete with intact oak floor timbers. After a preliminary excavation, the entire site 80-ton site, including surrounding soil, was extracted and moved to a laboratory in Ludwigsburg where microscopic examination of small pieces of organic matter and fragments of clothing could take place. The site has resulted in not only richly decorated jewelry in gold, amber and pearls, but textiles, pottery, and tools. The excavation is under the direction of Dirk Krausse. It is likely, given the care in excavating the site, that it will prove even more important than the Hochdorf prince’s grave.
The oak was preserved so well by the boggy soil that it has allowed the site to be dated to c. 7th century BCE, the height of the settlement’s activity, 2600 years ago. The trees used to make the floor were felled 2,620 years age.
The tomb contained the skeletal remains of a woman and a child. If we assume the trees were cut specifically for the tomb, the woman would have died in 609 BCE. She appears to have been between 30 and 40.