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ARCHAEOLOGY

Ancient tomb of Celtic prince found in France

An "exceptional" tomb from the fifth century BC, likely that of a Celtic prince, has been unearthed in a small French town, shedding light on Iron Age European trade, researchers said Wednesday.

Ancient tomb of Celtic prince found in France
The site of the dig where the ancient tomb of a Celtic prince has been unearthed. Photo: Inrap

The grave, crammed with Greek and possibly Etruscan artefacts, was discovered in a business zone on the outskirts of Lavau in France's Champagne region, said the National Archaeological Research Institute, Inrap.

A team from the institute has been excavating the site since October last year, and have dated it to the end of the First Iron Age — a period characterised by the widespread use of the metal.

The burial mound, 40 metres (130 feet) across, has at its heart a 14-square-metre (150-square-foot) burial chamber, not yet opened, of an ancient VIP.

"It is probably a local Celtic prince," Inrap president Dominique Garcia told journalists on a field visit.

The most exciting find, he said, was a large bronze-decorated cauldron that was used to store watered-down wine. It appears to have been made by Etruscan craftsmen from an area that is today in Italy.

The mausoleum also contained a decorated ceramic wine pitcher made by the Greeks.

The pieces "are evidence of the exchanges that happened between the Mediterranean and the Celts," said Garcia.

The end of the sixth and beginning of the fifth centuries BC were characterised by the rise of Etruscan and Greek city states like Marseille in southern France.

Mediterranean merchants, seeking slaves, metals and other precious goods, opened trading channels with continental Celts.

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ARCHAEOLOGY

Students find 560,000-year-old tooth in France

Archaeology students have unearthed what is understood to be the oldest human body part ever found in France - a tooth from 560,000 years ago. Researchers have hailed it as a "major discovery".

Students find 560,000-year-old tooth in France
The two archaeological students who found the 560,000-year-old human tooth. Photo: Denis Dainat/Musée de Tautavel

The tooth was found by students who were working voluntarily in the Arago Cave in Tautavel, in the Pyrénées-Orientales département in southern France.

The site is already famous in archaeological circles as it was there that the Tautavel Man was discovered, a 450,000-year-old Homo Erectus. 

The tooth predates the Tautavel Man by 100,000 years. 

Christian Perrenoud, a geo-archaeologist working on the site, said that while the tooth was a “great find”, there's a lot more left to uncover. 
 
“We are pretty confident that the site has a lot more to reveal,” he told The Local.
 
He said it was unlikely to find the entire skeleton of the tooth's owner – they didn't do burials in those days – but that the team was hoping to find other bones. 
 
“Human remains from between 500,000 and 800,000 years ago are more than scarce in Europe nowadays, and this tooth fills a bit of the gap of the incompleteness in this 300,000-year period,” he said. 
 

(Photo: Denis Dainat/Musée de Tautavel)
 
He added that the team has found thousands of objects since excavation first began on the 560,000-year-old layer in May. 
 
The team has found in recent months plenty of information about the people living in the cave at the time, including the pollen content of the area, the vegetation, and even how far the people travelled to get their flint (about 30 kilometres).

The tooth was found by volunteer Camille, 16, on Thursday last week as she was working with another young archaeologist. 

The bone has been called Arago 149, is understood to be an adult incisor, but it's unclear as to whether it belonged to a man or woman.
 
Even though the tooth is said to be “very worn”, researchers hope that they can use it to learn more about the morphology of the first Europeans. 
 
The cave has been a goldfield for archaeologists over the past 50 years. They have dug up over 600,000 objects of interest.
 
In 2011, researchers at the cave discovered a baby tooth, suggesting Homo heidelbergensis, probably the ancestor of Homo sapiens in Africa and the Neanderthals in Europe, led a family life in the cave.
 
 
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