Archaeology breakthrough as 'lost ancient capital city' found in France: 'Exceptional!'

The Bronze Age: How their ancient weapons were made

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Excavations about 80 miles northwest of Lyon have revealed hundreds of items predating the birth of Jesus Christ by some 800 years. Among the unearthed treasures are bronze weapons and trinkets, as well as bits and pieces of potter and chariot parts. Due to the abundance of treasures and the sheer size of the site, at the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaures suspect they may have discovered the lost site of a Celtic capital city.

The artefacts have been dated to about 800 BC or the end of the Urnfield culture (1,300 to 800 BC) in Bronze Age .

The excavations have revealed an impressive but unusually big for the time fortified settlement that measured 30 hectares in total.

The fort would have been protected by a double row of ramparts with 20ft-tall stone walls to boot.

According to Pierre-Yves Milcent, a lecturer at the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, similar sites across France typically only measure about four hectares.

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Bronze Age artefacts discovered in France

The site may have been an ancient capital city (Image: E. Trébuchet/P.-Y. Milcent, Laboratoire TRACES-Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès)

One of the buried deposits at the Celt hill fort

One of the buried deposits uncovered at the Celtic site (Image: P.-Y. Milcent, Laboratory TRACES-University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès)

He said: “This inhabited site was probably the capital of a large territory.”

The archaeologist confirmed on Friday many of the sites’ artefacts were recovered in intact condition.

Among them were two vases recovered last year that were filled with a wide array of items.

According to a report in France TV Info, one of the vases was filled with women’s and children’s jewellery, trinkets and ankle rings.

The second vase was packed with weapons and tools, including knives, sickles and spear points.

It appears as though the items were buried in the ground on purpose, drawing similarities to practices in Ancient Greece.

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According to the archaeologists, the artefacts were likely buried as offerings to the gods in a ritual practice.

Discoveries of this magnitude are fairly rare in France and the country suffers from looters plundering sites of archaeological interest.

The Gannat hill fort itself had fallen prey to antiquity thieves back in 2017 and the recent excavations were part of a concentrated effort to protect the site.

The archaeologists were therefore thrilled to discover one of the greatest troves of Bronze Age treasure in the whole of Europe.

According to Professor Milcent, the recent discoveries have so far proven “exceptional”.


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Bronze Age artefacts found in the ground

Some of the bronze artefacts were buried in a religious ritual (Image: P.-Y. Milcent, Laboratory TRACES-University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès)

Bronze objects found at the fort hill

A deposit of bronze artefacts uncovered at the fort hill (Image: F. Bordas, TRACES-University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès Laboratory)

The archaeologist was quoted by the Daily Mail saying: “We intervened on this site because there was looting by people equipped with metal detectors who then resell their loot on the Internet, where there is a whole parallel market.

“The excavations are not complete, but we already have around 800 objects, the majority intact.

“This is also the first time that we have found four intact hoards that we can excavate in the laboratory under the best conditions.

“Usually it is the illegal detectors who find the deposits and they do not pay attention to the arrangement of the objects, which is catastrophic.”

The southern region of Allier would have been perfect for a Bronze Age community to thrive with vast deposits of tin – one of the metals needed to create the alloy.

The area also served as a crossroads for major trade routes that connected the north and south of France.

The Celts were a distinct group of Indo-European people who gave rise to the Britons, Gaels and Gauls among others.

The Celts migrated to what is modern-day France from the steppes of Central Europe, and have settled the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula.

Today, France’s northwesternmost region, Brittany, remains one of the six officially recognised Celtic nations: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man.

Harry Byrne

Harry Byrne

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