Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Late Iron Age Grave in Switzerland

Grave reconstruction including tree coffin.
[Reproduced in Archaeology News Network article.
Image from: Amt für Städtebau, 
City of Zurich]
A recent article from Archaeology News Network provides some fascinating information about a grave found in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, back in March 2017. The archaeologists have completed their evaluation of the find, the remains of a Celtic woman buried in a log coffin, which has been dated to around 200 BCE.

The remains yielded a substantial amount of information about the woman and the clothing in which she was buried.  They have ascertained that the woman was about 40 years old when she died, but had not done a lot of physical labor during her lifetime and had eaten a lot of starchy or sweetened foods.  Isotope analysis confirmed that she was from the Limmat Valley--what is now the Zurich area.

Analysis of the clothing remains further supports the view that she was wealthy.  Analysis of the textile, fur, leather and jewelry remains in the grave show that she was buried in a fine wool dress, fastened with T-shaped fibulae, a wool layer (possibly a cloak or overdress) over her dress, and a wool coat lined with sheepskin over that. The artists' renditions show her wearing a white veil, though the article does not explain what part of the find, if any, supports that deduction.  A strand of blue and yellow beads was worn over her chest, fastened by the fibulae.  

The full article can be read here.  It is illustrated with artists' renditions of the woman's clothing and of the layout of her grave, as well as color photographs of the jewelry found in the grave.  It will be worth keeping an eye out for any scientific analyses that may be published about this find.


  1. There are some excellent photos in this article. The veil is confusing me too, because I can't see where they're getting it from. I can't remember anything in Tacitus about Celtic women wearing veils, and I can't think of other grave finds that might suggest veils were worn. But then, I'm hardly an expert on Celtic archaeology.

    1. I'm no expert on Celtic mythology either, and the only picture of the find more or less in situ does not clearly show the textile remains. That's one reason I'm awaiting the formal articles by the archaeological team.