2,200-Year-Old Remains Of Iron Age Celt Show She Was A VIP Who Dined Richly And Endured Little Physical Labor

Zürich’s Office for Urban Development

Archaeologists in Switzerland have discovered the 2,200-year-old body of a Celt woman who endured little physical labor while indulging in a diet of starchy and sweetened food. 

The burial was discovered in 2017 during construction work on a schoolhouse in Zürich. Now, the results of a 2-year-long analysis led by an interdisciplinary team of researchers have been published by Zürich’s Office for Urban Development.

In March 2017, the woman's skeletal remains were found inside a hollowed-out tree trunk (or what remained of it) – an Iron Age example of a tree trunk coffin, a funerary practice performed by various ancient European cultures (and in Egypt). Later examination of her bones and, in particular, her teeth suggest she was 40 or so years old when she died, though the cause of death is undisclosed.

Aside from the facts that she was buried in a tree trunk coffin, dined on starchy or sweetened foods, and carried out little physical labor, the clothes she was buried in and the artifacts she was buried with give away her status as a person of some importance. She was buried in fine sheep's wool, a shawl, and a sheepskin coat. The archaeologists also found bronze bracelets, a bronze belt chain decorated with pendants, and a necklace made of amber and blue and yellow glass beads in her grave.

In recent years, archaeological excavations have turned up evidence for a town-like settlement inhabited by Celts, just like the woman here. Eventually, this early city, located on the Lindenhof hill, was gobbled up by Turicum, a military base built by the Romans after their invasion (and conquer) of the Alps, which later became Zürich.

Burial reconstruction. Zürich’s Office for Urban Development

According to Afar, the La Tène culture flourished before the arrival of the Romans, enjoying a "golden age" between 450 BCE and 58 BCE. But things drove to a close after Julius Caesar invaded the area during the Gallic Wars, burnt down a few hundred Celtic villages, and subjugated the Celts to Roman law. 

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