These 2,000-Year-Old Embalmed Heads Show How Ancient Celts Celebrated Victory

Human remains discovered at the Celtic website of Le Cailar in southern France.

Credit: copyright Fouille Programmée Le Cailar-UMR5140- ASM

The ancient Celts took boasting of their conquests to an extreme: They hung the severed heads of their victims around the necks of horses to parade the gory prizes around. And now, archaeologists have actually discovered the macabre proof– embalmed, severed heads going back more than 2,000 years in France.

Ancient Greek and Roman texts recommended Celts in the area of Gaul– what is now France and surrounding locations– cut off the heads of their opponents after fight and hung them around the necks of their horses as they brought these grisly prizes back house. Sculptures portraying this practice discovered in the Iron Age settlement of Entremont in Provence in southern France substantiated these stories.

Previous records likewise recommended that the Celts embalmed these beheaded heads to show them in front of their houses “as prizes to increase their status and power, and to scare their opponents,” research study senior author Réjane Roure, an archaeologist at Paul Valéry University of Montpellier in France, informed Live Science. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

Now, scientists have proof these claims were genuine, detailing their findings online Nov. 7 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Researchers examined pieces of skulls discovered at the Celtic website of Le Cailar in southern France, which archaeologists found in2000 The strengthened Iron Age settlement– situated on a little hill near a large lagoon linked to the Rhône River– was a harbor for Mediterranean traders.

The embalmed heads were discovered at a fortified Iron Age settlement called Le Cailar in southern France.

The embalmed heads were found at a prepared Iron Age settlement called Le Cailar in southern France.

Credit: copyright Fouille Programmée Le Cailar-UMR5140- ASM

From 2003 to 2013, researchers at the website excavated about 50 skulls, burglarized about 2,500 pieces. The skulls were discovered together with weapons and near what was potentially among the settlement’s gates. The positioning of the heads and weapons recommends they were, long earlier, on screen in a big, open area inside the website, the scientists stated.

The website was inhabited from the 6th century B.C. till the very first century A.D., after the Roman conquest of Gaul. The skulls date from the 3rd century B.C., which was understood for its lots of fights and wars throughout nearly the entire of Western Europe, the scientists stated.

The researchers chemically examined 11 skull pieces to see if they had traces of embalming. 6 pieces bore indications of conifer resin, in addition to particles that exist just when the resin of evergreen gets heated up to a heat. This is the very first time that chemical analysis has actually discovered proof that Celts embalmed heads throughout the Iron Age, the scientists stated.

Future research study can check out whether these heads were embalmed throughout the entire of the 3rd century B.C., or whether this practice took place just throughout a brief time throughout that century, Roure stated. “Likewise, there are lots of other severed heads in Iron Age Europe, and it would be extremely intriguing to understand if they were all embalmed,” he stated.

Initially released on Live Science.