A lavish ‘Princely tomb’ belonging to an Iron Age man was found in Italy full of treasures including a bronze helmet, weapons and a whole chariot.
The tomb of a pre-Roman prince has been saved from ‘imminent’ destruction after aerial photos revealed the ancient treasure trove before it could be built over.
The body of the unidentified prince has not been found and no mound remains to mark his resting place – it may have been lost while the site was used for farming.
The hoard, found in Corinaldo, Italy, was on the site of a future sports complex and wasn’t spotted until a survey of the land was carried out before building started.
The value of the discovery and the site is now being assessed before any decision over whether to move the tomb or move the sports complex is made.
Inside the tomb archaeologists found the remains of a complete chariot, it’s chassis can be seen on the outer edge of this block, as well as weapons and armour
The tomb, including the ancient contents – as seen here in the pit – is believed to date back to the seventh century BC. They found pottery and clothing amongst the remains
The full study of the pottery and other finds within the tomb, including the chassis of what was likely a chariot (seen here) will likely prompt entirely new insights into the cultural, trading and gift-exchange relationships of the aristocracy in the area
The land has been used for agriculture for thousands of years and is likely the reason the body and signs of a burial mound haven’t been found
‘Aerial photography led to the first identification of the site,’ said Professor Boschi. The grey area in this photo highlights were the tomb was found
The tomb is believed to date back to the seventh century BC, when it was constructed for a prince of the largely-unknown Piceni people, whose land was eventually annexed by Rome in 268 BC.
WHO ERE THE PICENI PEOPLE?
The Piceni people were early Iron Age residents of Italy – they had two main areas in the country – in Novilara in the north and Belmonte in the south.
There is evidence they traded with Greeks as early as the 7th Century BC and that they were a wealthy people.
Researchers suggest they had very little artistic ability and that they were a warlike population.
Remains have been found of men wearing armour and carrying weapons.
Rome eventually annexed their territory in 268 BC.
‘We identified circular cropmarks, comparable to large funerary ring ditches,’ said Federica Boschi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna.
‘A large and slightly off-centre pit contained an extraordinary collection of cultural material.’
It is the only discovery of its kind in the region, the archaeologist confirmed.
‘As the first such monument identified and excavated in northern Marche this has provided an extraordinary opportunity to investigate a site of the Piceni culture,’ said Professor Boschi.
‘Until now, this culture has been poorly documented and little understood despite its undoubted importance in the pre-Roman development of the area.’
She added: ‘The recovery from complete obscurity and imminent danger of archaeological material of this scale and importance is a rare event within contemporary European archaeology.’
The body of the unidentified prince has not been found and no mound remains to mark his resting place – possibly both were destroyed during the land’s long history of agricultural use.
Nonetheless, Professor Boschi believes that the lavish tomb is evidence enough of his status.
She said: ‘The extraordinarily rich funerary deposit testifies to a high-status tomb dedicated to a princely leader within the early Iron Age society of the region.
‘One outstanding find among the hundred or more ceramic vessels recovered from the pit was an olla imported from ancient Daunia.
‘This undoubtedly symbolises the commemorated leader’s significant political, military and economic power.
‘The full study of the pottery and other finds will undoubtedly prompt entirely new insights into the cultural, trading and gift-exchange relationships of the aristocracy in the area.’
The hoard had lain undiscovered for thousands of years, but with a new sports complex about to be built on the land, an aerial survey changed everything. They found pottery, clothing and other high value items in the tomb
Archaeologists discovered the remains of a whole chariot, a bronze helmet, weapons including swords, and much more at the site in Corinaldo, Italy
A targeted geomagnetic survey produced significant information about the survival of the underground deposits. As seen here, during the excavation they worked to extract as much information from the tomb as possible
After seeing aerial photos of the tomb site, archaeologists initially performed a resistivity survey, where electrical currents are run through the ground to see if anything metallic is buried there.
‘Aerial photography led to the first identification of the site,’ said Professor Boschi.
‘A resistivity survey then provided an initial understanding of the extent and internal articulation of the funerary area, including a third ring-ditch not revealed by the aerial photographs.
‘A targeted geomagnetic survey then produced significant information about the survival of the underground deposits, providing supporting secure evidence for a massive deposit of ironwork.’
It’s not entirely clear what will happen to the site next, whether the tomb and its contents will be moved or whether a new home will be found for the sports centre.
The findings have to be properly valued, both for their financial worth and their cultural worth, before anything can happen.
‘The next steps are going to move toward the valorization and public fruition of the site within and in agreement with the project of the new sports complex,’ said Professor Boschi.