Thursday, February 11, 2021

Burial of a Celtic Prince

The Hochdorf Chieftain's Grave is a richly-furnished Celtic burial chamber dating from 540 BCE near Hochdorf an der Enz (municipality of Eberdingen) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Beginning in 1968, a volunteer at the State Antiquities and Monuments Office in Baden-Württemberg, Renate Leibfried, kept coming across stone fragments plowed up in the field. She reported her observations and the Archaeological Preservation Office identified what had been a large burial mound.  Dr. Jörg Biel led a complete excavation of the site between 1978 to 1979.

The grave contained a Celtic prince, roughly 40 years of age and 6 ft 2 in tall, who was laid out on a bronze recliner with eight wheels.  He wore a gold-plated torc on his neck, a bracelet on his right arm, a hat made of birch bark, a gold-plated dagger made of bronze and iron, rich clothing, amber jewelry and the remains of thin embossed gold plaques which once decorated his now-disintegrated shoes. Other grave goods included a razor knife, a nail clipper, a comb, fishing hooks, and arrows. At the foot of the funerary couch was a large cauldron decorated with three lions around the rim. This cauldron was originally filled with about 100 gallons of mead. The east side of the tomb contained an iron-plated wooden four-wheeled wagon holding a set of bronze dishes.  A collection of drinking horns hung on the walls was enough to serve nine people.  

A reconstruction of the burial can be viewed at the Hochdor/Enz Celtic Museum which opened in 1991.  The original finds of the Hochdorf princely burial are to be found in the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart’s Old Palace although both are currently closed due to the pandemic. 

Reconstruction of the Celtic Hochdorf Chieftain's Grave in the museum nearby the location of the original grave courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor, Magnus Hagdorn

Celtic-style bronze lion replacement on the Hochdorf cauldron, 540 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Xuan Che.

Hochdorf cauldron with drinking horns courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Dr. Bernd Gross.

Greek-style Bronze lion on the Hochdorf cauldron, 540 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Xuan Che.

Gold fibulae of the Hochdorf Celtic Prince courtesy of Harry Meinhardt. Two identical brooches, one of which has been slightly compressed, are composed of seven parts. The body is of solid gold, the hoops have been hammered out in a square cross-section. The garment hooks were joined with a piece of fluted sheet metal.

Reconstruction of the Hochdorf Celtic prince with his gold burial goods courtesy of Pinterest.

Gilded in preparation for the afterlife, this 42cm long, bronze and iron dagger was carried by the prince in life. The blade was protected by a richly decorated sheath. The gold coating made for the burial consisted of 16 parts, all precisely fitted onto the dagger without any fold, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Rosemania.

Gold shoe plaques from the Hochdorf Chieftain's Grave, Germany, c. 540 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Rosemania

Hochdorf gilded drinking horn, 540 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Xuan Che.

Reconstruction of the grave good chariot of a Celtic prince in Hochdorf, Germany, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor NobbiP

I saw this beautiful miniature of a Celtic prince riding into battle in a chariot accompanied by his body guard and hound in my image search. The Celtic Chieftain Chariot is in 75mm scale and it is a scrathbuilt, the sculptor of this figure is Andrea Jula while the painter is Fabrizio Russo. Image courtesy of


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