This article is about the Celtic settlement and burial site in France. For other uses, seeVix.
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The VixKrater, an imported Greek wine-mixing vessel found in the famous grave of the Lady of Vix
TheVix Graveis aburial moundnear the village ofVix(French pronunciation:[vi]) in northernBurgundy. The broader site is acomplex from the LateHallstattand EarlyLa Tneperiods, consisting of a fortified settlement and several burial mounds.
The grave of theLady of Vix, dating to circa 500 BC, had never been disturbed and thus contained remarkably rich grave offerings. Known in French as theTrsor de Vix, these included a great deal of jewellery and the Vixkrater, the largest known metal vessel from Westernclassical antiquity, being 1.63 m (54) in height.1
The sites are located near the village of Vix, about 6 km north ofChâtillon-sur-Seine, in thedepartmentofCôte-dOr, in northeastern Burgundy. The complex is centred on Mont Lassois, a steep flat-topped hill that dominates the area. It was the site of a fortified Celtic settlement, oroppidum. To the southeast of the hill, there was a 42-hectarenecropoliswith graves ranging from the LateBronze Agevia theHallstattCulture to LateLa Tne. Other finds indicate activity up toLate Antiquity.2
During the sixth and fifth centuries BC, the Vix (or Mont Lassois) settlement appears to have controlled a major trading node, where theSeine, an important riverine transport route linking eastern and western France, crossed the land route leading from theMediterraneanto northern Europe. Additionally, Vix is at the centre of an agriculturally rich plain.
Discovery of archaeological material in the area, originally by a locally based amateur, began in April 1930. Increasingly systematic work throughout the following decades revealed thousands ofpotterysherds,fibulae, jewellery, and other bronze and iron finds. The famous burial mound with thekraterwas excavated in early 1953 by Ren Jouffroi. In 1991 new archaeological research on and around Mont Lassois began under the direction of Bruno Chaume. Since 2001 a programme of research titled Vix et son environnement began, uniting the resources of several universities.3
Excavation of the settlement on the summit of Mont Lassois revealed extensive fortifications, with ditches and walls up to 8 m thick. The walls were built in thePfostenschlitzmauertechnique, but also yielded nails of the type common inmurus gallicuswalls. Excavation inside the enclosure revealed a variety of buildings, including post houses,pit dwellings, hearths, and storage units built on stilts.Geophysicalwork shows a large planned settlement, with a central, northsouth axis and several phases of buildings.
In 2006, a remarkable architectural unit was discovered at the centre of the site. It is a large complex of two or three buildings, the main one measuring 35 by 21 m, with an estimated height of 12 m: the dimensions of a modern church. The large hall had anapseat the back and a front porchin antis. Overall, the central unit resembles themegaroncomplex of earlyGreek architecture. Such a find is unprecedented in early Celtic Europe. Finds suggested domestic use or feasting uses. The structure has been described as the Palace of the Lady of Vix (Palais de la Dame de Vix).
The many individual finds from the Lassois oppidum clearly demonstrate the settlements long and wide-ranging trade contacts, as well as its own role as an economic centre. The most common finds are shards of pottery, with more than 40,000 recorded to date. Many are local products, decorated with simple geometric motifs (checkerboard patterns) and occasional depictions of animals. There also have been finds of importedvases from Greece. Manyamphoraeand bowls could be identified as coming from the contemporary Greek-settled areas of southern France. The amphorae had been used for transporting wine.
Jewellery includedfibulae, commonly decorated withamberorcoral, earrings, beads, slate bracelets, and rings. Glass ornaments also were found. Some small bronze figurines found are probably of Mediterranean origin. Little weaponry has been found as yet, the majority of itprojectilesand axes.
Mont Lassois has all the features of a high-status settlement: large fortifications, the presence of acitadeland a lower town, rare and fine imported materials, as well as numerous rich burial mounds in the vicinity.4
The burial of the Lady of Vix took place around500 B.C.Although decomposition of the organic contents of the grave was nearly total, the gender of the individual buried has been interpreted as female: she is accompanied by many items of jewellery, but no weaponry. Her social status is not clear and other than Lady, names such as,Queen,Princess, orPriestess of Vixhave all been used in various articles involving conjecture. There can be no doubt of her high status, as indicated by the large amounts of jewellery. She was between 30 years and 35 years old at the time of her death.
A unique 24 carat Celtictorc, whose ends are adorned with winged horses on intricatefiligreepedestals and lion paws, inspired by Etruscan, Scythian or Middle Eastern bestiary
Theinhumationburial was placed in a 4m x 4m rectangular wooden chamber underneath a mound ortumulusof earth and stone which originally measured 42m in diameter and 5m in height.
Her body was laid in the freestanding box of a cart, orchariot, the wheels of which had been detached and placed beside it. Only its metal parts have survived. Her jewellery included a 480gram 24-carat goldtorc, a bronze torc, six fibulae, six slate bracelets, plus a seventh bracelet made ofamberbeads.
The grave also contained an assemblage of imported objects fromItalyand theGreekworld, all of them associated with the preparation of wine. They included the famous krater (see below), a silverphiale(shallow bowl, sometimes seen as a local product), anEtruscanbronzeoinochoe(wine jug), and several drinking cups fromEtruriaandAttica. One of the latter was dated as c. 525 BC and represents the latest firmly dated find in the grave. It thus provides the best evidence, aterminus post quemfor its date. The vessels probably were placed on wooden tables or benches that did not survive.
The largest and most famous of the finds from the burial is an elaborately decorated bronzeof 1.63m (54) height and over 200kg (450lbs) weight.Kraterswere vessels for mixing wine and water, common in the Greek world, and usually made of clay. The Vix krater has become an iconic object representing both the wealth of early Celtic burials and the art of LateArchaic Greekbronze work.
The krater was made of seven or more individual pieces withalphabeticalmarkings
, indicating that it probably was transported to Burgundy in pieces and assembled
The vase proper, made of a single sheet of hammeredbronze, weighs about 60kg. Its bottom is rounded, its maximum diameter is 1.27m, and its capacity is 1,100litres. Its walls are only 1mm to 1.3mm thick. The krater was found crushed by the weight of the tumulus material above it. It had telescoped completely: the handles were found at the same level as the base. It was restored after excavation.
Its foot is made of a single moulded piece, its diameter is 74cm, its weight 20.2kg. It received the rounded bottom of the main vase and ensured its stability. It is decorated with stylised plant motifs.
The three handles, supported by rampantlionesses, weighed about 46kg each. Each is a 55cm highvolute, each is elaborately decorated with a grimacinggorgon, a common motif on contemporary Greek bronzes.
A frieze ofhoplitesdecorates the neck of the vessel, which is made of a bronze ring inserted into the main vase and supporting the handles. It depicts eight chariots, each drawn by four horses and conducted by a charioteer (depicted smaller than the hoplites for reasons of space), each is followed by a single fully armed hoplite on foot. The frieze is an important example of early Greek bronzereliefart, which has rarely survived.
The lid was a hammered bronze sheet, weighing 13.8kg and shaped to fit the kraters opening. It is concave and perforated by multiple holes, probably because it also served as a strainer for purifying wine. A protrusion at its centre supports a 19cm statuette of moulded bronze, depicting a woman with one outstretched arm, which once may have held some object such as aplastinx. She wears apeplos, the body-lengthAncient Greekgarment worn by women, and her head is covered by a veil. The statuette appears of a somewhat older style than figures on the rest of the vessel.
The enormous variety of apparently Mediterranean imports indicates wide-ranging trade connections; in particular, the Mediterranean material might have come to Vix with Greek or Etruscan traders. The wealth of imported luxury goods at Vix is, so far, unique in La Tne Europe. It has been suggested that the krater, the largest known Greek bronze vessel, should be seen in a context of high-status gift exchange connected with the trade of wine from the Mediterranean for raw materials from northern Europe.
A reconstruction of the grave and the original finds are on display in the museum atChâtillon-sur-Seine.6
Apart from this womans grave (mound I), there are five further known large burial mounds in the area. Three of them have been excavated so far.
Mound II had a diameter of 33 m; its central chamber contained an urn with cremated human remains, dated by accompanying finds to c. 850 BC.
The mound ofLa Butteprobably dates to the mid-sixth century. As in its famous neighbouring grave, it contained a woman laid in a cart, or chariot, accompanied by two ironaxesand a gold bracelet.
A third mound, atLa Garenne, was destroyed in 1846. It, too, contained a cart, as well as an Etruscan bronze bowl with fourgriffinorlionesshandles. It is not known whether it contained skeletal remains.
In 1994, fragments of two stone statues, a warrior, and a figure of a woman, were discovered in a small enclosure.
In the area, as elsewhere inCentralandWestern Europe, the earlyIron Ageled to changes in social organisation, including a marked tendency toward the development of socialhierarchies. It seems that at the top of these hierarchies was an aristocracy that had developed in the context of the increasingly important trade iniron oreandiron. Whether they really were princesses or princes in a modern sense (i.e., a noble or religious aristocracy) or simply represented an economic or mercantile elite is still the subject of much discussion.
Evidence for these changed social conditions is seen in the richly equipped graves of this period, which stand in sharp contrast to the preceding habit of uniform simple urn burials. It is also seen in the changing settlement patterns of the region. Whereas large open settlements had previously served as central places, smaller enclosed settlements developed, often in locally prominent locations (so calledmanorsorprincely sites). Several of these sites are known from Late Hallstatt and Early La Tne Europe, for example, the burials atHochdorfandMagdalenenberg, theHeuneburgsettlement and theGlaubergsettlement and burial complex.
Iron ores were far more widespread than the rarer materials needed to produce the previously dominantbronzecopper, but especially,tin. Thus, economic success ceased to be determined simply by access to the raw materials, but started to depend on infrastructure and trade. The increasing economic surplus in well-situated places was invested in representative settlements (and fortifications), jewellery, and expensive imported luxury materials, a differentiation not previously possible.
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Early centralization and urbanization processes – On the Genesis and Development Early Celtic Princely Seats: Mont Lassois
Archologie en Bourgogne: Vix (CÔTE-DOR), Une Rsidence Princire Au Temps De La Splendeur DAthnes 2011
Archologie en Bourgogne: Vix (CÔTE-DOR), Une Rsidence Princire Au Temps De La Splendeur DAthnes 2011
. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 1954.
Das Oppidum Mont Lassois, Gemeinde Vix, Dp Côte-dOr
LOppidum de Vix et la civilisation Hallstattienne finale dans lEst de la France
Le Trsor de Vix. Histoire et porte dune grande dcouverte
Antike Welt 13, Sondernummer. Raggi-Verl., Feldmeilen/Freiburg. 1982.
Vix et son territoire lAge du fer: fouilles du mont Lassois et environnement du site princier
Vix/Le mont Lassois. Recherches rcentes sur le complexe aristocratique
, Dossiers dArchologie N Hors Srie 11, Dijon 2004, pp. 30-37.
Mixing bowl with the exposure of baby Aegisthos
Calyx-Krater by the painter of the Berlin Hydria depicting an Amazonomachy
Coordinates:475423N043158E / 47.90639N 4.53278E /47.90639; 4.53278
Historic and archaeological sites in Burgundy
Articles needing additional references from October 2016
This page was last edited on 7 March 2019, at 03:17