Léon Morel

Léon Morel (1828-1909) was a French tax-collector, later Receiver of Finances, and also a celebrated amateur archaeologist. He undertook, or arranged, numerous excavations of Iron Age and Gallo-Roman sites and Merovingian cemeteries, mainly in the region of the River Marne in north-eastern France. The most notable of these were the chariot burial of Somme-Bionne and Frankish graves at Bréban and St-Loup. He formed a large and important private collection, augmented by purchases, which he gathered into a museum in Reims following his retirement in 1892.

Morel also lectured at the Sorbonne and displayed his finds at local societies and major exhibitions in the late nineteenth century. For example, he exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. He was member of a number of learned societies and president of the Reims Academy, and was also elected an honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. The British Museum purchased the major part of his collection in 1901, which comprises over 7,000 artefacts and is now divided between several departments: Medieval and Modern Europe; Prehistoric and Early Europe; Greek and Roman Antiquities; and Coins and Medals. The remainder of his collection appears to have been sold after his death in 1909 and is largely untraced.

Although Morel published the more spectacular of his Iron Age finds in 1898 in La Champagne Souterraine, sadly little of the later material appeared in print before he died. But two manuscript albums showing much of it are preserved in Reims Municipal Library.

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