- Museum number
Athenian red-figured stemless cup with spreading ring foot, lipped. Reserved resting surface; underfoot reserved, with wide band, circle, thin band and dot. Restored from four major fragments. Misfired and abraded areas on exterior, foot-ring worn. Pair of deeply grooved lines on top of either side of right-hand handle. Decorated on inside only, with naked athlete with discus in right hand. Discus decorated with a cross. Dilute glaze used for fringe of hair, chin, mouth and nostril, as well as stomach muscles. Relief line for other markings. Preliminary sketch lines.
- Production date
- 425 BC - 375 BC (circa)
Diameter: 66 millimetres (foot)
Diameter: 133 millimetres
Height: 39 millimetres
Weight: 157 grammes
Width: 189 millimetres (with handles)
- Curator's comments
This object was found in an Iron Age grave known as the Somme-Bionne cart-burial. Burial with a two-wheeled vehicle was a particularly strong tradition in the Champagne region of France, where at least 140 such graves have been recorded. Carts were buried with women as well as men, and it seems that the vehicle should be interpreted as a symbol of status or even transport to the other world, rather than as a chariot for warfare. Many cart burials were robbed in antiquity, or excavated without record in the nineteenth century. The burial found at Somme-Bionne in 1873 is exceptional: it had not been robbed, the excavation was recorded, and all artefacts have survived. In this grave, the body of a youth was laid out on the floor of the cart accompanied by his sword in its decorated scabbard (ML.1349), a knife (ML.1348), a set of iron skewers, a bronze Etruscan flagon (ML.1338.b), a Greek painted cup (ML.1339), and a large red-coated native pot (ML.2713). The metal components of the vehicle survived, along with a fine collection of decorated harness-fittings.
Stead and Rigby 1999
by Dyfri Williams
Condition: restored from four major fragments. Misfired and abraded areas on exterior; foot ring worn; three minor scratches inside. Pair of deeply grooved lines on top of either side of the right-hand handle (perhaps marks connected with the export batch).
J.D. Beazley wondered if the Celtic owner of the cup might have thought it was a shield (cf. Jacobsthal, P., 1934, Bodenfunde griechischer Vasen nördlich der Alpen, ‘Germania’ (18), 18, n. 8).
Attributed by Beazley to the Somme-Bionne Group, as its name-piece. Morel, L., 1898, ‘La Champagne souterraine’ Reims, pl. 9, fig. 1 and p. 54; Jacobsthal, P., 1934, Bodenfunde griechischer Vasen nördlich der Alpen, ‘Germania’ (18), 18, no. 6; Jacobsthal, P., 1944, ‘Early Celtic Art’, Oxford, 136, 143; Beazley, J.D., 1963, ‘Athenian Red-figure Vase-painters’ (2nd edn) Oxford, 1299, 1.
For recent discussions of Athenian pottery north of the Alps see Wehgartner, I., and Zöller, H., (eds), 1995, ‘Luxusgeschirr keltischer Fürsten: griechische Keramik nördlich der Alpen’, Würzburg, and Shefton, B.B., 1995, Leaven in the dough: Greek and Etruscan imports north of the Alps – the Classical Period, in Swaddling, J., Walker, S., and Roberts, P., eds. ‘Italy in Europe: Economic Relations 700 BC – AD 50’ (British Museum Occasional Paper, 97), 9-44, (with much bibliography).
Stead and Rigby 1999
Findspot: Somme-Bionne 'L'homme-mort' or 'La tomelle' (Marne)
(a) The cart-burial
Somme-Bionne is one of the very few cart-burials to remain undisturbed at the time of its excavation in the nineteenth century, and it is one of the best recorded. Morel did not observe the initial excavation, but he organized a re-excavation very soon afterwards and was able to question the original excavators, recover the grave-goods and publish a plan (Fig. 200; for further details see p. 160). The Morel Collection includes artefacts from a cart-burial at Prunay, but there is no plan and no publication, and there are also some pieces from unidentified cart-burials.
Of the other cart-burials still intact at the time of their excavation, few were planned in sufficient detail to record the arrangements of grave-goods. The most important are Somme-Tourbe 'la Gorge Meillet', excavated in 1876 by Fourdrignier whose plan, Fourdrignier, E., 1878, ‘Double sépulture gauloise de la Gorge-Meillet, territoire de la Somme-Tourbe (Marne)’, Paris/ Châlons-sur-Marne, pl. 1, has been reproduced by Déchelette 1914, fig. 425, Schaaff, U., 1973, Frülatènzeitliche Grabfunde mit Helmen vom Typ Berru, ‘Jarhb. RGZM’ (20), pl. 13 and Piggott, S., 1983, ‘The Earliest Wheeled Transport’, London, fig. 122, and re-drawn by Stead 1965a, fig. 7; the finds are in the Musée des antiquités nationales, St-Germain-en-Laye (MAN), where the grave has been reconstructed (Duval, A., 1989, ‘L’art celtique de la Gaule’, Paris, 50). Lemoine excavated the Châlons-sur-Marne, Avenue de Strasbourg, cart-burial in 1904 and his plan was published in 1905 (reproduced by Schaaff 1973, pl. 12 and Piggott 1983, fig. 123, re-drawn by Stead, I. M., 1965b, The Celtic chariot, ‘Antiquity’ (39), 259-65, fig. 1; finds in the Musée Municipal, Châlons-sur-Marne). The plan of the cart-burial at Fère-en-Tardenois 'la Sablonnière', excavated by Moreau in 1876, appeared in a fascicule of his ‘Album Caranda’ in 1877. de Barthélemy, E., 1874, Note sure une sépulture antique fouillée à Berru (Marne) en 1872, ‘Mémoires de la société nationale des antiquaires de France’ (35), 92-8, pl. 5, illustrated the plan of Berru 'le Terrage', excavated by Gavet in 1872, but the skeleton is far too large, so the precise position of adjoining artefacts is unclear (the plan is reproduced by Déchelette 1914, fig. 426, and Schaaff 1973, pl. 15; finds in the MAN, cf. Joffroy, R., 1973a, La tombe à char de Berru, ‘Antiquités Nationales’ (5), 45-57). Ertlé, R., 1963, Les collections d’objets antiques de la mairie de Suippes (Marne), n. 1, la tombe à char gauloise, ‘Bull. Soc. Préhist. Fr.’ (60), 766, published a plan of St-Jean-sur-Tourbe 'Malinet' or 'le Catillon' based on a nineteenth-century lithograph that accompanied a reconstructed cart-burial in the mairie at Suippes. The St-Jean-sur-Tourbe burial, excavated by Counhaye in 1868, was re-excavated by Maître in 1873, and his version of the same plan is with the finds in the MAN (grave 29, MAN 20285-99). The cart-burial excavated by Brisson, Loppin and Hegly in 1938 at Tremblois-les-Rocroi (= Forêt des Pothées, Maubert-Fontaine) is well to the north of the Champagne group and belongs to a slightly different tradition (see Fromols, J., 1955, Recensement des tumulus et fouilles archéologiques dans la forêt des Pothées (Ardennes). Fouilles de MM Brisson, Loppin et Hegley en 1938 et 1939, ‘Mémoires de la société d’agriculture, commerce, sciences et arts du département de la Marne’ (70), 25, for a useful plan, re-drawn by Stead 1965a, fig. 8; cf. also Flouest 1984, for the finds), and those recently excavated to the south are also slightly different (Bouranton, Aube, Verbrugghe and Villes 1995; Estissac, Aube, Deffressigne and Villes 1995; Molinons, Yonne, Sarrasin and Villes 1995). Good plans of disturbed cart-burials in Champagne have been published more recently by Brisson, A., 1957, La sépulture à char de Livry-sur-Vesle (Marne) ‘Bulletin de la société archéologique champenoise’ (50, 1), 12-14 (Livry-sur-Vesle); Chossenot Chossenot, D., Neiss, R., and Sauget, J. M., 1981, Fouille de sauvetage d’une nécropole de La Tène I à Vrigny (Marne) in Melkon, A., 1981, ‘L’âge du fer en France septentrionale’ (Mém. Soc. Archéol. Champenoise, 2), 131-50, fig. 4 (Vrigny); Rozoy 1986, MT32 (Mont Troté); and Lambot and Verger 1995, fig. 13 (Semide).
For general accounts of the Champagne cart-burials, with lists, see Déchelette, J., 1914, ‘Manuel d’archéologie préhistorique, celtique, et gallo-romaine’ 2, 3 ‘Second âge du fer ou épogue de La Tène’, Paris, 1022-30, and Déchelette, J., 1912, ‘Mauel d’archéologie préhistorique, celtique, et gallo-romaine’, 2, ‘Appendices’ Paris, appendices 5 and 6; Joffroy, R., and Bretz-Mahler, D., 1959, Les tombes à char de La Tène dans l’est de la France, ‘Gallia’ (17), 5-35 and Stead, I. M., 1965a, ‘The La Tène Cultures of Eastern Yorkshire’, York, 9-15 and 96-101. More recent discoveries are published by Flouest, J.-L., 1984, Les tombes à char de la Tène en Champagne-Ardenne: resultats des recherches effectuées entre 1938 et 1983 in M. Guštin and L. Pauli, 1984, ‘Keltski Voz’ (Posvski muzej Brežice, 6), 61-9; Rozoy, J.-G., 1986, ‘Les celtes en Champagne’ (Mém. Soc. Archéol. Champenoise, 4) 2, Description, MT 32; and Lambot, B., and Verger, S., 1995, ‘Une tombe à char de la Tène ancienne à Semide (Ardennes)’ (Mém. Soc. Archéol. Champenoise, 10).
[from page 160] The account of this excavation was published by Morel three times in almost identical form (Morel, L., 1875a, Découverte de Somme-Bionne, Gaulois sur son char et objets étrusques, ‘Mémoires de la société d’agriculture, commerce, sciences et arts du département de la Marne’ (1874-5), 179-94 and Morel, L., 1875b, Découverte de Somme-Bionne (Marne), Gaulois sur son char et objets étrusques, CAF, 42, 74-6, and Morel, L., 1898, ‘La Champagne souterraine’ Reims, 23-51). In two versions a paper on the Etruscan flagon by his brother, E. Morel, curé of Sampigny (Meuse), has been appended (Morel 1875b, 117-31, and Morel 1898, 55-68), and in one there is an additional account including reactions from the press and scholars as well as some general remarks (Morel 1898, 71-82). The illustrations, published as the second fascicule of the ‘Album’, are numbered pls 7-12 in both Morel 1875a and Morel 1898; pls 7 and 8 are reproduced in Morel 1875b, where they are not numbered. Smith, R.A., 1925, ‘A guide to the antiquities of the Early Iron Age’ (second edition), London.
Hanusse excavated the extensive cemetery at Somme-Bionne, and the cart-burial was discovered there by his son in December 1873. Morel visited the site as soon as he heard about the find, which he claims was the work of 'mes ouvriers', and had the filling of the grave removed again to search for a sherd missing from one of the outstanding pieces, a Greek cup. In the course of this work he discovered and excavated the harness trench, which had been overlooked by the original excavators (Morel, L., 1874b, communication (Somme-Bionne), BSNA, 98-9).
The grave measured 2.85 m by 1.8 m and was 1.15 m deep; the wheel trenches were 1.4 m by 0.5 m and 0.3 m deep; the pole trench 0.7 m long and 0.1 m wide; and the harness trench 1.4 m by 0.3 m and 0.35 m deep. It was at the centre of a circle 16 m in diameter defined by a ditch about 1 m deep. The skeleton was extended and had a sword in a bronze scabbard (ML.1349) on its right side, and an iron knife (ML.1348) and three iron skewers on its left. There were bronze rings and a bronze hook from a belt round the waist, and a gold ring on one of the fingers of the right hand. A bronze flagon and two pots were at the foot of the grave, and the remains of wheels and harness were found in the appropriate trenches.
The authenticity of the Somme-Bionne grave group was questioned in the 1870s, and more recently. Morel's contemporaries were aware that he had not been involved in the initial excavation of the grave, and fully appreciated the significance of Greek and Etruscan antiquities in a Gallic context. After Morel's note (1874b) had been read for him at a meeting of the Société des Antiquaires de France in April 1874, de Witte commented on the Greek cup allegedly found there ('la coupe, que Ton prétend avoir été trouvée dans un sépulture gauloise'). When Morel lectured at the Sorbonne two years later he took issue with the word 'pretend' and declared that there was no doubt about the provenance of the cup (Morel, L., 1876d, communication (Somme-Bionne) ‘Revue des sociétés savants des départements’, 6th ser., 3, 320-1). A note published after a subsequent lecture at the Sorbonne (Morel, L., 1878c, communication (Somme-Bionne) ‘Revue des sociétés savants des départements’, 6th ser. 8, 15) records de Witte's conversion to Morel's position and notes that Alexandre Bertrand, Conservateur at the Musée des antiquités nationales, St-Germain-en-Laye (MAN), was also convinced and had pointed to a similar association of Greek cup and Etruscan flagon in a grave at Rodenbach. But de Witte's criticisms have been voiced by other scholars, notably by Pierre Roualet (Hatt, J.-J., and Roualet, P., 1977, La chronologie de la Tène en Champagne, ‘Revue archéologique de l’est et du centre-est’ (28), 7-36, 8-9) who accepts that all the artefacts were found in Champagne, perhaps all were in the Somme-Bionne cemetery, but they were not necessarily in the same grave. Roualet considers that the skewers, belt hook and scabbard were earlier than the Greek cup, and that the pot was later. Hanusse and his son certainly excavated very many burials in the area, and they would have had the opportunity to add artefacts in order to get a better price from Morel (but if that was the case, it is perhaps odd that they were content to have only one pot in the grave). In the last resort these criticisms cannot be answered, but the typological arguments must be very sound before the Somme-Bionne evidence is rejected.
The following items were found in this cart-burial: ML.1338 (a and b) – ML.1360, ML.1362 – ML.1363, ML.1364 – ML.1407, ML.1489 – ML.1492, ML.1499, ML.2713, ML.2884 – ML.2886, ML.4207 – ML.4229 and ML.4247. (Possibly also ML.1448 – ML.1449, ML.1459 – ML.1460, ML.1471, ML.4244, ML.1472, ML.1476).
- On display (G50/dc11)
- Exhibition history
2016 11 Mar-25 Sep, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, 'Celts'
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number