- Museum number
The two elements of an iron sword chain, the longer with a loop at one end and a hook at the other, about 490 mm long; the shorter with a loop at each end, 131 mm long. The chain is constructed from flattened rods in simple figure-of-eight links, with each loop twisted slightly so that the chain falls flat with all loops in the same plane. Punched decoration over much of the surface.
- Production date
- 300 BC - 150 BC (circa)
Diameter: 31.70 millimetres (terminal ring, chain 1)
Diameter: 32.40 millimetres (terminal ring, chain 2)
Length: 490 millimetres (chain 1)
Length: 131 millimetres (chain 2)
Weight: 297 grammes (chain 1)
Weight: 97 grammes (chain 2)
- Curator's comments
- Stead and Rigby 1999
Findspot: Somsois ‘Perriere-la-Guilliere’ (Marne)
For this, his first excavation, Morel published a detailed account and a plan of the cemetery. He read his report to the Société des Sciences et Arts de Vitry-le-François on 3 August 1865 and published it in the first volume of their transactions (Morel, L., 1867, Cimetière galuois de Somsois, ‘Bulletin de la société des sciences et arts de Vitry-le-François’ (1861-7), 169-86); the same paper was read at the annual meeting of the Sociétés Savantes des Départements at the Sorbonne on 4 April 1866, and then published in two different journals (Morel, L., 1866a, Cimetière gaulois de Somsois, RA, 14, 23-34 and Morel, L., 1866b, Cimetière gaulois de Somois, ‘Mémoires lus à la Sorbonne (Archéologie)’, 177-87). The contribution to Morel 1898 (83-93) was thus the fourth publication of this excavation report. Two versions (Morel 1866a and 1867) are identical, although the illustrations are taken from different blocks and vary slightly; there is one figure in the text and two plates (a plan of the cemetery and a selection of grave-goods). The final version (Morel 1898) is almost the same as Morel 1866b, which varies slightly from the 1866a and 1867 versions. Likewise, the plan, Morel 1898, pl. 28, is very similar to Morel 1866b, pl. vii, although it was not taken from the same drawing and has had lists of grave-goods added. The plan in the other two publications is different and much cruder. The orientation of burials and their overall positions relative to one another is identical on both versions, but the distances between burials varies considerably from one plan to the other: e.g. grave 16 and grave 19 seem to be about 5 m apart on the one plan (Morel 1866a and 1867) but only about 1 m apart on the other (Morel 1866b and 1898). Neither plan has a scale, and one version (Morel 1866b and 1898) lacks a north point. Smith, R.A., 1925, ‘A guide to the antiquities of the Early Iron Age’ (second edition), London, 72-3.
The cemetery was found when seven or eight graves were disturbed in the course of road-works. Morel started an excavation in September 1863 at the side of the road and into the adjoining field. The cemetery was on the slope of a hill and covered an area 21 by 12 m. Below 0.4 m of topsoil there was a compact layer of chalk, 0.6 m, before the 0.2-0.3 m of terre noire covering each skeleton. There was no consistent orientation of the graves, which were on average 2 m long, 0.85 m wide and 1.3 m deep, and no suggestion of coffins. All burials were extended inhumations: one (grave 25) had the hands crossed on the pelvis, two (graves 10 and l4) had the legs crossed, and the others were fully extended with the arms by the sides; one skeleton (grave 23) faced downwards. This cemetery was regarded as exceptional in that all the graves were intact (Morel 1898, 184).
Grave-goods found by the road-workers included: four bracelets (one of glass); four anklets; a torc; two belt chains; three brooches; a finger ring; and two amber beads.
Grave 2: Upper part cut by the road, but grave-goods survived (ML.1569, ML.1570, ML.1576 and ML.1577).
Context: Scabbard Suspension; Metal chains; Type 8.
Towards the end of La Tène I lengths of metal chain were used in conjunction with a leather belt to suspend the scabbard (Rapin, A., 1987, le système de suspension des fourreaux d’epées laténiens au IIe siècle avant J.-C., innovations, techniques et reconstitution du ceinturon in D. Vitali, ed., ‘Celti ed Etruschi’ (Imola), 1991). The chains were fashioned in two lengths, a longer piece with a ring at one end and a hook at the other, and a much shorter piece with a ring at each end. Rapin (especially 1987, fig. 6) shows how the two lengths might have been linked to the belt. Throughout the third century BC, and into the second century, the construction of the metal links varied considerably: for the typology see Rapin 1987, fig. 9. Rapin's type 1 is the system using separate rings; types 2-5 are early forms of chain, not represented in the Morel Collection; type 6 is the laddered chain; and types 7 and 8 are the more common types of chain.
Type 8: The chain is constructed from flattened rods in simple figure-of-eight links, with each loop twisted slightly so that the chain falls flat with all loops in the same plane. Punched decoration overall. There is a fragment from Conflans-sur-Seine (Charpy, J.-J., and Roualet, P., 1991, ‘Les Celtes en Champagne’ (exh. cat., Epernay, 23/6 - 3/11/1991), no. 263), but the type is rare in France and more common in central and eastern Europe. Filip (1956, 170-71, 533-4, figs 37-42) used the punched chain to define a late horizon extending across Europe in La Tène II (and citing the Somsois chain from France).
Bibliography: Morel, L., 1898, ‘La Champagne souterraine’ Reims, pl. 18, fig. 1; associated with bent sword ML.1570.
- On display (G50/dc21)
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number