THE GLORY OF CELTIC EUROPE – The Case of the Rich Burial of a Celtic Princess with Horse Armour at Bettelbühl (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

UD: Jan 2020


The first decades of the 21st century in European archaeology have been marked by a massive amount of new discoveries relating to the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, significantly altering our perception of the Celtic peoples who populated Iron Age Europe. One of the most spectacular discoveries in this context was unearthed at the Bettelbühl necropolis, situated just over two kilometres from the well known Celtic settlement on the Heuneburg in the Sigmaringen area of BadenWürttemberg in southern Germany.


3D Reconstruction of the Celtic settlement on the Heuneburg


In the central tumulus at the Bettelbühl site an incredibly rich burial of a Celtic lady and a child was discovered; revealing some of the most spectacular burial goods yet unearthed from this period in European history. The woman, who died aged 30-40, in ca. 583 BC, was accompanied in her journey into the afterlife by a wealth of  wonderfully crafted jewelry of gold, bronze, amber, glass and other materials. 

goldene Fibeln,Perlen, ein Nadelkopf,ein Ohrring und Bettelbühl 583 BC

Gold jewelry from the Bettelbühl burial

Bernsteinanhänger, needle heads - beads Bettelbühl

Amber jewelry from the burial


Besides the aforementioned material, perhaps the most fascinating discovery in the burial was an excellently preserved example of horse armour, in the form of a lavishly decorated bronze mask. The tremendous wealth and workmanship to be observed in this and other early Celtic aristocratic burials of the period have provided a valuable insight into the high level of material and cultural sophistication which had developed among the European population by the early stages of the Iron Age.

Horse mask 1

Horse mask 2 - Beautiful bronze horse mask discovered in 2010 in the burial of a Celtic lady at the Heuneburg (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

Bronze horse mask from the Bettelbühl burial, and reconstruction























Mac Congail



Conor O’ Neill






Basically a rural people, the pan-Celtic peoples were spread throughout their various territories, often grouped together in small hamlets. The vast majority of settlements in the Iron Age were small, with perhaps no more than 50 inhabitants. While hill forts could accommodate up to 1,000 people, oppida in the Late Iron Age had populations of up to 10,000.

These tribal centers, to which the Romans later applied the term Oppida, were places of public assembly and trade, where merchants congregated, animals and goods were bought and sold, and social and religious ceremonies took place. The Celtic Oppida originated in the 2nd and 1st  centuries BC. Most were built on fresh sites, usually on an elevated position. Such a location would not only have a defensive purpose, but would also have allowed the oppida to dominate nearby trade routes, and was also an important symbol of control of the area.







Circa 100 BC, a 150.000 m² unfortified late-Celtic settlement stood on the site of the current Novartis-Campus in Basel




Walls of the oppidum of Lanobri or Lansbri, San Cibrao de Lás, Galicia





Opp manc


3-D  Reconstruction of the central area of the Manching Oppidum, Bavaria, Germany


(Keltenmuseum Manching)






Further info. and 3-D Reconstructions of Late Iron Age Celtic Oppida:




Entremont Oppidum – Aix-en-Provence, France




Heuneburg Oppidum – Baden-Württemberg, Germany




Zavist Oppidum – Czech Republic