Celts Imported Greek Pottery, Olive Oil, and Wine — 2,600 Years Ago

The Vix Krater, an imported Greek wine-mixing vessel which was one of the spectacular finds in the grave of the “Lady of Vix.”

Hundreds of fragments from ninety-nine of the ceramic containers which have been excavated so far from the hillfort site of Vix-Mont Lassois in Burgundy have shed light on how the drinking customs of the early Celts varied depending on social class and occasion.

A description of the findings were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed science periodical.

The discoveries suggest that the population used both imported and locally-made drinking vessels to drink Greek wine and local beer — and while beer was drunk by everyone, warriors drank millet beer and the elites drank ale made from barley or wheat.

The authors of the study explained that “The Celts in the Early Iron Age did not just drink imported Greek wine from their imported Greek pottery.

“They also used the foreign vessels, in their own way, for drinking different kinds of local beer, as organic residue analysis of 100 Early Iron Age local and Mediterranean drinking vessels from Mont Lassois, France, shows.”

The study is the first to investigate the impact of these Greek imports and of Mediterranean feasting and consumption practices of the “Early Celtic” peoples.

But how did scientists figure out if the early Celts were copying Greek customs or using Greek wine and ceramics for their own specific Celtic cultural practices?

Experts used the method of gas chromatography mass spectrometry to study organic residues extracted from the 99 ceramic fragments which were uncovered. Researchers were able to chemically analyze the organic residues from fragments of pottery vessels from four different specific locations at the site.

This new, groundbreaking  technology has enabled scientists to cast new light on the food consumption habits of people who lived in the distant past.

The early Celts lived in what is now Germany, France and Switzerland around 500 BC. Women held more political power than they did in many other Bronze Age European societies, such as that of the Greeks.

In ancient Greece elite men drank wine at “symposiums,” important social gatherings which barred respectable women.