As part of building a parking lot near the Don Bosco school in Sion, a city in southwestern Switzerland, archaeologists uncovered exceptionally rich burials beneath mounds in a necropolis that is at least 3000 years old. While excavations began as early as 1999, in April of this year two exceptional tombs were found that included the skeletons of a man, a woman, and a girl. The rich artifacts there were included with the dead attest to their high status among the early inhabitants of Vallais -- the region encompassing Sion in southwestern Switzerland. Other tombs were found nearby that date from the first millennium to the 4th century BC.
The necropolis lies close to a Catholic school in Sion, and measures approximately 2.5 acres. Since excavation began in September 2016, more than 30 burials have been found dating from the end of the Bronze Age to the Second Iron Age (850-400 BC).
The skeletal remains of the dead were found beneath burial mounds, featuring large stone circles and delineated by imposing vertical stone slabs. In some mounds, there were secondary tombs found also.
The three exceptional tombs revealed bronze weapons and armor, bronze bracelets, and some gold ornaments.
The warrior’s tomb bore within it the remains of an adult male who was buried with a finely wrought bronze sword and also a razor. The skeleton of an adult woman was found wearing four rigid necklaces known as torques, which were fashionable especially among the Gallic peoples of the period. There were also two large bronze pins that would have been used to fasten her clothing, which probably consisted of a cape or shawl. Additionally, she was buried with two bracelets and an ankle ring.
The third burial consisted of a young woman who was sent into the afterlife wearing a necklace bedecked with gold ornaments, consisting of a series of gold discs that were finely-worked. She too was wearing bracelets.
The discovery of the burials allows experts to significantly extend their knowledge of funerary practices of the time, which were transitioning from cremation to burial.
Switzerland, by the 1st century BC, was occupied by non-Celtic Raetian peoples, as well as the Gallic Helvetii and Vindelici tribes. By 15 BC, the Alps were conquered by the Roman rulers, Tiberias and Drusus, and then fully incorporated into the Roman Empire.
These were not the only Bronze Age artifacts found in Switzerland during this year's archaeological campaign. A wooden container dating to approximately 4000 years ago was discovered at about 8,700 feet above sea level in the Alps. It showed signs of a milky residue and also grains, giving evidence of some of the earliest agriculture known in Europe.