The Horse in the Iron Age

While horses were very rarely taken into graves during the Iron Age (9th century BCE), the presence of chariots and numerous horse figurations show the importance of its social and symbolic role. At the end of the 9th century BCE, a new ruling class composed of armed horsemen fighting with swords appeared. The use of iron enabled forging longer swords, which made it possible to fight on horseback and therefore, gain speed in battle. Aristocrats with horses formed increasingly large organisations, which dominated larger and larger territories. This new social class participated in a new organisation of society, where collective work enabled the development of tombs reserved for the elite.

In the Iron Age, the horse became a symbol of power and a support endowed with a mythic, fantastic component.

From the 6th century onwards, burial chambers appeared in which it was not uncommon to find women and a four-wheeled chariot. The grave furniture was very ornate, with large Greek cauldrons and gold tableware. In the late Iron Age, around the 5th century, the number of chariot burials multiplied. The Champagne region in France has some 35,000 graves containing a two-wheeled chariot.In the 2nd century, large Gallic cavalry squadrons formed to face the armies of Caesar. At that time, the horse held a very important place in figurative depictions, surely charged with specific symbolic value, as can be seen on the coins belonging to each Gallic tribe.

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