The Basse-Yutz Flagons – two beautiful wine jugs


There are no written records from the people of northern Europe of 2,500 years ago so we are dependent on what they left behind to help us understand the society of early northern Europe. This is a little about a spectacular pair of wine jugs which give some of that understanding.

The Basse-Yutz Flagons, as they are called, were found in Lorraine, north-eastern France, near the town of Basse-Yutz. They are bronze, very elegant and elaborate. They are about the size of a magnum wine bottle and hold about the same amount of liquid, and they have a very broad shoulder which narrows to a unstable base.

What is particularly noteworthy and striking about these flagons is the extraordinary decoration at the top, where both animals and birds cluster together, and the handles themselves are beautiful.

They were stumbled upon in 1927 by workmen digging the Basse-Yutz and nothing like them had ever been found before in western Europe, and they were so strange in their style and decoration that some experts believed them to be fakes. The British Museum however were convinced they were genuinely ancient and that they represented a new and unknown chapter in European history. They were acquired for 5,000 pounds, which was a huge gamble at the time, but the gamble paid off when it was confirmed that they were indeed made about 2,500 years ago – roughly the same time as the Parthenon was being built and the Persian empire was at its zenith. They are now celebrated as two of the most important and earliest pieces of Celtic art anywhere.


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