The Marmesse cuirass
9th to 8th centuries BC
This breastplate in sheet bronze is part of a collection of similar pieces discovered in several stages at Marmesse (Haute-Marne), at the site known as “Petit Marais” (Small Marsh). In 1974 the first three cuirasses were discovered, placed one inside the other. They were unearthed by chance during terracing work in a sand quarry. Fragments of other cuirasses were discovered subsequently, and an archaeological survey was carried out in 1980, enabling the collection to be completed.
In all, seven cuirasses were found at Marmesse, representing part of a votive hoard probably linked to the presence of a spring. The circumstances of the discovery of these defensive weapons, and the absence of any specific archaeological context, explain the imprecise dating, which is based purely on typological and stylistic considerations.
The discoveries at Marmesse are part of an important series of hoards, which, at this pivotal time between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, express in different ways the prestige and the power of a warrior elite. As well as carrying these prestigious defensive weapons, warriors wore helmets and greaves (leg protectors). Attacking weaponry consisted of a sword and a spear. This equipment evokes in some way the “bronze-clad” warriors described by Homer. We should not forget that the Trojan War took place at the end of the Bronze Age.