The Cauldron of Hochdorf

Some time around 500 to 550 BC, a Celtic noble was buried under a mound in what is now Hochdorf an der Enz (Baden-Württemberg), Germany. The walls of his log cabin-style burial chamber were draped in fabric, and he was laid out on a decorated bronze couch covered with furs and other material.

In the burial chamber, was found nine large drinking horns, decorated with gold and hung from hooks in the wall. One of the drinking horns have a capacity of 5,5 liters.

In one corner stood an enormous 500 liters bronze cauldron with decorative cast bronze lions around the rim. Badly worn, and repaired several times, the cauldron had clearly enjoyed hearty use over a number of years. Inside, at the bottom, is found a dark, shrunken, cake-like deposit.

By the time the grave was excavated by Jorg Biel in 1978-79, a botanical analysis to this deposit was carried out by Dr. Haas of the Botanical Institute of Hohenheim and revealed that the residue was very rich in pollen grains which had been the components of a particular honey. This analysis proved that the cauldron contain a liquid based on a maceration of honey and water – mead.
The pollinic analysis revealed that the mead originally contained in the Cauldron of Hochdorf was composed of 73 to 292 kg of honey. The honey used in the preparation of the mead came from a surprising number of varieties of plants, growing in quite diverse terrains and areas. It was indeed a complex composition of thyme, jasmine of the mountains, plantains, centaurea jacea, anthyllis vulneraria, carex (acid herbs), ranunculus lingua, meadowsweet, succisa, sweet peas, vetches, papilionaceous plants and several types of campanulas.
It is interesting to note that 98-99% of pollen grains come from herbaceous plants, while only 1-2% belong to tree essence. This means that the honey of Hochdorf was a summer flower honey.

The use of sacred mead on the occasion of religious rites in Celtic times is confirmed by some archaeological discoveries and the Cauldron of Hochdorf is probably the most important evidence of mead in the European Early Iron Age.

The original finds of the Hochdorf noble burial are to be found in the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.