A mysterious prince's tomb has been saved after its secrets lay undiscovered in Italy for thousands of years.
The ancient treasure trove was about to be destroyed by leisure centre developers.
Archaeologists uncovered the "extraordinary" hoard after last minute aerial surveys stopped it being built over in Corinaldo, in central Italy.
The long-lost funeral deposit belonged to a powerful prince from the little-known Piceni tribe.
The "massive" rare find includes remains of a whole chariot, bronze helmet and swords believed to date back to the 7th century BC, a total of 2,600 years ago.
Professor Federica Boschi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna, said: "Until now, this culture has been poorly documented and little understood despite its undoubted importance in the pre-Roman development of the area.
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"The extraordinarily rich funerary deposit testifies to a high-status tomb dedicated to a princely leader within the early Iron Age society of the region.
“The full study of the pottery and other finds will undoubtedly prompt entirely new insights into the cultural, trading and gift-exchange relationships of the aristocracy in the area."
The rare find came after aerial surveys revealed circular cropmarks that looked like large funerary ring ditches.
It is the only discovery of its kind in the region after the Piceni's lands were annexed by Rome in 268 BC.
Further tests revealed a "massive deposit of ironwork" and an "extraordinary collection of cultural material".
The body of the unidentified prince has not been found and his final resting place is believed to have been destroyed.
Prof Boschi said: “The recovery from complete obscurity and imminent danger of archaeological material of this scale and importance is a rare event within contemporary European archaeology.
“One outstanding find among the hundred or more ceramic vessels recovered from the pit was an olla imported from ancient Daunia.
“This undoubtedly symbolises the commemorated leader’s significant political, military and economic power.
“The results achieved represent a good example of best practice.”
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