Posted on Jun 16, 2010 in category

Our hotel is in the old medieval town of Saint-Marcel which is next door to Argenton-sur-Creuse (Indre department). It was built adjacent to a Celtic oppidum of the Bituriges Cubi tribe. Today this 27 hectare oppidum site has a modern museum along with numerous open-air excavation sites all situated within a large park.

The Museum: Built over a Gallo-Roman suburb, the Museum of Argentomagus traces the history of the area from the Stone Age some 30,000 years ago in some of the caves or 'grottes' in the vicinity through to medieval times. Although the Museum has a good collection of Celtic artifacts from the oppidum, it's the Gallo-Roman display in the crypt that has the 'WOW' factor. The basement is in fact an archaeological site, part of a suburb of Argentomagus. Visiters to the museum walk beside massive rampart walls that formed part of the terrace and walk over remnants of streets and house foundations.

 In the basement or 'crypt' of the museum

A unique feature of this 'entombed' Gallo-Roman suburb is that it contains in situ the only domestic Gallo-Roman altar of its kind in Gaul.

A statue of Cernunnos (the 'Horned one') is seated on the left along with an unknown female divinity. Between them is a phallus and an offering table or altar is positioned in front of them.

In terms of the Celtic artifacts found in the area one of the most significant displays in the museum is a collection of 30 silver Celtic coins. These 30 surviving silver coins were once part of a larger treasure of 249 coins found in 1890. The coins belonged to Centre-Western tribes: Pictones, Carnutes and the Bituriges Cubi.

Another great display especially for students is the reconstruction of inside a Gallo-Roman house.

Walnuts .almonds, eggs and 'vin' Oysters are on the menu

The beautiful fibulae work is abundant here in Argentomagus just like most other settlements in Gallo-Roman period.

Note how women wore their fibulae

The Park Sites: After close to three hours in the museum, we emerged to look at the outside Gallo-Roman exhibits: the three temple complex, the unusual fountain, the House of Quintus Sergius Macrinus (a 'vergobret' or elected Celtic-named magistrate of the early Gallo-Roman town), a lonely theatre that's a fair hike from the museum and an amphitheatre that exists on the pamphlet but after another good hike around town we found it to be on private land.

An unusual tri-temple complex

Looking back towards the 'petit temple' and the fountain that's under cover

The fountain is magnificent-huge marble slabs, good drainage and water supply

This theatre seems very vulnerable: graffiti, dismantled stones and broken bottles here and there

Someone's backyard! Can you make out the amphitheatre's natural oval curves?

Argenton-sur-Creuse: Finally, despite the drizzling rain, we wandered down to Argenton-sur-Creuse and sighted the awesome swirling currents of the Creuse River. Two old water mills can still be seen either side of the river. Many old buildings line this river making Argenton 'the Venice of Central France'. One building we sighted dated to the 14th century as indicated on a plaque.

An old flour mill on the left and a weir on the right helped to regulate the flow to the mill

Here it is- the classy 14th century family abode.

Some conclusions: The archaeological site of Argentomagus- 'argent' means silver and 'magus' Celtic for market- revealed to me that the Bituriges Cubi tribe were prosperous during the Celtic period but whose wealth increased during the Gallo-Roman period of the 1st century A.D. but even more so during the 2nd century A.D. The theatre's three stages of development from wooden seats (mid 1st century A.D.) to stone seats (A.D. 100) to a major extension in circa A.D. 180 helped to clarify this observation. Alos, most museums' artifacts reflect this increase in wealth as measured by the volume and sophistication of everyday life consumer items.


Tweezers and a variety of keys.

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