Bibracte Museum

Posted on Jun 10, 2010 in category

Back at Bibracte Research Centre I was able at breakfast to say hi again to Dominique, the 'Iron Chef' of Glux-en-Glenne. With so many primary kids visiting Bibracte (another busload today) one needs an iron constitution to prepare so much food for so many very audible clients.I'm only joking of course. It's great to see the children enjoying their archaeological camp.

Today it is raining so my plan was to catch up with Joelle at Bibracte's Administration Office, take a wander around the building so as to show you the great facilities and then return to Bibracte's Museum for a second time.

It was good to touch bases with Joelle who gave me a lot of tips about the area and I also caught up with Vincent, the Director who again offered assistance if needed. Gilles showed me around the Archive Room where I was able to take photos to show you the size of its archaeological 'bank'. Other regional excavation finds are kept here too such as the Marne. Here at Bibracte the staff are so, so helpful. I must appear like a clumsy clot at times with my backpack, bulky camera bag and weird accent. Luckily, the French are very polite. Merci!!!

I owe so much to Joelle Cunnac!!

The Museum display on the ground floor was superb. It covers the main areas of modern excavations beginning with a necropolis found in the Museum's own carpark (La Croix du Rebout). The finds were of humble, common people who lived in Bibracte at the end of the 1st cent B.C. and early 1st century A.D. Cremation was the norm here although inhumation examples are found in the region too. Archaeologists live in hope of finding an aristocratic grave site here.

A good background is given on the oppidum's main excavated monumental gateway called 'la Porte du Rebout' and the technique called 'murus gallicus'. Nearby a huge glass floor-tile map displays two ramparts: the older inner 5.2 kms one and its larger outer 7.0 kms rampart.

Two rooms of a Gallic 'maison' or house are on display. The reconstruction is based on genuine finds from excavations except for the stools, table and a few other minor items. It provided a visual concept for visitors which I think works really well especially for students.

An excellent reconstruction: inside the kitchen/living area of a Gallic 'maison'.


Next door to the living area is the comfortable bedroom. Far from 'barbaric' eh!

Another interesting exhibit that reveals the economic side of Bibracte was the reconsruction of a metal workshop site based on an excavation along the 'la Come Chaudron' (metal workshops street). A small model gives a 3D impression of the archaeological reconstruction.

The excavation layout (metal workshop) 3D model reconstruction

Incredibly, once again my camera battery conked it in the museum. The time was approaching 12.30 'dejeuner' anyway so I returned to my room to recharge along with the camera battery!

A light lunch today as time got away from me: bananas, biscuits, tomatoes and strawberries that we've collected along the 'Burgundian Way'. My camera battery has finally recharged now so I'm back to the Museum to see the temporary exhibition on Gauls and their interest in heads. I'll keep you posted.

I'm glad the Gauls preferred heads rather than tails because the exhibition was superb. It is a fascinating exhibition. Although it is entirely described in French (unlike the multi-lingual audio tapes for the museum's permanent collection) the display is a powerful one. It presents a very challenging view that goes beyond the stereotypical 'barbaric' and 'head-hunters' view of the Celts of Gaul and Europe.

The exhibition doe not ignore the former stereotypical view as it displays a copy of the Roquepertuse pillar that has slots carved into it to display skulls. The argument surrounds the question, 'To whom do the skulls belong?' Enemies or ancestors???? If the answer is the latter, one's view of the Gauls (southern Gauls in this case) would change significantly.

You'll have to imagine the skulls placed in the cavities!

The theme of the Gauls' interest in the 'head' is shown in the evidence of neurosurgery. 'Trepanning' is displayed where pressure that builds up inside the skull due to injury is reduced by making a hole in the skull.

Sculptures are presented that reveal characteristics of Gallic art such as the depiction of torcs as status symbols, hairstyles and moustaches that were unique in Roman times and a change of style from simplistic, stylized statues to more 'Mediterranean' style sculptures.

This sculpture was violently attacked; the head was removed. Note the torc around the neck.

This Gallic sculpture (1st cent. B.C.) reveals her lovely, long-pleated hair.

Classic Celt to a more 'classic' Mediterranean influenced head.

It's a sin to tell a lie but it's also a sin not to mention Gallic head designs on their coins. The exhibition has several on display including a rare Arverni coin that depicts Vercingetorix. He came very close to defeating Julius Caesar in 52 B.C. at Alesia.

At 17.00 I returned to the Research Centre. Before entering the Centre I saw the young Toulouse archaeologists exit their vehicle so I took the opportunity to take a photo of this hard-working team. It had been raining all day.

Toulouse University team

Once inside the Centre, to my pleasant surprise, Joelle had collected a large number of Bibracte posters of many previous years' exhibitions. Joelle gave me an extra one on the present exhibition to present to James Fallon High.

After Joelle and I discussed some future organisation for my trip, I visited the Research Centre Library. On my previous visit to the library I noticed a new book had arrived on the display shelf, "Caesar's Druids"; therefore, I spent some time before dinner reading it and taking a few notes. Later Roman writers believed druids were 'magicians' and seers justifying their extermination where as Julius Caesar admired their priestly and philosophical roles in Gallic society and did not see them as a military threat. Who does one believe?

Dinner was delicious tonight- Morvan ham, cauliflower, pasta, 2 cheeses, bread roll and a small can of beer. It's little wonder that the Gauls exported their hams to Rome!!!

Here's Gilles Ruet, Archives Administrator.

Gilles keeps a tidy shop here in the Archives Depot. The Archives is expanding too.

Voila! (my keyboard has no French accents, desole!)




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