Bibracte Oppidum Search

Posted on Jun 11, 2010 in category

Today I planned to hit the Mont Beuvray- 1000 hectares of pine, oak and beech forest most of which is destined for Parisian housing projects. However, before I left the village of Glux-en-Glenne I wanted to revisit the War Memorial in front of its church in order to take a photo of it. On closer inspection, I found out that the Place or Square was named after a priest who had fought in two wars, WW1 and WW2, had gained a 'Medaille Militaire et Croix de Gaulle 14-18' and was killed by the Gestapo in 1944. His name was Camille Bornet. Incredible history in a tiny Morvan village!

Memorial to Glux-en-Glenne's 'fallen' and Memorial to Abbe Camille Bornet

Prior to the hectic month of July, people are allowed to drive their cars up the mountain. In the July holiday period, a bus operates from the Museum taking tourists up the oppidum in droves. With 'Lizzie' off, I drove cautiously up the oppidum's narrow and still wet roads. Underneath the massive trees' canopies, the C5's lights automatically led the way.

I could see a few log piles lining the route to the top. However, later when I exited the oppidum (obviously in the wrong direction) I came across a logging operation that had cleared a large section of pines within this massive 'nationale' park. The irony is that in the late 1st century B.C. even before Julius Caesar's conquest in 52 B.C. Mont Beuvray was already fairly bare of trees. It's predicted that a significant percentage of forest went into making the 'murus gallicus' ramparts let alone the many 'maisons' or houses that were constructed within the oppidum.. Although creating an image of massive groves of mysterious, mossy trees, most of the trees on Mont Beuvray are no older than the 19th century.


My first stop up the hill was on a bend with several walking tracks. From this spot it was possible to visualise the narrow 'chemins' or tracks that wound their way up the oppidum's hill. The steep sides of the ramparts were also obvious at this bend in the road.

First bend on the road up the oppidum.

I revisited the sites that Pascale Paris has shown us near 'La Porte du Rebout'; then, I kept driving up the hill past the iron workshops' area at 'la Come Chaudron', past the new 'forum' discovery at 'la Pature du Couvent' until I reached 'la Chaume' carpark. Now this was all new to me.

A magnificient view awaited me from this summit. Jacques-Gabriel Bulliot's Memorial (1817-1902) took centre stage here on this well-maintained terrace. Bulliot was employed by Napoleon III from the 1870's to begin excavating Bibracte.

Jacques-Gabriel Buillot's Memorial, Bibracte's first archaeologist.

A little further on I came across 'la Chapelle et la Croix Saint-Martin'. This 19th century construction was found to be built over a modest Gallo-Roman temple (date unknown).

Saint-Martin's Shrine was built over a Gallo-Roman shrine


In the mood for a walk, I followed the track around the edge of the ramparts' slopes. Views across the Arroux River valley awaited me. Two decades or so after the Roman conquest, the Eduan tribe moved their capital from this hillfort into the Arroux Valley and established the city of Autun.

View to the west of Bibracte

Next stop was to find the Swiss archaeological team from Lausanne University who are also staying at the Research Centre at Glux-en-Glenne. Leaving the C5 and 'Lizzie' behind in the carpark, I headed downhill past 'Fontaine Saint-Pierre', a site with a large Gallo-Roman villa and a major source of Bibracte's water supply. A feature of 'Fontaine Saint-Pierre' is Buillot's conserved hut or 'Hotel des Gaulles' (his pun on Augustus' 'Altar of the Trois Gauls' in Lyon).

Inside 'Hotel des Gaulles' is a permanent museum display is dedicated to him.

Still no sign of the Swiss, so I kept on trekking. Shortly, I found myself walking along a lonely, narrow track to 'la Roche Salve'. Like 'la Roche de la Wivre', this rocky outcrop's purpose is unknown. However, in the Middle Ages and beyond women used to frequent these rocks to improve their fertility.

'La Roche Salve' 'La Roche de la Wivre'

Finally, I stumbled into the Swiss archaeological team's dig. Luckily, their Education Officer, Pascale, gave me a thorough overview of the site that their University of Lausanne has been excavating for the past three years. Situated on a man-made terrace close to 'La Roche Salve' the team has found what appears to be a temple. This temple was partly built over a Celtic round house. Pascale told me that Buillot found evidence of a statue to Mercury in this area and they have found many small base sections of a large bronze statue too.

The Swiss team from Lausanne University is made up of many young, hard-working university students led by a Professor Thiery Luginbuhl. I've been very impressed with both the French and Swiss University teams at Bibracte both on site and back at the Research's accommodation centre. Once again I was able to join in on their discussions and I learnt a lot from them about the Celts.

Pascale shows the Celtic round house to visiting French College students and teachers

A bit of Gallo-Roman roof tile in the Celtic foundations (top of photo with orange item) reveals that the Celtic construction was late La Tene (120 B.C.-A.D. 20). Notice the circular pattern to the stone foundations and the orange coloured Celtic fill.


Pascale shows me how the Celts built their foundations using wooden beams on stone bases.

Marika worked in Bondi for a short time Benoit begins an arduous task of drawing his area


The efficient Swiss team in action clearing an area's layer.

So far nothing of significance has been found in the above new area. Yesterday these people were working either under-cover or in the rain to discover new information on the Celts or the Gallo-Romans. The team hope to excavate the track that leads away from the 'temple' complex and then the larger road that leads to it.

In the late Friday afternoon all archaeological teams looked exhausted. Some students decided to drive back to Switzerland for the weekend and others gathered at 'La Petite Auburge' or inn owned by a Dutch couple. I was invited to join the Swiss team's table.

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