The 5th Century BC at Bourges, Berry, France: New Discoveries

Article excerpt

Since the later 19th century, evidence has been accumulating to suggest that the site of the city of Bourges, Avaricum of the Bituriges in the 1st century BC, was a significant node in the settlement pattern of west-central Europe at the Hallstatt/La Tene transition (e. g. James 1993: 21). Initially, this evidence consisted principally of funerary objects, which were frequently found during the expansion of the town; and stray finds, some from the wetland adjacent to the rivers Auron and Yevre which define the promontory on which it is centred (Willaume 1985). Over a dozen Etruscan metal items have been recovered (Gran-Aymerich 1997).

From the early 1980s, small-scale excavations within the historic core of the city have complemented the earlier results. In the last decade, new evidence has arisen again primarily from peripheral locations, as new developments have been undertaken and infrastructure inserted.

Whilst it is now possible to show use of the site through much of the pre-Roman Iron Age, the most remarkable results are for the 5th century BC. Initial comments on two very different recent projects are presented here, undertaken with the assistance of the Service regional de l'Archeologie and the Ville de Bourges (Service archeologique municipal).

Les Carrieres a Bachon (FIGURE 1) was a major barrow, edged by a substantial ditch, some 40 m in overall diameter, located on a slight eminence within a limestone plateau above the Auron some 4 km south of the town centre. Total excavation revealed a complex architecture: substantial annular deposits of limestone, cut turfs, unfired clay blocks, gravel and brilliant white limestone rubble extracted from the surrounding ditch made up the mound, perhaps originally up to 7 m high. The ditch itself displayed evidence of recuts. Whilst successive phases are entailed in the construction and maintenance of this elaborate monument, all could belong in the 5th century BC. Unfortunately, the primary burial within a small cylindrical pit cut into the subjacent limestone had been wholly robbed, probably shortly after deposition. It may have held an imported metal vessel and a cremation. The contents were sufficiently important to attract robbers, who only marginally disturbed the adjacent burial of an inhumed 7- or 8-year-old child, placed in a wooden coffin within a rectangular pit filled with limestone rubble. The grave goods comprised: a copper alloy torc and piece of toilet equipment; two brooches and an elaborate belt-fitment of iron; and a gold ear-ring. Some items have associated leather or cloth. Subsequently, a massive cist was built into the clay-brick mound. Although robbed in modern times, fragments of an adult inhumation and of a bronze torc survived. A funerary pyre erected on the old ground surface, with the cremated remains of an adult, was sealed by the clay brick addition to the mound. Iron wagon-box fittings suggest the burning of the upper part of a vehicle here. A gold pin, decorated with a ram's head (FIGURE 2), was recovered undamaged within this pyre debris -- the first substantial La Tene A goldwork from Berry. …