Bourgogne – a rewarding trip to Bibracte

The reason I was in France with all the family was that my father, John Collis, was being honoured by the French Government with a medal and the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of his work in archaeology in the Auvergne for over twenty five years.

My father is an Iron Age specialist and his doctoral thesis examined oppida, fortified hill forts, especially those mentioned in Julius Caesar’s ‘Conquest of Gaul’.

My brother Dan and my Dad’s sister, Auntie Joan, were feeling the moment as well.

It was fitting then that the presentation ceremony was to be held at Mont Beuvray (formerly ancient Bibracte); one of the most important hillforts in ancient Gaul and a crucial archaeological site.

My Google map is here.

Vercingetorix, was a warrior chief who managed to unite the Gallic tribes to fight against Caesar and scored a famous victory at Gergovia, another nearby oppidum. This is seen by many historians as the first stirrings of the French nation and so this story is very important for the country’s national mythology.

Indeed, some French politicians have launched their political campaigns from the podium on the Panorama de la Terrasse at Bibracte, using the evocative Burgundian countryside as their backdrop.

Thankfully my dad was slightly more self-effacing. Video of the presentation here.

Of course, this being France, large quantities of delicious food and fizzy wine were involved as a picnic for 100 people was put on for the occasion.

Video here.

The hillfort is now wooded over which makes it a lovely place for a walk on a sunny summer’s day.

Other than some remains of the ramparts there’s not a lot to see, as is usually the case with Iron Age archaeology.

The walls of some buildings dating to the Roman era have been excavated near the entrance to the hillfort.

At the base of the hill though is the Musée de Bibracte.

Many artefacts from local Iron Age civilisations are on display here.

In particular when we were there, there was a featured exhibition of torques; neck ornaments consisting of a band of twisted metal, worn especially by the ancient Gauls and Britons. Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

My favourite piece amongst the exhibits was the bronze helmet in the shape of a swan found in Tintignac in Corrèze.

Unfortunately my photos of the whole helmet didn’t come out very well, but here’s a better image.

So, a very special day for our family. Well done Dad! xx

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