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Une ville sous la forêt

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Bibracte est fondée à la fin du IIe siècle avant notre ère, au sommet du Mont Beuvray, par le peuple éduen qui en fait sa capitale. Occupée pendant un siècle, cette ville fortifiée gauloise – appelée oppidum par César – est l’une des plus caractéristiques et des mieux préservées, avec ses remparts et ses quartiers s’étendant sur 200 ha. C’est aussi un lieu de mémoire, où Jules César séjourne après sa victoire à Alésia pour mettre la dernière main à ses Commentaires sur la Guerre des Gaules.

Abandonnée pendant deux millénaires, la ville de Bibracte renaît aujourd’hui grâce aux archéologues qui contribuent à en faire un site propice à la découverte d’une page méconnue de notre Histoire.

Plan de Bibracte

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    The rampart and gate

    The Porte du Rebout, the main entrance to the oppidum, is cut into the “inner” rampart (5.2km) which circled the town in the 1st century BC. The gate and walls were reconstructed using the murus gallicus technique after the excavations. An older rampart is preserved beneath the forest. It dates from the 2nd century BC and stretches for 7km.

    La Côme Chaudron

    The metal workshops bordering the road leading from the Porte du Rebout have been excavated and refilled to ensure that they are preserved. The path is now bordered by irregularly-shaped trees. The young shoots of these beech trees were laid horizontally to form quick-set hedges to mark pasture boundaries in the 19th century.

    La Pierre de la Wivre

    This rocky point is associated in popular memory with the “Wivre”, a wyvern or monster in Burgundy legends, which was half-woman, half-serpent. Archaeological observations have shown that the current shape of the outcrop was produced by stone quarrying contemporary with the occupation of the oppidum.

    The basin

    This partially restored basin made of carefully cut stone in the shape of a ship’s hull was built in alignment with the main street of the oppidum. Its location makes it very unusual, and it also demonstrates that the builders of Bibracte had some knowledge of geometry, thus perpetuating the conventions inherited from Greece.

    The cellar of a Gaulish house

    A residential district developed close to the monumental centre of the oppidum. In 1997, excavations of a cellar uncovered the remains of carbonised wood and the imprint of vertical posts. The reconstruction of the cellar gives an insight into the quality of wooden architecture in the Gaulish tradition and its footprint suggests that it served a house with an upper storey.

    The monumental centre

    This huge 80 x 80m space built in the second half of the 1st century BC and extensively remodelled following a fire circa -20, comprises Roman buildings associated with public areas (shops, a courtyard with a portico, a basilica) and private areas. It is preserved under a large shelter weighed down with sandbags to compensate for the absence of foundations.

    The Franciscan monastery

    This monastery established circa 1400 in monastic farm buildings was operational until the 17th century. Excavations uncovered the chapel and adjoining cloister and revealed many signs of remodelling. Artefacts on display in the museum offer evidence of the monks’ activities which involved agriculture and scholarly pursuits.

    Le Parc aux Chevaux

    This huge terrace is partially the result of earthworks carried out in the last days of the oppidum. Excavations being carried out here reveal the presence of older remains beneath these terraces, which when studied provide an understanding of the spatial organisation of the oppidum pre-dating the Romanisation of its architecture.

    Le Theurot de la Roche

    This summit, which used to dominate the town, was probably the site of a place of worship. This is demonstrated by the remains of several buildings on posts, an 18-metre deep well sunk into the rock, and an inscription on a stone presented to the museum. Unfortunately, the dedication is too incomplete to reveal the name of the divinity worshipped on this site.

    The large Roman house PC1

    This fully uncovered house is the largest on the site (3,600m²). It displays typical features of Roman architecture, including an atrium, peristyle and baths. The nearby thatched cottage built by Jacques-Gabriel Bulliot, the first person to excavate at Bibracte, now houses an exhibition devoted to the 19th century explorations.

    The Saint-Pierre fountain

    This fountain, made of carefully cut stone and connected to the biggest spring in the town, has undergone several transformations between antiquity and the 19th century. The reconstruction produced after the excavations shows the shape of the basin erected in the 1st century BC. It is now a rural site where the Goutte Dampierre stream flows.

    La Terrasse

    This esplanade rising to a height of 814m and planted with centuries-old beech trees is bounded on three sides by a small earth bank which is clearly visible beneath the forest. Its purpose is still unclear (military or religious, perhaps ?). From the south-west corner, there is a spectacular view over the small Roche valley, and beyond that in the distance to the expanses of the Arvenian (Auvergne) region.

    Chapel of Saint-Martin

    Built on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple, the Chapel and Cross of Saint-Martin provide evidence that the site was in continuous use as a place of worship. The chapel was built in 1873, after Bulliot’s excavations.Fairs on Mont Beuvray were held nearby on the first Wednesday of May, according to a well-known tradition throughout Burgundy.

    La Chaume

    Situated 809m above sea level, it offers the best view from Mont Beuvray towards the south-east and the Arroux valley. On a clear day, you can even see the Alps ! There is a monument nearby dedicated to the memory of Jacques-Gabriel Bulliot (1817-1902), who quite literally “reinvented” Bibracte with his archaeological excavations between 1867 and 1895.