A prehistoric necropolis used between 900 and 600 BC in Aubagne in southeastern France has revealed a first millennium BC individual, bedecked in copper jewelry, after two rounds of excavations in 2022. The transitional late Bronze and early Iron Age necropolis, 3.21 acres (1.3 hectares) wide, had been excavated the first time in 2021, yielding a treasure trove of information that has significantly increased our knowledge of protohistoric southern French funerary customs.
When first uncovered in 2021, ten burials were discovered and three cremation depots have been searched under a massive tumulus, according to a press release by INRAP (French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research). Measuring 108 feet (33 meters) in diameter, a tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or multiple graves. This particular tumulus was surrounded by a deep ditch and was probably originally marked by a ring of stones. The burial within was unlikely to be furnished.
[#Actu] À Aubagne (Bouches-du-Rhône), deux fouilles menées en 2022 ont permis d’enrichir les premières investigations menées en 2021.
Les découvertes les plus remarquables portent sur les occupations néolithiques et la nécropole protohistorique https://t.co/7Oeeo6Plul pic.twitter.com/4B4RBXzmFa
— Inrap (@Inrap) December 15, 2022
Non-Tumulus Burials and Demarcation
The two other non-tumulus burials found this year included the skeletal remains of an individual with a twisted copper alloy bracelet, with a pearl and stone jewel on the left shoulder. This person had two ceramic pots buried near their head, which was typical of the burials of this time period.
The second non-tumulus burial has been the richest treasure trove so far in the necropolis; they were buried with a tubular torc with rolled terminals around the neck. Three bangles on each ankle and three toe rings were found, as well as a brooch and a large ceramic urn. Urns are also another burial emblem from this time period.
The prehistoric necropolis near Aubagne contained fragments of a burial urn, with its decorations worn away. Urns were quite common across many cultures; this burial urn is from 8th century Greece ( Public Domain )
According to a report from Arkeo News , the first burial and tumulus are in close proximity to one another. The third was distant from the other two. Each space was clearly demarked and delimited with intention, but that demarcation no longer exists. The only remnants are a line of postholes, which suggest the existence of a linear structure once upon a time. There is space reserved for the burial of the dead, also observed in the second burial, which is marked by an alignment of stone blocks not more than six feet (two meters) long.
Occupation of the Middle Neolithic Site
Ceramic furniture found at the site, and other aspects of material culture, date the first phase of this habitation to mid-Neolithic (4600-4300 AD). The anchoring of posts at these sites suggests the presence of dwellings with other domestic and conservation structures like silos. One of the smallest buildings covers an area of 645 square feet (60m 2), while the larger one is generally rectangular covering around 1,000 square feet (100m 2), which is rectangular in nature.
The next phase of occupation is from the phase of the Final Neolithic (3500-2200 BC), with the facilities intended to structure and define space. Here, an alignment of large oblong pits, oriented east-west, are found relating to this chronological space. Numerous fragments of ceramic, grinding wheels, scorched raw earth have been found, showing construction and habitation during this phase.
In this area, there is also a large, irregularly planned polylobed pit is explored, between 10 feet (3 meters) and 23 feet (7 meters) wide, and over 46 feet (14 meters) in length. Here, there are numerous surrounds succeeding one another. Initially, the scientists pondered whether it could be a storage unit, but that function was ruled out. The new hypothesis is an extraction of materials, perhaps in search of the water table to extract water for cattle.
Moving forward, historians hope to uncover more burial practices of this time period in Western Europe, which will help glean how ancient societies treated their dead.
Top Image: A copper torc was excavated from a prehistoric necropolis in southern France. Source: Denis Dubesset / INRAP
By Sahir Pandey