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Bibracte: urbanism in Late Iron Age Gaul

A research project of the Department of Archaeology

Project Contact · Professor Tom Moore


Bibracte EPCC, British Academy, Rust Foundation.


When did urbanism first emerge in temperate Europe and what form did it take? This question has preoccupied scholars of the European Iron Age for decades. As part of wider research on European ‘oppida’ and ‘mega sites’ (Moore 2017a, b) an international team has begun to reassess how we understand the scale and nature of these complexes and Iron Age urbanism in general through long-standing fieldwork at one of the pre-eminent oppida in Europe: Bibracte (Burgundy, France).

Project Results

Through excavation and field survey, this project is demonstrating that this proto-urban centre was far larger and less nucleated than previously imagined. Most notable has been the discovery of a large, c. 120 hectare, unenclosed settlement around the Sources de l’Yonne (a major tributary of the Seine), just 3km from occupation on Mont Beuvray and contemporary with it. Discovery of the agglomeration at Sources de l’Yonne is necessitating a re-evaluation of how we understand the Bibracte complex and the nature of Iron Age ‘urbanism’ (Moore 2017a, b).

The project involves a multinational team working in conjuncture with the Centre Archéologique Européen (EPCC) at Bibracte, France. Excavations in 2007 around the source of the Yonne, in co-operation with John Creighton (University of Reading, UK), and on the terraces of La Grande Vente (2009-11), in conjunction with the Peter Haupt, Ines Klenner and Arno Braun (Johannes Gutenberg Universtat, Mainz, Germany) and Laura Cripps (Howard Community College, Maryland, USA), revealed the extent and date of Late La Tène and Augustan occupation (Moore et al 2013).

Since 2016, with the assistance of Ralf Hoppadietz (Leipzig), excavations have focused on examining the Gallo-Roman sanctuaries central to the agglomeration and at the source of the Yonne river. This has revealed that these overlie Late La Tène ritual structures, perhaps explaining the reason for the location and role of the agglomeration (Moore and Hoppadietz 2016, 2018, 2019). Currently, post-excavation is underway to bring the results of all this work to publication in a monograph.

Research and Impact group

Landscapes of complex society

Published Results

Journal Article

  • Moore, T. 2017a. Alternatives to urbanism? Reconsidering oppida and the urban question in Late Iron Age Europe. Journal of World Prehistory 30(3): 281-30
  • Moore, T. 2017b. Beyond Iron Age ‘towns’ Examining oppida as examples of low-density urbanism. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 36(3): 287-305.
  • Moore, T., Braun, A., Creighton, J., Cripps, L., Haupt, P., Klenner, I., Nouvel, P., Ponroy, C. & Schönfelder, M. 2013. Oppida, agglomerations and suburbia: The Bibracte environs and new perspectives on Late Iron Age urbanism in central-eastern France. European Journal of Archaeology 16(3): 491-517.
  • Creighton,J., Haselgrove, C., Lowther, P. & Moore, T. 2008. Becoming Roman in southern Burgundy: A field survey between Autun and Bibracte in the Arroux Valley (Saône-et-Loire), 2000-2003. Internet Archaeology (25).

Chapter in book

  • Moore, T & Hoppadietz, R 2019. La sanctuaire des Sources de l’Yonne. In Rapport intermédiaire 2018 du programme quadriennal de recherche 2017-2020 sur le Mont-Beuvray. Guichard, V BIBRACTE. 291-317.
  • Moore, T. & Hoppadietz, R. 2018. Le sanctuaire des Sources de l'Yonne. In Rapport intermédiaire 2017 du programme quadriennal de recherche 2017-2020 sur le Mont Beuvray. Guichard, V. Bibracte - Centre archéologique européen, Glux-en-Glenne. 307-324.
  • Moore, T. & Hoppadietz, R. 2016. Le sanctuaire de Sources de l'Yonne - 2016. In Programme quadriennal 2013-1016 de recherche sur le mont Beuvray, rapport annuel 2016, synthèse. Guichard, V. Glux-en-Glenne: Bibracte - Centre archéologique européen. 251-270.

Aerial photograph of an excavated stone temple

Image above: Plan of one of the Gallo-Roman and Iron Age temples at Sources de l’Yonne, excavated by the project between 2016 and 2018. Photo by Arnaud Meunier, EPCC Bibracte