The Iron Age
The Iron Age
The First Iron Age (850 - 450 BC) to the beginning of the Modern Era
The first Iron Age (or Hallstatt Period) corresponds to a period of profound change in the traditional rural societies inherited from the Bronze Age. These transformations are distinguished mainly by the rapid growth of increasingly hierarchical societies that fell under the economic dominance, and very shortly afterwards the cultural dominance, of urban Mediterranean, Etruscan and then Greek societies.
The collections in the National Archaeological Museum enable us to follow the development from the privileged communities buried in the tumuli in Burgundy, Lorraine and the Franche-Comté, to the sumptuous “princely” tombs of the late 6th century BC, like those at Sainte-Colombe-sur-Seine (Côte-d’Or) or at Apremont (Haute-Saône).
It was a warlike society that came to power from the 5th to the 3rd centuries BC. High-ranking warriors were buried with their weapons and their two-wheeled war chariots. Their wives wore metal torcs that were often highly decorated. The craftsman was no longer simply a worker but an initiate who knew the secrets of the materials. The Gauls excelled in arts like pottery, glassware and metalwork, and above all in working with bronze and iron that they could chisel into shape and assemble with the precision of a watchmaker.
From the 3rd century BC, the oppida, fortified hilltop villages, controlled economic, political and religious power. They minted coins, which were becoming more widely used. In the middle of the 1st century BC, Bibracte, the capital of the Eduens tribe, had all the appearance of a commercial town.
The Napoleon III excavations at Alise-Sainte-Reine (Côte-d’Or) helped to identify the site of the Battle of Alesia in 52 BC. The excavations revealed hundreds of items of Gallic and Roman weaponry, together with over one thousand Gallic coins revealing the origin of the Gaulish tribes who fought alongside Vercingetorix.
The museum’s collections give an insight into how Gaul was transformed and into the way of life of the Gauls up to the time of the Roman conquest. The collection of Celtic art is one of the richest in the world.