Archaeological sites in Lamadeleine

Titelberg

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Titelberg (Luxembourgish: Tëtelbierg) is the site of a large Celtic settlement or oppidum in the extreme south west of Luxembourg. In the 1st century BC, this thriving community was probably the capital of the Treveri people. The site thus provides telling evidence of urban civilization in what is now Luxembourg long before the Roman conquest.

Geography

The site lies some 3 km to the south west of Pétange and 3 km north west of Differdange on a bare plateau some 390 m above sea level. It is surrounded by steep forested slopes which run down to the Chiers, a hundred meters below. It can be reached from Niedercorn by taking the road to Roudenhaff and making a right turn towards the Fond de Gras.

Background

The Celts inhabited large areas of Europe from the Danube to the Rhine and Rhône during the 6th to 1st centuries BC, a period sometimes referred to as La Tène after a site in Switzerland where continental Celtic remains were first discovered. It was around 100 BC that the Treveri, one of the Celtic tribes, came into a period of prosperity. They constructed a number of settlements or oppida near the Moselle valley in what is now southern Luxembourg, western Germany and eastern France. Titelberg was by far the largest of the Treveri settlements, no doubt as a result of its proximity to two of the most important Celtic roads, one from the south connecting the Rhone to the upper Moselle and the north, the other leading to Reims and the west. Another attraction was the iron ore which could be mined in the immediate vicinity.

The site

Covering an area of some 50 ha, the oval-shaped Titelberg plateau is approximately 1 km long (NW to SE) and 500 m wide. It was occupied continuously for 700 years from about 300 BC. There is evidence of sporadic settlements dating back even further, perhaps to 2000 BC or before. From the 1st century BC and during the Gallo-Roman period, foundations of masonry replaced the earlier, less durable constructions. These, together with the 9-m high earthen ramparts around the periphery, clearly demonstrate the importance of the Celtic oppidum which appears to have been the seat of the Treveri chiefs.

Although some interest had been shown in the site in 1928, serious archaeological excavations began in 1968 and continue today. These have been coordinated by Luxembourg's National Museum of History and Art with the assistance of specialists from the University of Missouri. In particular, the digs have unearthed the main residential area in the centre of the plateau and the public or recreational area, a few hundred meters to the south east. Both are located to the west of the farm road through the site which follows the path of the old Celtic/Roman road. There is also evidence of metal working and coin-minting activities long before the Roman conquest.

Celtic period

While there is evidence that the site was probably inhabited as far back as 2000 BC, the beginnings of urban civilization can certainly be traced back to the 2nd century BC when there were bronze-working shops at the site. In the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, the oppidum had become a civilized community trading with other Gallic centres. The Treveri nobles appear to have occupied the dwellings at the centre of the plateau. The Celtic tombs excavated in the vicinity, specifically at Clemency, at Scheierheck near Goeblange and at Kreckelbierg near Nospelt contain a range of articles including wine flagons, spurs, knives, lances and oil lanterns testifying to the aristocracy of those buried.

The entire site was originally surrounded by 10 m high, reinforced ramparts, sometimes called a Murus Gallicus, with fortified doors at either end of the road through the site. The ramparts were later largely removed by the Romans except at the SE end where they can still be observed.

A deep ditch, 4 m wide, perpendicular to the road, separated the residential space from the public space. The residential area covering about 30 ha consisted of rectangular houses, 14 m long by 8 m wide, built of light masonry. They were equipped with fireplaces and sometimes ovens. In the public space, the remains of a large hall, 14 m square, have been found. This could have been a meeting place for political or religious purposes.

One of the most important finds on Titelberg has been a huge number of Celtic coins which come not only from the Treveri themselves but from several other Celtic tribes. This indicates that it was a centre of trade and commerce during the Celtic period. In addition, facilities for minting coins have also been excavated close to the residential area and appear to have been used over an extended period.

A very large number of both Celtic and Gallo-Roman fibulae have also been found on the site. In a multitude of different shapes and sizes, these bronze clasps, sometimes hinged, were used either as ornamental brooches or for holding garments together.

Gallo-Roman period

About 20 years after the Roman conquest, the Celtic oppidum was completely reworked and two streets perpendicular to the main were constructed. The houses too were replaced with Roman buildings which had stone foundations and cellars. These were however generally demolished two decades later at the time the Romans moved their centre of interest from Titelberg to Trier.

The Treveri, despite one early battle, apparently adopted Roman culture and religion fairly easily. Titelberg, though no longer a capital, became a prosperous vicus with a range of activities, especially metal working. In particular, minting of coins and smelting extended at least until around 337 as one of the coins found at the site of the smelter bears the likeness of Constantine II. In the public area, a square-shaped Gallo-Roman temple was built which was later extended with a roofed porch on all sides.

Similar sites

Titelberg resembles a number of other Celtic oppidum sites. In particular, Bibracte, probably the capital of the Aedui, near Autun in France has similar dimensions and fortifications. Manching in Bavaria is a considerably larger site and Ensérune near Béziers in southern France also has a hilltop position.

Bibliography

  • Gaspar, Nicolas: Die keltischen und gallo-römischen Fibeln vom Titelberg: Les fibules gauloises et gallo-romaines du Titelberg, Luxembourg, Musée national d’histoire et d’art, 2007, 325 p., ISBN 13 : 978-2-87985-936-1
  • Metzler, Jeannot: Das treverische Oppidum auf dem Titelberg : zur Kontinuität zwischen der spätkeltischen und der frührömischen Zeit in Nord-Gallien, Luxembourg, Musée national d’histoire et d’art, 1995, 789 p., ISBN 287985024X
  • Metzler, J.,/ Metzler-Zens, N./ Méniel, P. et al. (Hrsg.): Lamadelaine – une nécropole de l’oppidum du Titelberg. Dossier d’Archeologie du Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art IV. Luxembourg 1999.
  • Rowlett, R. M./ Thomas, H. L./ Rowlett, E. S.-J..: Stratified Iron Age House Floors in the Titelberg, Luxembourg. In: Journal of Field Archaeology. Vol. 9, No. 3, 1982, 301–312.
  • Thomas, H. L., Rowlett, R. M., Rowlett, E. S.-J.: The Titelberg: A Hill Fort of Celtic and Roman Times. In: Archaeology, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1975, 55–57.
  • Thomas, H. L., Rowlett, R. M., Rowlett, E. S.-J.: Excavations of the Titelberg. Luxembourg. In: Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1976, 241–259.
  • Trausch, Gilbert / Metzler, Jeannot / Margue, Michel / Gengler, Claude: Histoire du Luxembourg - Le destin européen d'un "petit pays", Editions Privat, Toulouse, 333 pp. ISBN 2708947737
  • Shaw, Matthew L.: The North Smelter at Titelberg - Post-imperial Bronze Recycling in Belgic Gaul. University of Missouri. 2007.
  • Weiller, Raymond: Coins From Features Found by the Missouri Excavations at Titelberg. In Horizons and Styles: Studies in Art and Archaeology in Honour of Professor Homer L. Thomas, ed. Paul Åström, pp. 269-289, Paul Åströms Förlag: Jonsered. 1993, ISBN 91-7081-072-9

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27 Rue de l'Église, Lamadelaine, Luxembourg

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