Aquitania

The Roman province of Aquitania had very variable boundaries, extending under Augustus far beyond the area that Caesar described as one of his three parts of Gaul. For Caesar, the Garonne was a significant boundary between Aquitani and Celtae, a boundary that periodically might reflect some distinctions in the archaeological record between the regions that lie between it, the Pyrenees and the Atlantic coast, on the one hand, and the regions of the Tarn, Quercy, Perigord, Limousin and Charente that lie to the north and north-east. We have already briefly addressed the question whether Aquitania was 'Celtic' in the minds of classical writers. Though distinguished from lands occupied by Belgae and Celtae by Caesar, Strabo evidently had a broader and more inclusive definition of 'Celtica'. Nevertheless, he repeated (IV, 1, 1; IV, 2, 1) that the Aquitani differed from the Gauls physically as well as in language, being more like the Iberians. Atlantic Europe is too often regarded as peripheral to the European Iron Age, as witnessed by the Central European Urnfield-Hallstatt-La Tene sequence, and the absence of early La Tene types in any number is often taken as an indication of cultural isolation from the La Tene Celtic world until a relatively late date. In fact, what we are dealing with is a broad distinction between a Central European tradition and an Atlantic European continuum, and it would be mistaken to assume that either one was peripheral to the other, or that either one was any more or less 'Celtic' than the other. Linguistically Aquitania is not devoid of Celtic place-names, though the limited evidence needs to be treated with caution.

The Garonne-Aude corridor affords a natural route of access between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic west, as an alternative to the longer sea passage through the Pillars of Hercules. In consequence, we may expect that south-western France might reflect archaeologically a variety of external contacts, of which those with Central Europe to the north-east were not always dominant. These multi-directional contacts of an essentially regional industry are amply demonstrated from the late Bronze Age Venat hoard from Saint-Yrieix, Charente, on the northern fringes of the region. The hoard is unusual in the high proportion of personal ornaments, notably bracelets, and low percentage of weapons, but otherwise the bulk of the assemblage not surprisingly was characteristic of the Atlantic late Bronze Age at the point of transition to the first Iron Age. It included Carp's Tongue and Ewart Park type swords, together with various socketed axes of British type. Continental Urnfield origins can be cited for a number of the tools, notably the winged axes of various forms, and a variety of personal ornaments, some of which, such as bracelets, included local versions of Urnfield types. Finally, there are a few southern and Mediterranean-derived forms, notably 'elbowed' brooches of Cassibile type and axes of Pyrenean and Spanish type. In effect, there is evidence for a range of contacts and external influences, even though the bulk of the material assemblage retains a regional character.

The first Iron Age in Aquitania, best not described in terms of the Central European Hallstatt model, shows close contacts with the Languedoc, where Mediterranean influences undoubtedly triggered dynamic change in material culture. Most of the metal-work and pottery that forms the basis of classification is derived from funerary contexts. Mohen (1975, Carte 1) showed the contrast in distribution between the flat graves of the Garonne valley, extending north-westward from coastal Languedoc, and the uplands of the Pyrenees and the foothills of the Massif Central. The two funerary rites were mutually exclusive but broadly contemporary, with tumuli progressively becoming predominant. The idea that the two modes of burial might reflect a contrast between agricultural and pastoral economies remains undemonstrated; there was no obvious contrast between the two groups in material culture, though the importance of the Garonne-Tarn route as a cultural corridor is self-evident. In one respect, Aquitania shows its independence in the earlier Iron Age, namely, in the more widespread adoption of iron for brooches and similar artefacts than is the case in west Central Europe. Some of the key types, such as brooches with upturned feet and expanded crossbow springs, belt-clasps in a developing sequence from those with single attachment hooks to variants with multiple hooks and open-work voids are also found in the neighbouring regions of the Languedoc and across the Pyrenees, even if their local manifestations display technical differences in detail. Mohen's 'Ampurias' type brooches (1979, 30-1; 1980, 76, Phase V, Figs 31, 104), characterized by their recurving foot in the shape of a swan's neck, are found in Aquitania only south-west of the Garonne, but examples are also known from the Languedoc and in Catalonia. Belt-clasps with multiple hooks (Mohen, 1980, Fig. 130) are found in Aquitania and the Pyrenees, in the Languedoc, and in the eastern Meseta and southern Spain. Antenna-hilted swords and daggers have a wide distribution throughout South-Western Europe and are undoubtedly indicative of a widespread community of tradition in the region. Nevertheless, local conventions differ in technical detail, and Mohen demonstrated (1975; 1980) that the distinctive Aquitanian form of the later sixth and fifth centuries bc was significantly different from its Hispanic counterparts.

Among the distinctive types that appear from the end of the first Iron Age in Aquitania are torcs, mostly of bronze, but some of iron, of which a variant with longitudinal channelling is especially characteristic of the regions between the Garonne and the Pyrenees. Possibly related to this group is the animal-headed torc from Vieille Toulouse, which on stylistic grounds might be as early as the later fifth or fourth centuries bc. Torcs were certainly being manufactured locally, as is indicated by the fragment of terminal mould from Vayres, Gironde, where contemporary occupation yielded two La Tene 1 brooches. The appearance of artefacts of La Tene type is not signalled by any widespread disruption in the settlement or cemetery sequences, however, and innovative types are best attributed to trading or related interaction, rather than to intrusive settlement of La Tene Celts. By the third century, grave-goods from tumuli at Aubagnan, Landes, included a fragment of chain mail attached to a La Tene 2 brooch, together with a button and pair of bosses ornamented in a style reminiscent of Plastic Style motifs, though individually rendered. An Iberian metal vessel with gold and silver embellishments nevertheless indicated trans-Pyrenean connections, underlining the region's focal role in South-Western Europe.

Among the regional groupings that can be loosely grouped within the Plastic Style are some of the finest products of Celtic craftsmanship in gold, to which Jacobsthal gave the term 'Aurillac' Style after the find from the Cantal in South-Western France (Pl. 8b). The body of the spiral hooped bracelet is embellished with a profusion of nodular accretions in high relief, which Jacobsthal recognized could not properly be distinguished as foliage, flowers or fruits, but which formed a 'thicket' of 'tropical exuberance'. Spiral bosses and ridged mouldings predominate, through which beaded lines meander, defining the component parts. Of similar late third or second century date are the torc and bracelet from Lasgraisses in the Tarn (Figure 9.1A). The fused buffers of the torc are overwhelmed by a profusion of bosses and quasi-floral protuberances; around the rest of its circuit, similar clusters are separated by diagonal mouldings. The bracelet is based upon a hollow-bossed type, but in this case with the hollows covered in sheet gold. The bosses externally are ornamented with similar relief clusters separated into a sequence of tightly grouped bunches by plain panels, faceted like bouquet wrapping. A third group, of no less than six gold torcs, was uncovered in the nineteenth century at Fenouillet in the Haute-Garonne (Figure 9.1B). Five are of twisted gold, three with plain buffers. The two most elaborate are further embellished with high relief elements, spaced on either side of the buffers or, in the one case, around the entire circumference of the torc. An example in the same style from Montans, Tarn, is made of multiple strands of twisted gold, while another, from Civray, Indre-et-Loire, could well be from the same school or workshop. The similarity in style, and even in technique of tenon-fastener, between the Fenouillet torcs and one from Gasic, Serbia (formerly Hercegmarok, then in Hungary) has been frequently remarked, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they were products of the same workshop. Given that the type is essentially one developed west of the Rhine it seems probable that this third-century eastern outlier of the distribution was the outcome of mobility and long-distance contacts between eastern and western Celtic worlds.

To the north-west of the Toulouse group, the Tayac, Gironde, hoard, found in two

Celtic Plastic Style

Figure 9.1 'Plastic Style' torcs and arm-rings from south-western France. A: Lasgraisses, Tarn.

Photo: Musee Saint-Raymond, Toulouse. B: Fenouillet, Haut-Garonne. Photo: Musee Saint-Raymond, Toulouse.

Figure 9.1 'Plastic Style' torcs and arm-rings from south-western France. A: Lasgraisses, Tarn.

Photo: Musee Saint-Raymond, Toulouse. B: Fenouillet, Haut-Garonne. Photo: Musee Saint-Raymond, Toulouse.

pottery vessels in 1893, contained several hundred gold coins and a torc that had been deliberately broken as if in a votive deposit. The torc was of twisted bar form, not unlike five of the Fenouillet torcs, but with channelled ends that were soldered into hollow sheet gold buffer terminals. The torc is surely considerably older than the coins with which it was associated, and its lack of terminal fastenings suggests a closer relationship to the late La Tene 1 and La Tene 2 torcs of north-eastern France and Germany.

If Plastic Style ornament can be described as baroque, then the southern French gold-work is surely rococo. Yet in its composition, for all the impression of excess and confusion, it is much more orderly and balanced than might appear. Almost certainly there was the influence of Hellenistic gold-smiths upon the craftsmen of south-western France, though the natural resource itself would have been available in Aquitania. Inevitably some commentators have linked these finds with the historically recorded movements of the Volcae Tectosages, notwithstanding the fact that the south-western French concentration of gold-work lies somewhat on the periphery of the presumed territory of this tribal group. Strabo (IV, 1, 13) referred to the gold and silver recovered from the sanctuaries and sacred lakes of Toulouse, endorsing an implicit link between ritual and shrines with treasure and water deposits. As far as religious foci are concerned, Mediterranean Gaul is especially richly endowed.

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