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13.8.04

Merovingian Tombs Discovered

Thanks to David Nishimura at Cronaca for letting us know about the incredible find of unpublished poems by Ionarts favorite poet Philip Larkin, hidden in library archives in Hull. By way of thanks, here is something that I think David will like. According to an article (Découverte d'un site mérovingien majeur, August 12) from France 2:

Forty-five aristocratic Merovingian tombs have been discovered over the past few weeks in the Haut-Rhin. Discovered in the town of Hégenheim [not far from Basel], "this concerns an unusual necropolis composed of large tombs beneath tumuli, the most important of this type discovered so far in France," according to the supervisor of the site, David Billoin. The site was known as early as 1958, but only five tombs had then been discovered. A construction permit requested for two private homes, filed at the beginning of this year, is responsible for relaunching research in the area.

An archeologist at the Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives, David Billoin specified that the site contained the remains of Frankish warlords with their arms (shields, longswords, shortswords, lances, and arrows), as well as other members of the Frankish aristocracy. The most important individuals were found in the center, where each tomb, covered with a large tumulus, enclosed an average of five to fifteen objects, arms, jewels, ritual objects, all well preserved, because of the argilo-limestone nature of the soil. "We have even found chicken bones and shreds of tissue," David Billoin revealed. At the moment, there are only about thirty existing Merovingian necropolises in Europe, with about a half-dozen in Alsace and France-Comté. Because of their excellent state of preservation, the Hégenheim tombs should allow a detailed study of the hierarchic organization and funerary practices of the Merovingian era.
See also an article (Découverte d’une nécropole mérovingienne dans l'est de la France, August 13) by Olivier Frégaville-Arcas for Le Nouvel Observateur.

The INRAP Web site also reports other digs around France, including a find in a little town called Puisserguier (near Montpellier), where I have actually stayed one summer with friends. According to Un exceptionnel ensemble funéraire de l’âge du Fer (IXe-VIIe siècles avant J.-C.) en Languedoc (Puisserguier, Hérault), June 22, archeologists have discovered a necropolis/crematorium used from the 9th to 7th centuries B.C., with over 200 tombs identified.

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