The later Iron Age in central-eastern France : the archaeology of the circonscription of Rhone-Alpes between the late Hallstatt and late La Tene periods
This study reviews the evidence for the period spanning from Late Hallstatt to Late La Tène - the 6th to 1st C BC - in the circonscription of Rhône-Alpes, a region of 44 000 km² centred around Grenoble and Lyon. This evidence is presented in a gazetteer of 416 sites, comprising settlements, burials and isolated finds. Since Rhône-Alpes was a contact zone between Massalia and the northern 'barbarian' cultures, the understanding of trade was a research priority. The Rhône corridor was re-assessed in terms of 17 classes of imported artefacts and the indigenous natural and human resources of Central-Eastern France. It is concluded that this well known late Hallstatt trade route continued to develop after its supposed decline in the 5th C BC. It became a rhodanian cultural zone whose form anticipated that of the Provincia Transalpina founded by the Romans in 121 BC. Whealthy fringe settlements show how the boundary of this rhodanian cultural zone gradually moved northwards. Fortified settlements are mainly represented by the stone-built hillforts of the South and West. Generally, their interiors are not yet well documented, but certain characteristic structures - for example granaries and sanctuaries - were noticed. Amongst lowland settlements, a few began in the Middle La Tène as market centres. They then figured prominently in the Italian wine trade and were later still to become roman towns. Burial sites fall into 14 regional burial groups with varied funerary rites. In the rich and idiosyncratic alpine sector there is an opportunity to observe not only external contacts but also the movement of indigenous artefacts from valley to valley. Among general recommendations for further research are the definition of regional pottery groups, the characterisation of the 3rd C BC and the scientific investigation of a middle-Rhône hillfort. A case is made for independent dating evidence and less reliance on historical models.