Arroux Valley Project (2000-3)


A view of the town walls of the city of Autun, the Roman city of Augustodunum, down by the river Arroux.The Arroux Valley lies in southern Burgundy, at the foot of the Morvan massif. In the late Iron Age, this region was inhabited by the Aedui, one of the most powerful peoples of central France and an early ally of Rome. Their principal stronghold was the well-known oppidum at Mont Beuvray (Bibracte), high in the Morvan. During the Augustan period, Mont Beuvray was succeeded as the capital of the Aedui by the new foundation of Autun (Augustodunum), which lies 27 km away, beside the banks of the Arroux.

An example of the survey results, showing geophysical interpretation and the proportion of different types of pottery including wine amphorae coming from each field.Autun quickly developed into one of the most important cities of Roman Gaul and a noted centre of learning and culture, and to this day still possesses many of its principal Gallo-Roman monuments.

Recent excavations of the oppidum have transformed our knowledge of the pre-Roman capital of the Aedui from the period of its foundation in the later second century BC to its heyday in the mid to late first century BC. Over the same period, there have also been major new excavations in Autun, mostly in advance of development; but Iron Age and Gallo-Roman rural settlement in the surrounding region had, however, received less attention. This project set to make good that gap in our knowledge through a programme of field walking and geophysics.

Research Questions

What was the nature of settlement in the area prior to the foundation of Mont Beuvray in the late second century BC?

Was there a reduction in rural sites coeval with the move to fortified hilltop sites, as apparently happens in other regions?

How does Gallo-Roman settlement vary through time or with distance from Autun?

Do rural site numbers and/or visibility in the early and later Empire follow similar trends to other parts of the Roman west?

Is there any evidence for precocious Roman cultural expression at rural sites comparable to the Mediterranean style buildings erected at Mont Beuvray by the Aeduan elite in the later first century BC?

A topographic view showing the survey area, with the Morvan Hills and the oppidum of Mont Beuvray on the left, and Autun in the Arroux Valley to the right.International Collaboration and Sponsors

This is a collaborative project affiliated to, and supported by, the Centre Archéologique Européen at Bibracte, with funding from the British Academy, led jointly by Colin Haselgrove (University of Leicester) and John Creighton (University of Reading). The work was also sponsored by the British Academy.

The student benefit

Undergraduates and postgraduates participated in the fieldwork. The international collaboration means that knowledge of the latest discoveries and research can be fed directly into teaching long before they appear in the Anglophone literature.


Creighton, J., Haselgrove, C., Lowther, P. and Moore, T. (2008) Becoming Roman in southern Burgundy: A field survey between Autun and Bibracte in the Arroux Valley (Saône-et-Loire), 2000-2003. Internet Archaeology 25 The survey is published online here.

Haselgrove, C., Lowther, P. & Creighton, J. (2003) Prospections dans la vallée de l'Arroux 2003, Rapport annuel d'activité 2003 du CAE du Mont Beuvray, 244-7. Glux-en-Glenne.

Haselgrove, C., Lowther, P. and Creighton, J. (2003) Field Survey in the Arroux valley, 2001-2, Univ. Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 24. Durham. 45-51.

Creighton, J., Haselgrove, C. & Lowther, P. (2002) Prospections dans la vallée de l'Arroux 2002, Rapport annuel d'activité 2002 du CAE du Mont Beuvray: Glux-en-Glenne, 266-270

Creighton, J., Haselgrove, C. & Lowther, P. (2001) Prospection, inventaire dans la vallée de l'Arroux, Rapport annuel d'activité 2001 du CAE du Mont Beuvray, 230-236. Glux-en-Glenne.

Haselgrove, C., Lowther, P. and Creighton J.(2000) Field Survey in the Arroux valley, Univ. Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 23. Durham.

Haselgrove, C., Creighton, J. & Lowther, P. (2000) Prospection, Inventaire dans la Vallée de l'Arroux. In V Guichard (ed.) Rapport Annuel d'Activité 2000 du Centre archéologique européen du Mont Beuvray, Glux-en-Glenne: 295-300.

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