Chapter 1

The necropolis of Bucy-le-Long “La Héronnière-La Fosse Tounise”, with a surface area of 2,5 hectares (6 acres), is situated in a meander of the river Aisne. This site has yielded a lot of new data concerning the early La Tène period; the artefacts show that it was in use between the Aisne-Marne IIa and IIIc. This large necropolis must originally have had several hundred graves, but only 235 units have survived to the present day. The story of the discovery and the successive excavations of the site, from the first German explorations in the W.W.1 trenches down to the latest studies within the framework of rescue archaeology, constitutes a representative sample of the history of the archaeology of the Aisne valley.

Chapter 2

The funeral practices are common to the whole Aisne-Marne cultural group. The deceased is buried in dorsal decubitus, with the arms almost invariably along the body, the head to the north-west. The body, laid in an empty space, is dressed and arrayed, with personal belongings (sets of jewels, weapons, instrumentum); food offerings, such as pieces of meat and pottery containers, are placed beside him.

Chapter 3

Four chariot burials and one monumental cremation grave were found at Bucy-le-Long. In four cases, the burial pits are in the centre of a monument consisting of a circular enclosure with more or less complex features. The study of the three best preserved chariot burials shows that the chariot was not dismantled when it was set in place; the harnesses are in their functional place beside the yoke. We have no clue as to the superstructure of these chariots, nor consequently as to their specific use. There are many possibilities: were they ceremonial or war chariots, cabriolets or mere carts?

Notwithstanding the presence of the chariots, the disposition of the deposits in these rich burials is in accordance with the necropolis as a whole, with the deceased laid out in dorsal decubitus, arrayed, surrounded by objects related to food, hygiene or beauty. However, large empty spaces and ghost partitions are found more frequently, indicating the abundance of organic offerings. Gold ear-rings, finger-rings and fibules are only found in these burials.

The cremation grave, exceptional in that its monument was modified on several occasions, stands out also because of the unusual nature of the ritual: there are only two cases of cremation in the necropolis. In spite of the poverty in metal artefacts (only one large iron knife), the offerings in this grave are remarkable also because of the sheer quantity of pieces of meat and pottery vessels.

Chapter 4

The taphonomic analysis suggests the probable existence of trousers and shoes, giving confirmation that the deceased was laid out fully clothed. The funerary recruitment of the adults, as appreciated from the overall mortality rate, points here to a population in which young adults predominated, with a slightly higher death rate for men under 30, and thus a significant shortage of older subjects. All the age groups are represented, except children up to 1 year old. We may observe a relative stability of the death rate during the first three periods of occupation of the cemetery, but the last period differs in that the recruitment varies, as can be appreciated from the increase of the number of non-adults. The general health of this population seems satisfactory, the injuries are very rare, and appear to be only of domestic origin; there is no evidence of war pathology.

Chapter 5

The large number of items found in this necropolis has not only enabled a morphological classification to be drawn up, but also provided the basis for the technological and/or functional study of several groups. The large number of pottery containers, for instance, displays a wide range of shapes and decorations which allows a functional and social analysis of these artefacts to be undertaken. The jewels, too, show a great variability and their classification takes into account morphological as well as technical standards which highlight the technological evolution of bronze working at the beginning of Iron Age II. The analysis of the gold artefacts gives insights into the technical and morphological evolution of the goldsmith’s art, as does the study of the glass beads. As for the study of the weapons, it helps to determine the technical and functional evolution of military equipment. Food offerings were set out in containers probably filled up with provisions, often accompanied by pieces of meat. A certain diversity may be observed in the choice of species and cuts deposited, whose quantity and quality differ. In every case, only the cuts which seem to be habitually eaten by the living are given to the dead.

Chapter 6

The large number and the wealth of the graves have provided a detailed internal chronology of the necropolis, based on five successive stages, which can be related to the chronology of the Aisne-Marne group. These parallels show many typological convergences on the one hand, but on the other certain local features. The various sets of data suggest that the necropolis was in use for a little more than a century and a half between the second quarter of the fifth century and the last quarter of the fourth century B.C. The terminus suggest an average length of about thirty years for each stage, that is of a generation. These five stages are not self-contained, “monolithic”, juxtaposed entities: on the contrary, they appear to present a continuous evolution, with no break. This impression of continuity is moreover reinforced by two additional phenomena, the passing on of old jewels and the existence of some types of pottery that change little over time. The types of pottery are absolutely in keeping with those of the other necropoles of the same period. We observe, for instance, in the second stage, the appearance of “classic” carinated vessels which will evolve into more and more sharply profiled(?) shapes. The two last periods are characterized by the extinction of the carinated necked vessels(?) replaced by rounded shapes, and by the appearance of tall vessels with a pedestal(?), and of square-shouldered containers(?) which will be characteristic of the middle La Tène period. [ N.B.: le vocabulaire technique n’a pas été recoupé par des vérifications dans les publications spécialisées]. Among the jewels, a strong conservatism may be observed in the spirally twisted torques ; it is, in fact, the necropolis of Bucy-le-Long that has yielded the largest collection of these artefacts. Jewels cast in the cire perdue method appear for the first time, in small numbers only in the last period, after a distinct interval. Arm-rings and fibules too show a certain continuity in certain features, as well as a stylistic development of their own. Weapons evolve, but according to functional rather than stylistics standards. The daggers of the early periods gradually give place to swords, which become standardized to a pattern commonly found throughout the La Tène world, and featuring in particular the ornamented metallic scabbard. Tools do not display really noticeable variations.

The study of the necropolis clearly shows a drastic modification in its spatial organization. The old groups of burials of the first three periods, clearly delimited in family units, facing south, were replaced by scattered burials facing east. Women’s burials seem to play an important part in the structuring of the space, with the siting of women’s chariot burials on the edges of the necropolis, and the existence of women’s burials placed very far away from the already existing areas, opening and delimiting new funerary zones, to the east and west of the necropolis, in stages 3 and 4.

Chapter 7

Detailed observation of the grave, the body and the grave goods reveals the different stages of the funerary practices of this community. The deceased was dressed in his burial garments, with the addition of specific attributes placed in a functional position. When the body had been dressed, the food offerings were selected, with various objects, some of which suggest specific activities such as body care and sewing. Criteria related to the family group, gender and social status seem to play a part in the choice of the accessories, the offerings, and the shape and localisation of the grave. As these criteria change throughout the period of occupation of the necropolis, at the same time as the funeral practices connected with the gender and social status of the person, it is possible to observe fluctuations in the degree of hierarchic organization in this community.

Chapter 8

The discovery in 1915 of the necropolis by German soldiers digging defensive trenches along the river may be ironically seen as the “first rescue excavation” in the Aisne valley. The archive in the Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte in Berlin reveals the laudable speed and efficiency with which this archaeological mission was carried out, and the excellence of its documentation, from the moment when the existence of the site was reported to the military authorities up to the arrival, two and a half months later, of the objects in the museum. The meticulous excavation of about thirty graves by Hans Niggemann, a student in archaeology, compensates at least partially for the irretrievable loss of data caused by the destruction of 1971-1972. Indeed, the journal, the sketches and the objects kept in the museum at Berlin provide valuable information, both temporal and spatial, about the destroyed part of the site, and confirm the topo-chronological boundaries of the necropolis.


In spite of many characteristics in common with the other well-documented cemeteries of the Aisne-Marne group, to the study of which it makes a valuable contribution, the necropolis of Bucy-le-Long is distinguished by certain original features, which appear to result from its extreme westerly localisation. In its similarities and differences, this cemetery displays many special features which are to be taken into consideration in a comprehensive study of the La Tène societies in the Bassin parisien in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.