Excavating Hillforts in Southern France

Deep in the heart of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountains) in Southern France, the site of Malvieu is situated on the upper part of a limestone hill overlooking the small valley of Salesses. Malvieu is an oppida or a hillfort — characterized by the predominate features of densely constructed mud-brick and stone houses and streets, enclosed and fortified by a rampart built from dry stones, and built on higher ground relative to the surrounding landscape. It has long been hypothesized that the appearance of oppida in the region was a result of the founding of the Greek colonies in neighboring areas, and the subsequent escalation in seaborne trade in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea causing the native population to develop more productive economies and to construct enclosed, defensible settlements. The excavations in Malvieu, starting in 2001, have largely challenged this dominating, but simplistic, hypothesis. The occupation of the site, in fact, dates back far earlier: to the Late Bronze Age – as early as 1000 BCE. This project presents the unique opportunity to follow the development of an ancient community, from its beginning to its end, during a period that up until a few years ago was to referred to as the Dark Ages.

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