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Musée du Châtillonnais
The Treasure of Vix
To see a huge bronze vase made in the 6C BC, standing 1.64 m (5ft) high, in perfect condition is breath-taking. This is the centre piece of the Musée du Châtillonnais now housed in the Abbaye de Notre Dame at Châtillon-sur-Seine in the north east of Burgundy.
In 1953 a tomb was discovered at Mont Lassois near Vix. The skeleton of a 30 year old princess was uncovered, wearing jewels including a massive gold torque. Amongst other things, this Vase of Vix, the largest piece ever found from the Celtic period, was in the tomb. It has a sculpted frieze and Gorgon’s heads on the handles with snake like legs, a recurring theme in Burgundian sculpture. The Rough Guide to France says; ‘How these magnificent objects found their way to such a remote place is a mystery. One explanation lies in the fact that the village of Vix is the highest navigable point on the Seine, and it’s thought that the Celtic chieftains who controlled it received such gifts possibly from traders in Cornish tin shipped south from Britain via here on its way to the Adriatic, or perhaps to the bronze workers of Bibracte, the capital of the Aedui.’
The archaeological collection from the Iron Age is one of the most important in Europe and there are finds from copious other Gallo-Roman sites in the region - Essarois, Douix, Villiers-le-Duc and Vertault illustrating the path of early civilization.
Clearly the ground beneath the Châtillonnaise has more to reveal. In the summer of 2007, a team of Franco-German archaeologists led by Bruno Chaume from the University of Bourgogne in Dijon uncovered a fortress village on the plateau beneath Mont Lassois. Here, a palace was revealed, the size of a church, 35 m by 21.5 m and some 15m high. Further investigation, thanks to the advances in seismology equipment, have discovered a town covering an area of 60 hectares with a main street leading to the palace, dwellings for hundreds of people, grain warehouses and water cylinders. This town, dating back 2,500 years could well be the first signs of urbanization in western Europe, and the first town in France. More excavation work continues each summer.
A word about the Abbaye de Notre Dame, the new home for this important museum. The building was a Cistercian monastery, a copy of Fontenay Abbey. In recent times it was a hospital before being completely transformed into the stunning contemporary museum within the shell of the old building. The light, airy spaces show the exhibits to advantage. The museum has been designed to cater for disabled visitors.
Open Sept 1- June 30 from 9.00-12.00 and 14.00-18.00 and July 1- Aug 31 from 10.00-19.00. Closed Jan 1, May 1 and Dec 25.
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