A protohistoric burial site at Marliens (Côte-d’Or)

Objects making up the "panoply" of a Campaniform archer. Pauline Rosto
Objects making up the "panoply" of a Campaniform archer. Pauline Rostollan, Inrap
Inrap archaeologists conducted an excavation at Marliens, some twenty kilometers east of Dijon, prior to the extension of a gravel pit (Eqiom) in the Ouche valley, a tributary of the Saône. The three excavated areas, representing a total surface area of 60,000 m², yielded a series of occupations ranging from the Neolithic to the Early Iron Age.

The earliest occupation is characterized by a monument consisting of three interlocking enclosures (fig. 2). At the center of the monument was a circular enclosure 11 m in diameter. To the north, a horseshoe-shaped enclosure 8 m long adjoined the circular enclosure, and to the south, an open enclosure adjoined the central enclosure. The presence of a layer of gravel in the fill of the two side enclosures is evidence of the existence of a palisade. The various stratigraphic sections indicate that the three enclosures are contemporary.


This type of monument appears to be unprecedented, and no comparisons have yet been made. Dating is still uncertain, but the only artefacts found in the ditches are carved flints, which would suggest a chrono-cultural attribution to the Neolithic period. For greater precision, radiocarbon analyses are currently underway to clarify the chronology of this monument.

The Campaniform period is attested by several objects discovered just below the topsoil in a very level structure. These include seven flint arrowheads, two archer’s armbands, a flint lighter and a copper-alloy dagger.

Traces of "iron oxide" were observed on one of the armbands, corresponding to pyrite, an essential element for lighting a fire. This series of objects usually accompanies a burial, but due to its stratigraphic position at the base of the ploughing, this hypothesis could not be confirmed. Analyses of the composition of the dagger’s copper alloy should enable us to establish its origin and provide us with information on trade at the time.


Occupation during the Early Bronze Age is characterized by the presence of several wells, the only remaining evidence of settlements from this period. Palynological and carpological analyses of the clay layers at the bottom of these structures provide a wealth of information about the valley’s natural environment and landscape in the first half of the second millennium BC.

Between 1500 B.C. and 1300 B.C., a necropolis of five circular enclosures, comprising four open and one closed enclosure, was built on the plain over an area of 6,000 m². The acidity of the soil prevented the preservation of unburned bones, so no complete burials were uncovered. However, remains of burials and a funeral pyre were identified in the ditches of the largest open enclosure, whose diameter reaches 24 m. This enclosure was dated on the basis of five copper-alloy pins and a necklace containing some forty amber beads found in the ditch. The rare ceramic shards found in the other enclosures confirm the dating of this necropolis and the contemporaneity of the various enclosures.

Finally, the last occupation corresponds to a second necropolis almost 400 m from the one described above. It is characterized by the discovery of six cremated remains dating from the Early Iron Age. The urns, covered by a lid, contained a single bone deposit, sometimes accompanied by ornaments (copper alloy and iron bracelets and/or rings).

These small necropolises, which cover an area of less than 100 m², are difficult to locate during diagnosis, and this is the first time that one of these complexes has been excavated in eastern Burgundy. Studies of cremated bones are currently underway to determine the funerary practices and gestures associated with these deposits.


The results of this operation reveal the presence of numerous small, relatively dense diachronic occupations in this part of the Ouche plain. The excavation was completed in February, and the various studies are now underway. Combined with paleo-environmental studies, they will provide a wealth of information on spatial occupation, enabling us to propose a scenario for the evolution of this territory over the ages.


Development: Gravière Eqiom

Scientific supervision: Service régional de l’archéologie (Direction régionale des affaires culturelles de Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)
Archaeological research: Inrap

Scientific manager: Régis Labeaune, Inrap