Asterix's home village is uncovered in France: Archaeological dig reveals fortified Iron Age settlement on 10-acre site
David Keys has been The Independent’s Archaeology Correspondent since the paper started in 1986. He has worked in journalism (staff and freelance; newspapers, magazines, radio and TV) for 45 years - and has specialized successively in home affairs (1970s), foreign affairs, aviation and international trade (1970/80s) and archaeology/history (after 1986). He has visited more than a thousand archaeological and historical sites in 60 countries – and, over recent years has originated and/or acted as consultant on 40 archaeology/history TV documentaries. He also writes on modern history – producing detailed studies (more than 70 so far) of the long-term causes of the world’s current conflicts and crises. His major book - Catastrophe, an Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World - explores the relationship between climatic problems and history. A new edition is about to be published on kindle – and will include major new revelations about how modern climate change is likely to impact the world economically and politically. www.davidkeys.co.uk, email@example.com
Thursday 01 April 1993
The buried remains of a large and heavily defended Iron Age settlement at the precise Breton spot where Asterix's creator, Rene Goscinny, located his hero's well-fortified home village, have been found by an Anglo- French team.
Excavations at Le Yaudet (derived from the Gallo-Roman word for 'tribal centre') near Lannion, show that the settlement covered 10 acres and was defended by a massive bank and ditch.
Incredibly, the fortified village is almost exactly as described in the 33 Asterix books. Goscinny was not aware of the existence of this real Asterix village when he wrote his stories in the Sixties and Seventies, but he had only one major detail wrong - the shape of the defensive palisade. The fortifications - 50ft from top of bank to ditch bottom - are straight, not curved as depicted in the Asterix books.
But Goscinny and his artist colleague, Albert Uderzo, got the location spot on - in the right locality, on top of a high cliff on a promontory overlooking the Channel.
The archaeological dig has also borne out Goscinny's claim that Asterix's village was never stormed by the Romans or occupied by Roman soldiers. It seems the 'tribal centre' merged quietly and peacefully into Gallo-Roman society.
So far the excavations - directed by Oxford University Professor Barry Cunliffe and Dr Patrick Galliou, of the University of Brest - have yielded substantial quantities of Asterix-period pottery, and Celtic coins bearing the image of wild boar, the favourite food of Asterix's friend Obelix.
And near by are some rare Iron Age menhirs (standing stones) of the precise size favoured by the indomitable Obelix whose job as a menhir delivery man has added a certain academic weight to the books.
Archaeologists suspect the real Asterix village was the seat of the local chieftain, though whether his name was actually Abraracourcix, as in the French editions of the books, is, of course, open to question. He ruled over part of a Celtic tribal confederacy known as the Osismi.
Archaeological work at a second Breton site has yielded evidence confirming the importance - emphasised in Goscinny's books - of lyre playing in Asterix's tribe.
At St Symphorien Paule - possible headquarters of the Osismian king - has been found a 2ft stone statue (complete with lyre) of what looks like Asterix's tribal bard Cacofonix - loved by one and all as long as he does not sing.
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