du montage audio-visuel présenté au Musée
: Merovingian Cemetery and Habitation Site
The necropolis of
Goudelancourt was the object of excavations which lasted for six years,
from 1981 to 1987. Discovered in the middle of farm fields during plowing,
the site consisted of two contemporary, but very distinct, cemeteries.
458 tombs were excavated ; 324 were part of the first cemetery, and
134 of the second.
The general layout
of a necropolis in two cemeteries is rare. The most likely hypothesis
is that a group, perhaps a family, who were more religious than the
others, decided to be set apart from the rest of the population, and
did so by abandoning the original cemetery and thus creating the second
one. From one cemetery to the other the orientation of the tombs is
different. The tombs were found in a south-southwest / north-northwest
direction in the first, and in a distinctly west/east direction in the
Dug into a bank
of chalk, the graves were of a more or less rectangular shape, rounded
off at both ends. The size of each tomb depended on the size of the
individual. Several big communal graves were uncorvered in which the
individuals were placed side by side.
the rituals practiced at burial were not original. No cremations were
discovered. The practice of burying an individual dressed was the rule.
For this reason, assorted clothing accessories such as buckles and belt
buckles were found in situ, as well as different items indicating the
social rank of the deceased : weapons for the men, jewelry for the women.
In many cases the
deceased was found with some pottery placed at the feet. The wealth
of these graves was well known and led to plundering. For this reason,
barely 10 % of the graves were found intact. The only outside traces
of the sepulchers were a few stelae or stones which outlined the individual
in certain graves.
In general, the
deceased were buried lying on their backs with their heads to the west.
Their arms were placed alongside their bodies, folded over the pelvis,
or a combination of the two.
Burial in open ground
was used in 60 % of the cemetery. It is the predominant rite in the
second cemetery where 75 % of the burials took place in open ground.
Wooden caskets or coffins were found in 37 % of the graves. All of the
existing sarcophagi were destroyed by plowing the fields. A decorated
stone and numerous fragments testify to their existence.
In spite of the
destruction caused by farm work and pillaging, the number of objects
found is quite large : ceramics, weapons, clothing accessories, and
jewelry. All are characteristic of the 6th and 7th centuries.
study of each object indicates that there were four phases of occupation
of the necropolis. Phase 1 from about 530-540 A.D. to 560-570 A.D corresponds
to the creation of the first cemetery. Phase 2 from about 560-570 A.D.
to 580-590 A.D. saw the creation of the second cemetery. Phase 3 lasted
from 580-590 A.D. to 620-640 A.D., and Phase 4 extended from 620-640
A.D. to 680-690 A.D. Phases 2 and 3 are best represented in the Goudelancourt
necropolis. Both cemeteries experienced concentric development.
study was conducted on 40 % of the individuals. As in other sites, there
was a small proportion of children - only 12 %. The adult population
was characterized by a high mortality rate of young adults (aged 18-30
years). The study showed that the living conditions for the population
of Goudelancourt were very difficult and deteriorated between the 6th
and 7th centuries due to epidemics of the black plague.
Infant and child
mortality were high ; slightly more than 25 % of infants died before
the age of one year, and 33-50 % before the age of 5. Life expectancy
at birth was 35 years.
able to reconstruct the living population based on a series of indicators.
There were 126 individuals, that is, a communuty of 21 families. The
existence of the large second cemetery seems to support the hypothesis
of two distinct population groups.
The settlement was
discovered 150m south of the necropolis. The excavation took place from
1988 to 1992. The settlement had all the characteristics of a farming
and domestics community of the Merovingian era. It was spread over an
area of 1.5 ha.
various remnants from the houses, several ovens, drainage ditches, and
a well were excavated. The main structures that were unearthed were
huts in which the foundations were dug out (30-70 cm deep). There were
different types of huts having 2, 4 or 6 support posts. Those having
two posts were the most numerous.
The uses of these
huts seem to have been purely domestic : animal shelters, tool sheds,
garrets, and various workshops. However, it is quite possible that some
of these huts, probably the largest, were used as workshops as well
as living quarters such as dormitories.
The outlines of
five buldings were discovered. All were discovered by alignments of
post holes. Each buildings had a rectangular or trapezoidal shape. The
area of each was larger than that of the huts. The buildings were probably
at the center of the settlement's economic activity and used as barns,
stables, or large workshops. Many metal deposits were found near one
of these buildings, suggesting that one of the inhabitans worked with
iron, perhaps as a blacksmith.
One building was
noticed immediately because it was quite different from the others.
This building measured 8.5 m long by 6 m wide and had a framework of
16 support posts. Three of these posts were ridge poles in the center
of the building and supported the roofing. The other 13 were part of
distinctly parallel walls. An entrance with a canopy was built in the
northeast. In the southwest corner the remains of a hearth were perfectly
visible. The discovered of this hearth is very exceptional and is proof
that this building was nothing other than a home.
The discovery 160
m to the west, of a pair of huts points to the probability of other
farm buildings located to the west of the site in the valley. Follow-up
excavations allow researchers to determine whether Goudelancourt-les-Pierrepont
was a site composed of several isolated farming communities spread out
in the valley, or a succession of hamlets, or perhaps a one-street town.
: Alain NICE