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Archaeological digs

A chronology of the archaeological digs on the Gergovia plateau

Sixteenth century

Rediscovering the Gallic city of Gergovia

After having been forgotten over time, the Gallic site of Gergovia was rediscovered in the 16th century by Gabriel Simeoni, a Florentine scholar then commissioned to chart a map of the Auvergne. He made research in various medieval documents that mentioned an ecclesiastical estate situated on the Eastern slope of the plateau which appeared as “Gergoia / Girgoia / Gergoie”.  In 1560, his map was published and was the first to locate Gergovia on the plateau.


An emperor in search of Caesar

The first concerted excavations on the site in search of Caesar’s military bases date back to the reign of Emperor Napoleon III. In 1861, while carrying out work to improve the road to the plateau ahead of a visit on-site by the Emperor, Claude Aucler, the departmental road engineer (agent-voyer), uncovered two impressive parallel walls constructed with lime mortar and two small perpendicular load-bearing walls near the road leading to the present village of Gergovia. He discovered similar structures about 400 metres to the west and identified this building as a gateway to the oppidum. At the same time, he uncovered and partially cleared a residential building that now bears his name, the “Villa Aucler”. Later, Napoleon III instructed his aide-de-camp, Eugène Stoffel, to carry out more extensive excavations on the Gergovia Plateau. Stoffel located his excavations at the foot of the plateau and, using a method of prospecting based on laying out trenches systematically, discovered Caesar’s two Roman camps as well as traces of the Gallic ramparts.

In 1862, the Emperor, who was writing a history of Julius Caesar, visited the Gergovia Plateau to see for himself the site mentioned in Caesar’s text on the Gallic War. On the same occasion, he renamed the village of Merdogne “Gergovia”. By the late 19th century, the Battle of Gergovia had started to be considered as a symbolic key date in French history. A monument celebrating Vercingetorix was erected in 1900 at the eastern edge of the plateau.

1935 - 1949

New large-scale excavations

Nearly 80 years later, new large-scale discoveries were made during the 1930s and 1940s: pits, cisterns, an artisanal quarter, a gateway built into the western rampart, a villa, as well as a sanctuary that remained in use long after the oppidum was abandoned. These discoveries were made by several generations of excavators. The first to reinvestigate and extend the areas explored by Aucler were the members of the “Pro Gergovia” committee, backed by the eminent Clermont scholar, Emile Desforges, and the British archaeologist Olwen Brogan. During the Second World War, their research was supplemented by the work of the “Gergoviotes” group, Strasbourg-based students in exile in Gergovia, and their archaeology professor Jean-Jacques Hatt; the latter uncovered what is now known as the “Quartier des Artisans” in the western sector.

After the war, the Toulouse professor, Michel Labrousse, completed the excavations begun by Hatt, before going on to extend the investigations eastwards. Following this campaign in 1949, archaeological studies came to a halt. Historical research into the ancient Celtic populations only revived in the 1990s, although the focus now concentraded on the occupation of the Limagne plain rather than on the Gergovia Plateau.

1995 - 2010

Recent research

Observations made in the 19th century have since been confirmed by research during the 1990s and 2000s on Caesar’s camps at the foot of the plateau and on the ramparts of Gergovia, which clearly date from the time of the Roman conquest.

The interpretation of these discoveries has been greatly enhanced both by new findings concerning Gallic oppida in general and by modern methods of archaeological investigation. 2001 saw the start of several research programmes aiming at clarifying the chronology and occupation of the Arverni oppida of Gergovia, Corent and Gondole. In Gergovia, in-depth studies have been made on the sanctuary and the oppidum ramparts, providing greater insight into the various phases of use of these buildings.

2013 - 2023

The latest excavations

Archaeological research at Gergovia stepped up a gear in 2013 with the launch of a series of programmed excavations led by Peter Jud (researcher associated with UMR 8546). These investigations focused on the southern gate of the oppidum and a large central paved area. They have made it possible to date and to determine the extent of these monumental urban developments, and to deepen our understanding of how this Arverni town developed and was organised during the 1st century BC. In 2022, Inrap and the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Clermont-Ferrand commissioned new investigations both into the relationship between the urban elements uncovered in the 2010’s and the remains of the “Quartier des Artisans” excavated up to 1949, and aimed at identifying the population that occupied this gateway to the town (craftsmen or inhabitants). During the winter of 2023, a LIDAR (laser remote sensing) drone survey will be carried out over an area of more than 3,000 m2 in order to detect other traces of ancient searches, excavations and developments linked to the occupation of the oppidum.

To find out more about recent excavations, please visit: