A tale of three sites: the monume...
A Tale of Three Sites: The Monumentalization of Celtic Oppida and the Politics of Collective Memory and Identity Author(s): Michael Dietler Source: World Archaeology, Vol. 30, No. 1, The Past in the Past: The Reuse of Ancient Monuments (Jun., 1998), pp. 72-89 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/125010 Accessed: 15/10/2010 11:19 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=taylorfrancis. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to World Archaeology. http://www.jstor.org
A tale of three sites: the monumentalization of Celtic oppida and the politics of collective memory and identity Michael Dietler Abstract Three fortified hilltop settlements (oppida) of the 'Celtic' Iron Age have been resurrected in recent history as symbolic focal points in the highly politicized construction of collective memory and iden- tity in modern France. This paper presents a brief comparative consideration of the processes of commemoration by which these three sites were ritually transformed into monuments that have served both to root constructed traditions of national collective imagination in place and to provide a sense of authenticity and continuity for them. In other words, it explores the ways in which attempts have been made to imbue certain places in the landscape with special symbolic value and turn them into historical 'memory factories' for the nation. It also examines the role of archaeology in this process of cultural production. Keywords Memory Celts Romans politics France. In De Bello Gallico, his account of the Roman conquest of the 'Celtic' peoples of Gaul between 58 and 50 BC, Julius Caesar mentioned dozens of fortified hilltop settlements (or oppida) by name.' Three of these sites have been resurrected in recent history as sym- bolic focal points in the highly politicized construction of collective memory and identity in modern France (see Dietler 1994). This paper presents a brief comparative consider- ation of the processes of commemoration (Connerton 1989 Gillis 1994) by which these three sites were ritually transformed into monuments that have served both to root con- structed traditions of national collective imagination in place and to provide a sense of authenticity and continuity for them. In other words, it explores the ways in which attempts have been made to imbue certain places in the landscape with special symbolic value and turn them into historical 'memory factories' for the nation. It also examines the role of archaeology in this process of cultural production. World Archaeology Vol. 30(1): 72-89 The Past in the Past ? Routledge 1998 0043-8243
The politics of collective memory 73 The three sites in question, which have come to form a kind of 'holy trinity' of Gallic identity for France, are Alesia and Bibracte (Mont Beuvray) in Burgundy and Gergovia in the Auvergne. All are celebrated for events that Caesar described as having taken place in 52 BC. Gergovia was the site of an important victory of the Gauls, led by a young noble of the powerful Arvernian tribe named Vercingetorix, over Caesar's forces. Bibracte was the site at which Vercingetorix was later chosen to lead a multi-tribal coalition against the Romans. Alesia was the site of the final great victory of the Romans over the combined army of Gauls after a long siege, and of the ultimate surrender of Vercingetorix. What is important to consider is why these three sites emerged from among many other possi- bilities to anchor an evolving national mythology of identity and how, in this process, the contrasting symbolic potential of each site has been interpreted and exploited by differ- ent political figures at different times. Each of the sites owes the crystallization of its potential as a privileged place in the French collective imagination to an initial archaeological impetus of the nationalist cul- tural project of the Emperor Napoleon III during the 1860s. He presided over a major transformation of an already ethnicized sense of French identity rooted in claims to Celtic ancestry in which these sites came to have an important role. The popular vision of France as an eternal Gallic nation had emerged during the revolution of 1789 as part of a racially dichotomized representation of the class structure and the portrayal of the revolution as a war between the purported descendants of the Germanic Franks (the nobility) and the descendants of the Gauls (the bourgeoisie) whom the Franks had conquered in the fifth century AD (Dietler 1994 Pomian 1992 Viallaneix and Ehrard 1982). Despite its philo- sophical commitment to the idea of a nation defined by abstract principles and voluntary association, the new revolutionary state found itself in the position of having to craft a nation within the artificial borders of a state that encompassed peoples with strong region- ally focused identities who did not even share the same language. Consequently, the state became intensely concerned with the production and promulgation of a uniform national culture within its borders, and it set about converting its citizens to this culture with a quasi-religious fervor (Weber 1976). In this context, appeals to a common ethnic heritage provided a more emotionally compelling way of creating a national 'imagined community' (Anderson 1991) that would feel itself authentically rooted in a common past than abstract principles or institutions, and the racialized model of class antagonism furnished the symbolic raw material for this project. This theme of the 'war of the two races', which was a cornerstone of revolutionary Republican ideology, has been a leitmotif in subse- quent French history that has had complex, far-reaching, and often paradoxical impli- cations for French colonial policy and its effects on colonized peoples and for current attempts to envision an emerging multi-cultural post-colonial French nation (Amselle 1996). When the Revolution quickly gave way to Empire, Napoleon I furthered the promul- gation of this ethnic nationalism by founding the Academie Celtique in 1805, which used the archaeological, folkloric, and linguistic legacy it went about documenting as a means of equating ancient Gaul and modern France, and as a justification for imperial expan- sion that would reunite the Celtic realm (Johanneau 1807 Mangourit 1807). Between Waterloo and the debut of the Second Empire in 1852, the Frankish versus Celtic defi- nition of the origin of the nation was again contested between the aristocracy of the