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The Middle Bronze Age site of Berstett Langenberg (Lower Rhine), cross-referenced approaches

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Michler Matthieu, Auxiette Ginette, Jodry Florent, Nadia Tarifa-Mateo, Adam Pierre, Schaeffer Philippe, Féliu Clément et Véber Cécile

Résumés

Résumé. Fouillé en 2018 dans le cadre du contournement ouest de Strasbourg, le gisement de Berstett Langenberg (site n° 5.6 du projet) a livré sur près de deux hectares plusieurs occupations successives du Néolithique récent à La Tène finale. L’occupation de l’âge du Bronze se caractérise par 43 structures se répartissant quasiment sur toute l’emprise, tandis que les 31 faits du plein Bronze moyen correspondent à une dizaine de fosses, des silos (sept) et des fonds de silos probables (quatre), deux possibles bâtiments excavés, trois fentes et cinq chablis. Aucun plan de bâtiment n’a été repéré, mais des espaces vides entourés de fosses ou silos suggèrent l’emplacement de bâtiments, tout comme les restes de torchis (architecture de terre et de bois). La quantité importante de vestiges céramiques mise au jour (160 récipients), tout comme plusieurs datations radiocarbones ont permis de mieux caractériser la typochronologie des ensembles pour le Bronze D et la transition Bronze C-D. Certains fonds de silos ont livré des vases vraisemblablement déposés entiers. Une série d’analyses biogéochimiques sur les parois internes d’une dizaine de vases ont permis d’identifier des graisses animales, tout comme des restes d’huile végétale (Brassicacées) ou de résine (Pinacée) pour des usages divers. Au-delà de la quantité importante de mobilier céramique exhumée, qui en fait un site de référence pour la fin du Bronze moyen, les autres types de mobiliers exhumés (lithique, faune) permettent de mieux caractériser ce type de site d’habitat encore peu connu dans l’est de la France.

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1The Berstett Langenberg site (site no. 5.6 of the project) was excavated in 2018 as part of the western Strasbourg bypass project, and revealed several successive occupations ranging from the Late Neolithic to the Final La Tène. Our article focuses on the Bronze Age settlement and more particularly on the Late Middle Bronze Age.

2The aim here is to enhance our understanding of a settlement site from this Bronze Age phase. Up until recently, most of the known Middle Bronze Age sites were funerary sites, such as the Haguenau Forest complexes (Schaeffer 1926).

3The Berstett settlement site is located in the eastern part of the Kochersberg natural region, characterised by large loess veneers suitable for agriculture. It is part of a network of fairly limited occupations scattered along the explored route. Settlement in the sector intensified in particular in the Late Bronze Age.

4The 43 Bronze Age structures are spread over almost the entire area (except for the extreme south) and cover almost a hectare (fig. 3). The 31 Middle Bronze Age features include ten or so pits, silos (seven) and probable silo bases (four), two possible excavated buildings, three crevices and five windthrows. As is often the case in Alsace, there are no post pits, but cob remains indicate that earth and wood architecture was used on the site. We note the absence of wells, recently presented in a regional overview (Croutsch et al. 2020), and no multi-lobed pits, which tend to be common in protohistory.

Fig. 3 – Plan of the Bronze Age structures.

Fig. 3 – Plan of the Bronze Age structures.

CAD C. Féliu, M. Michler.

5The site is characterised by a higher occupation density than is usually observed in the region, yet with a fairly similar configuration to other open-air settlements in the plain with no contemporaneous architecture. The site of Pfulgriesheim Hammeracker (Perrin 2020), for example, located about three kilometres south of Berstett on the bypass route, presents similar pottery corpora from the same chronological horizon. At Pfulgriesheim, most of the remains were found in pits (11 Bronze Age C pits), with only two identified silos.

6From a spatial point of view, the northern part of the site appears to be more densely occupied than the south and boundaries or constraints delimit empty spaces (30–40 m long by 20 m wide), located in the lower and upper zones. Silos are also aligned to the north of the site (st. 2040, 2032 and 2026) point to some organisation, but the settlement appears to extend to the west and east on the periphery of structures with large quantities of artefacts (silo 20167 and pit 2204). The identified empty spaces could potentially accommodate one or even two buildings surrounded by pits or silos, as in Burgundy, for example, at the late Middle Bronze Age site of Couternon (Côte d’Or). This latter site yielded a nebula of postholes, where only two building plans emerged, some forty metres apart, each associated with a silo (Carozza et al. 2006, p. 348). Building plans are also absent at the Middle Bronze Age site of Pfulgrisheim, not far from Berstett (Perrin, p. 206), where the two structures are spaced out by about 100 m, which is slightly more similar to Berstett (150 m between the north and south clusters).

7The abundant pottery remains at Berstett (160 vessels), differentiate the site from other Alsatian sites, and more generally from sites in the east. In fact, most studied sites contained less than 40 vessels, with a median of around ten. Using the typochronological approach, we classified the vessels into open (13.10%) or closed forms, identifying bowls, hollow dishes and bowls. The closed forms, mostly made of coarse pottery, include jars, with or without handles, with various profiles (biconical, ovoid). Pots (nearly 37% of the corpus), sometimes with handles, are also well represented. Other forms include seven jugs, mainly decorated with incisions, and rare beakers made of fine paste. Decorations are mainly part of the Late Bronze Age tradition, with specific surface treatments, such as smoothed areas and others with slip, cordons with finger strokes and palette-knife marks, for example. Incised decoration is more typical of the Middle Bronze Age, with well-known motifs such as large triangles or more limited excision. When possible, we calculated volumes in order to assess vessel capacity. Minimum values below 0.20 l are common for bowls, and large bowls do not exceed 2.50 l. Three categories only contain one example with small volumes of less than 0.50 litres: a spoon, a pyxis and a bowl. The median volume of beakers is 0.28 litres and large elements do not exceed 0.54 litres. The median and average volumes of jugs are very close to 0.75 l, with one example at 1.29 l. The average content of jars is 2.47 l; the smallest is 1.26 l and the largest 4.90 l.

8Radiocarbon dating of fauna and charcoal from structures with whole vessels yielded quite similar results for a sample from silo 2032 and samples from structures 2067 and 2128, with dates ranging from 1419 to 1055 BCE. Pit 1061 yielded the earliest range of dates with an interval of 1492-1279 BC at 95.40%. These dates do not go back beyond 1500 BCE, i.e., the Late Bronze Age B of the chronological framework proposed by M. David-Elbiali and Wolfgang David in 1999 (p. 333), and extend roughly to the end of the Hallstatt A2 (1060 BC, Roscio 2011, fig. 306). A relative synchrony emerges around 1350 BCE, i.e., the transitional phase between the Middle and Final Bronze Age. An earlier attempt (Michler 2017) dated the last phase of the Bronze Age to around 1400 BCE, which is not in contradiction with the dates obtained at Berstett. New dates could change this interpretation in the future.

9Pottery typochronology is in keeping with these dates. As indicated above, the assemblage from pit 1061 presents some Bronze Age B characteristics, such as a covering nail motif decoration or the presence of two cordons at the top of the body, whereas small triangles on a pyxis are more common in the Bronze Age C period. This decoration is found on the foot of a bowl, associated with several jugs decorated with incised triangles from silo 2032, silo 2067 and 2128. Structures with sufficiently characteristic artefacts point mostly to the Bronze Age C period, with some transitional Bronze Age D elements, such as the vase with a slightly recessed vertical neck from structure 1015. Spatially, the site seems to have been settled throughout the Middle Bronze Age with Bronze Age C structures spread across the four corners of the site. From a regional point of view, the dates correspond to stages 6.1 and 6.2 defined by Magalie Billot-Bride (2017).

10We note the clear absence of fluting in the Berstett assemblages, denoting the influence of the “Main-Swabian” group in Alsace at the beginning of the Final Bronze Age. Low-carinated beakers are also absent. The latter are well represented at Furdenheim 10 rue des Tonneliers (Michler 2017, fig. 7, nos 3–4) and are more typical of the C2 Bronze Age. As at Furdenheim, the Rhine-Main influence is present at Berstett (in particular for certain types of pots and bowls). The coarse pottery of the site is similar in shape to vases from the first phase of the Middle Bronze Age in the region, in particular tapered pots. The beginning of the body of these vessels is very often plastered and the necks are small and smooth. This plastering associated with a cordon with finger marks is also present from the end of the Early Bronze Age onwards (Rault and Véber 2017), as in Switzerland (Hochuli 1990, Castella et al. 2012). On account of this characteristic, it is difficult to date assemblages with few finely-crafted ceramics. Finally, note that several radiocarbon dates on charcoals from Structure 265 at Meistratzheim Foegel (Véber 2008, GrA-39662, 3090.30 BP, GrA-39661, 3060.30 BP) are relatively similar to the one obtained for Silo 2032, although the proposed date is different. Indeed, the numerous fluted elements on jugs, for example at Meistratzheim, clearly point to Bz D1, whereas there are no traces of fluting at Berstett. The latter site is thus earlier.

11Some of the assemblages from Berstett contain “exceptional” whole vessels. Apart from structure 1061, a pit with irregular contours, the other structures with abundant vessels are interpreted as silo bases, on account of their profile, and are all preserved to a depth of less than 0.40 m. Silos 2032, 2128 and 2067 contain archaeological finds sometimes mixed with charcoal, generally at the base of the dugout feature, suggesting that they were discarded shortly after the abandonment of the silos. Structures containing more than nine vessels show similar ware. Similar types are found in silos 2032 and 2067 (beakers, jugs) or silo 2128 and pit 1061 with bowls, pots and jugs. These structures with abundant material are scattered across the site. In structures 2128 and 2032, for example, the vessels and specific deposits are remarkably well preserved. Vessels were deposited upside down, and two distinct groups seem to emerge in silo 2032 (fig. 48): a pot, a jar, a dish in the eastern part, jugs and beakers in the northern part. This may correspond to a functional distribution (storage and service/drinking vessels). Recently, in a review article (Gogâltan 2014, p. 52), Florian Gogâltan proposed the term pot hoard for this type of deposit, emphasising the intentional and irreversible aspect of depositing one or more complete vessels (mostly drinking vessels) in non-funerary contexts or contexts with another ritual meaning, such as in sanctuaries or metal hoards, with no connection to domestic use. The deposit in pit 2032 at Berstett is plainly intentional, as is its position at the base of the structure. The upper fill was deposited quickly, resulting in the protection and permanent sealing of the deposit. In contrast to other similar pits, there is no evidence of fire or burning. The deposited vessels do not differ from other vessels found in the vicinity or at other contemporaneous sites (settlement and burial), but stand out in terms of assemblage composition. Pottery deposits from the Bronze Age are also known in the region, often with stacked, upside down and sometimes overlapping whole vessels (Ittenheim, Logel and Bride 2014 for the Bronze Age C2 with three vessels; Entzheim In der Klamm for the early Final Bronze Age with ten vessels, Landolt and Van Es 2009). The deposit in silo 2032 is part of the Middle Bronze Age settlement.

Fig. 48 – Location and position of several vessels at the bottom of structure 2128.

Fig. 48 – Location and position of several vessels at the bottom of structure 2128.

Photo J. Hauret, CAD M. Michler.

12Despite the absence of visible food residues or cooking deposits in vessels, molecular analyses of organic substances were carried out on some elements (ten vessels). The aim of these analyses was also to identify possible shared or different uses according to their form and origin. In the end, only eight samples could be used to answer these questions. No traces of alcoholic beverages were detected in the Berstett vases, as is sometimes the case in funerary or deposit contexts. In addition, we determined a single use for each type of vase. Some pots (1061-01), often associated with a storage function, were used for cooking food (fig. 51). Small vessels, thought to have been used for the consumption of alcoholic beverages, may have been used for the consumption of flavoured broths (pyxis 1061-09). The presence of pork in the faunal corpus is consistent with the presence of monogastric animal fats. Brassicaceae oil residues (possible aromatic function) were observed in at least four vessels, suggesting the use of plants accessible in the vicinity of the site. These pioneering results for the region should be compared with others, such as those from the ongoing “Jarre” project (Marion Saurel, Inrap ed.). A series of analyses on vessels from hoard contexts (e.g., Entzheim In der Klamm for the early Final Bronze Age, Landolt and Van Es 2009) would be useful to compare results and raise new questions. Current emulation is driving new projects, such as ChemArch, coordinating several university chemistry and molecular biology projects on archaeological themes.

Fig. 51 – a. Methylation of fatty acids and transesterification of triglycerides in the presence of MeOH/H2SO4 (2%); b. Derivation of oxalic acid 1a and tartaric acid 2a after treatment with, successively, BuOH/HCl and trifluoroacetic anhydride.2032.

Fig. 51 – a. Methylation of fatty acids and transesterification of triglycerides in the presence of MeOH/H2SO4 (2%); b. Derivation of oxalic acid 1a and tartaric acid 2a after treatment with, successively, BuOH/HCl and trifluoroacetic anhydride.2032.

N. Tarifa Mateo, P. Schaeffer, P. Adam.

13In addition to pottery, the study of the material reveals the use of Vosges rocks, in particular for processing cereals before consumption (knurls, pestles). Along with this food use, potters may have used smoothers from pit 2204 to finish the walls of vessels. Although no copper alloy tools (knife or sharp weapons) or tools made from plant or animal materials were found, the presence of a sharpener in silo 2067 suggests that the maintenance of such objects took place on site.

14A total of 61.8% of the faunal remains could be determined, which is quite unusual for the period, highlighting the predominance of pigs, followed by cattle and goats. Most faunal finds are concentrated in the north of the site. They correspond to fairly classic consumption waste. Due to the lack of data, we cannot discuss the age at death. Unlike pit 1078 at Entzheim, In der Klamm, located close to the above-mentioned pottery deposit, where a large quantity of partially burnt goats (massive slaughter within a fairly short period of time with significant presence of fleshy parts) and a fragment of a human skull cap suggesting commensal “banquet”-type practices were found (Landolt and van Es 2009, p. 219), none of these practices was identified at Berstett.

15In sum, the Berstett Langenberg site depicts a somewhat different picture to that recently put forward for Middle Bronze Age sites in Alsace, with a low density of relatively scattered structures (Véber et al. 2017, p. 29). On the other hand, the presence of “non-standard” pits with abundant pottery is confirmed, as is the strong continuity of certain forms of pottery, the prototypes of which emerge in the early Middle Bronze Age. Future publications on other recently excavated contemporaneous sites on the Strasbourg western bypass route will certainly advance reflections on this pivotal period.

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Bibliographie

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 3 – Plan of the Bronze Age structures.
Crédits CAD C. Féliu, M. Michler.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/4256/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 83k
Titre Fig. 48 – Location and position of several vessels at the bottom of structure 2128.
Crédits Photo J. Hauret, CAD M. Michler.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/4256/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 77k
Titre Fig. 51 – a. Methylation of fatty acids and transesterification of triglycerides in the presence of MeOH/H2SO4 (2%); b. Derivation of oxalic acid 1a and tartaric acid 2a after treatment with, successively, BuOH/HCl and trifluoroacetic anhydride.2032.
Crédits N. Tarifa Mateo, P. Schaeffer, P. Adam.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/4256/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
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Michler Matthieu, Auxiette Ginette, Jodry Florent, Nadia Tarifa-Mateo, Adam Pierre, Schaeffer Philippe, Féliu Clément et Véber Cécile, « The Middle Bronze Age site of Berstett Langenberg (Lower Rhine), cross-referenced approaches »Gallia Préhistoire [En ligne], 63 | 2023, mis en ligne le 22 janvier 2024, consulté le 12 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/4256 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/galliap.4256

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Auteurs

Michler Matthieu

INRAP GE, UMR 7044-Archimède, Université de Strasbourg, MISHA, Strasbourg – France

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Auxiette Ginette

INRAP, UMR 8215 Trajectoires, Soissons – France

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Jodry Florent

INRAP GE, UMR 7044-Archimède, Université de Strasbourg, MISHA, Strasbourg – France

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Nadia Tarifa-Mateo

Institut de Chimie de Strasbourg, Biogéochimie moléculaire, UMR 7177, Strasbourg – France

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Adam Pierre

Institut de Chimie de Strasbourg, Biogéochimie moléculaire, UMR 7177, Strasbourg – France

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Schaeffer Philippe

Institut de Chimie de Strasbourg, Biogéochimie moléculaire, UMR 7177, Strasbourg – France

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Féliu Clément

INRAP GE, UMR 7044-Archimède, Université de Strasbourg, MISHA, Strasbourg – France

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Véber Cécile

Anciennement INRAP GE, UMR 7044-Archimède, Université de Strasbourg, MISHA, Strasbourg – France

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