2019 Nov 23
The Duchy of Luxembourg has a remarkable archaeological site dating from the Celtic period. It was inhabited for over 700 years and is one of the first known urban settlements in Europe. Titelberg, as the site is known, was first a Celtic town and later a Gallic-Roman settlement. Today, Titelberg is an archaeological park , protected by the government of Luxembourg.
The Long History of Titelberg
The Celts were a people who originated from what is today Switzerland/Austria. They spread across much of Western Europe and became the dominant culture in the region. The Treveri, one of the most influential Celtic tribes , occupied the region now known as Luxembourg.
Titelberg, which is located in a valley, has been inhabited by humans for millennia, but it was the arrival of the Celts that led to the development of a settlement around the metal works as there were significant iron-ore deposits in the nearby hills.
Titelberg: foundations in the residential area. ( Public Domain )
Additionally, as Titelberg was located near a major Celtic road, the town prospered, and many historians believe that Titelberg was the capital of the Treveri.
Around 50 BC, during Julius Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul, the Treveri were forced to submit to the Romans when Caesar turned the area into a Roman province. Twenty years later the town was rebuilt on Roman lines. These streets and Roman-style buildings have been unearthed during excavations.
The Romans left the town when Trier became the capital of the Roman province. Before they left, however, they destroyed the walls that they had built to protect Titelberg. Titelberg developed into an important Gallo-Roman settlement and became a metallurgical production center, and as a number of coins have been found in the area, it’s likely they had a mint. The Treveri developed a culture that was a synthesis of Celtic and Latin elements.
After the 1 st century AD, the town’s smelter and mint burned down and the town went into a period of decline, but around 400 AD, a new mint was built. There are some who speculate that this was built by the Franks who moved in as Roman control weakened in the area. Sometime in the 6 th century, the settlement is believed to have been deserted.
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Coins from the mint of the Treveri with the depiction of the triskele (Photo by Kuenker)
Titelberg, was first excavated in the 1950s and in recent decades a great many Celtic and Roman artifacts have been found in the area.
Titelberg, One of the First Towns in Europe
The remains of the town cover an extensive area of approximately 50 hectares. Its remains are located on a small forested plateau, near a modern farm. Structures thought to be the dwellings of Celtic nobles, can be seen and near the main settlement, tombs of the local elite, who became rich thanks to the metal works, have yielded a treasure trove of archaeological finds.
Excavations at Titelberg (Tournay, D / CC BY-NC 2.0 )
The site was surrounded by 30 feet (10m) high walls during the Celtic period. These ramparts were filled with stone and earth and were a common feature on Celtic hillforts. Sadly, only one section of the old Celtic ramparts can be seen, as the rest were removed by the Romans.
A 12 feet (3.5m) wide moat or ditch , which would have protected the residential areas during an assault, divided the town’s public space and residential areas. Outlines of homes up to 50 feet long and 25 feet wide (15 by 7m) can be seen in the former residential area and remains of fireplaces and ovens have been found in these buildings.
Foundations of the settlement unearthed at Titelberg (Abd as Samad / CC BY-NC 2.0)
In the public area, a sizeable building that could have been a council house , faced a large courtyard and traces of a Gallo-Roman temple , once surrounded by a colonnade, are visible. Although the smelter and mint burned down and were rebuilt many times, the remains can still be seen.
Visiting Titelberg, Luxembourg
The site lies approximately 1.2 miles (2 km) south-west of the town of Pétange, in the south-west of Luxembourg. While entry to the site is free, there is no public transport to the site and some of it is located on private property .