The Celtic hill fort of Ensérune, about 10 km from the present day city of Béziers, was settled in the sixth century BCE and thrived until the 1st century CE when its Romanized inhabitants moved down to the plain and built more sprawling villae with typically Roman interior courtyards. The remains of Ensérune are situated high on a hilltop with a commanding view of the surrounding valley. Of course this meant some steep steps to ascend to the summit from the parking lot but it was a beautiful Spring day and the view was certainly worth the effort. There were beautiful flowers along the path that I took time to photograph and once I reached the top I could see all the way to the snow capped Pyranees Mountains about 80 miles away to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south as well as a distinctive natural depression to the north known as the Étang de Montady. It was once a lagoon that was drained in the 13th century and looks very much like a huge bath tub drain.
There is a path that circumnavigates the hilltop and you will see the remains of the fortification walls, the foundations of the dwellings and huge silos (doliums) embedded in the ground. I thought these were ceramic jars but they are actually a cylindrical excavation with a ceramic lip so the stored grain can be hermetically sealed, producing an anaerobic environment to prevent fermentation. There are also several large cisterns used to collect rainwater and even a drainage system to remove waste.
The site of Enserune was originally excavated in the early 20th century and has yielded a wealth of artifacts including both black and red Attic kraters (wine jars), Italic amphoras of different shapes (storage containers for such things as olive oil), funerary urns and grave goods including a variety of Roman centurion buckles and swords from different periods. The swords and scabbards appeared to be ritually "killed" by being folded in half or maybe they were just folded to fit in the burial pit as most tombs found there contained either cinerary urns from a cremation burial or ossuary jars (bone jars).
The small museum on site is well organized and has a very well stocked gift shop. I bought a small Celtic cross and a pair of Celtic patterned earrings as well as a book on the site itself (it was even in English, a rare occurrence at some of the more obscure French attractions) and another on the Cathars as we were now in the heart of Cathar country.
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