The Paleolithic age
At certain times the temperature in Burgundy rose enough between ice-ages for certain types of tortoise and other animals to be found in the valleys of the Yonne and the Cure. Signs of human industries are to found in again the Yonne area and the Saône and Loire, where large amounts of single-sided and double-faced flint stones have been found, it is only in the Morvan, and on the plateau of the Côte d’0r, where signs of life in Burgundy are negligible. During the middle Paleolithic times (120 000 to 35 000 BC), begins a long period of temperate climate, where the forest began to develop and warm species of animals such as the Merck Rhinoceros. Then the forest retreated in front of the conifer trees and signs of deer and boar appeared.
In Burgundy, signs are to be found in many areas such as the Auxois and the hills of Macon. With the superior Paleolithic age, men settled at the Rock of Solutre in the Saône and Loire, also known for the very large graveyard of horses which spreads across many hectares. Afterwards is the development of a flint stone called ‘Laurel leaf’ due to its surprising shape, by the Solutrean.
Then the arrival of the Magdalenien who hunted not only the horses but also the deer and bison. The lifestyle of this period was not that different to the preceding ones, there was however much more use of blades and tools made of bones. In Burgundy at the village of Racy, traces of huts with walls made of mammoth tusk have been found. The greatest change for this time was the beginnings of art, with some remarkable examples at Arcy-sur-Cure in the centre of Burgundy.
The specialist conclude that Burgundy was not a region where people settled, but where the came during good hunting periods, unlike the times before, where signs of long settlement are to be found. Burgundy 8000 BC: With the end of the ice age the forest quickly recovers the land, mainly with conifers but soon hazel and then oak and lime. The animals rapidly change and deer and wild boar replace horses and reindeer. The men also change lifestyles and begin collecting vegetation and shellfish from the rivers, the tools change dramatically, traces of humans are to be found everywhere except in the Yonne, even in the Morvan region, people lived on the summits of the hills, which leads us to believe that the forest was much different than it is today.
The Neolithic age
The Neolithic age in Burgundy has a climate very similar to that of now, this period stretches from 55000 to 2 000 BC, and then 2000 to 1800 BC where metal appeared. During this time the life of men complete changes, Lives are based not purely on hunting, but on livestock and agriculture. The main species are cattle, pork sheep and goats. Wheat is cultivated and hunting becomes secondary. Agriculture forces the tribes to settle down and build real homes and small villages. Stones are not completely forgotten, as arrowheads are still made, but they are then polished and axes and scissors are made. The settling also permits the discovery of clay and pottery. With all these factors, the small groups of people began to grow in size, as the basic hygiene of life became better. This also forced the people to move in search of other lands to cultivate, and they brought with them their own techniques and traditions. People came to Burgundy following the Danube and moving north from the Mediterranean. With the arrival of people from the Danube, Burgundy saw the first large house constructions 20 to 30 meters long.
Under the Roman Empire
Geographically, Burgundy has always been a land of passage for traders, armies, migrants and many favoured Burgundy to transit between the North and the South of Western Europe. Peoples had settled in Burgundy centuries and centuries before the Romans’ arrival.
Burgundy was the home of several Gallic tribes often fighting each other for the control of small villages, forest, rivers,…Etc.
The Senones whose capital city was Sens ( Agedincum )
The Lingones lived around the actual city of Langres once known as Andematunnum.
The Mandubii who may have been a confederation of several small tribes lived in the Auxois with Alésia as their capital.
The Aedui lived in the highest parts of Burgundy, the area of the Morvan. They had two major cities, Besançon (Vesontio ) as their capital and Bibracte.
The Aedui were the biggest tribe in the region. Its development and influence on its neighbours had made the admiration of Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. The Aedui had already developed roads and trade systems with their neighbours, influenced them, forced many tribes to unite with them. Their economic strength in Gaul certainly made them one of the most important Gallic nation since, according to Julius Caesar, around 100B.C.
The Aedui had good relations with the Romans but unfortunately for them, no Roman ” ally and brother ” was there to help the Aedui when they were about to be defeated in 60 BC by the Sequani, the Averni and the Germanic leader Ariovistus of the Suebi.
Weakened, the Aedui are finally stabbed by their Roman friends 58 B.C near Bibracte. The Roman presence is growing stronger in Gaul and in particular Burgundy. The Germanic Ariovistus, a friend to the Gauls, is also defeated and has to retreat beyond the Rhine.
Almost of the entirety of Gaul is now under the rule of Rome and its presence is feeling heavier on peoples that are not easy to subjugate. Movements and pockets of resistance are growing among the tribes and punishments inflicted by the Roman armies are violent. It did not take very long for the Aedui to join the resistance movements and soon Burgundy becomes a fief for the uprising Gauls until they organize a military reunion in Bibracte and elect the warrior Vercingetorix as the leader of the confederate Gallic army. In 52 BC the siege of Alesia stroke a final blow to the resistance and with Vercingetorix captured, Caeser is the master of Gaul.
After the end of the resistance, Gaul fell under the Pax Romana and its organization was built after Rome’s directives. A century after the defeat at Alesia, the Emperor Vespasian conducted a heavy campaign against the Germanic tribes and has a consequence, many Roman military camp were erected in Gaul and especially in Burgundy. Unrest was growing once more until the Aedui helped a massive revolt in Gaul until they finally accepted the winning side’s culture and civilization. Burgundy was finally starting to be “Romanized”.
In the third century, the Pax Romana had changed Burgundy. The Via Agrippa crosses Burgundy, linking villages and early towns between them and the rest of the Via. The Saône river was now navigable and helped the development of cultures and trade. With access by road and river, Burgundy became an inevitable trade route from which crossed oil, metals, wine and many other valuable and new goods to the Gallic-Romans. The region was prosperous and the skills of the Gauls helped and influenced Rome’s trade. The people settled in Burgundy, quickly mastering the culture of wine changed the use of the amphora and created barrels to transport the wine, which they judged safer and better for the conservation of the wine.
Like the many other conquered Roman provinces, the two cultures mixed, assimilating and creating new gods and other divinities. In Burgundy, near the sources of the Seine river, the healing goddess Sequana is worshipped. The god Belenos is assimilated with Appolo until Christianity arrives from the East. Soldiers and traders, travelling through the Vias, settled in Burgundy with their beliefs and created towns. Augustodunum, now Autun and Sadelocus (Saulieu) are two soon to be prosperous Christian cities. But Christianity had not always been peacefully accepted by the locals and led to martyrs in Burgundy, such as Saint Reine in Alesia, Saint Benigne in Dijon or Saint Germain in Auxerre. But the Pax Romana was not to last forever…
The troubles Rome started to meet at the end of the third century were felt in Burgundy and the rest of Gaul. The legions could not always resist the unstopping barbarian invasions. Lands are plundered and cities destroyed. Rome and the Alemanni several times fought other cities such as Autun, leaving the population to despair. At the beginning of the fourth century, Burgundy knew a relative period of stability, thanks to the Emperor Maximian.
This period of stability attracted newcomers to Burgundy and in 443, a large group of Roman auxiliaries ( members of the Roman armies ) were authorized by Rome to settled in the Geneva region ( actual Switzerland ). These men came from the north, certainly the Baltic Sea and were known as the Burgundians. They took profit of the weakening state of the Roman Empire, which was destroying itself from inside and outside and the Burgundians created a large territory spreading far more away than the actual Burgundy region. The Burgundians were soon to be rivals and terrible foes to the Frankish lords, as both their kingdoms were growing in size and strength.
The rise of the Dukes
In 880 A.D. the power of Burgundy begins to rise with the Burgundian leader “Richard the Justice”, the influence spreads.
Finally becoming part of France
In 1477 and following the death of Duke Charles le Temeraire, the king of France, Louis XI brings the Dukedom of Burgundy under control of the French crown.