The oppidum of Manching in short-range to remote sensing.
Strategies and results of multi-method settlement analysis


The oppidum of Manching (Bavaria, DE) is considered one of the best-studied La Tène oppida in Europe. Archaeological research carried out since the 1950s reveals an urban Iron Age community between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC, showing varying degrees of complexity according to chronological phases and local settlement areas. On the one hand, the settlement history of Manching is regarded as a model case of pre-Roman urbanisation, but on the other hand it reveals numerous peculiarities that underpin the special qualitative and quantitative position of the East Celtic central settlement.
Due to the qualitative and diachronic variability of the features in different areas inside and outside the partially preserved wall, a sustainable analysis of the settlement dynamics requires a combination of prospection, survey, excavation and interpretation strategies. The combination of selective ground interventions, large-scale excavations, geophysical prospection and remote sensing methods (LIDAR) enables the differentiated interpretation of a temporally variable settlement history. Large-scale analyses integrate the urban settlement centre into a complex socio-economic regional settlement pattern.

L’oppidum de Manching (Bavière, DE) est considéré comme l’un des oppida de La Tène les mieux étudiés d’Europe. Les recherches archéologiques menées depuis les années 1950 révèlent l’existence d’une communauté urbaine de l’âge du Fer entre le IIIe et le Ier siècle a.C., présentant des degrés de complexité variables selon les phases chronologiques et les zones d’occupation. Si d’une part Manching constitue un modèle d’urbanisation préromaine, d’autre part, le site affiche de nombreuses particularités qui sous-tendent la position, à la fois singulière et centrale, qu’occupe l’agglomération en Celtique orientale.
Que l’on se trouve à l’intérieur ou à l’extérieur de la muraille partiellement préservée, des différences fonctionnelles et chronologiques apparaissent entre les différents espaces. Pour appréhender finement les dynamiques d’occupation, il est nécessaire d’adopter une stratégie qui croise les données issues de prospections, de sondages ou de fouilles. La combinaison des opérations de fouilles – ponctuelles ou à grande échelle –, de prospection géophysique et de méthodes de télédétection (LIDAR) permet une interprétation différenciée de l’histoire d’un établissement urbain qui évolue dans le temps. Par ailleurs, des analyses à plus grande échelle cherchent à saisir la place de l’agglomération au sein de son territoire et de son réseau socio-économique régional.

unfortified settlement; oppidum; urbanisation; large-scale excavation; geomagnetic prospection; aerial photography; LIDAR; settlement structures; urban-rural interaction
agglomération non fortifiée ; oppidum ; urbanisation ; fouille à grande échelle ; prospection géomagnétique ; photographie aérienne ; LIDAR ; structures d’habitat ; interaction urbain-rural

Historical outline

The area of the later oppidum of Manching had been settled since the Early Bronze Age1. Middle and Late Bronze Age (Urnfield Culture) settlements and burials indicate intensive human occupation. Burials and settlement remains represent quite intense Early Iron Age activities2. Since LT B, the two necropolises at “Hundsrucken” and “Steinbichl” document at least two rural settlements3. These communities possibly established a common, probably regionally significant sanctuary. From the 4th or 3rd century BC onwards, it was used continuously until the end of Celtic settlement in the 1st century BC4. The orientation of a slightly younger rectangular LT C1/C2 ritual complex in the Zentralfläche excavation area determined the settlement structure and orientation of the emerging unfortified large settlement. This agglomeration spread from its core from the end of the Middle La Tène Period.

The prosperity of the Late La Tène metropolis is largely due to its favourable topographical position at the intersection of important trade routes. At the northern settlement area there was probably a harbour in the “Dürre Au”, an oxbow of the Danube that was still carrying water at that time5. In addition to the favourable commercial location, the proximity to rich mineral resources was of enormous economic importance. An adjacent bog area to the south was a source of bog iron ore, which was smelted on site and processed in the centre of the neighbouring large settlement6.

Crafts and trade mark an increased economic differentiation of the urban community since the beginning of intensive occupation in the Zentralfläche7. Initial evidence of glass processing, sapropelite carving and coinage leads to an extraordinary broadening of the economic spectrum in LT C2. During the (sub-)phases LT C2 and LT D1a, this includes virtually all types of Iron Age production, trade and exchange. As early as the end of the 3rd century BC, i.e. at least 50 years before the construction of the massive murus Gallicus, Graeco-Italian transport amphorae attest to the import of mostly Mediterranean luxury goods. By the 1st century BC, wine, bronze tableware, black glaze pottery and Baltic amber had found their way into the East Celtic trading centre8. The use of writing and weights illustrate the economic and political administration of the large centre9. As an economic hub, it provided numerous goods produced in local workshops for the regional and supra-regional hinterland.

In the course of the second half of the 2nd century BC, Manching underwent a fundamental reorganisation of its settlement structure10. This was accompanied by the massive fortification of the area, which is dated to between 140 and 120 BC. The first phase of the murus Gallicus, which is quite isolated in the East Celtic area, is probably based on older enclosures in the form of a circular double ditch system. The construction of the circular wall also involved a major hydrogeographical rearrangement of space and the diversion of two streams, which henceforth served as extra-mural obstacles to approach. Their relocation and extensive drainage created enormous agricultural areas on the periphery of the oppidum sensu stricto11. The three-phase ‘central temple’ was fundamental for the new conception of the settlement and the construction of the wall. The circular or polygonal construction phases represent a special form of Iron Age architecture in continental Europe. They served as a central point of ideological and geometrical reference for the Manching community. As a cosmological centre, the temple played a vital role as the centre of the initial unfortified settlement foundation and as a measure of the Late La Tène circular wall12.

In the course of the 1st century BC, there are increasing signs of a gradual economic and social decline of the commercial metropolis on the Danube13. The general absence of Dressel 1B type Republican amphorae suggests a collapse of long-distance trade in the first quarter of the 1st century BC14. The absence of wine and other luxury goods shows an increasing isolation of Manching in the transalpine and intra-Celtic exchange network. Regional contacts also decreased15. Similarly, extensive scrap metal recycling of bronze and ironware indicates that access to resources became problematic and economic factors such as iron smelting of local deposits increasingly went unused16. Despite the destruction of the east gate, caltrops and weapons – the latter, however, rather as relics of a religious votive practice – a violent end of the settlement cannot be inferred17. However, coin hoards indicate a general atmosphere of threat that grew out of the turbulent times of Germanic-Celtic conflicts and increasing Roman intervention18. As part of the complex economic interaction network of the ‘oppida civilisation’, the systemic collapse through the capping of communication routes and the failure of nodes in distant regions affected Manching, albeit not abruptly19. Some Lt D2 fibulae or weapons dating to the very end of the La Tène period as termini post quos indicate the final abandonment of the settlement with an absolute date around the middle of the 1st century BC20. The Roman occupiers probably found a deserted area around the turn of the era, which is why they named a later settlement foundation after the only remaining remnants of former urban dimensions: vallatum – literally “inside the wall”21.

Multi-method research

The oppidum of Manching is often apostrophised as the “best-studied oppidum” in the eastern Celtic hemisphere, if not throughout Celto-Gallic Europe. Indeed, it boasts numerous best and highest marks, among which its sheer size of 380 ha within the 7 km long rampart is the most obvious. At present, archaeological excavations cover just over 42 ha or 11% of its internal area22 (fig. 1).

Manching (Bavaria, DE). Digital plan of the oppidum area with major excavations, geomagnetic survey zones and digitised features obtained from remote sensing and magnetometry (data courtesy of RGK and BLfD; graphics H. Wendling).
Fig. 1. Manching (Bavaria, DE). Digital plan of the oppidum area with major excavations, geomagnetic survey zones and digitised features obtained from remote sensing and magnetometry (data courtesy of RGK and BLfD; graphics H. Wendling).

With significant parts of the central inner area and the rampart destroyed by the construction of the military airfield in 1936, its expansion in the early 1950s called archaeology into action for one of the first major projects after World War II23. Since 1954, the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments (BLfD), the Roman-Germanic Commission of the DAI (RGK) and, more recently, private excavation companies have carried out a number of large-scale excavations to increase the number of features and finds to heights that can only be reached elsewhere by long-term projects such as in Bibracte. Excavation data and their analyses and countless publications provide a solid and broad foundation for European Iron Age research.

Geophysical analyses of the 1970s were not immediately evaluated. In the early 2000s the RGK started large-scale geophysical surveys that covered about one third of the accessible interior of the oppidum (fig. 1). In addition, selected areas in the immediate vicinity of the oppidum, but also individual sites in the wider surroundings were covered by geomagnetic survey24. Eventually, a total of c. 100 ha of geophysical data is available. In addition, in 2007 a LIDAR survey covered c. 35 km² of the oppidum and its hinterland (fig. 2A). The digital surface model reveals topographical features, which provide diachronic information on preserved structures, especially in comparison with aerial surveys that have been intensively pursued since the 1970s. Aerial photography offers a detailed picture of subterranean features through cropmarks and relief features25.

Fig. 2. Manching (Bavaria, DE). A Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the oppidum and its hinterland with major sites mentioned in the text; B Digital plan of magnetometry of Late Hallstatt/Early La Tène Herrenhof northeast of the oppidum’s rampart (H in DEM); C Rectangular enclosure (Viereckschanze) at Manching-Lindach in aerial photography (E in DEM); D Digital plan of magnetometry of La Tène Viereckschanze at Manching-Westenhausen (F in DEM); E DEM (LIDAR) of rectangular feature (Viereckschanze?) inside the wall (data courtesy of RGK; graphics H. Wendling).

Level 1: micro-excavation and drill core analysis

In the course of the first large-scale excavations in the 1950s, narrow test trenches hundreds of metres long systematically crossed the prehistoric settlement area26. They produced initial insights into the extent of the area actually occupied and above all into the vertical dimension of the so-called ‘cultural layer’. This extensive stratum of waste and building rubble accumulated in the course of 300 years of settlement activity: repeated demolitions of houses, levelling, and deposits of settlement debris led to the accumulation of a ‘dark earth horizon’. It contains the bulk of the total find material, mainly animal bones and pottery, but also small finds such as fibulae, coins, tools and implements or weapon fragments. Drill cores and excavations show a thickness of the cultural layer, in the centre with the longest settlement continuity, of c. 80 cm. Towards the periphery, the stratum gradually thins out.

A micro-excavation on a limited area of only 15 m² revealed the structure and matrix of the cultural layer. It revealed a complex, finely textured sequence of individual layers. The vertical, two-dimensional projection of the objects shows the focus of find precipitation in this ‘dark earth horizon’. In combination with geomagnetic prospection, however, it also becomes clear that pits and wells apparently were dug in from different levels of the stratified horizon, which had been accumulated before. Micromorphological analyses support a fine stratigraphic sequence of trampling horizons, and residues of decay and levelling. Similar sequences were identified in an excavation area to the west of the Zentralfläche27.

The results help to understand the taphonomy of sedimentation and artefacts in a dynamic process. Detailed analysis and excavation prevent accidental mixing of find complexes. This requires a rigid critique of sources and a re-evaluation of stratigraphic sequences, not only for chronological studies28.

Level 2: large-scale excavation

Building structures and the layout of the pre-oppida settlement phases at the Zentralfläche and Südumgehung clearly show that the foundation and planning of this first urban complex followed a deliberate, overarching pattern29. It probably sprang from the initiative of the local and regional landowning elite30. In addition to large buildings of local tradition, which are interpreted in smaller courtyard units as ‘urban dependencies’ of this agrarian ruling class, architectural models of the Mediterranean were implemented31: Along pathways up to 10 m wide, long houses of about 5 m width extend over up to 30 m in length. Corresponding long houses are also present within a rectangular district in the north of the Südumgehung, which was surrounded on all sides by a porticus, i.e. a walkway that was open to the street32. Since this architectural element can hardly conceal its origins in the Hellenistic south, a corresponding interpretation of the longhouses is plausible: their ground plan, divided by roof posts into two naves and transversely into individual compartments on one side, refers to models in Mediterranean architecture. In this way, the Greek stoai may have found their way into Celtic wooden architecture at Manching as multifunctional communication elements. 

A settlement area that also seems to be inspired by Mediterranean concepts offers a similar element of functional planning. An 80 x 65 m rectangular district located on the southern edge of the Zentralfläche consists of large rectangular buildings, fences and palisades33. A conspicuous concentration of finds include amphora sherds, remains of metalworking such as slags and tools, and coin moulds, and also chains, neck, foot and hand shackles as well as characteristic keys associated with the quartering and transport of slaves34. The interplay of artefacts and architectural features suggests a specific use of the zone as a commercial and trading area, i.e. an emporion35. In contrast to the other urban courtyards, which were generally smaller in size, the enclosure focussed on long-distance trade, which was probably of fundamental importance for the development of Manching’s settlement from a very early point in time, long before the construction of the oppidum rampart.

The settlement pattern changes from the last third of the 2nd century BC onwards due to the abandonment and rebuilding of the first, ‘unfortified’ urban phase, which was previously characterised by Mediterranean building forms (stoaiporticus). The building lines of the later phases deviate from the older settlement pattern due to a varying inclination towards the east36. Smaller courtyard units cover large parts of the settlement area, whose building pattern seems to be partially standardised within palisade and ditch enclosures. On a smaller scale, size and shape of those ensembles resemble those of the rural ‘quadrangular enclosures’ or Viereckschanzen. Both units consist of central dwellings, economic buildings and storehouses, utilities and disposal infrastructure (wells, pits)37. Despite this restructuring, which is accompanied by a certain decrease in the density of the built space, the economic complexity of the settlement remains: Regional and long-distance trade as well as all kinds of well-established crafts testify to the town’s continuing economic supremacy in a wide area38.

In addition to the extensive excavations in the centre of the oppidum, large-scale excavations in other, more peripheral or intermediate parts have yielded information on different functional areas and settlement strategies39. In the Nordumgehung area, the settlement sequence includes three chronological stages, developing from LT C2 to LT D1b. In the area far from the centre, granaries on four posts, barns, sheds and stables were loosely scattered in the area of food production close to the urban centre. In combination with some larger houses used as farm buildings or dwellings, the ensemble represents the typical structure of an agricultural farmstead unit, consisting of a larger main or residential building, several farm buildings and a large number of granaries. During later phases at the Nordumgehung, the former periphery becomes part of an urban core that is also growing functionally, so that agricultural subsistence areas were subsequently relocated to the peripheries.

The Altenfeld area shows a differentiated development consisting of commercial buildings and production facilities in the south, whereas agricultural estates subdivided by ditches dominate the north40. In addition, ‘special areas’ with peculiar architectural features are inscribed in this zone, which are interpreted as cult districts. Further to the periphery, the building density thins out and increasingly takes on a rural character. This decrease in building density can also be observed in the transect of the Südumgehung41. An area close to the centre, densely built in LT C2, gradually merges into an area characterised by large open plots with long ditches towards the south. Their dating shows the significant increase in agricultural space by drainage of the wetlands in the south of the oppidum in due course of wall construction.

In this area, directly behind the LT D wall, large-scale excavations have confirmed the extensive use of these marginal areas42. Relatively scattered buildings include farm buildings, barns and stables. However, recent excavations have also uncovered relatively confined production areas behind the south gate, which, with pit houses and remains of metalworking, probably relate to the construction of the wall43.

The functional analysis of distribution patterns of artefacts is closely associated with the architectural and settlement structure of the entire complex. Different spatial functional analyses based on distribution of tools, craft residues, and social markers have been carried out44. Several clusters of smithing slags show production centres in the south of the Zentralfläche or the Altenfeld. Here, remains of scrap metal also prove the recycling of valuable resources45. With the identification of pit houses with adjacent work pits, it was possible to identify a building type characteristic of metal processing46.

Level 3: Middle-range-survey and remote sensing

Intra muros

The main survey areas between the excavation areas AltenfeldZentralfläche and Südumgehung show an enormous density of polygonal and linear geomagnetic anomalies47 (fig. 3). This is due to three hundred years of settlement activity and intensive construction work. Clusters of anomalies correspond to the pit fields of the neighbouring excavation areas, which were heavily utilised from LT B2/C1 to LT D1. Linear structures such as drainage ditches follow the pathways that were uncovered in excavations. For example, the curved northern path 1 of the Zentralfläche extends straight to the west (zone B) beyond the northern tip of the Südumgehung into the adjacent geomagnetic zone E (fig. 3). In the Zentralfläche, in the area to the south of this path, numerous deposits in abandoned pits and wells indicate an open air cult area used for ritual deposition48. Whether this use continued further west remains unclear.

Fig. 3. Manching (Bavaria, DE). Digital plan of magnetometry/aerial photography in the western/central sector of the oppidum (data courtesy of RGK; graphics H. Wendling).

In zones A, E and F, the anomalies thin out towards the periphery. Especially in A and F, they reproduce the features from the southern Altenfeld, which is interpreted as a ‘craftsmen’s quarter’ with ditches, pit houses, pits and all kinds of waste from metalworking and pottery production (fig. 1; fig. 3)49. This shows that manufacturing was of much greater importance in spatial terms than had previously been assumed.

The transect of the survey zones F–I reveals the gradual decrease in building density towards the periphery of the settlement (fig. 1; fig. 4A). This phenomenon also occurs in the excavations at Nordumgehung and Altenfeld50. Both here and in survey zone G, linear features document small enclosures with a relatively low density of houses probably used for agriculture51. In addition, the association of several ditch segments running variably north-south suggests the course of a slightly S-shaped curved path52.

In addition to modern bomb craters, traces of two square ditch enclosures shifted against each other dominate geomagnetics and aerial photography of zone H (fig. 4A). They probably represent two rather contemporary phases of a farmstead without any recognisable remains of internal buildings. The northern (later?) square enclosure has a double ditch on the northern flank and small annex structures on the eastern side. This feature, rather unusual for the later La Tène period, may indicate a more recent, Roman, medieval or even modern date. During the 30 Years’ War, Manching was a deployment area for Swedish troops led by Gustav Adolf, who had his headquarters in Manching-Oberstimm53. The adjacent zone to the east roughly covers the LT B/C “Hundsrucken” cemetery including some Early Bronze Age burials and Late Hallstatt settlement remains54. Certainly, these and some HA C cremations may also figure in the magnetometry.

Fig. 4. Manching (Bavaria, DE). A Digital plan of magnetometry/aerial photography in the north-eastern sector of the oppidum; B Detail of the northern segment of the rampart (data courtesy of RGK; graphics H. Wendling).

Further east, next to the remains of the oppidum wall, evidence is still more scanty (fig. 1, zone I; fig. 4A). Only one linear cropmark running parallel to the wall may be identified as remains of a circular ditch system. However, modern drainage or pipe trenches in the same zone do not coincide with a quadrangular structure, the sides and corners of which can be identified as a faint elevation in the LIDAR digital surface model (fig 2A, I; fig. 2E; fig. 4A). The shape and size of this structure, which is only very slightly preserved, resemble rampart-ditch systems which represent a characteristic Late La Tène rural settlement feature. If the enclosure was indeed a late Iron Age Viereckschanze, its location within the oppidum wall would be extremely unusual. Presumed examples from Bibracte (Saône-et-Loire, FR) or the Donnersberg oppidum (Rhineland-Palatinate, DE) do not represent Viereckschanzen sensu stricto, i.e. fortified agricultural production units55. At Manching, a viable explanation for the location within the rampart may be that the pre-existing rectangular enclosure was abandoned when it was integrated into the ‘urban area’ in the course of rampart construction56. Without excavations, however, dating, classification and function of the features remain speculative.

The semantics of the oppidum wall is illustrated by a ‘construction scheme’ that connects the east and south gates via an equilateral triangle with the so-called ‘central temple’ in section 2057. Significantly, the temple underwent a transformation from a rectangular to a circular construction at the time of Manching wall building. In addition, circular constructions link the temple with a cult area in the Nordumgehung, where the golden cult tree was probably displayed in a shrine58.

The isosceles construction triangle may be related to structures that surrounded and divided the zone outside the actual settlement even before the wall was built. In combination with the ‘ring ditch system’ mentioned earlier, several so-called ‘ray ditches’ and paths in the southern part of the oppidum led to its centre, partly starting from the gates and forming a radial star shape59 (fig. 5A). However, these ditches could not be identified in the geomagnetic survey areas in the east and north of the oppidum (fig. 1, zones I & K). In the opposite direction, however, about 220 m west of the Südumgehung (fig. 5A, zone D), a linear vegetation feature running parallel to the rampart may be part of this circular ditch system. Furthermore, in the SW sector of the oppidum in zone C, ditch courses, linear anomalies and cropmarks, with their roughly radial course, suggest an underlying subdivision system that existed prior to the construction of the wall (fig. 5A). Their course is orthogonal to LT C ditches in the Südumgehung and the Zentralfläche. Nevertheless, they may also have been dug for drainage of the agricultural areas adjoining the settlement to the south when the wall was built. A trapezoidal ditch enclosure without any significant internal building (cattle corral?) is associated with adjacent ditch alignments, some of which indicate roads60. In this area, anomalies become less frequent and indicate only a few agricultural buildings. The same applies to another trapezoidal feature to the south, which, with the same orientation and about half the size, blends into the southern part of the large trapezoid and its annex ditches (fig. 5A, zone C). At the southern corner, several ditches form a complex pattern that resembles the entrances to cattle pens in ethnographic context, in which herds and animals are separated and selected for milking, shearing or slaughter61.

On the northern edge of this Zone C follows a line of low-density building, visible in aerial photography and magnetometry. This zone is subdivided by ditches oriented northwest-southeast. To the north, this sector is separated by a ditch from a corridor about 80 m wide, being longitudinally divided by another ditch and almost free of anomalies. This open space extends for 350 m from the southern end of the Zentralfläche at least into the Südumgehung, where the ditches were uncovered in excavation (fig. 5A). The polygonal and linear structures adjoining this strip to the south are similar to the situation in the so-called ‘craftsmen’s quarter’ on the southern edge of the Altenfeld and the survey areas following to the east (zones A and F). This may point to a similar use in the production sector and underlines Manching’s role as an outstanding economic centre, where differentiated crafts were deliberately established as an economic factor. However, a circular anomaly with inserted postholes and a monumental building 50 m to the east in the same area to the south-west of the Zentralfläche may indicate further functional differentiation62 (fig. 5B). These features may characterise a zone of particular use. Round buildings are usually considered as cult buildings in contrast to profane rectangular architecture. Presumably, another cult district further distinguishes Manching as a regional religious centre.

Fig. 5. Manching (Bavaria, DE). A# Digital plan of magnetometry/aerial photography and excavated linear features in the oppidum’s southern periphery; B# Detail of magnetometry and digital plan of circular and rectangular features in a supposedly ‘special (cult?) area’ to the south of the Zentralfläche (data courtesy of RGK and BLfD; graphics H. Wendling after Fehr & Leicht 2019, 77 Abb. 114A).

Cursus muri

Most likely, the settlement core was surrounded by a double ditch and probably also a palisade ring in the Middle La Tène phases of the ‘unfortified’ large settlement63 (fig. 1; fig. 5A). Those ditches ran at irregular distances roughly parallel to the (subsequent) rampart. In the second half of the 2nd century BC, the urban community built a fortification, 7 km long and probably 4-5 m high64. Its first phase was a murus gallicus with an internal earthen ramp (lat. agger). This fortification also regulated the flow of people and goods with several monumental gates. As legal control points, both the entrances and the wall also may have defined the urban space as a sacred and legal community65.

In addition to its defensive purpose, the massive fortification was an ostentatious means of representation. It reflected the economic, military and political power of the (regional) Manching ruling elite with its monumental size and the labour and materials required for its construction (iron nails, timber, stones from distant quarries for the wall facing)66. Both the people employed in the construction of the wall and the associated ‘supplier industry’ give a vague idea of the population of the late Celtic metropolis, which probably numbered in the thousands67. It is unclear whether, beyond the ideological representation, a concrete cause or threat gave reason for these fortifications to be built. Possibly, early signs of the migrations of the Cimbri and Teutons already foreshadowed turbulent times in 140 to 120 BC68. The phase of the murus gallicus was renewed twice in the following decades by the facing of a wall front with a characteristic ‘eastern Celtic’ Pfostenschlitzmauer construction69. The east gate, whose third phase was destroyed in a severe fire before the abandonment of the Manching settlement and was not rebuilt, is a sign of gradual decline. In any case, the excavations along the course of the rampart do not reveal direct traces of military conflicts70.

In addition to the good traceability of the course of the rampart through surface preservation and aerial prospection, the geophysical surveys offered comprehensive visualisation of structures that were no longer visible above ground. In the north-eastern segment (fig. 4A; fig. 4B), the rampart was traced over a length of about 350 metres. In this area, which is strongly characterised by dipoles and ‘background noise’, its course is well marked by an inner, about 20 m wide, somewhat lighter zone of negative magnetisation. An equally wide, darker shaded, positively magnetised zone borders this strip on the outside. Probably, this is a shallow remnant of a moat, dug for the erection of the rampart and subsequently filled with eroded soil material. The lighter zone, interspersed with only a few anomalies, indicates the actual wall body including the ramp that was built on the sterile ancient ground surface71. Along the contact line of the positive-negative anomaly zones runs a series of massively positive point anomalies, some of which are likely to be the backfilled front postholes of phases 2 and 3. In addition, dipoles along the wall sensu stricto (i.e. without the interior earthen ramp or agger) indicate embedded metal objects, such as nails of the murus gallicus beam grid. A cluster of massive point anomalies in the western section of the survey area, which are partly below the rampart and partly in front of it, cannot be conclusively determined. Whether they indicate the north gate of the oppidum must therefore remain open (fig. 4B).

After continuing to the west, the wall is documented at the Nordumgehung72. At this point, at the edge of the “Dürre Au”, a former loop of the Danube, it was “difficult to recognise the two-period nature of the Pfostenschlitzmauer73. Within the river meander, the rampart is neither detected in aerial photography nor in magnetometry and only resumes after a gap of 700 m at the western edge of the “Dürre Au”74 (fig. 1). From here it continues slightly curved in the area of the modern town. After its ‘re-emergence’, the rampart was recorded in an excavation as a supposedly two-phase monument75. This reduced number of phases (cf. the situation in the Nordumgehung) may indicate that both sites represent the opposite ends of the wall which terminated at the respective embankment of the old Danube arm (called the ‘end section’ or Abrissstelle by the Nordumgehung excavators)76. If there had ever been a rampart in the “Dürre Au” between these end points, one should be able to recognise at least feeble traces of the massive post-holes from the rampart front as geomagnetic anomalies77. Despite deep cuts caused by medieval erosion processes, segmentary remains of the wall should still be recognisable in the magnetometry. Their complete absence suggests that no massive fortification ever existed there, at least not as a Pfostenschlitzmauer with its huge post-holes. Perhaps the ‘special area’ around the navigable harbour was separately fortified, e.g. by a palisade along the embankment.

In addition to the excavation campaigns that uncovered the rampart at various points, geomagnetic and geoelectrical prospections as well as ground penetrating radar (GPR) on the southwestern spur of the rampart allow views into and under the rampart body78. GPR reveals the post-holes of the Pfostenschlitzmauer and remains of longitudinal beams of the murus Gallicus. Linear features at the wall’s interior indicate foundation or drainage ditches along the rampart or relics of a palisade, which bordered the settlement area before the construction of the wall.

Circular magnetic anomalies measuring 2.5-3.0 m provide evidence of the post-Celtic use of the rampart. In Roman times the stones of the wall facing were burnt to lime on site. The quantity and regularity of the lime kilns give an idea of the intensity of material exploitation. The linear extensions of the circular anomalies pointing north are charging channels of the Roman kilns.

Extra muros

Outside the Manching rampart, geomagnetic prospection extensively covered the eastern forefield. The oldest complex recorded was an early Iron Age enclosed farmstead or so-called Herrenhof, which had already been identified by partial excavation79 (fig. 2B). The double or triple ditch system is located on a very flat elevation that is visible in the LIDAR digital surface model. A fence-like enclosure separates a special area in the north-western corner with traces of a monumental post dwelling. Other anomalies inside and outside the ditches indicate economic or residential buildings. A line of strong positive anomalies along the eastern side represents a characteristic pyrotechnical phenomenon of early Iron Age Herrenhöfe80. However, it is still unclear whether those structures represent linear pottery kilns, metallurgical furnaces or ovens for food preparation used in communal feasting.

Only a few hundred metres south-east of this Early Iron Age site and 200 m east of the Manching rampart at Manching-Lindach, a rectangular aerial photography cropmark indicates a Late Celtic quadrangular enclosure or Viereckschanze81 (fig. 2C). The narrow ditches form a rectangle of c. 75 x 60 m with no traces of an interruption, rampart or interior buildings. The LiDAR model shows no elevation at all. Unfortunately, the magnetic prospection of the area did not confirm the results of aerial reconnaissance82: presumably, the low number of finds in ditches and features of the enclosure does not produce any detectable anomalies within the measuring range. In addition, the pebbly-sandy soil of the gravel terrace, the high and frequently fluctuating groundwater level and the resulting large-scale iron oxide precipitation and leaching of ferromagnetic bacteria lead to a concealment of archaeological structures83. As in peripheral survey areas within the oppidum, it becomes apparent once again that archaeological structures that are undoubtedly present are considerably disturbed or completely hidden from view by the characteristics of local geology and hydrology. The difficulties and deficits of individual prospection methods thus reveal the importance of combining different analytical methods for the identification and interpretation of archaeological features that are hardly visible above ground.

At a greater distance from the oppidum, another Viereckschanze was successfully detected near Manching-Westenhausen84(fig. 2D). The site is clearly visible in aerial photography and geomagnetics, while gravel extraction destroyed the southern part. The enclosure delineates an incomplete rectangle measuring 80 x 60m, with point anomalies in the centre signalling the location of a monumental dwelling. Other structures are likely to be the remains of secondary buildings, an internal trench and a possible well shaft. The H-shaped internal framework of the central building, surrounded by an external framework of smaller posts, appears regularly in other enclosures. The monumental houses of the La Tène period probably served not only as regular dwellings, but were also the centre of life for the courtyard community as a whole. In analogy to medieval manor houses, the La Tène large-scale buildings may also be assumed to be places of political decision-making. Similar to ‘house societies’ in ethnographic contexts they were places where social ties were negotiated and strengthened85. Identical ground plan designs in Manching and at those quadrangular enclosures indicate similar functions within similar economic and social patterns. Because of the clear similarity to the central buildings of the Viereckschanzen, the large buildings in the urban milieu are interpreted as the residences of a ruling social class. However, this does not mean that their members constantly resided in the urban area and had their centre of life there. Rather, the importance of agriculture and land ownership in all pre-industrial cultures for the establishment of power and wealth suggests that the economic and social centre of life of the elite was still in the rural environment surrounding the centres of crafts and trade86.

As indicated by aerial photography, the Viereckschanze of Manching-Pichl is located directly on the Paar river, c. 1.5 km west of the south-eastern segment of the Manching rampart87. A LT D coin hoard near this site may be associated with local elite residents88. Some 1.5 km southeast of the oppidum, wall and ditch of a Viereckschanze in the “Ried” area are preserved above ground89 (fig. 2A, G). Situated in an area characterised by high groundwater levels, the site is rather poorly suited for arable farming. Geomagnetic survey north of the enclosure has not revealed any prehistoric anthropogenic traces but remnants of numerous silted-up creeks. Thus, the area may have comprised low-structured pastures whose livestock provided subsistence for the neighbouring metropolis. The monumental buildings excavated even further west, in Zuchering, may also have belonged to a Viereckschanz90.

The fortified farmsteads must have been representative seats of power because of their size, the dimension of their fortifications and the monumental buildings. In the Ingolstadt basin 14 enclosures are distributed like satellites in a ring around the urban centre and seem to have combined the functions of a seat of political power and subsistence supply.

Multi-level analytics – urban topography of Manching

The combination of analytical tools enables a well-founded interpretation of the Manching settlement topography in terms of content and structure. Micro-studies on accumulation processes of the stratified cultural layer and associated structures reveal complex occupation processes. They are related to the depositional horizons found in the large excavation areas and the reconstructed sequence of pit complexes there.

The building structures, waste pits, wells and linear features such as roads, ditches and ditch systems in the major excavation areas frequently remained separate phenomena of individual zones. Interpolation and approximate links between linear features only vaguely correlated and connected those separate zones. In this way, for example, a presumed ancient road map throughout the oppidum area was reconstructed91. Large-scale geophysical prospection now make it possible to link the separate excavation areas and to identify trans-zonal settlement structures such as ditch courses, open spaces and roads over much greater distances than in the limited space of the excavations. According to this, the road network was far more complex than had been assumed in the model proposed earlier.

Certainly, the features identified by magnetometry cannot be precisely dated. However, the linkage with linear structures in adjacent excavation areas offers points of reference for this as well. In addition, the functional zones uncovered there, such as the ‘craftsmen’s quarter’ in the Altenfeld, provide structural analogies to similar areas in the geomagnetic image. This works particularly well in the direct continuation of the settlement remains excavated there, but also in comparison with zones of similar features at a distance. This allows the identification of production areas to the north and south of the central settlement area, which underlines the general strong focus on the craft sector.

In addition, areas with other functions become visible. A golden cult tree, probably presented in a shrine in the Nordumgehung, indicates religious places beyond the centre of the settlement. Here, the cult districts in the Zentralfläche and the Südumgehung, and especially the ‘central temple’ in trench 20, are signs of a highly differentiated cult topography92. Geophysics show evidence of another cult district towards the southern periphery, located next to a presumed production quarter.

The construction of the rampart caused major changes in the topography of the terrain, which drained and converted the peripheral belt between the settlement centre and the circular wall into agricultural land. Traces of large trapezoidal enclosures visible in aerial photography indicate use as cattle kraals and grazing areas. Their shape and adjacent trenches accompanying paths correlates with a basic star-shaped or radial pattern in the excavations of peripheral settlement areas. However, the fieldwork also revealed a use of the area immediately behind the wall for crafts and production. Numerous pit houses near the south gate may have produced material for the construction of the murus Gallicus such as iron nails or tools.

The urban topography of the Manching Late Iron Age metropolis closely interacts with logistical supply facilities in the agrarian hinterland. The architecture of the Viereckschanzen buildings corresponds to the urban settlement units. Monumental halls in those square enclosures were residences of wealthy landowners who built temporary representative dependencies in the town, in order to have a direct share in the lucrative and prestigious long-distance trade. As instigators of urban development, these landowning elites were omnipresent in the urban topography: political, religious, and economic control and decision-making illustrate this at the micro-level of house architecture, at the meta-level of ritual spaces, but also at the macro-level of the overall settlement structure. The radial and orthogonal settlement patterns and influences of Mediterranean building forms, and above all the massive wall, acted as collective identity factors on religious and symbolic grounds. As such, the oppidum as a regionally integrative phenomenon was a short-lived intermezzo in prehistoric settlement history. During its complex 200-year urban development, however, it represented a fundamental economic, social and identity factor that extended far beyond the metropolis and its hinterland – presumably into the cities of its Hellenistic contemporaries.


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  1. Krämer & Schubert 1970, 21-23; Nieszery 1992; Wendling 2013, 463-464.
  2. Wendling 2011.
  3. Wendling 2013, 466; Krämer 1985, 32-33; 71-97.
  4. Wendling 2013, 467-468; 2017, 57-59; 2019b, 165-169; 2021, 157-159.
  5. Sievers 2007, 39-40.
  6. Krämer & Schubert 1970, 46-47; Schäfer 2002; Seitz 1938.
  7. Wendling 2013, 470-473; 2022.
  8. Gebhard 1995; Sievers 2002a; 2007, 86-93.
  9. Jacobi 1974; Krämer 1997; Schubert 2001.
  10. Sievers 1999, 15-21; Wendling 2013, 480.
  11. Arauner 2014; Peters 2002; Peters & Sievers 2002.
  12. Sievers 2012.
  13. Sievers 1999, 21-23; 2004; Wendling 2013, 481-482; 2022.
  14. Will 1987.
  15. Geilenbrügge 1992, 106-107; Kappel 1969, 39; 123-126; Sievers 2004, 70.
  16. Ibid. 70; Schwab 2017.
  17. Sievers 2004, 68-69.
  18. Kellner 1990; Ziegaus, forthcoming.
  19. Rieckhoff 2002; Salač 2014; Sievers 2004, 67-70.
  20. Ibid. 70-71; Sievers 2013, 165-167.
  21. Krämer & Schubert 1970, 48-56.
  22. Cf. Fehr & Leicht 2019.
  23. Sievers & Wendling 2014.
  24. Wendling 2008; 2009; 2011.
  25. Irlinger 1994.
  26. Krämer & Schubert 1970, 69-73.
  27. Gebhard 2000.
  28. Cf. Gebhard 1989; 1991.
  29. Wendling 2013, 473-476; 2018.
  30. Wendling 2010a.
  31. Wendling 2018, 163-166.
  32. Sievers 2010a; Winger 2015, 18-19; 46-50.
  33. Wendling 2013, 471-472; 2018, 165-166.
  34. Schönfelder 2015.
  35. Wendling 2018, 165-166.
  36. Wendling 2018, 158; Winger 2015, 14-17; Wendling & Winger 2014, 136.
  37. Brestel 2021; Wendling 2019a.
  38. Gebhard 1995; Sievers 2002a; 2002b; Wendling 2022, 105-108.
  39. Köhler 1992; Sievers 1992.
  40. Leicht & Sievers 2005; Leicht 2013.
  41. Lorenz 2004; Winger 2015; Wendling 2022, 105-108.
  42. Brestel 2017; Fehr & Leicht 2019.
  43. Pers. comm. Christiana Later.
  44. E.g. Jacobi 1974, 262-268; Schäfer 2002; 2013; Sievers 2002a.
  45. Schwab 2017.
  46. Wendling 2018, 160.
  47. Wendling 2009.
  48. Wendling 2019b; 2020; 2021, 168.
  49. Sievers 2007, 132-134.
  50. Ibid. 55-56.
  51. Brestel 2017, 49-51.
  52. Cf. ibid. 51-53.
  53. Schönauer 2007, 46.
  54. Krämer 1985, 91.
  55. Rieckhoff & Fichtl 2011, 64-65; Wieland 1999, 199-201.
  56. Cf. ibid. 201.
  57. Sievers 2012.
  58. Gebhard, forthcoming.
  59. Brestel 2017, 51-53; Fehr & Leicht 2019, 78.
  60. Cf. Brestel 2017, 33-44; 48-53.
  61. E.g. Hutson 1985.
  62. Wendling 2021, 164.
  63. Brestel 2017, 56-57; 61-62; Fehr & Leicht 2019, 78.
  64. Brestel 2017, 220-354; Sievers 2010b.
  65. van Endert 1987.
  66. van Endert 1987, 115-118; Köhler & Maier 1992, 350-352.
  67. Maier 1992, 477; Sievers 2007, 55.
  68. Sievers 1999, 16.
  69. Brestel 2017, 342-354; Sievers 2010b; Wendling 2010b.
  70. van Endert 1987, 32-33.
  71. Seiler & Kopecky-Hermanns 2021, 90.
  72. Köhler & Maier 1992.
  73. Sievers 2010b, 176.
  74. Krämer & Schubert 1970, 27-28; Köhler & Maier 1992, 340.
  75. Seiler & Kopecky-Hermanns 2021.
  76. Köhler & Maier 1992, 340.
  77. Contra Köhler & Maier 1992, 355-356; Schramedei & Brunnacker 1992, 427.
  78. Brestel 2017, 279-281; Wendling 2009, 56-57. 
  79. Wendling 2011; 2013, 464-466.
  80. Raßhofer 2003.
  81. Irlinger 1994, 289 Abb. 2a; 302.
  82. Berghausen 2014, 134-135.
  83. Berghausen 2014, 15-26; Faßbinder 2004, 321-322; Faßbinder & Stanjek 1996.
  84. Irlinger 1994, 289 Abb. 2b; 302; Wendling 2019a, 252.
  85. Bollacher 2009, 95-98; 196; Donat 2006,150-155; cf. Lévi-Strauss 1982, 174-184; Carsten & Hugh-Jones 1995, 7-11.
  86. Fichtl 2021, 62-73; Metzler-Zens & Metzler 2000, 553.
  87. Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege, site-no. D-1-7234-0877. – Eller 2015, Cat.-no. 9237 (VS02).
  88. Kellner 1990, 84-89.
  89. Krämer & Schubert 1970, 44-46.
  90. Schubert 1995.
  91. Sievers 2000/01.
  92. Wendling 2021.
ISBN html : 978-2-35613-528-5
EAN html : 9782356135285
ISBN html : 978-2-35613-528-5
ISBN pdf : 978-2-35613-530-8
ISSN : en cours
22 p.
Code CLIL : 4117
DOI : 10.46608/nemesis1.9782356135285.8
licence CC by SA

Comment citer

Wendling, Holger, “The oppidum of Manching in short-range to remote sensing. Strategies and results of multi-method settlement analysis”, in : Hiriart, Eneko, Krausz, Sophie, Alcantara, Aurélien, Filet, Clara, Goláňová, Petra, Hantrais, Juliette, Mathé, Vivien, éd., Les agglomérations dans le monde celtique et ses marges. Nouvelles approches et perspectives de recherche, Pessac, Ausonius Éditions, collection NEMESIS 1, 2023, 169-192, [en ligne] [consulté le 05/01/2023].

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