The Murus Gallicus of Basel
22 June 2021
More than 2000 years ago, the Celts (tribe of Rauraci) built the first city fortification of Basel, the Murus Gallicus.
Around 80 B.C., the Celtic population sought shelter behind fortified buildings, probably because Germanic tribes appeared.
Along the Rhine, fortified centres were built at strategic points, such as on the Münsterhügel.
The settlement was surrounded by a rampart. Trade, crafts and rule were concentrated within this rampart.
The settlement, with an area of 55,000 square metres, was small by the standards of the time. Protection was more important than direct access to water and traffic routes.
A Murus Gallicus, a Celtic rampart, consisted of an earthen wall, reinforced on the inside by a framework of wooden beams. A dry stone wall rose up in front.
The Murus Gallicus of Basel was about 6 m high and 12 m thick, the moat in front of it at a distance of 6 m was 30 m wide and 8 m deep.
The inhabitants crossed the moat over a wooden bridge at the location of today’s Rittergasse.
With the conquest of Gaul (52 B.C.) by Julius Caesar, the defeat of the Celts, including the Rauraci, in 58 B.C. at Bibracte (near Autun, France) and the foundation of Augusta Raurica (Augst) in 44 B.C., the Münsterhügel came under Roman control. Celtic nobles ruled in the name of Rome.
However, the Celtic wall was already demolished in Roman times. In the course of the last 2 000 years, the inhabitants dumped two-metre-thick layers of building rubble and other waste on the ruins.
The moat, however, remained open until the Middle Ages, when it was also filled with rubble and partially overbuilt.
The site is now an archaeological park. The windows in the ground show the conserved remains of the Celtic wall.
Further information and exhibitions can be found in the Historical Museum on Barfüsserplatz, in the Museum of Antiquities and the Ludwig Collection (Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig), St. Alban Graben 5 and in Hotel Teufelhof, Leonardsgraben 47.
(Source and further information: www.archeobasel.ch).