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  • La Nécropole Mérovingienne de Cutry (Meurthe-et-Moselle) by René Legoux, and: La Nécropole Mérovingienne de Bulles (Oise). vol. 1, Synthèse; vol 2, Catalogue des sépultures by René Legoux
  • Bailey K. Young
La Nécropole Mérovingienne de Cutry (Meurthe-et-Moselle)René Legoux Mémoires publiés par l’Association française d’archéologie mérovingienne 14. Musée d’Archéologie nationale, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 2005. Pp. 543+ 182figures + 201 plates. IBSN: 2–9505585–8-X
La Nécropole Mérovingienne de Bulles (Oise). vol. 1, Synthèse; vol 2, Catalogue des sépulturesRené Legoux Mémoires publiés par l’Association française d’archéologie mérovingienne 24. Musée d’Archéologie nationale, Saint-Germainen-Laye, 2011. Pp. 428/496 + 215 figures + 436 plates. IBSN: 978-2-9524032-9-5.

To give some perspective these two site monographs by René Legoux, published by the Association française d’Archéologie mérovingienne (AFAM), allow me to recall my very first published book review, in Antiquity (1974), of Le cimetière de Lavoye by René Joffroy, at that time director of France’s national archaeology museum (MAN). I began by citing Joffroy’s insistence on the “scandalous gap . . . between the abundance of Merovingian cemeteries dug up one way or another and the poverty of usable monographs.” Lavoye was the case in point. Its 362 graves had been consistently excavated between 1905 and 1913 by a country doctor whose methods were above average for the time: he kept a record of each grave, noting such details as grave depth and the sex of the skeleton—he was a physician, after all. Not only did Dr. Meunier keep the grave assemblages together; he even noted the graves without any artifacts. Then came the 1914–18 war. Although Lavoye became known to the scholarly world in 1935 through an article that Meunier’s archaeologist son-in-law devoted to its most spectacular grave, the site monograph appeared only in 1974. That the cemetery as a whole was published at all was a happy exception to the general rule, resulting from the circumstance that MAN had acquired Meunier’s largely intact collection (including the written documentation, not all intact) and that Joffroy was the first Merovingian specialist to direct it. Despite its shortcomings (absence of in situ photographs or tomb drawings; body position and grave dimensions not noted; some fifty grave assemblages noted in the journal not illustrated; absence of scale for the ones that are) Joffroy’s publication might herald—so I hoped in my conclusion—a rebirth of Merovingian funerary archaeology based on new, consistent, and methodologically rigorous excavations.

René Legoux has figured prominently among those who have fulfilled that hope. Trained as an engineer and employed at the École Centrale in Nantes, he has since 1964 also pursued a parallel career as an “amateur archaeologist.” He began by helping his uncle Yves Legoux (like Dr. Meunier, a country physician) excavate on weekends the Merovingian cemetery of Saine-Fontaine at Bulles, in the Oise valley northeast of Paris. By the time I met them at the 1973 Paris colloquium that led to the creation of the AFAM (Legoux is a charter member), the nephew had assumed the senior role, [End Page 410] directing the excavations that continued on a yearly basis through 1984. Then from 1987 to 1991 Legoux accepted the invitation of the archaeological authorities in the Lorraine region to complete the excavation of the site of Cutry, located near the Luxembourg frontier, which had begun in 1973. At the same time he put his information technology skills to work on the problems of dating grave assemblages, collaborating notably with Patrick Périn in the development of what is now the standard reference system for the chronology of Merovingian artifacts between the Loire and the Rhine.

Cutry is of particular interest for the light it sheds on a much-discussed question: the relationship of Merovingian to earlier Gallo-Roman occupation. Before Legoux took over, the earlier excavator had largely completed the excavation of about eight hundred cremations, located along the road leading west from the settlement...