Situated within the Jura mountain range at an altitude of 450 m, the site of Develier-Courtételle (Canton Jura, Switzerland) lies on the banks of the brook "La Pran", in a lateral valley of the Delémont basin. In 1987, a campaign of archaeological test trenching launched by the construction of the A16 motorway led to the discovery of this early medieval rural settlement. The Section d'archéologie of the Office de la Culture undertook, between 1993 and 1996, the excavation of 3,5 ha of this site (chap. 1). The results of this research will be published in five volumes (CAJ 13 to 17); this first volume presents the features and construction materials. The overwhelming majority of features discovered on the site are attached to an early medieval stratigraphic context. The uninterrupted activity of the brook led to a differential conservation of the merovingian horizon: while it was completely eroded in some places, it exhibited elsewhere several distinct sedimentary phases (chap. 2). Excavation methods and various specialised analytical approaches are described in chapter 3. The micromorphological analyses, particularly useful for determining feature construction and use, are discussed in detail in chapter 19.

The features form several spatial clusters, which have been identified either as farmsteads or activity areas (chap. 4). Separated from each other by boundary ditches or by expanses of empty space, the six identified farmsteads and four activity areas are strung along the banks of the brook. Each of these units is described in detail (chap. 5 to 14).

Every farmstead consists of at least one house, associated with several subsidiary buildings, such as small four-post constructions and/or sunken-featured buildings. Ovens, hearths, pits, stone settings and rubbish dumps are found within and around these buildings. The composition and occupation span of the farmsteads vary considerably.

The four activity areas are located outside the farmsteads. Two - areas 1 and 4 - are primarily associated with iron working. The function of the remaining two is less clear.

The fourteen main buildings, ten medium-sized subsidiary buildings, forty small subsidiary buildings and sixteen sunken-featured buildings were found within the farmsteads, with four exceptions. The plans of the main buildings and medium-sized subsidiary buildings, which were either open or divided length-wise by a single line of roof-bearing posts, are generally materialised by postholes. However, the use of foundation trenches and drystone foundations could be documented as well.

The four ovens and twenty-four hearths were also found, with one exception, within the farmsteads, the latter sometimes even directly within the houses. The majority of these features seem to have been reserved for domestic use. The dozen smithing hearths and four forge areas indicate the important role of iron refining and smithing within the settlement. Most of these features are found within the two activity areas that are clearly associated with iron working. Two isolated graves and a well are among the more singular features.

Two groups of features linked specifically to the watercourse could be observed on the periphery of the site: several rows of stakes, connected by woven branches, were used to stabilise the banks of the brook next to the farmsteads 1 and 2, and a series of three artificial basins, situated to the north of activity area 4, were probably used to soak construction timber. A textile production area on the southern edge of the farmsteads 1 and 2, to which it is linked by a stone-paved access, depended apparently also on the use of water and lies directly adjacent to the brook.

The presence of wetland patches next to the streambed has made the conservation of wooden artefacts possible. A detailed analysis of the preserved wooden architectural elements and construction waste leads to a clear understanding of the woodworking technology used by the inhabitants of the settlement (chap. 15).

Gallo-roman tiles and bricks, which were salvaged and recycled during the early medieval period, were used in the construction of hearths and ovens (chap. 16). A relatively small number of burnt clay daub fragments was also found.

The comparative analysis opposing the characteristics of the buildings and features observed at Develier-Courtételle to known contemporary finds has revealed clear parallels between this settlement and many sites in Switzerland, France and Germany (chap. 17). A chronological evolution of the local architectural style could be reconstructed with the help of numerous C14 dates. The rather small houses with one row of internal roof-supporting posts of the 6th century are replaced by squat buildings with an open floor-plan during the 7th century, which are in turn supplanted by longer houses with one row of roof-supporting posts towards the end of the 7th century. The reconstruction of a series of buildings is attempted, based to a large extent on the observed remains. A detailed analysis of contemporary sources touching on rural architecture (chap. 18) further strengthens this approach.

Translation: Robert Fellner