This first attempt at a synthesis of Bronze Age chronology and cultural development within the Canton of Jura, Switzerland, is based on a M.A. thesis completed in 1991 at the University of Neuchâtel.

As a first step, a detailed inventory of Bronze Age sites and isolated finds within the study region was compiled. It is based on the examination of old private collections and on the results of recent excavations undertaken in connection with the construction of the N16 motorway. The documented habitation sites, graves and isolated finds come from a total of 28 locations, of which 11 are situated in the Ajoie and 17 in the Vallée de Delémont, the Franches-Montagnes and the Clos du Doubs.

While Final Neolithic remains have been found in the Jura, Early Bronze Age material is so far unknown. The oldest traces of Bronze Age settlement in this region were found in the St. Colombe cave near the village of Undervelier, which was occupied during the Bz B1-B2 phases of the Middle Bronze Age. Bronze objects found in graves (probably barrows) and in isolation document the continued presence of settlements during the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age (Bz C-D). Temporary camp sites dating to this period have been found in caves - such as the three caves of St. Brais - or on hill-tops - such as Mt. Terri; larger and more permanent contemporary settlements have not yet been discovered.

Research connected with the construction of the N16 motorway has certainly increased our knowledge about the Late Bronze Age (Ha A-B) settlement in the region. 14 assemblages - for the most part discovered in the Vallée de Delémont - can be dated to this period. During the earlier part of the Late Bronze Age (Ha A-B1) a number of small hamlets - including Boécourt "Les Montoyes", Glovelier "Les Viviers", Courfaivre "Les Esserts" and, probably, Bassecourt "Champ Huley" and Delémont "En la Pran" - were built on river terraces or on slopes overlooking the flood plain. The last phase of the Late Bronze Age (Ha B2/3) is so far only represented by the hill-top settlement of the Roc de Courroux, here available caves and rock shelters as well as the steep and rocky slopes were occupied. This may indicate that settlements situated on the valley floor were abandoned in favour of more secure hill-top locations. Several caves situated elsewhere in the region have also yielded artefacts dated to the end of the Late Bronze Age. Late Bronze Age cemetaries are, to date, absent, which reflects the general rarity of this type of site on the neighbouring Swiss Plateau.

Stylistic analysis of the pottery found at these Bronze Age sites has shown that, during the Middle Bronze Age and the first phase of the Late Bronze Age, the Vallée de Delémont and the Ajoie were culturally linked to the Alsace and South-western Germany. This connection was apparently maintained along two axes: through the Belfort gap and via the Birs Valley. The organization of decoration in vertical bands, excision and the use of flattish circular protuberances as a decorative element on pottery all point to this northern/northeastern influence. During the following Ha A period, styles and forms characteristic of the Middle Bronze Age gradually evolved, until, at the end of this phase, the Rhine-Switzerland-Eastern France style (RSFO) became dominant. This coincides with the abandonment of the St. Brais caves and the Mont Terri hill-top settlement, which is possibly linked to the abandonment of hill-top settlements in the Alsace region at the end of the Ha A period (Piningre 1987, p.11). A thorough study of the material found during the old excavations of the Roc de Courroux hill-top site would undoubtedly greatly increase our understanding of the Ha Band Ha B-C transition in the region.

The apparent absence of Bronze Age sites in the Franches-Montagnes and the eastern half of the Delémont basin seems to reflect the actual state of research rather than any real discontinuity in protohistoric settlement patterns. Our vision of the Bronze Age in the Ajoie will also undoubtedly improve during the next few years with the planned programme of surveys and excavations linked to the construction of the N16 motorway.

Translation: Robert Fellner