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What was it like around Lake Leman in the past?

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Cultural Periods In the years...  
and events in other parts of the world
Humans in Europe and Asia
700,000 Homo erectus living in Europe
    500,000 Humans domesticate fire
Early Paleolithic
Eémien Interglacial period
Middle Paleolithic

70,000 Neanderthal Man living on the shores of Lake Leman
60,000 In the Middle Würm Glacial period, Neanderthal man (Mousterian culture) use caves and shelters during the warmer periods: -55,000 (Dürnten), -40,000 (Hengelo) and -30,000 (Denekamp). Mousterian remains have been found at Rochers de Naye (VD)
  21,000 Weather cools (average temperature was at least 10°C lower than today's). The glaciers advance and form immense rivers of ice in the Alps. The Rhone Glacier extends to Lyon; ice is 1000 meters thick at Lausanne. People, animals and plants migrate to warmer areas of Europe.
Humans in the Americas
Rock art in Australia and Southern Africa
  18,000 Retreat of the Rhone, Arve and Jura Glaciers. Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) forms (but is larger than it is today), forests develop The Rhone Glacier still covers the floor of its valley.

The Tardiglacial period
c. 17,000 to 9700

Art in the Chauvet Cave (France)


Mammoths living around Founex

  13,000 Hunters using a cave near Villeneuve (Vaud), le Scé du Châtelard. The site was found in 1868.

Late Paleolithic


Magdalenian people (Homo sapiens Sapiens) hunting and fishing, sheltering in caves, and living in temporary hunting camps. A Magdalenian campsite at Veyrier (at the foot of the Salève, discovered in 1833). Blades and tools found at the site suggest that the people who camped here (between 13,000 and 12,700 BC) hunted throughout the Arve alluvial plain, and that there would have been other such sites around the lakes in the region. Veyrier is located between the the Rhone Valley in France, and the Swiss Plateau, both areas where there are many such camp sites.

The Post-Glacial period begins
9700 BC until today
Early Mesolithic
9000 Rock shelters and caves sporadically occupied by hunters above Lausanne , at Mont-la-Ville, col du Mollendruz.
Farming at Jerico (Israel)
Middle Mesolithic



L'abri de Châble-Croix (about 12 km from Lake Leman) sporadically occupied used as a hunting and fishing camp. Discovered in 1963, the site shows evidence of contact and trade along the whole of the Rhone valley (3 Mediterranean shells were found in the Middle Mesolithic layer).
Late Mesolithic
Early Neolithic
Smelting and casting of metal begins (Caucasus Mountains)
4500 Chassey-Lagozza culture comes from the area of the Midi in France, and the Cortaillod culture from the area of Lake Neuchatel. Peoples hunting, fishing, farming, using stone tools, making ceramics, and living in villages. Domestication of plants and animals marks the beginning of a new way of life
  Construction begins at Stonehenge (UK)    
  Middle Neolithic   Cortaillod culture dominates
  Writing in Mesopotamia (Iraq 3200 (Click here to see photos of the reconstruction of a village)

The first cities evolve along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (Iraq)




Pyramids (Egypt)

Late Neolithic

2700 Saone-Rhône and the Condée cultures: Advanced agricultural life: growing grains, peas, lentils, linen, raising pigs, cows, sheep, goats, and keeping domestic dogs. Importation of raw materials (i.e., silex from Grand Pressigny in Touraine).
Campaniforme Culture
2300 First appearance of copper working and mining. Occupation of lake dwellings interrupted between 2450 and 1800.

Indus civilization: Mohenjodaro and Harappa (Pakistan)

Early Bronze Age

2150 a new Rhone culture. Complex economic patterns develop among different peoples. Villages are built in the flatter parts of the country, around lakes. Structured societies develop. People begin to make jewelry and tools out of metal
Middle Bronze Age

Tumuli culture: people bury their dead under a mound of earth, appear. The climate cools. The lake-dwellings disappear;people may have moved to the mountains in the Valais and Grisons

The remains of a fortified settlement have been found on the St. Cergue-La Cure road, in the Jura.

Late Bronze Age
  a mixing of cultures from the north and the south; warming of the climate; using the scythe and wheel. First domestication of horses
(click here for a reconstitution of Geneva in 1000 BC)
      Early Urnfield culture: A people who cremated their dead, made copper weapons
      Middle Urnfield culture:expert metal workers, farmers and fishermen
      Late Urnfield culture: there were at least 30 villages around Lake Leman
    800 Cooling of the climate; the level of the Lake rises :"Lake Dwellers" move inland
  The First Olympic Games (Greece) 776  
Rome is founded




Romans invent the safety pin (fibula). (The idea is lost after the Roman Empire ends, and it is to used again until the 19th century.)

1st Iron Age

The Celtic World

  Hallstatt Culture Trade routes extended down the Rhine and Danube rivers, with connections to the Rhone River, and access to the Greek trading port at Marseilles. ; Many of our place names for mountains, lakes and rivers date from this period For example, Genua (today's Geneva) "at the mouth of the water"
450 Gauls and Allobrogues settle on St. Peter's Hill in Geneva

2nd Iron Age

Concrete is first used by the Romans

The Terra Cotta Army buried (China)

Rosetta Stone carved (Egypt

Beginning of the use of the wheel to make pottery in this part of the Celtic World






La Tène Culture The population was associated in tribes: the Helvetes live in the north, the Allobroges around Geneva and in the Savoy, the Nantuates in the Chablais, and the Veragres in the Valais. Craftsmen and traders, People spoke Indo-European languages, lived in defended towns on high places, and had a complex culture which blended influences from the Halstadt tribes in the east with the Greek and Etrurian influences from the south.

Click here to investigate the La Tène culture with a class from ISG.

The Allobrogues submit to Julius Caesar; cultural adaptation of the Celtic peoples to the Roman way of life. Roman Provincia Narbonnensis is created, which includes the Allobroges' territory. Geneva, as the extremum oppidum Allobrogum, is also included.


The Gallo-Roman World

58 Battle of Bibracte; Caesar sends the Helvetes back to their land. A rich period of development, exchange and movement of ideas, people and merchandise begins.
  Caesar assassinated; the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire 44 Founding of Colonia Julia Equestris; the area is also called by the Celtic name Noviodunum, perhaps because Geneva (Genua), was an older Celtic town. The Colony was part of the Gaul-Belgic Province of the Empire. It's territory extended from the lake to the Jura, and the Aubonne to the Fort l'Ecluse, occupied at the time by Helvetes .
    27 The first basilica of the forum is built in Noviodunum
the Pont du Gard is built


    14 Construction of the area sacra of the Noviodunum forum
Reign of Tiberius (14-37)
37 Rebuilding and enlarging of the forum in Noviodunum
Reign of Caligula (37-41))
  Wall paintings in the villa in Commugny are created.
Reign of Claudius (41-54)
Reigns of Galba, Othon and Vitellius(68-69)

In Noviodunum, a new basilica built, the area publica is extended, and the area sacra is enlarged, the covered market is added and baths are remodeled

Uprising of the Helvetes


Vespasian order the building of the Coliseum in Rome

Pompeii destroyed in Vesuvius eruption



Completion of the second basilica of the Noviodunum forum

Reign of the Flavians: Vespatien, Titus and Domitien(69-96)

Reign of the Antonians: Trajan, Hadrien, Anthony the Pius, Marcus Arelius, Commode (98-192)

85 The Empire is redistricted, Colonia Julia Equestris becomes part of the Lower German Province
100 The arena is built in Noviodunum
Rome de-militarizes the Swiss Plateau region.
Hadrian orders the building of a wall to protect Britania from the northern tribes.
Reign of the Severians: Septimus Severe, Caracalla, Macrin, Elagabale, Severus Alexandrus (193-235)


Diocletian redistricts the Empire, Colonia Julia Equestris becomes part of Maxima Sequanorum

By edict of Caracalla, all free men in the Empire become Roman citizens 260

Peoples from the North and East begin to disturb the Pax Romana. The Alamans raid the area; Rural populations begin to migrate to fortified towns; Nyon's forum and public buildings are slowly dismanteled and re-used in other buildings and other towns..

Geneva becomes a city, Noviodunum begins to loose its importance as an administrative center, but people continue to live in the area. The town itself becomes much smaller.

Traditional date of the slaughter of theTheban Regiment in the Valais
In 313 Emperor Constantin, the first Christian Emperor, ensures religious freedom in the Edict of Milan



350 A church and a baptistery are built in Geneva, on the site now occupied by the Cathedral St. Pierre
Emperor Theodose prohibits pagan cults:Christianity becomes the state religion in the Roman empire
The Early Middle Ages
423 click here to read about metalurgy in the early Medieval period in Switzerland
Roman empire split into East and West
443 The Burgundii (a tribe from Savoy) are sent by the Emperor Aetius from the Rhineland area to live in the Sapaudia (i.e., the Suisse Romande and Savoy area); specifically Nyon, Avenches, and Geneva, to protect the roads over the Alps and the Jura from the Alamans.
Death of Aetius; the end of Roman domination in Gaul
454 Geneva is briefly the capital of the First Kingdom of Burgundy.
The Franks, under Clovis I, overthrow the Romans, accept Roman Cahtolicism; the end of the Western Roman empire


Geneva is burned during the wars between the Francs and Burgundians
515 Transformation of the church in St. Maurice into an Abbey by Burgundian Prince Sigismond. The "fiscus of Commugny" is given to the Abbey. The gift included all the buildings, houses, free men, serfs, water, tithes, etc. and supplies it with grain and wine.
      Churches are built in Nyon. It is probably in this period that the first church is built in the ruins of the villa in Commugny.
Burgundy absorbed by the Francs
    561 Geneva and Nyon becomes part of the Frankish Merovingian Kingdom of Burgundy.
    563 The shores of Lake Leman are innondated by a tidal wave, caused by a landslide.
585 Bishop Heliodore establishes his residence in Sion

Carolingian Empire (of the Franks)

At the breakup of the Carolingian Empire, Rudolph I creates a new Kingdom of Transjurane Burgundy.





Nyon belongs to Lotharingy, after the Division of Verdun breaks up Charlemagne's empire.


The Burgundian Kingdoms are united in the Second Kingdom of Burgundy
900 The area is divided into three counties: the Count of Geneva, the Count of Equestres and the Count of Vaud rule the land. Commugny forms an island in the lands of the Count of Geneva.
The Middle Ages
1018 A document of Rodolphe III of Burgundy mentions the return of different possessions held by the Abbey of St. Maurice, including the "fiscus of Commugny"
  Burgundian War of Succession. Burgundy joins the Holy Roman Empire. 1032

Rodolphe III, King of Burgundy, gives Nyon to the Archbishop of Besançon, who attaches it to the lords of Prangins.

Hugues, son of Rodolphe III gives the "Terre de Crans" to the Chapter (of the Cathedral) of Lausanne, which keeps it for several centuries.


    1045 The Count of Geneva becomes a vassal of of the Holy Roman Empire
    1098 The Cistercien Convent of Bonmont is founded by Robert de Molesne
    1125 Humbert, Bishop of Geneva, gives the land around Founex to the Abbey of Bonmont
    1131 Bonmont joins with the Clairvaux community in Cluny
1257 The Abbey of St. Maurice gives Commugny lands to Pierre de Savoy, Lord of Coppet, in exchange for and annual rent of 25 (St. Maurician) pounds.
1293 Nyon is taken by Amédeus V of Savoy, who gives the town to his brother Louis I of Savoy, Count of Vaud.
1427 Manfred de Saluces, Marshall of Savoy, owns the "Mandement of Coppet" , formerly known as the "Terre de Commugny", and that besides Coppet and Commugny it includes Founex, Chataigneriaz, Marnes, Tannay and Mies.
Battle of Morat
The Renaissance
Martin Luther publishes his Thesis in Wittenberg
1536 The Bernese, in the course of helping the Genevans against the Duke of Savoy, occupy Vaud territories; the Abbey of Bonmont is secularized, many of the buildings are torn down. Those remaining are used as store houses, bakeries, etc.


Click here to go to a time line for La Châtaigneraie.
Click here to go to the La Tène page.

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Nyon today
past Nyon
Roman Museum
the Rhone River
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this page was modified on 25 September, 2004 by K. Epps

Unless otherwise mentioned, all photos are by Katharine Epps.
Sauf mention contraire les photos sont de Katharine Epps