London: The ‘Asterix and Obelix’ comics have done much to mould the popular belief about the Gauls, but the books have got it all wrong, according to a new exhibition at Paris.
‘Les Gaulois’, an exhibition under way at Paris’ Cite des Sciences, claims that the Gauls were not forest dwellers but lived in complex towns and villages, aerial archaeology suggests, clearing woodland to raise cattle, sheep and pigs, and farming cereal.
Unlike Asterix, they had no winged helmets, but were excellent craftsmen, creating intricate bronze birds of prey, brass boars and Gaul coins with stylised faces, as well as ornamental cauldrons.
Dolmens, Obelix’s favourite plaything were nowhere to be seen, as they date from the Neolithic period, nor were roast boar.
“We don’t know where this boar idea came from except perhaps from the popular belief the Gauls lived in forests,” the Telegraph quoted Vincent Charpentier, an archeologist from France’s national institute of preventive archaeology as saying.
There were no gold sickles, which are vital implements in the Asterix comics, as Getafix the Druid needs one to cut mistletoe for the magic potion that keeps the Roman armies at bay, but in truth they were made of polished bronze.
The show’s curators even question the idea that the Gauls were particularly hairy, sporting huge moustaches.
In one room entitled “Adieu myths”, the exhibition also debunks the idea that the cockerel was a Gallic emblem, even if gallus in Latin means “cockerel” and ‘Gaul”.
Despite all their efforts, the curators concede that the exhibition is unlikely to change the Asterix image of Gaul.
“Today Asterix and Obelix overwhelmingly symbolise the Gauls, despite numerous errors that litter the albums. The comic has made hay from preconceived ideas in schoolbooks and has added the image of the Gaul who ‘resists’,” said Matthieu Poux, archaeology professor at Lyons University told Le Figaro.
“Likeable heroes who are fond of a bit of good flesh, who are poorly disciplined but have a sense of being in a group. We have here a kind of synthesis of the positive values of contemporary society and of the imaginary world created by Antiquity,” he added.