Right up to the mid-seventies, historians were inclined to set too much store by Pliny the Elder's text describing the mistletoe harvest. They supposed that the Gauls had no cult sites other than forests and waters. They further believed that the Gauls conducted sacrifices in the forests and that they did not, unlike the Romans or the Greeks, have the enjoyment of built cult places, that is of sanctuaries. This representation has been altered by the discovery of cult sites dating back to the Iron Age. The examples chosen in this chapter address the period stretching from the 4th to the 1st century BC.
How should Northern and Southern Gaul be construed? In 2003, the journal Gallia dedicated an issue to the “Cults and Sanctuaries in France during the Iron Age”. Introducing it, P. Arcelin and J.-L. Brunaux indicated that the break-down into 5 zones reflected the current trend in French research on the Iron Age. The seventies and eighties saw the first discoveries of major sanctuaries in Northern France, which overturned the vision historians and archaeologists held of the Gauls' religion. Meanwhile, the statues and remains of porticoes discovered in the 19th century in Southern Gaul contributed to a better knowledge of these peoples' diverse religious practices.