The Laténium is Switzerland’s largest archaeology museum. The Laténium aims to explain archaeology to everybody, children, teenagers, adults, experts or novices, aged 4 to 104! The museum itself – thanks to its idyllic location and modern scenography – has been granted the Council of Europe Museum Prize.

The Laténium covers 50,000 years of local history in the heart of Europe, midway between the North Sea and the Mediterranean, from the Middle Ages back to the times of the Neanderthal man.

The name of the museum itself comes from “La Tène” the eponym site of the second Iron Age (La Tène period, from around 450 BC to 50 BC). The La Tène period is characterised by an expansion of the Celtic culture throughout Europe, ranging from Ireland to Turkey. However, the museum also presents artefacts and cultures from other periods such as the Gallo-Roman civilization, the lake-dwellers of both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, or the hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic. In total, 3000 fascinating objects displayed on a surface of 2200 m2, are live witnesses of the everyday life of our ancestors.

The Laténium concept? Knowledge and dreams!

Historical facts


The city of Neuchâtel donated to the State all of its archaeological collections, which were until then stored or displayed in the “Musée d’Art et d’Histoire”. The cantonal archaeological museum took up residence in one of the annex buildings in the park of the Palais du Peyrou, right in the centre of the canton’s capital.

The excavations carried out during the second correction of the Jura waters in the 1960s, as well as the following construction of the A5 Highway resulted in the discovery of hundreds of thousands of archaeological objects. Therefore, the antiquated and rather poky rooms of the archaeological museum did not provide the adequate setting for these exciting findings.

26 June 1979

Intervention in the parliament of Neuchâtel to create a new archaeological museum (motion Remy Scheurer and Pierre Duckert).


October 1986

Initiation of an international architectural competition by State Counselor André Brandt, which was supervised by Philippe Donner: 47 projects were handed in. The winner was an architectural office from Geneva composed of 5 young architects.

24 October 1995

The Cantonal parliament accepted a loan of 26.6 million francs for the construction of a new cantonal archaeological museum in Hauterive.

6 June 1996

The citizens of Neuchâtel accepted, in a referendum with 66.2% votes for, the creation of a new museum of archaeology.

1 October 1998

Start of the construction works at the location of the archaeological site of Champréveyres, on the boundary between the municipalities of Hauterive and Neuchâtel.

7 September 2001

Official inauguration of the Museum in the presence of the Federal Councillor Ruth Dreifuss.


Four major personalities sponsor the Laténium:

Yves Coppens, palaeontologist, professor at the Collège de France in Paris, expert on the origins of man and co-discoverer of the Australopithecus « Lucy ».

Claude Nicollier, NASA astronaut (Houston, Texas), participant in several space missions on board the Columbia space shuttle.

Jacques Piccard, oceanographer, son of Auguste and father of Bertrand, world record holder of deep-sea diving on board of a bathyscaph.

René Felber, former President of the Swiss Confederation and former Member of the Council of States of the Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel, first president of the La Tène Foundation.

Over half a million people have already visited the Laténium, which has – since its establishment – been awarded several prestigious awards, most notably, the Council of Europe Museum Prize in 2003. In 2011, the Laténium also hosted an official reception following the registration of the prehistoric lake-dwelling sites of the Alpine region (Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland) into the UNESCO World Heritage. Additionally, the Laténium created an international museum network focusing on the Celtic culture. To this date, the network comprises the Laténium’s partner institutions of Bibracte in France and Manching in South-West Germany, as well as newer partners such as Ullastret in Spain, or Lattes in Southern France.


The building

Project Owner :

Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel.

Design :

Laurent Chenu, Bruce Dunning, Pierre Jéquier, Pieter Versteegh (a consortium of architects based in Geneva).

Work supervision :

Laurent Chenu and Philippe Vasserot

The building hosts the museum, the cantonal archaeological service and a university institute. This dynamic association of three complementary entities gathered under the same roof facilitates close collaboration among archaeologists, technicians, university researchers, and museographers and it also promotes the public display of archaeology.

The building, made entirely out of concrete, is covered with untreated wood (Douglas-fir). The mixed heating system (wood shavings and oil heating) is particularly economic: as the first museum ever to receive this distinction, the Laténium was awarded the “Prix Minergie” in 2004.

Some figures

Length of the building :

117 m.

Building floor area :

6.600 m2 (2467 m2 for the expositions and 553 m2 of storage room for the collections).

Park area :

2,5 ha.

Total cost of the construction :

31 million Swiss francs.

The Swiss Confederation contributed 5.4 million Swiss Franks for the setup of the park, for the protection of cultural goods and to host the University of Neuchâtel Institute of Archaeology. In addition, 4.5 million from private donators to the La Tène Foundation have been invested into the scenography of the permanent exhibition.

Art intervention


The inauguration of the Laténium was coupled to an art intervention contest, which was won by Yves Tauvel & Charles-François Duplain. Their winning work of art was called “Artefact” and consisted of 75,000 numbered bronze pebbles, similar to the limestone pieces that can be found on the gravel road in front of the museum. From 2001 to 2011, these “Artefacts” have been regularly spread throughout the Laténium park, in small quantities, thus inviting visitors to experience the thrill of an archaeological search and discovery.

Artefact 2

In 2011, the experience was brought to an end with a second art intervention: “Artefact 2”, resembling a metal detector hidden in the sediment. This artistic creation, shaped like a wheel, was simultaneously installed at the sites of both Bibracte and Manching: in all three locations, the radii point exactly towards the locations of other two archaeological institutions, thus celebrating the three newly partnered institutions in Hauterive, Bibracte and Manching, on the 10th birthday of the Laténium.

The collections

Regional archaeology

While the permanent exhibition at the Laténium already presents more than 3000 objects, its reserve collection stores another half a million of them, still in the course of being inventoried and studied. The main series of these objects can be seen in a « visitable » part of the reserve collection, where thousands are being stored on shelves, protected by a glass cover. Researchers and students can visit them. This reserve collection in development, is regularly made accessible to the public, in particular at open days or other special events held at the Laténium.

Collections from abroad

The Laténium hosts old collections, gathered from excavations abroad and put together mainly during the19th century, or donated by famous Neuchâtel residents. Among these collections are the Clément (Greece, Italy), Schneider (Palestine), Clerc (Russia), Berthoud (Italy) and Russ-Suchard (Tunisia) collections, and an impressive number of other objects that were donated over the years. Among these collections, the one from Colonel du Bosset is of high historical interest. As governor of the island of Cephalonia, this Neuchâtel resident donated the product of his many explorations and extensive travelling to the Museum of Archaeology – most prominently the oldest known collection of Mycenaean objects, gathered more than 50 years before the famous excavations of Heinrich Schliemann in Troy.

The Laboratory


The Laténium hosts one of the most highly specialised laboratories worldwide to allow a comprehensive analysis of the objects of our archaeological heritage. This laboratory consists of four work units, fitted with modern, high-performance equipment for the treatment of organic material, metals, ceramics, stone and glass. All of its staff members participate regularly in international scientific congresses and meetings, where they exchange their experiences on novel chemical and physical processes or conservation methods.


The main task at the laboratory is to apply preserving methods and processes of preventive conservation. As soon as the objects are discovered – typically through archaeological excavation – their long-term stability is of prime importance. For this purpose, the restoring crew has to make sure that conditions such as temperature and humidity in the museum are well controlled. This is crucial for both the preservation and the exhibition rooms. Sporadically, the work of the restoring crewmembers consists in restoring damaged objects and creating facsimiles and reconstructions of particularly fragile artefacts for museographic or didactic purposes.

Scientific projects

The laboratory at the Laténium is closely linked to a variety of scientific projects focused on basic research in conservation and restoration as well as applied research geared towards developing marketable products. This research is carried out in the framework of collaborations with the scientific laboratories of partner universities, universities of applied sciences and other partners in the domain of museography.

In this regard, the Laténium maintains a privileged relation to the University of Applied Sciences in Neuchâtel in the field of conservation-restoration training.

According to the specific needs of the museum collaborators, the laboratory also performs, in its fields of specialization, conservation and restoration work for third parties on a case-to-case basis.

According to the specific needs of the museum collaborators, the laboratory performs, in its fields of specialization, also restoration work for third parties on a case-to-case basis.

Partner institutions

In 2011, the Laténium initiated a partnership with archaeological museums with a common vision of the Celtic civilization. This European network brings together modern institutions that are heavily involved in scientific research and which promote majors sites from the period of La Tène.


At Bibracte, the Museum for Celtic Civilisation and the associated European Center of Research publicly display their discoveries, unearthed during international excavation campaigns organised on the site of the “Oppidum des Eduens”. Vercingetorix was proclaimed leader of the Gaul coalition there and Julius Cesar finished writing The Gallic War at this site.


Connected to the “Archäologische Staatssammlung von München”, the “Kelten-Römer-Museum” at Manching presents more than a century of discoveries at the Oppidum of Manching. The latter is one of the biggest Celtic agglomerations of the continent – and assuredly the best scientifically documented one.


Connected to the Archeological Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, the Museum of Puig Sant Andreu shows the main findings of Ullastret, the largest Celtic site of Iberia. It also illustrates the connections and contacts of the Indiketes people with the rest of the Celtic world, under the influence of Greek and Punic cultures.


In the modern agglomeration of Montpellier, the Museum of Lattara show this old Gaul harbour, which has been excavated in an exemplary manner within a framework of ambitious scientific partnerships. It shows the different long-term interactions between the local Celtic populations and the Etruscans, Greeks, Iberians, and Romans.



A living museum needs support from those to whom it speaks. As a public institution belonging to the Canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, the Laténium needs – for its various activities – the continuous support of sponsors and of private donors. This support is very precious to us – whether moral or monetary! In this respect, you are more than welcome to make a donation to the La Tène Foundation at any time! This foundation supports the development of the Laténium.

If you wish to be granted free admission to the museum for life, then you have the possibility to buy a “Laténium” gold or silver medal.

Finally, you can also become a member of ArchéoNE, the Association des Amis du Laténium. ArchéoNE currently counts more than 700 members, who are regularly invited to conferences, excursions, guided tours of our exhibitions, temporary exhibition openings and other events.

La Tène Foundation

The La Tène Foundation was established on 19 May 1954. It is an organization under private law, attached to both the Republic and the Canton of Neuchâtel.  The Cantonal State Council elects the president and the members of the Foundation Council.

The present goals of this foundation are promotion and support of the development and activities of the Laténium, particularly in the form a participation, within the limits of its possibilities, to the operating cost of the museum. In general, it aims to encourage the diffusion of archaeological knowledge within the canton of Neuchâtel and its surroundings.


ArchéoNE is the Association des Amis du Laténium et de l’Archéologie Neuchateloise which brings together – around a multi-disciplinary archaeological platform – lovers of sciences of the past, scientists and friends of the Laténium. From the origins of humankind to the modern era, ArchéoNE invites its members to embark on a journey through time to better understand the our human trajectory!

Through its activities, this association tries to develop the public interest for archaeology in general, and for archaeology in Neuchâtel in particular. The association also supports the Laténium, participates in its visibility, and promotes the rich archaeological heritage of Neuchâtel by contributing to its preservation and promotion.

Come join us and…

– participate in our cycle of 10 yearly conferences given by renowned speakers on fascinating topics in connection with our local region as well as with Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Oceania.

– gain free access to the Laténium and its exhibitions.

– follow guided tours and participate in archaeological fieldtrips with specialists.

– get the latest news from the Laténium and receive personal invitations to the opening of our temporary exhibitions.

– take part in animating events at the Laténium.

– benefit from special prices for publications in the “Archéologie neuchâteloise” series.

As a welcome gift, new members are given an exhibition poster!




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