Archaeologists race against time to excavate an impressive ancient Roman domus in France

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Last year, we talked about the massive Gallo-Roman villa that was uncovered at Langrolay-sur-Rance, in Brittany, France. Well this time around, archaeologists are witness to yet another fascinating specimen of Roman ‘residential’ architecture in France, in the form of a magnificent 5th century domus (high-end residence). The ruins of the expansive site lie in proximity to the ancient Roman city of Augusta Auscorum (corresponding to the modern town of Auch, southwestern France), which was the capital of the province of Novempopulanie (‘Land of the Nine Tribes’).

Interestingly enough, the remnants of the ancient structure were originally discovered after a private owner of the site began to dig foundations for a new house. In fact, the structural components were found just 50 cm beneath the ground level, and since then have revealed 2 m (almost 7 ft) deep spatial volumes. Encouraged by this incredible scale, Inrap archaeologists have been conducting their excavations at the site since April. And their current working scope is in a race against time, since local law requires the site to be handed over to its private owner by the end of September.

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Coming to the historical side of affairs, the first layer of the ruins actually hark back to 1st century AD, when the structure was probably conceived as a private habitat with earth walls. In the 2nd century, the property was developed further; and by 3rd century, the dwelling was expanded upon and transformed into a full-fledged domus. This domus even took a ‘palatial’ turn with two major restructuring projects, thus ultimately resulting in a large, extensive residence (circa post 330 AD) with its plethora of intricate mosaics. According to Mark Hayes, who wrote in the French news website Connexion –

On top – and therefore on the most recent level – they found large, beautiful, multi-coloured mosaics, due to be removed by mid-July. The mosaics contain numerous geometric and floral motifs; leaves of ivy, laurel and acanthus; friezes with waves, others with egg-shaped patterns, separated by tridents; octagons with five-leafed flowers; squares separated by three-strand braids.

At the edge of the excavation, other mosaics appear from an earlier stage of the house. And, at another even deeper level is a third mosaic embellished with four black tesserae forming a cross.

Technology complemented the scope of art inside the house, in the form of underfloor heating systems, a nifty ancient Roman architectural feature that has been found in other domus specimens around Europe. Known as hypocaust, the core system entailed an ancient variant of underfloor HVAC heating via a proximate furnace, which in turn required substantial numbers of staff to operate.

In spite of the bevy of impressive discoveries, the Inrap researchers still have to assess two more complete levels of the structure, before the plot is returned to its owner. And lastly, just to provide a visual notion of a Roman domus, one can take a gander at the video (made by Lund University) below that reconstructs a 1st century AD high-end villa at Pompeii  –

 
Article Source: Connexion / Images Courtesy of Jean-Louis Bellurget, Inrap

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  • Jo Alex SG

    Utterly precious find! Thank you so much for this, shared, for sure!

  • Les Parks

    I have seen new home sites in Israel that developed their foundation with portions of glass flooring to view the remnants of the ancient site below it. I would love to see something like that for this place.

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