'Little Pompeii'; Roman ruins discovered under site earmarked for French housing estate

'This is undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years'

Kenza Bryan
Thursday 03 August 2017 10:36
Comments
An archaeologist works on the site, where a philosophy school, shops and lavish residences decorated with mosaics have been found
An archaeologist works on the site, where a philosophy school, shops and lavish residences decorated with mosaics have been found

Ruins of an ancient Roman neighbourhood described as a "little Pompeii", have been discovered on a site intended for social housing in southern France.

Called an "exceptional discovery" by the French culture ministry, the 7,000sq m (75,000 sq ft) find in Vienne, a small town to the south of Lyon, includes luxury house and public buildings.

Objects thought to have been abandoned by residents fleeing fires in the first century AD have also been recovered.

Describing the find as a “real little Pompeii in Vienne”, Benjamin Clement, the archaeologist leading the dig said they were "unbelievably lucky" to discover it.

"This is undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years,” he told AFP news agency.

One of the ruins has been dubbed a Bacchanalian House thanks to its floor tilings depicting maenads - female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine - and half-man half-goat satyrs.

The house may have belonged to a wealthy merchant before its first floor, roof and balcony caught in a fire.

A mosaic discovered in another house depicts a half naked Thalia, muse and patron of comedy, being kidnapped by Pan, god of satyrs.

Archaeologists have also identified a possible school of rhetoric or philosophy, which has a statue of Hercules in its fountain.

Situated on the banks of the Rhone river, the city of Vienne was on a route connecting northern Gaul with the southern province of Gallia Narbonensis.

It rose to prominence under Julius Caesar and was thought to have been inhabited for three centuries.

Excavation of the site started in April and archeologists have had their time to conclude the dig, extended to the end of the year by the French state.

A team of 20 archaeologists are at work digging down to older ruins.

Some finds will be restored for exhibition in Vienne’s museum of Gallo-Roman civilisation in 2019.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in