Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an Iron Age settlement in the southern French city of Thuir, in which they found Etruscan, Attic and other imported ceramics, as well as Greek coins.

This suggests that the locals were part of the Mediterranean trading network. In addition, the researchers discovered the ruins of a Roman villa with baths, of which three rooms have been preserved, and a large underground wine storage.

A report on the finds is published on the website of the National Institute for Archaeological Conservation Research (Inrap).

Tuir is located in the department of the Pyrenees-Orientales, 13 kilometers southwest of the city of Perpignan. The oldest archaeological sites in this area date back to the Neolithic, and in the 1st millennium BC, during the Iron Age, it was inhabited by the Sordons, or Sardoni, a presumably Iberian or Iberized people.

From about 600 BC, the fortified settlement of Ruscino became the center of their settlement, the remains of which are now located in the eastern part of Perpignan.

At the end of the 2nd century BC, the region became part of the Roman province of Transalpine (in the era of the empire – Narbonne) Gaul, and in the 1st century BC, the city of Ruscino received the status of a colony of Roman law. Later, he gave his name to the castle that arose here in the Middle Ages and the entire historical region – Roussillon.

Already in the first half of the 1st millennium BC, the population of the coastal regions of Roussillon joined the network of Mediterranean trade and exchange contacts. Findings of Etruscan and Greek ceramics testify to this.

The main supplier of imported items for local communities was Massalia, a colony of Phocaean Greeks, who were primarily interested in the sources of metals in the Western Mediterranean. A large number of fragments of imported ceramics were found during the excavations of the settlement of Ruscino.

Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France 2
                                 Aerial view of the excavation area in the commune of Thuir

Further confirmation of active trade contacts in the Iron Age and prosperity in the Roman era was discovered nearby, during excavations within the commune of Tuir.

In the 2021 season, in connection with the upcoming construction of a residential complex, archaeologists from the Inrap Institute Cédric da Costa (Cédric da Costa) and his colleagues explored a vast area of ​​​​two hectares, consisting of several sectors.

Almost half of it – about nine thousand square meters – was occupied by the remains of an Iron Age settlement. Here, archaeologists found traces of residential buildings with hearths and food storage, stone millstones and a whorl, a fragment of an iron mold. Depressions from pillars were also found that supported a building of unknown purpose, semicircular in plan.

Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France 3

Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France 4

                                  Examples of locally made gray Roussillon pottery found in Thuir

However, most of the artifacts are ceramic shards and even whole vessels. In addition to local (the so-called gray Roussillon) pottery, the researchers found fragments of imported pottery – Massaliote, Iberian, Etruscan and Attic black-figure.

These finds made it possible to date the settlement to the 6th-5th centuries BC. Two Greek coins found within the settlement date back to the same time.

Together with imported ceramics, they speak of trade contacts of the settlement in Tuir, but scientists believe that the flow of goods and money here came mainly due to ties with Ruscino. The local community could supply its agricultural products to this city.

Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France 5

                                        Attic black-figure olpa-type vessel, 540–530 BC, found at Tüir

Archaeologists have unearthed in Tuir the remains of later buildings – a large Roman villa and related agricultural buildings. It dates back to the 1st-4th centuries AD. The total area occupied by the ruins of Roman times is at least 1.5 hectares, but they are poorly preserved.

The best preserved part of the bathing complex belonging to the villa – the term – about 4 × 12 meters in size. It includes a tepidarium (a warm, dry room for comfortable warming up) and a caldarium (a room with hot water).

From them remained the lower part of the walls and brick pillars, on which the floors leaned over the hypocaust – the thermal heating system. The third surviving room is the prefurium, or boiler room. Having studied the remains of the bathhouse, archaeologists found traces of repeated reconstructions and repairs in them, which is not surprising, given the long existence of the villa.

Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France 6

                                       Remains of the thermae of a Roman villa excavated at Thuir

Iron Age settlement and Roman villa with baths and wine cellar found in France 7

                                                                  Remains of a lime kiln

To the north of the villa was a vast underground structure covering over 200 square meters. It could fit, according to scientists, from 70 to 80 dolia – Roman rounded ceramic vessels with a capacity of up to several thousand liters.

Resin has been preserved on fragments of some dolia; most likely, they served to store wine. Not far from the warehouse, da Costa and his colleagues found the remains of a press and a pottery workshop, as well as a lime kiln.

Traces of medieval life were also found in Tuir. The latest find of the 2021 season here was six grain storage pits with charred seeds.


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