четверг, 17 октября 2019 г.

An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne

At the gates of Narbonne, an Antique necropolis is currently under excavation by an Inrap team, as prescribed by the State (Drac Occitanie), prior to the construction of a Zac. Due to its importance and its exceptional state of preservation, this site is a major discovery for French archaeology and benefits from significant funding from the government (State, Occitanie region, Aude department, Grand Narbonne agglomeration, city of Narbonne) and the project developer (Alenis, Grand Narbonne development company). The archaeological site adjoins Narbo Via, an international Antiquity museum designed by ‘Foster+Partners’ who, in 2020, will present the exceptional heritage of Antique Narbonne in an 8,000 m2 space.











An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Drone view of Narbonne necropolis [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

At the end of the Roman conquest of 125 BC, the city of Narbonne was the first Roman colony established in Gaul. One century later, Auguste made Narbo Martius the capital of the Narbonne province, which extends from Frejus to Toulouse and the Pyrenees, and from the Mediterranean to Vienna and Geneva. Narbonne was also a flourishing economic center during Antiquity, and one of the largest ports in the western Mediterranean, situated at a crossroads of land, river and sea routes.


An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne










An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Drone views of Narbonne necropolis [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

Six hundred meters to the east of the Antique city, at the junction of two roads, the funerary space occupied 2,000 m2 during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Nearly 300 tombs have been found among the estimated 1000.


An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne










An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Funerary slabs with inscribed epitaphs [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

The necropolis is structured by masonry enclosures implanted according to a regular division of parcels. The parcels enable the archaeologists to discern distinct groups whose respective practices they will be able to compare.











An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Ceramic jugs and glass vessels found over remains burned on pyre
[Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]










An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Ceramic jug and ossuary vessel [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

The contiguous plots, sometimes separated by service roads, display small monuments adorned with painted plaster. Plaques are sometimes affixed to the monuments. Their epitaphs document the lives of the lowest commoners (slaves or emancipated), mostly of Italian origin. They also testify to the economic prosperity of these plebian circles.











An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Libation conduit feeding a cinerary urn [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]










An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Funerary monument excavated [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

The burials are mainly cremations: there are many pyres and simple graves—often protected by a tiled covering or coffin. The graves contain burned bones placed in a container and accompanied by a glass or ceramic jugs, sometimes associated with perfume vases and lamps.











An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Glass bottles found with the cinerary remains in a stone chest
[Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

These recipients testify to the importance of the offerings of liquid (wine?) and perfume in honor of the deceased. Charred fruit (including dates and figs), personal objects (personal ornaments and hygiene items) are present in the ashes of the pyres.











An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Intact ceramic jugs found in burial [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

The proximity of a branch of the Aude (today the Robine canal) played a major role in the exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains. The site was protected by 3 m of silt from its floods. In addition, recurring floods during Antiquity sealed the successive states of the necropolis and now enable us to observe the evolution of the funerary practices and commemorative cults.











An exceptional antique necropolis discovered in Narbonne
Protective phallus amulet [Credit: Denis Gliksman, Inrap]

The state of preservation allows us, for once, to understand some of the ritual gestures; at the time of the funeral, at the stake or in the grave, as well as in the context of the memorial worship, through offerings in honor of the deceased or meals consumed in the enclosures.


Rarely attested in Gaul, libation conduits were used in one out of three graves at Narbonne. Extending above the ground, these conduits are ceramic, sometimes amphorae, driven into the tomb to get closer to the deceased. They allowed the introduction of offerings. Some still contain cups used for libations and shells. The studies of them focus on identifying the libation practices through organic chemistry analyses.


The diversity of the funerary structures, their state of preservation, and the superposition of floors and tombs make this a unique site in Gaul, which can be compared with sites in Italy, such as Pompeii and Rome. It offers a very rare opportunity to apprehend funerary practices in time and space. The Narbonne necropolis is already considered as the reference in the study of funerary practices in Roman Gaul, as well as for our knowledge of the working class in Antiquity.


Source: Inrap [October 10, 2019]



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