Assessment of Gallo-Roman necropolis unearthed in Paris


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After two years of work, the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) have presented an assessment of the excavations carried out on the site of the Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in 2017 in Nanterre, between boulevard Joliot-Curie and rue Sadi-Carnot in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris.

Assessment of Gallo-Roman necropolis unearthed in Paris
Three tombs carved directly into the limestone bedrock
found at the site [Credit: DR]

The first conclusion of this presentation organized by the Nanterre Historical Society is that the necropolis is older than expected. “It was first estimated to date back to a period of the Late Empire between the 3rd and 5th centuries, but it is likely that the site was occupied as early as the 1st century,” said Jacques Legriel, the archaeologist who conducted the excavations.

A total of 73 graves, including 28 graves of children, were found on the site. Of these 53 graves yielded human remains that archaeologists were able to study in some detail.

Biometric and anthropological analyses have made it possible, for example, to determine the sex of 17 individuals (11 men and six women).

“The skeletons are more or less well preserved,” says Jacques Legriel. “Some of them have no skull or rib cage left. In the case of the infants, the graves are empty because the children’s bones did not survive the passage of time.”

To refine their research, Inrap experts also subjected the remains unearthed during the excavations – such as ceramics, bone hairpins or ancient coins – to a series of analyses, such as carbon-14 dating or biochemical examination.

“In one bowl, for example, traces of dairy products and castor oil were found, and in another traces of linseed oil, and in a pitcher, red wine and conifer resin”, says Jacques Legriel.

Based on this precise information, Inrap is gradually reconstructing the history of this necropolis, which has become “one of the reference sites in western Paris”, according to Jacques Legriel.

The absence of jewellery and the scarcity of accompanying grave goods, for example, suggests that the site was occupied by a modest population.

“It’s exciting,” says Alain Bocquet, a passionate speaker at the Nanterre historical society. “Slowly, the puzzle is being put together again after the discoveries of the city of Paris in the Chemin-de-l’Ile and those of the Merovingian era, near the cathedral of Sainte-Genevieve.”

“The problem is that each excavation reveals not only treasures but also a lot of disappointment,” says Alain Bocquet. “The archaeologists would have destroyed two or three buildings there to see what was underneath.”

Source: Le Parisien [trsl. TANN, November 20, 2019]



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