Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes

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On the Rue Rouget de Lisle, in Nîmes, Inrap archaeologists have unearthed the “rich remains” of an urban district on both sides of a road, which was established in the 4th century BC and was occupied until the end of the 2nd century AD. 

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
Miniature altars discovered in a domus , one of which is dedicated to the Proxumes
(Gallic goddesses) [Credit: Pascal Bois, Inrap]

Begun in January, these excavations are being conducted on the orders of the State (Drac Occitanie) before the start of a building project and will be completed in May 2021.




In view of the layout of the dwellings, this discovery confirms the hypothesis that this is an extension of the city of the Volcae, a Gallic tribe occupying the eastern Languedoc on this slope of the hill. These houses, located perpendicular to a gravel road, are well dated thanks to the discovery of ceramic material from the 4th century BC. 

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
View of the painted plaster wall decorated in the second Pompeian style
[Credit: Pascal Bois, Inrap]

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
Aerial view of an oil and/or wine storage space (the dolia have been recovered)
and of a production oven [Credit: Pascal Bois, Inrap]

Some of the excavated rooms of the houses, which were used for domestic purposes, were equipped with hearths. Until now, such remains have been very rarely observed in the city of Nîmes, as this hilly area has not been the subject of recent archaeological work.




The period between the beginning of the 1st century BC and the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) corresponds to the most dynamic occupation of this district. Houses were built according to a Mediterranean model, with small courtyards or gardens and with ceremonial rooms with concrete floors and richly decorated with painted plasterwork of the second Pompeian style (50-30 BC). 

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
Detail of a kitchen hearth [Credit: Pascal Bois, Inrap]

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
Aerial view of a pottery furnace [Credit: Antoine Ratsimba, Inrap]

In one of these houses, two small votive altars, one of which is dedicated to the Proxumas, Gallic goddesses, testify to the continuity of Celtic traditions. Some of the houses also include spaces dedicated to the storage of foodstuffs (oil or wine). 




At the same time, towards the beginning of the 1st century, the road was carefully paved. Finally, between the 1st and 2nd centuries, the residential function of the district was reduced in favour of artisanal activities with, in particular, the presence of kilns for ceramic production. The last traces of occupation seem to confirm that the district was abandoned before the end of the 2nd century. It was returned to cultivation and not urbanised again.

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
Paved path used between the 1st century BC and 2nd century AD
[Credit: Charlotte Gleize, Inrap]

Two small votive altars found in Gallo-Roman house at Nîmes
Aerial view of the site [Credit: Pascal Bois, Inrap]

The walls of the domus were built using solid earth or mud-brick construction techniques. While the lower parts of the walls are made of earth-bound stones, the main part of the architecture uses the raw earth technique (moulded bricks, moulded earth stacked without using formwork or a mixture of both). Most of the floors are also made of packed earth. The scale of the work required a substantial amount of material, supplied by craftsmen working in nearby quarries. All of these constructions involved professional tradesmen, specialists in earthen buildings, an ancient technique well mastered by the Celtic populations of southern Gaul. 

Source: Inrap [trsl. TANN; April 22, 2021]

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