Little Pompeii unexpectedly discovered in south of France
Fantastic remains of an ancient Roman neighbourhood have been discovered in Vienne, a small town to the south of Lyon. Describing the ruins as a ‘real little Pompeii in Vienne’, Benjamin Clement, the archaeologist leading the dig said they were ‘unbelievably lucky’ to discover it whilst digging on a site intended for social housing.
Called an ‘exceptional discovery’ by the French culture ministry, the 7,000 sqm (75,000 sq ft) find includes luxury houses and public buildings. Objects thought to have been abandoned by residents fleeing fires in the first century CE have also been recovered.
“This is undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years,” Clement confirmed.
One of the houses has exceptional floor tilings depicting maenads – female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine – and half-man half-goat satyrs, leading it to be named the Bacchanalian House. The house may have belonged to a wealthy merchant before its first floor, roof and balcony were destroyed 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, whilst in another house there is a statue of Hercules in its fountain which archaeologists think marked a school of philosophy.
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. Some finds will be restored for an exhibition in Vienne’s museum of Gallo-Roman civilisation in 2019.
Archaeologists clearing soil from the fantastic mosaics in Vienne