French archaeologists have discovered a “little Pompeii” — the remarkably well preserved remains of an entire district of an ancient Roman town — in the east of the country.
Villas and public buildings have been unearthed in what Benjamin Clément, the archaeologist leading the dig, described as “undoubtedly the most exceptional excavation of a Roman site in 40 or 50 years.”
Many household objects are still where they were left by residents who fled fires. Some villas date from the 1st century AD and the district is believed to have inhabited for about 300 years until it was abandoned after a series of fires.
Like Pompeii, the ancient Roman site near Naples, much of it was buried under ash which helped to preserve it.
One villa has been dubbed the Bacchanalian House because its tiled floor depicts a procession of maenads, female followers of Bacchus – the Roman name for the god of wine known to the Ancient Greeks as Dionysus – and satyrs, male companions of the god with goat-like features.
Believed to have been the home of a wealthy merchant, it had marble tiling, extensive gardens and a water supply system.
“We’ll be able to restore this house from floor to ceiling,” Mr Clément said. “We’re incredibly lucky.”
In another villa, an exquisite mosaic shows a bare-bottomed Thalia, muse and patron of comedy, being abducted by lustful Pan, god of the satyrs.
The site is on the outskirts of the city of Vienne, less than 20 miles south of Lyon.
Located on the River Rhône, Vienne became a major urban centre under Julius Caesar and is known for its Roman theatre and temple.
Discovered on land where a housing complex is to be built, the excavation site covers an area of 75,000 square feet — an unusually large find in an urban area.
An article from The Telegraph by David Chazan