Archeologists at the French National Institute for Preventive Archeological Research (INRAP) were not expecting to uncover an ancient site when they were asked to investigate a 43,000 square-foot area. The researchers were asked to do so before construction of dormitories would start. The town has been hidden for thousands of years, so there’s no hope for the dormitories being built any time soon.
The archaeologists had the surprise of their life when they got to touch the remnants of an ancient Roman town. After thousands of years hidden, the ancient town of Ucetia was found in the south of France, in the modern-day village of Uzès. More than a few scraps of the old world, archeologists got to lay eyes on mosaics that have stood the test of time.
The discovery, made by INRAP, has led to a 4,000-square-meter spot dating back to the Roman era. That’s the 1st century BC to late antiquity (7th century). It was known that a town called Ucetia had existed as researchers had found an ancient inscription on a stone slab, but this discovery has been pure gold for historical enthusiasts everywhere.
Researchers from the INRAP have described the digging as being “very fruitful.” It seems that some of the walls and buildings date to just before the Romans conquered France. With “visually stunning” finds such as the remarkably preserved mosaic floors, it seems archeologists have found a city where time has stood still.
One of the members of INRAP, Philippe Cayn, spoke to IBTimes, saying, “Prior to our work, we knew that there had been a Roman city called Ucetia only because its name was mentioned on stela [the roman stone slab] in Nimes, alongside 11 other names of Roman towns in the area.” Early research indicates that the site was still standing up until the end of the 1st century CE. However, much more work will be done now to discover more on this ancient city.
The Romans started their battle to conquer France back in 121BC, and it was under the reign of Julius Caesar that France was conquered by the year 51BC. The structure and the studies done so far all indicate that this ancient town was holding strong by the 1st century CE. “This kind of elaborate mosaic pavement is often found in the Roman world in the 1st and 2nd centuries, but this one dates back to about 200 years before that, so this is surprising,” adds Cayn when speaking to the IBTimes.
Researchers have spoken about some of the most noteworthy findings once the site was uncovered. One such feature is a 250-square-meter area that archaeologists believe was a public building because it shows that it once held large columns. On this site, there are also two mosaics bearing a cacophony of colors, patterns, animal designs such as an owl and an eagle and symbols.
There was also a 500-square-meter urban dwelling that was uncovered. The site holds intricate mosaic decorations bearing dolphin designs and geometrical patterns. Researchers believe that wine was made here because the site also had wine vessels and large dolia in it.
Despite the exciting discovery, the area was already famous for its Roman history. Nîmes, the nearby city of Ucetia, is famous for its history as it holds an old amphitheater. Bullfights are still held in this amphitheater to this day. Less is known of Ucetia but this is about to change now that this discovery has been made.
The discovery has given researchers another peek into the ancient Roman way of life. The large-scale geometric designs and large medallions, together with the animal patterns are just some of the features that will need to be analyzed. The researchers are also looking into the Romans’ hypocaust system — a form of central heating where the building is built in a way to circulate warm air under the floors of the rooms.
Another noteworthy part of this ancient town was the unearthing of the Domus. The latter is another word for a large house, often belonging to a rich Roman family. The Domus uncovered is over 5,380 square feet and researchers believe it goes back to the 1st century BC.
Now that Ucetia is uncovered, researchers at INRAP know that the work has only just begun. The project is already estimated to cost $1.6 million dollars and there are no plans on stopping for now. Currently, archeologists are working on uncovering another large site hiding ancient ruins, including two roads.
Before the discovery, archeologists only had hints of what could be lying below ground. With the uncovering of this ancient city, however, researchers now believe that there is more work to be done in this area. Digging is an ongoing endeavor and the researchers plan to have the site become a “peer-reviewed study” once the digging part of it is over.