William Van Andringa (University of Lille III – CNRS, UMR 8164 – HALMA-IPEL)
Thomas Creissen (Éveha International – François Rabelais University, Tours, CNRS UMR 7324 – LAT)
Henri Duday (University of Bordeaux – Anthropological Laboratory of Bordeaux)
The 2016 excavation season took place from 29 August to 30 September 2016. It focused on the two zones which had already been explored last year: zone A to the west and zone B to the east.
In zone A, work concentrated on a small funerary monument approximately 4m² in size. This is likely to have been an open enclosure topped by a pediment. In 2014 a niche which held a glass urn was uncovered at the base of this pediment. In 2015, three grave stelae were discovered in the ground.
This year, work focused on the tombs in the southern part of the site. These are marked by the presence of two stelae. One is made of marble and includes an inscription with the name of Poppaea Cypare. The other is a small basalt column lacking its top. A tomb which predates the construction of the encolsure (the monument is built on top of it) appears to be linked to the latter stele. The stele also appears to have been moved and rearranged after the construction of the monument. This reorganisation is attested by the construction of a new libation apparatus.
The marble stele is set into a stone well, underneath which no bone deposit was found. If this absence is confirmed (excavation has not yet been completed), the stele could be linked to the glass urn deposited in the wall.
A child’s grave, previously unknown due to the absence of a surface marker, is present in the south-west corner. The ceramic ossuary contains the remains of a very young child above which a Tiberius coin was placed. A libation tube is associated with this grave. Probably made of organic material, only its imprint is visible.
Excavation of the road enabled us to identify numerous layers of material contemporaneous with the enclosure. Several spreads of carbonised elements (wood, figs, walnuts, olive stones, breads, pig bones) were discovered just in front of the enclosure, on the road. These may be linked to commemorative practices which took place in this funerary space.
In zone B, work continued on the sondage in the road which was begun last year. The road surface, which was extremely compact, required excavation using a pneumatic drill. It is comprised of a layer of very solid cement laid onto the rocky natural ground. On either side, excavations also continued in several enclosures.
On the north side of the road, excavation continued on enclosure 1E, which contains the remains of funeral pyres, where work began last year. This enabled at least two pyres to be identified. Among the material associated with these structures, in addition to charcoal and a fairly complete log, several fragments of worked bone as well as an oil lamp were found. Various graves were excavated. One of these – SP. 04 – may belong to an individual whose name is inscribed on the neighbouring funerary monument (L. Iacelliux Virillio). The bone remains, probably gathered in a bag, were deposited in a chest. A tombstone and a lava stele complete the grave’s fittings. During the excavation of this tomb, a ceramic ossuary was discovered at the edge of the pit. It belongs to a tomb whose surface markers are no longer visible. This feature will be excavated next season. The work which began on SP. 03 was not completed and no bone deposit has yet been identified. This tomb’s architecture is characterised by the reuse of two funerary stelae. During the excavation of SP. 03, an imposing structure composed of gable tiles was discovered. It continues towards the east where it disturbs SP. 05. The whole group may perhaps be a large gable cover tomb. In conclusion, the excavtion of this enclosure resulted in the discovery of numerous unexpected elements: it will therefore be necessary to continue this work in 2017.
In enclosure 1F, two tombs located along the facade were excavated. In the south-west corner, SP. 01 was marked by a lava stele and a tombstone. Under this, a ceramic funerary vessel was filled with burnt bone belonging to a mature adult. A large iron nail was found on the lid, in the pit’s fill. Further to the east, a lava stele marks the location of SP. 06. In front of it, a simply cut block of lava functioned as a mensa. Associated with this tomb is a libation conduit made up of fragments of canal tiles. The bones were deposited inside a type of funerary vessel known as an olla and closed with a lid. A coin was placed on the top of the pile. The lid was sealed with lime. A bag containing residues of cremation was then placed on the fresh lime: its imprint is still visible (PHOTO). Four other tombs behind those on the facade were examined to varying degrees. Among them, SP. 10 appears to be a child’s grave. The individual was placed in an amphora which had been cut open, and was only uncovered this year. Graves SP. 9 and SP. 11 are simple pits dug inside the enclosure, without any surface markings. The burnt bones of a woman who probably died quite young were deposited in the first of these. The bones were contained in a bag. In the second tomb, the bone remains belong to a child who died between the ages of 4 and 7 years.
Excavation of the layers located in the northern part of the enclosure led to the identification of the remains of a funeral pyre. Here, a broken lamp and several perfume bottles made of glass or clay were found. The deposit also contained material often associated with children’s graves – a small bell, gaming pieces (?). The ensemble dates from the Augustan or Augusto-Tiberian period. The pyre appears to have been cut by one of the enclosure walls: this wall is probably later in date.
South of the road, an impressive terrace holds several funerary enclosures and aligned graves. In 2016, excavation focused on the interior of enclosure 3E. It measures approximately 4m² and contains a high density of graves: 13 have so far been identified. Against the west wall, several of these are concentrated in the northern part: SP. 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13. One belongs to an infant placed under a wine amphora that had been cut upen (SP. 12). This grave, which was recorded using photogrammetry, disturbed an earlier one (SP. 13), whose urn was broken open. Graves SP. 7 and SP. 8 were both marked by stelae, but only the one belonging to SP. 8 has survived. The other has disappeared since the excavations carried out in the 1980s. It was made of marble and carried the inscription Valentinus, and explained that he died at 5 years of age. The bone remains found in the urn fit well with this age. Regarding the stele of SP. 8, it is made of lava and is associated with a gravestone which tops the ceramic ossuary containing the bone deposit. These remains, which have not yet been analysed, appear to belong to an individual between 5 and 9 years old. Both of these graves are contemporaneous: they are covered by a single cremation residue.
The excavation of SP. 3, which began in 2015, was completed. The grave is marked by a basalt stele. At the bottom of the pit, a ram’s skull was found, on which the ceramic urn was placed, closed with a lid. The bone remains found inside are those of an adult over 25 years old, of indeterminate sex. In the fill of the pit, a gold earring was recovered.
SP. 14 is located betzeen SP. 3 and SP. 4. No surface marker has survived. A libation conduit was found. The ceramic urn contained burnt bone which has not yet been studied. The pit’s fill is characterised by the presence of fragments of worked bone, perfume bottles, an oil lamp and a gold ring with a bezel. Originally, the earring found in SP. 3, which is a later grave, was from SP. 14. It was moved when the newer grave was dug. In this same area, SP. 4 is marked by an anthropomorphic stele made of basalt. In the pit, the ossuary is a ceramic urn. The bone remains are those of an adult individual of indeterminate sex. The fill of the pit contained a small phial made of yellow glass and five iron nails.
In the same enclosure, excavation began on SP. 9. Here, the remains of an earlier cremation area were uncovered: these features will be explored in 2017 while the excavation of the various tombs is being completed.
During this excavation season, some of the grain and bone remains were sorted. Some have been analysed, and analysis also begain on the worked bone finds. The use of a PANDA penetrometer provided information on the nature of the rocky natural ground and on soil formation before the installation of the western and eastern necropolises.