Saturday, September 17, 2022

Roman around Narbonne

Our guide for the day - good English tour

Early on during our stay here in Narbonne, while just out for a walk exploring the town, we found an interesting archeological site beside a large cemetery. It was not open at that time, so we made a note to come back on a Saturday, the only day the site was open to the public. Today we went back to see what was there. 

We arrived to a bustling, busy site with lots of people milling about. There were guys dressed in leather armour brandishing swords, tables set up with displays and a little booth with information. Our plan was just to look around, but we found a group of English-speakers who wanted to see and learn about the site as well. With them was a particularly persistent lady who was upset that we were not allowed down into the dig site without a guide so she worked to find us an English speaking guide to give a tour. She finally located a tiny little lady who although very shy and hesitant about her ability in English was willing to show us around. We were with a couple from Australia and another couple from the UK. We ended up spending all morning there and had a wonderful tour. 

The Cemetery hiding more of the site

This site shows why there is so little of the history of the Romans in Narbonne. In 1973, the man owning a vineyard on this site died without any heirs, so the town took over the property to build a Tax office, but when excavation began, they discovered layer after layer of archeological treasure under his farmland. Under the vines was a church and under the church was part of a Roman town with houses and a Roman bath. The Tax office project was cancelled and the site was taken over by the Group de Recherches Archeologiques du Narbonne. They are now excavating and preserving the area.

They have found two complete ruins of dwellings and part of another three houses as well as a Roman bath complex. The artifacts found indicate that these were houses of rich Romans and it is thought they were retired high level military officers. Some of the frescoes and tile work found are intricate works of art. The site borders on a very old cemetery and much it is suspected that a lot more ruins are inaccessible under the graves in the cemetery as well as houses in the vicinity. 

Some of the complicated sewer system

Although the site is being excavated by professional archeologists, when the site is opened to the public it is run by a group of dedicated volunteers who provide guided tours and historical recreation of life in the Roman times. We learned about how the original buildings looked, how the Roman bath provided hot and cold water therapy, how fish were hatched and farmed under the houses, as well as the complicated water and sewer systems that provided convenience and Roman style luxury to the long dead inhabitants of this area of Narbonne.

Our French guide was very apologetic about her English, but she was enthusiastic and kept us entertained and informed about this fascinating site. A great way to spend a Saturday morning. 

The well supplied water for the baths

One of the tiled floors

One of the Roman gardens

The Roman Baths

Pretend Romans

Part of the church that was built over the Roman settlement

Playing Roman

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