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Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon


In August 2018, the Institut National de Recherches Archéologique Préventives (INRAP) carried out a preventive archaeological excavation in the heart of the city of Mâcon, ahead of the creation of an underground district heating network set up by Mâcon Energie Service (an ENGIE group company). The objective of the rescue dig was to preserve any archaeological remains affected by this development.

Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Credit: © Céline Capdeville, Inrap, 2018
Excavation quickly revealed the remains of a necropolis known as the "Cordiers' Necropolis" dating from the first through sixth centuries. Among the discoveries is an imposing stone sarcophagus, probably belonging to a rich individual. Ceramic remains and funerary urns were also found during the rescue excavations.


The Gallo-Roman city of Mâcon called Matisco is well documented by ancient maps and texts. The site was first settled at the end of the 1st century BC, as soon as Gaul was conquered, and was definitively established in the middle of the 1st century. As required by Roman law, the necropolis is outside the city, near a road (in Mâcon, the road to Lyon).

Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Credit: © Céline Capdeville, Inrap, 2018
The finds begin to tell the story of the ancient necropolis of Matisco: that of the funeral pyre sites, with the offerings and meals that preceded them, occasions when ceramics from southern and central Gaul were used.


"In the 30 centimetres studied, we have the whole range of funeral practices of the Mâcon necropolis. From the end of the second century were find funeral pyre areas where corpses were cremated before the bones were collected and deposited in urns. Refuse pits were found where the remains of the pyres, including broken ceramics, were disposed of. This is a time of sharing between the gods, the deceased and the living. These are gestures that accompany the funeral and are intended to pacify the soul of the deceased: burning the things that were used for the funeral meal," explains Daniel Barthélémy, an archaeologist from Mâcon who took part in the excavations on rue Gambetta this summer with the INRAP in Dijon.

Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Credit: © Céline Capdeville, Inrap, 2018
"Then we have the burials that will take the place of the cremations. Little is known about these practices because there are few objects in the graves, sometimes because of looting. We do not yet know when this new funeral practice completely replaced the old one, when the ancient necropolis of Mâcon ceased to function in favour of Christian cemeteries," adds Daniel Barthélémy.


This is why archaeologists' attention is now focused on the many human remains recovered. "According to the postures of the skeletons, the deceased were mostly buried, dressed, in stone or wooden coffins. Carbon-14 dating of the bones will help us determine if we are dealing with Merovingian period tombs. We are perhaps looking at evidence for the presence of the first Christians in the ancient city of Mâcon, the early Christians."

Gallo-Roman necropolis discovered in French city of Mâcon
Credit: © Céline Capdeville, Inrap, 2018
Previous archaeological excavations in the same area of Gambetta Street have already uncovered traces of cremations from the first and second centuries of our era, the sarcophagus of a Frankish warrior from the early sixth century, as well as four other stone sarcophagi during the 2011 works.

Source: Macon Infos [October 04, 2018]

TANN

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