Excavations in Nîmes, southern France, are uncovering new details of the city’s ancient past.
Nîmes is home to many significant Roman ruins, but the latest investigations, carried out by archaeologists from Inrap, focused on a previously overlooked area just outside the Augustan-era walls of the ancient city, 100m east of the Cadereau gate, which was one of the main points of access into the Roman city.
The excavations revealed at least 50 burials dating to the Roman period, including inhumation graves, cremation urns, and signs of funerary pyres. The majority of the individuals buried at the site appear to have been adults, but at least two examples of children’s burials have been identified. Many of the graves also contained a variety of grave goods, largely dominated by pottery. The burials appear to have been separated into several groups, with the majority of the funerary activity occurring on the eastern side of the site and just two graves identified in the west. One set of poorly preserved walls found in the eastern section of the site indicates the presence of an enclosure here that contained seven burials, but it is hoped that further work will help archaeologists better understand the organisation of the cemetery as a whole.
Four wells were also identified at the site. Two are thought to have had a funerary function, as their fill contained human bones as well as animal and plant remains, coins, ceramics, and fragments of a marble epigraphic plaque. The other two wells are less clear in function, containing no human or animal bones, just amphora and ceramic fragments, suggesting that they may have been connected to farming in the area instead.
The earliest signs of activity identified at the site were agricultural: two fields of long narrow trenches thought to be connected to the cultivation of vines. The dates of these trenches are uncertain, but we know that they are earlier than 1st-century graves intersecting them. By the medieval period, funerary activity at the site appears to have ceased, with the area once again used for planting vines and shrubs.