In Reims, a Gallo-Roman thermal complex was discovered near Porte-de-Mars
Reims, former Durocortorum at the time of Belgian Gaul, is an ideal playground for archaeology. Dozens of excavation sites have taken place there in recent years. Right in the heart of the city centre, factory wasteland or hangars are being demolished to make way for new contemporary developments, so many opportunities to make new discoveries.
“Reims is the city in France with the most archaeological excavations. During the First World War, the city was partly demolished. Somewhere, it’s a chance because we can afford to shave buildings that have no architectural value”, recognizes Yoann Rabasté, the scientific manager of the last excavation site to date, the one around the Porte de Mars, one of the largest Gallo-Roman arches still standing in Europe.
On nearly 7000 m2, in the Boulingrin district, a multitude of trenches were dug once the garage and the sheds that stood there were razed. Here, Inrap archaeologists have just unearthed a monumental and luxurious dwelling site from the ancient era. It is characterized by two porticoed galleries forming a U and around twenty rooms organized around them. “We always expect to find dwellings, but here we found a set of ancient baths dating from the 2nd and 3rd century AD. We don’t yet know if it’s a large domus or public baths,” explains Yoann Rabasté.
Even if the presence of a dozen hypocausts can guide archaeologists. This ancestor of the underfloor heating system, made up of small tiles, allows hot air to circulate. Its presence in number can suggest a thermal complex. Ceramics, mosaics but also painted coatings, nearly 2000 years old, have also been unearthed.
Yoann Rabasté unveils a first floral fresco hidden by a large waterproof tarpaulin: “On this one, you can clearly see the acanthus leaf and the different color pigments used, explains the archaeologist. It is very rare as a vestige and on this site, the frescoes have been very well preserved”. Until mid-June, eleven archaeologists and a topographer will still be hard at work. This excavation site will be completed at the beginning of June, in order to allow the construction of a building in this new district of the heart of the city.