OCCUPATION OF THE SITE

Thanks to successive archaeological surveys and recent work carried out by the Archaeological Research Group of the University of Pau and the Pays de l'Adour, it is possible to trace a brief history of the site.

 

The  Villa  was occupied for more than five centuries, from the beginning of our era to the fifth century AD. JC The extent of the remains discovered, corresponding  mainly to the residential part of the complex,  testifies to the existence of an important establishment whose total area, according to the latest archaeological work, would probably approach 2 hectares. While no precise data is available concerning the identity or function of the owners of the premises, the scope of the constructions successively undertaken, combined with the discovery of certain specific remains, indicates  a high standard of living.  Thus, whatever the professional activities of the masters of the places who have succeeded one another, there is no doubt that they belonged to a wealthy fringe of Gallo-Roman society.

 

The seat of a clearly identified agro-pastoral production, the  Villa  governed a land domain whose boundaries are not yet precisely defined. The archaeological prospecting work carried out on the territory surrounding the site seems to indicate that the Thèze plateau was not the subject of a very dense population during the ancient period.  The  Villa  should therefore certainly be seen as a pole of population and exploitation in this sector of the Pyrenean foothills. The establishment was located not far from the ancient road linking Bordeaux to Zaragoza, which may suggest that it should also be open to foreign trade.

 

Between the 1st and the 5th century AD, the face of the aristocratic residence evolved, following occasional changes. The successive extensions made to the first installations, established during the first two decades of our era, led, in the second century, to the emergence of a large-scale residential complex, centered around a vast courtyard.

 

A general reorganization of the  go urbana  of the  Villa  is operated  in the 4th century, changing the plan of the establishment towards a more complex design where the decoration is more ostentatious. It was at this time, between the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th century, that the owners, like many of their peers, ordered a series of paving stones from an Aquitaine mosaic workshop.  to adorn the important spaces of the house.

 

In the High Middle Ages, the site lost its function as an aristocratic residence. The remains of a necropolis of around forty burials  and a small building with a square apse, identified by archaeologists as a chapel, are located on the site, to the south-east of the ancient thermal spa sector. The space of the  Villa  therefore seems to be frequented only in a strictly religious setting or  funeral.

 

Illustrations: Modeling of the 4th century villa,  © Studio Reverb'Air, 2012