Ancient, News

Unearthed a 2000-Year-Old Roman Quarry

We don’t often stop to think about what our rubbish says about us. For archaeologists in France, however, a Roman trash heap provides several clues into what life was like in ancient France. The team found a mound of ancient garbage under an empty lot in Rennes, the capital city of Brittany in northwest France.

Life in France: 1800 Years Ago

Rennes’ history goes back 2000 years when it used to be known as the village of Condate. The French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research made a press release on March 3.

In the press release, the institute highlighted that archaeologists had been called to investigate the area before local construction.

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As they dug deeper into the ruins, archaeologists unearthed a 2000-year-old shale quarry. The mine was located at the edge of ancient Condate’s northern limits. It is also likely that it extended underneath nearby buildings beyond the lot.

The Roman ‘layer’ can clearly be seen in this photo of the dig in Rennes.

Archaeologists believe the Romans probably used the mine from the 1st to 2nd centuries AD as a source of Brioverian schist, found abundantly in the Rennes Basin.

The Romans are hypothesized to have extracted this material to construct foundations and street slabs in the city.

The citizens likely discontinued the stone quarry 1800 years ago. Later, it became a rubbish heap. Here, archaeologists investigating the site unearthed all kinds of discarded everyday Roman items, including 44 pounds of broken ceramics, a 2000-year-old pottery kiln, and several terracotta sculptures of various Roman deities.

The History of Condate

The Romans created the ancient city of Condate at the end of the 1st century AD. The name “Condate” has Gallic origins, a hint of the area’s local population before the Romans occupied it.

By medieval times, the abandoned mine had been completely filled with rubbish, a sign of the area’s growing population.

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The researchers also found evidence of wooden buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. However, they noticed that by the 17th century, these domestic buildings were phased out.

In their place, the site served as a garden space for a young women’s convent, after which it was abandoned and left empty for several years.

From the early 16th century to the time of the French Revolution, Condate (now Rennes) was a central parliamentary, administrative, and garrison city, as evidenced by its use as the seat of the Parliamentary Palace in the 17th century. After a destructive fire in 1720, the people of Rennes rebuilt the wooden medieval center.

Part of a Roman pot discovered at the site. The finds were remarkable. (Photo: Emmanuelle Collado)

The city has since industrialized and, since the 1950s, has attracted labour for its automotive industry from the surrounding rural areas.

During the 1980s, Rennes became one of France’s centres for telecommunication and is now a significant digital innovation centre.

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As a city of art and history, Rennes has done an excellent job of preserving its medieval and classical heritage. There are up to 90 buildings in the city protected as historic monuments. In 2018, Rennes received the label of “the most liveable city in France.”

Venus: The Goddess of Love

One of the more remarkable discoveries at the rubbish site was a figurine of Venus. In the Roman Pantheon, Venus is a goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory.

The Romans greatly revered the goddess Venus. Interestingly, they believed that her son, Aeneas, founded the Roman race.

Amazingly a statue of Venus was discovered in the rubbish quarry.

She has been worshipped as the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and is prayed to under various titles.

The figurine has been dated to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and represents a 10 cm tall naked Venus made from terracotta. She is portrayed holding her hair, crowned by an ornate headdress.

Moreover, archaeologists have also found broken ceramics, a pottery kiln, ancient coins, glass beads, brooches, and ruined ovens.