Discovery of a 5th-century BC apse house in the Béziers countryside

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Ceramic furniture discovered in the Fangasses house (first half of the 5th centu
Ceramic furniture discovered in the Fangasses house (first half of the 5th century BC) (1: Pithos / dolium; 2: Greek amphora; 3: Massaliète amphora; 4: Attic cup). study and drawing: ©Ingrid Dunyach, Inrap
At the Fangasses site, Inrap archaeologists have documented protohistoric features, including a well-preserved apse house, Neolithic pits (including five burials) and a Roman tree plantation.

An apse house from the Early Iron Age in southern Gaul

In the center of the excavated plot, this house was identified on a thick fill that fills a 70 m2 excavated area previously used as a clay quarry. Measuring 7.6 metres long and 3 metres wide, this excavated house has preserved thick stratigraphic sequences, enabling us to observe its domestic fittings. Its elevation combines earth and wood, as can be seen from the foundations made of molasse and mud blocks and the presence of a few post holes. Adobes (molded mud bricks), some of which have been documented as partially burnt, must have been the main architectural element.

With a surface area of 20 m2, this house is in line with the average for protohistoric houses in southern Gaul. The interior space is divided into several sections. To the north, there’s a functional "kitchen"-type space, with a bell-shaped oven, a fireplace that was often raised (seven successive states were found) and a bench/table. On the south side, the space is devoid of any features, with the exception of a pit filled with an accumulation of ashy waste, which may have been used for heating. Finally, the east side features several pits, associated with the storage of foodstuffs and raw materials (purified clay). This area opens onto the outside like a porch, with successive floors. Micromorphological and paleoenvironmental studies will help us pinpoint the exact nature of the activities carried out here.

In southern Gaul, little is known about the layout of rural houses and their interior fittings. Urban houses with apses, on the other hand, are better known. They generally date from the Early Iron Age stricto sensu (at Bessan, Lattes, Mailhac, Ruscino...). Examples dating from the5th c. BC are rarer (Gailhan, Lattes), and are often very flattened (Villeneuve-Minervois, Sauvian).

In this respect, the good preservation of the Fangasses house is of great interest. It contributes greatly to the documentation of rural habitats. It also completes our vision of rural life around the protohistoric town of Béziers.

Homogeneous ceramic furniture in the5th c. BC settlement

Although no silos or wells - common features on the outskirts of rural dwellings of this period - were found within the excavation area, ceramic furniture was unearthed inside the dwelling.

Dating from the first half of the5th century BC, it appears to be homogeneous throughout the stratigraphic sequence, indicating at first glance a rapid settlement and short-lived occupation. Imports, notably amphorae from Marseilles, are numerous, while the crockery (bowls, pots and jugs) is of local origin, specifically from the nearby protohistoric settlement of Béziers. Among the imported items is a fragment of an inset lip Attic ceramic bowl with red figures and a female figure, which is quite rare for this type of vessel in the region. Finally, there are numerous fragments of pithoi , confirming storage activities.

Neolithic pits and burials, and evidence of an ancient plot of land

The other structures excavated consist mainly of pits, heated stone hearths and burials dating from the Final Neolithic. Several superstructures (5 m in circumference and 1.30 m in depth) were dug to extract large quantities of soil. Subsequently, these pits may have served as shelters or food storage and preservation areas, before being reused as dumps. A large quantity of ceramics and fauna have been discovered.

Subsequently, 5 burials were installed on the upper edge of the pits, in connection with a Neolithic settlement probably located to the west, outside the excavation right-of-way.

In ancient times, the area was used for agricultural activities. Several planting pits form a pattern that must be linked to the nearby estate (villa ) and the Via Domitia road less than 100 m away.

Interior design : Angelloti

Scientific supervision : Service régional de l’archéologie Drac Occitanie

Archaeological research: Inrap

Scientific manager: Ingrid Dunyach (Inrap)