An ancient winery on the banks of the Rhône at Laveyron (Drôme)

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Aerial view of the excavation on the left bank of the Rhône and of the La Sarras
Aerial view of the excavation on the left bank of the Rhône and of the La Sarrasinière ancient funerary monument, in elevation, on the right bank. Nordine Saadi, Inrap
At Laveyron, Inrap archaeologists have uncovered a wine-making facility built in the 1st century AD, on top of large buildings dating from the 1st century BC. Probably located at the height of an ancient ford and used for commercial purposes, the site is characterized by beautifully-constructed walls offering a monumental geometric layout, centered on a courtyard and facing the Rhône.

The archaeological site was discovered as part of preventive archaeology operations prescribed and supervised by the French government (Drac Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes, Service régional de l’archéologie), during studies that the Saica Group, a European leader in the production of recycled paper for corrugated board, was carrying out as part of a major industrial and ecological modernization project at its Saica Paper site.Saica Group, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of recycled paper for corrugated board, was carrying out studies as part of a major industrial and ecological modernization project at its Saica Paper site. Carried out on a 16,400 m2 right-of-way ahead of the construction of a truck parking area to the north of the plant extension, the excavation began in May 2023 and will be completed by mid-January 2024.

The beginnings of the winery

Post-holes and building negatives attest to occupation during the La Tène period (50-30 BC). Given the current state of excavation, no plan can be proposed. At the end of the 1st century BC, building flashings, ranging in size from 56 to 150 m2, predate the extensive winery. With no occupancy soil or associated objects, it’s difficult to assign them a definitive function. However, rubbish dumps located on the outskirts of these buildings are suggestive of habitation (numerous fragments of dolia, amphorae and ceramics). The complex was probably surrounded by a ditch, perhaps with a palisade.

During the Augustan period (27 B.C.-14 A.D.), a small villa was built, consisting of a series of three rooms aligned east-west and opening onto a courtyard to the south. The façade is lined with sidewalks and galleries.

The building fits like a "nesting doll" inside the courtyard of the large winery that will succeed it. One of the future winery’s basins encroaches on its easternmost room.

The winery

The large winery, with a surface area of over 3,000 m2, is built on the break in the slope overlooking the Rhône. This was used to organize its wine-making function.
The presses were installed high up. The alluvial terrace was buttressed by thick walls forming a platform, bordered to the south and north by basins built below the slope, into which the grape juice was poured. These were integrated into 430 m2 rooms, excavated from the slope, which could be used as cellars.


To the south, three rooms were probably dedicated to wine-making, which in Antiquity called for the use of multiple additives. The complex is bordered by galleries surrounding a 962 m2 courtyard. The establishment, located in the territory of the Allobroges (a Gallic people whose territory lay between the Isère, Rhône and northern Alps), probably produced a wine highly prized by the Romans and mentioned in ancient texts ( vinum picatum).


Development: SAICA PAPER

Scientific supervision: Service régional de l’archéologie (Drac Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes)
Archaeological research: Inrap

Scientific manager: Pascale Conjard-Réthoré, Inrap

    -Les épaves racontent l’Histoire - Economic and cultural contacts between the Mediterranean and the Frankish world in the early Middle Ages (9th-10th c.)




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