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Norman archaeologists searching for Calètes de Juliobona

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The excavation program aims to uncover, and ultimately enhance, the unknown Gallo-Roman past of Lilibon.

Lilibon is not one of those cities whose past emerges from the smallest pores of its streets and squares. The Normandy metropolitan area of ​​Seine-Maritime, between Rouen and Le Havre, is home to a small chain of ancient ruins. Here is the tired dungeon of a fading medieval castle, there is a late Gothic church that has survived the centuries. And between the two, the awe-inspiring remains of a stunning Roman theater remain. Its stones form the jutting part of Jolliopuna, and the ancient Roman city is now determined to make a place for itself on the map of Gaul.

A number of fragments are stacked together tightly between the walls of Lilebon’s Municipal Museum: blocks of carved limestone, displays of statues holding statues of ancient deities and other funerary objects, of glass, silver and terracotta, offer visitors a glimpse into this Gallo-Roman city. The accumulation is the construction while the site, founded on the grounds of Calètes, ignites the imagination less than Lugdunum or even Alésia. False: The hidden port of Jolyubuna was one of the most important ports in northern Gaul. A remarkable heritage of a city now located more than three kilometers from the river.

Scheme of the remains of central West Jollopuna over the plan of the city of Lilebon, with the hypothetical Roman Forum in the center and the theater on the west. The old port was located in the southeast corner of this sector. sock

“The landscape was radically different,” Says Jonas Baritias, with that mysterious half-smile reserved for specialists. Modern Doctor of Antiquity Sciences, the new Head of Studies in Archeology with the Caux Seine conglomerate society is in the picture aspiration of Lilebon Heritage: full of impulse. « The river was directed on the nineteenthAnd century, which significantly modified the composition of this part of the Seine « , Identifies by pointing to the topographical model at the entrance to the museum. In the first centuries of our era, the city closely embraced the waves of the Seine, whose ancient estuary reached its port. The flow of goods coming and going from the canal to Lotes passes through this famous mall, which is located between the sea and the river. It’s clear: Jolliopona’s location was strategic. He is slowly coming back to her. At least culturally.

Find the old city

Not much left of yesterday’s bustling ports. It has been replaced by new, more realistic animations. At the end of March, the smell of meat mingled with the whiff of the tractors, and so it flew over the square Felix Faure, in the center of Lilbon, after the annual cattle fair. The event was particularly resounding: it’s been two years since it was able to happen, due to the pandemic. On the other hand, the situation did not hamper other activities. And so, a few months ago in the same square, the clever movement of shovels and trowels from archaeologists preceded the melodies of calves, cows and goats at the fair.

In July 2021, a programmed excavation campaign was organized in the center of Lilebone, opposite the Roman Theatre. The operation was organized in the heart of the ancient city of Jolliopona, and many ancient structures including a possible public building were discovered near the theater. Caux Seine

In July, a section of the parking lot in the center of the square, between the Municipal Museum and the ruins of the ancient theater, was carefully examined. Under the direction of Jerome Spicer, former Director of Archeology Studies, the programmed excavation provided unusual animations for local residents. It also allowed specialists to discover the features of some of the new structures of the ancient Goleopona. The site revealed a possible habitat as well as a 1.8 meter wide wall, dated from the end of the firstVerse or from the beginning of the secondAnd century, it may have belonged to a poorly recognized Roman public building », identifies Jonas Baritias, in front of the excavation sector and covered with a layer of gravel ever since. Not everything has yet been discovered in the former capital of Calette.

The field of study is wide. At its height, at the end of the secondAnd In the last century, Jolliopona stretched over nearly thirty hectares and contained, perhaps, up to 10,000 inhabitants, according to the highest estimates; More than the current population of Lilbon. Aqueduct layouts, tombs, and northern and southern sections of the late Roman wall are documented. There were at least two bathing establishments within the walls between them a house Luxurious and few public buildings not clearly marked. The outlines of the temples also seem to indicate the ends of their walls. Amid these disparate elements, one question remains unresolved to this day: How do we explain the sudden decline of the city?

The treasure known as Marcus’ Tomb was discovered in 1864 in the White Coast Cemetery east of Jolliopona. The date of the end of the second V. Bruno / Jolyubona / Snook

near the end of the thirdAnd century, Juliobona lost its status as capital in favor of Rotomagus – Rouen. A large calcined layer, dating from the same period, has been found on both sides of the city, a testament to a massive fire that destroyed the site. Was it a devastating accident, or the work of Bagod, named after the bandit forces who then ravaged northern Gaul? The looting of the city by German, Franc or Saxon pirates is also not excluded. Unless it is the lateral ruin of the civil war that opposes, from 293 to 296, the imperial power of the usurper Carusius, which rages in these regions. The crucial key to this mystery may be waiting to be discovered, somewhere under the cobblestones of Lilebon.

Revival of the ancient Seine port

Various researches about the city’s past began with noise at the beginning of the nineteenth centuryAnd Century, directed by part of Jolliopuna. Its theater of course, but also a group of exceptional remains, such as the so-called « deer hunting » mosaic. They are kept in the Rouen Archaeological Museum, as are many of the site’s other treasures. This is not the case with Apollon de Lillebonne. This magnificent gilded bronze statue, a masterpiece of Jolliopona’s antiquities, was found in exile farther afield. « It’s a bit like our Mona Lisa, » Passionately, Elise Cousin, president of the Ko Sen Museums conglomerate, slides past a cardboard sculpture of the sculpture displayed in a corner of the Municipal Museum. The leaf silhouette reminds of a heartbreaking absence; The original Apollo is currently kept in the Louvre in Lens, as part of the exhibition Rome. City and Empire.

Lilbon Apollo. This gilded bronze statue was discovered in 1823, its height is 1.98 meters, and the third datedAnd century, acquired in 1853 by the Louvre. Bridgeman Pictures

The absence of the Apollonian Mona Lisa from Lilebon did not affect the implementation of a comprehensive upgrade program for the ancient Jolliobona. Sadi Carnot Place, in front of Notre-Dame de Lillebonne, traces of an ancient portico protecting Roman stalls as well as a hypothetical church wall can mark the Old Town Forum. The nerve center of Roman public life, this space has been accordingly redesigned and used again today as a meeting place for the inhabitants of Lille. Other combinations should better refer to different locations of the city: a a housepublic thermal baths, and the waterfront, and this upcoming prosperity of Lielbon’s ancient past will be accompanied by a scenic road, a conservation center and an expansive museum.

As both a tourist and a scientific one, the Jolliopona development project seeks to revitalize the ancient past of the city and the port. It was also fortunate not to have to suffer – as in southern Transalpine – from direct competition from other great sites in Roman Gaul. “Not only do we want to build on the renewal of knowledge about Juliobona, but we also want to participate in it, Emphasizes Elise Cousin. We are seeking to better understand its implications through a dedicated cohort research program, which has mobilized about fifty researchers since 2021.” For Lillebonne Apollo, a contemporary reinterpretation of the statue should see the light of day in the coming months. And the Norman Arlesian would then return to the Good Harbour, at least symbolically.


see also Brittany: a World War II fortified bunker turned bed and breakfast

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