Vast ancient necropolis in southern France reveals the path to Christianity was slow
A necropolis from the time of the late Antiquity has been discovered in southern France. More than 300 tombs have been unearthed, and the objects recovered suggest that the path towards Christianity was gradual in the region.
|After finding objects from the Neolithic Period, the archaeologists discovered a necropolis |
[Credit: Bernard Sillano, Inrap]
A team from the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) began excavating the 21,900 metre square area, quickly finding fossils from the Neolithic Era (from approx. 10,000BC to 3,000BC).
Small pits in the ground were holding objects including ceramic remains and rudimentary tools.
|Skeletons were found in a range of different types of coffins [Credit: Sylvie Mathie, Inrap]|
However, the site was hiding many more secrets. The archaeologists also discovered that the land had later been used as a necropolis, just before medieval times. A total of 315 tombs were identified, with a great variety of funerary practices documented at the site.
Most of the tombs had simply been covered with tiles but others held the remains of people who had also been placed in wooden or lead coffins. A number of amphora burials – wherein remains of infants or fetuses are put in large jars – were also recovered.
|An amphora burial, used to inter a young child or a fetus [Credit: Catherine Rigeade, Inrap]|
The archaeologists identified offerings made to the deceased such as lamps, coins and small vases. These ancestral practices slowly disappeared as burials became more Christian.
However, their persistence here, and the great variety of burial types, suggest that communities were still attached to a number of pagan traditions.
|In some burials, coins were offered to the deceased [Credit: Sylvie Mathie, Inrap]|
Future research will focus on analysing the skeletal remains found in some of the tombs to gather more details about the history of these people and what their health and diets were like.
Author: Léa Surugue | Source: International Business Times [January 24, 2017]