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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Roman Ruins Found in Paris

Construction Reveals Roman Ruins Beneath Paris
Saturday , May 06, 2006

PARIS  — Deep beneath pavement pounded by tourists on Paris' Left Bank lies an ancient path — a 2,000-year-old Roman road recently excavated during construction work.

Remnants of private houses rigged with baths and ingeniously heated floors were among the findings, now on view in a stunning dig. Over the next few weeks, however, archaeologists will rip up the ruins to make way for a research center.

The archeologists gradually remove every layer of ruins until they reach the geological stratum — the original ground — and eventually draw a chronological diagram.

"Excavating is destroying. We dig into historic layer after historic layer," said Didier Busson, scientific supervisor of the archaeological site.

The discovery, during construction work on the Pierre and Marie Curie University near the famed Sorbonne, offers a window onto one of the many layers of history underpinning this bustling capital.

Archaeologists said it was the first such site discovered in the city — known as Lutetia in pre-Roman and Roman Gaul — from the reign of Roman emperor Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.).

Items from daily life such as flowerpots, ceramics, bronze chains and drawer handles were dug out and will soon be exhibited in museums.

"We are trying to find out about the foundation and founders of the city," Busson said, adding, "It is exceptional that a Parisian site be so well-preserved."

Archeologists are divided over the background of this neighborhood's builders. Most contend that a Gallic aristocracy, recruited by the Roman army to fight in their civil wars, probably came back from the battlefield and settled in the area.

The Romanized returnees built the city according to Roman norms, but used local materials. They were wealthy enough to own a private Roman bath — the jacuzzi of the era — found in one of the houses discovered beneath the university.
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