Bufosse and the origins of the villa (Verneuil-en-Halatte, Oise)

From wooden farm to Roman villa

This Gallo-Roman farm was built at the bottom of the Vallée de l’Oise in the second third of the 1st century BCE. It was organised around two courtyards. The main residence was placed midway in the width of the courtyard, set apart by a palisade. Outside this enclosure, a rectangular courtyard was bounded, on one side only, by buildings, most of them dwellings, set at fairly regular intervals. These buildings set on posts are Gallic in construction. The ensemble is surrounded by a moatedenclosure. In the early 1st century, the boundaries of the agricultural courtyard were moved slightly to correspond to a straight line measured in Roman metrics. Buildings were added to the other side, creating symmetry. Nothing remains of the dismantled residence except the cellar, with its stone walls. It suggests that the residence was built along Roman lines (a rectangular structure with lateral wings).

In the mid-1st century, the residence was moved to the far end of the residential enclosure. A 40-metre-long pool along the building's façade emphasised its linear floor plan. The farm buildings, made out of lightweight materials but of Roman design and much larger, were built over their earlier counterparts. As of the end of the 1st century, stone foundations were used systematically. The residence was expanded over time to double its original size, and was given a U-shape. Towards the mid-4th century CE, it was given a large bathing establishment. The villa appears to have been occupied up until the early 5th century. The early large-scale Gallo-Roman farm and the villa in the three Gauls

Villas in Internal Gaul (Celtica, Belgica and Germania) differed from their Mediterranean counterparts in their less organised layout and more linear design. The main architectural components clustered around one of two vast rectangular or trapezoidal courtyards. In axial position, on one of the shorter sides, was the residence of the farm manager. Other buildings, such as worker housing and agricultural outbuildings, took their place along the longer sides, which were sometimes hundreds of metres long.

This type of layout was based on the large early Gallo-Roman farm, whose primary characteristics were defined by Jean-Luc Collart (Ministry of Culture and Communication – Picardy Regional Archaeology Department). The oldest phases of Verneuil-en-Halatte offer a good illustration of this type of architectural expression, with two rows of buildings and the residential section separated off in its own enclosure. The constructions on wooden posts were later replaced by newer and more solid buildings of similar dimensions, built on the sites of their predecessors. The large early Gallo-Roman farms flourished in Picardy starting in the 1st century CE. These major agricultural centres had their roots in the economic and social changes resulting from Romanisation, and they in turn gave rise to a villa that would endure until the end of Antiquity.

Bufosse Villa in Verneuil-en-Halatte

© J.-L. Collart, Culture, SRA Picardie

The large early Gallo-Roman farm of Buffosse at Verneuil-en-Halatte (Oise)

ã J.-L. Collart, Culture, SRA Picardie
Interactive document - Some examples of structures built on wooden posts

Some examples of structures built on wooden posts

Excavations revealed only the holes in which the wooden supports were placed. Nevertheless, based on these discoveries, archaeologists can draw the layouts of structures used for storage or habitation, as well as identify more sturdy foundations for above-ground granaries.
© J.-L. Collart, Culture, SRA Picardie

Some examples of large early Gallo-Roman farms in Picardy

Rescue archaeology operations have allowed archaeologists to reconstitute comparison series for studying this type of rural farm, which provided a model for the villa in this part of the Three Gauls.
© J.-L. Collart, Culture, SRA Picardie