The Richebourg villa : garden and sanctuary (Richebourg, Yvelines)

An active estate up through the 3rd century CE

Near the Eure Valley, at the borders of the civitates of the Carnutes and the Eburovici, the Richebourg villa was built along the road that ran between Diodurum (Jouars-Pontchartrain) and Durocassio (Dreux). Yvan Barat (Yvelines Département Archaeological Department) has shown that an initial villa was erected in the decades following the conquest of Gaul. A building with solid foundations was built inside an enclosure. The use of Roman pedes (feet) as units of measure and the discovery of an intaglio of Octavian suggests an early Romanisation.

In the 1st century CE, a large-scale architectural programme got underway. Inside a trapezoidal courtyard measuring roughly 5,000 sq. metres, a residence with a galleried façade was fitted with a rear gallery and outbuildings, with baths in the most elaborate additions. A fortified granary tower was erected opposite, for centralising the collection of levies of grain. A second, contiguous courtyard, measuring 7–8 hectares, was agricultural in nature, with buildings located around a specially-built pathway.

In the mid-3rd century, the residence was deserted and the agricultural courtyard abandoned. Edifices built on wooden posts occupied the former main courtyard, as well as a new permanent structure housing a drying shed for preserving grains or meat. Agricultural activities continued throughout the century following the owner's departure. A pleasure garden and religious "chapels"

The villa's garden was located between the residence and the granary tower, around two stone pathways delineating four flower-beds. The earth that was brought in was enriched with fertiliser, including bits of seashells, burnt wood and ash. More than 150 horticultural pots, found in situ, outlined a straight-sided square four metres on a side. These openwork recipients were used for planting cuttings or purchased plants. Pollen analysis has provided a precious glimpse into the presence of garden species, imported species, conifers, lilac and perhaps olive trees. Postholes along the paths allow us to recreate the pergolas. Other ornamental finishings were added to the façade of the residence.

The religious sector was located in the secondary courtyard, near the access to the residential enclosure. Four structures were placed at the edge of an access road. The largest of these, a gallic-type faunum, consisted of a square cella 8.4 metres on a side ringed by a gallery. At the centre, a pit was found to contain offerings, coins and fragments of statuettes of Venus. Of the remaining "chapels", there were two square stone buildings of decreasing size. A polished stone axe was discovered in one, which in Antiquity was a magical object linked to lightning. The final edifice, built with four posts, may have contained a stone or wooden idol. We do not know which gods were worshiped in this private sanctuary.
Interactive document - The Richebourg Villa, overall layout

The Richebourg Villa, overall layout

To the east, the enclosure of the residential section; to the west, the outbuildings with structures placed in two rows.
© Y. Barat, Service archéologique départemental des Yvelines
Interactive document - The residential part of the Richebourg Villa and the various buildings

The residential part of the Richebourg Villa and the various buildings

© Y. Barat, Service archéologique départemental des Yvelines
Interactive document - The gardens of the Richebourg Villa

The gardens of the Richebourg Villa

The discovery of post holes, horticultural pots and various developments allows us to reconstruct the general organisation of these gardens.
© Y. Barat, Service archéologique départemental des Yvelines