An Arverni villa and burial place (Beaumont, Puy-de-Dôme)

A large villa in the vicinity of Augustonemetum

About 2.5 km south of Augustononemetum (modern-day Clermont-Ferrand), the Champ Madame villa – which was excavated by Guy Alfonso (INRAP) – is one of largest estates that have been found in the vicinity of the civitas. Occupation of the site began in the Gallic era, around the 2nd century BCE, but this only lasted until the beginning of the following century. Elements from the first quarter of the 1st century CE indicate the proximity of an early Gallo-Roman farm.

The villa itself was only constructed in the second third of the 1st century CE or very early in the 2nd century. The complex, which was surrounded by a wall, grew across an area of more than two hectares. Limestone masonry was used, and the floor plan was one that is seen everywhere. The outbuildings were set on either side of a vast rectangular courtyard, which was closed on the third side by the residence. This arrangement remained untouched until the site was abandoned in the late 4th or early 5th century CE. The residential section reached its maximum size (more than 3,200 sq. m) during the 2nd century. The various structures were grouped around a peristyled courtyard and served by a secondary courtyard. Despite the presence of barns or stables, most of the agricultural activities perhaps took place on neighbouring farms, like that at Artière-Ronzière, which was discovered about 400 metres from the site of the villa. A children's burial area

Twenty-six children's graves were discovered outside the wall that closed off the northern end of the outbuildings. They were separated into small groups across a distance of about forty metres. A study of these graves was entrusted to Frédérique Blaizot (Inrap). All of the infants had died before age of six months; no other age groups were present that normally would have been buried at some distance from the villa. This separation of gravesites is attested to starting in the Iron Age. Archaeology allows us a better understanding, based on real-world examples, of the Latin texts that discuss the particularities of infant burial.

The burial of these children did not differ from the treatment of other age groups in the region. They were placed in urns or other recipients, including wooden boxes and coffins assembled with nails. Unlike those of older subjects, perinatal burials were only rarely accompanied by funerary objects. These objects, for the most part in relation to the funeral banquet, took the form of ceramic vases from the kitchens, but also a baby bottle and pieces of meat, as well as various objects (a lamp and medallions for warding off illness made of horn).

Most of the burials date to between 90 and 120 CE, and the funerary area continued to be used very sporadically throughout the 2nd century and during the Late Antique period.
Interactive document - General layout of the Beaumont Villa (Puy-de-Dôme)

General layout of the Beaumont Villa (Puy-de-Dôme)

In a vast space measuring 110 x 180 m, to the west the residential section and to the east a set of excavated outbuildings; bordering an enclosure wall to the north, a funerary zone reserved for infant burials.
© G. Alfonso, INRAP
Interactive document - Beaumont Villa (Puy-de-Dôme)

Beaumont Villa (Puy-de-Dôme)

Aerial view of the residential building during excavations, looking to the southeast.
© P. Bet, INRAP
Interactive document - Layout of residential building

Layout of residential building

The residential section occupied a minimum surface area of 3,200 square metres. Several structures were built around the rectangular courtyard. To the northwest, the main residential building; to the southeast, the bathing area.
© P. Combes, INRAP
Interactive document - Partial view of the bathing sector

Partial view of the bathing sector

In the foreground, the cold-water bath, in the background, the hot room.
© G. Alfonso, INRAP
Interactive document - The Beaumont Villa in its setting

The Beaumont Villa in its setting

In the background, Augustonemetum.
© A. Bravard
Interactive document - Graves outside the villa's northern enclosure wall

Graves outside the villa's northern enclosure wall

Under the Early Empire, there were twenty-six infant burials. Other burials belong to the Late Antique period.
© U. Cabezuelo, INRAP
Interactive document - A burial in an amphorette (grave 30)

A burial in an amphorette (grave 30)

The upper part of the vertical recipient was removed to be able to place the body. Several details indicate that the vase was closed with a cover made of organic material.
© G. Alix, INRAP
Interactive document - Grave 7, after excavation

Grave 7, after excavation

© U. Cabezuelo, INRAP
Interactive document - Drawing of grave 7

Drawing of grave 7

The distribution of nails and objects allow us to reconstruct a wooden container. The body was placed in the centre of the ceramics, which were part of an elaborate funerary deposit.
© A. Wittmann, INRAP
Interactive document - The ceramics from the deposit of grave 7

The ceramics from the deposit of grave 7

© H. Dartevelle, MCC-DRAC Auvergne