Farmlands in Antiquity

The watersheds in the Loupian area provided a patchwork of agricultural lands, the nature of which depended on their location – further up in the hills or down in the flatter valley areas. Soil scientists use the term 'toposequences'. Dense vegetation can help protect the covering on the slopes and aid in pedogenesis – the creation of soil. The Mediterranean climate, with its torrential rains, can play a key role in soil erosion when they are cleared for farming. Increasingly, multidisciplinary studies carried out in collaboration with geo-archaeologists reveal that the impact of human activity on these areas is just as important a factor when the land is overworked or when agriculture is in decline. It is thus possible to posit that lands farmed by peasants in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages were not the same type and did not have the same agronomic qualities as those of today.

When they have not been disturbed by modern farming methods, the soil horizons of lands farmed in Antiquity lie fossilised, deep beneath the present-day vineyards, which were planted on the slopes in terraces bounded by low stone walls. The brown of these ancient soils – a natural pedological phenomenon – contrasts with the lighter-coloured soils of today. They contain weathered potsherds and occasional bits of charcoal, evidence of manure spreading. There is no evidence to suggest that farmers in Antiquity created terraces for their crops, a common characteristic of the rural Mediterranean world.


Interactive document - Observations for a soil history

Observations for a soil history

In a freshly-made cross-section alongside a road, a brown horizon (cultivated soil that has been fossilized by colluvial deposits). A scattering of pottery fragments dates its use to Antiquity.
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon
Interactive document - Beneath the vines

Beneath the vines

This cross-section, which was made during rural earthworks, shows how a modern vineyard conceals ancient brickwork, a section of the aqueduct that provided water to the villa, and a few vestiges of cultivated land from the Roman era.
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon
Interactive document - Changes to the environment

Changes to the environment

A powerful sedimentary sequence observed at the outskirts of the town of Loupian formed over the course of several centuries, between Late Antiquity and the modern era. The agricultural systems developed along with changes to the landscape.
© Ch. Pellecuer, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon
Interactive document - Storms and floods

Storms and floods

This drawing shows the succession of flood deposits made by a small, seasonal waterway in one of the Loupian watersheds. One of the reasons for the frequent flooding, which covered over the archaeological layers from the 1st century BCE, may be found in the intensive farming that was practiced.
© I. Bermond, MCC-DRAC Languedoc-Roussillon