The villa from the air

The practice of aerial prospecting gained ground in France in 1950s and 1960s, thanks to the work of Raymond Chevallier (L’avion à la découverte du passé, 1964), René Goguey (Burgundy), Louis Monguilan (Provence) and other pioneering researchers. Pride of place in the discipline goes to Roger Agache, the author of Somme pré-romaine et romaine d’après les prospections aériennes à basse altitude (1978), the result of more than a decade and a half of work. The thousands of photographs he took have played a major role in our reassessment of the villa.

Nearly six hundred villas in the region of Amiens (Samarobriva) were photographed. This outstanding collection can be accessed to compare villa floor plans, or examine data on long-term changes in land use. Based on the remarkable density of these farming estates, Roger Agache accorded the villa a leading role in the development of agriculture and the economic organisation in Rome's western provinces.

More recently, aerial prospecting in southwest France has revealed villas whose structures, some of them up to fifty metres wide, had rooms with constructed floors, along with installations for producing wine, a vast storeroom and a room for the wine press – later confirmed by excavations. These sightings were crucial to a re-examination of the region's viticulture, which had heretofore been poorly documented and underestimated.

Medias

Interactive document - Chirmont Villa, 1962

Chirmont Villa, 1962

First wintertime photo of a Gallo-Roman villa on bare ground after deep ploughing. Chirmont (Somme), 1962. Photo: Roger Agache – DRAC de Picardie.
Photo: Roger Agache © DRAC de Picardie
Interactive document - Warfusée-Abancourt Villa

Warfusée-Abancourt Villa

Aerial view of a Gallo-Roman villa at Warfusée-Abancourt (Somme).
Photo: Roger Agache © DRAC de Picardie
Interactive document - Lestagnac Villa

Lestagnac Villa

Aerial view of the Lestagnac Villa (Saint-Mézard, Gers). Atop the excavated ensemble is a rectangular building ending in a square, whitewashed room.
Photo: Catherine Petit
Interactive document - Lestagnac Villa

Lestagnac Villa

Excavation of the Lestagnac Villa (Saint-Mézard, Gers). Discovery of a long rectangular wine warehouse and the wine-press room.
Photo: Catherine Petit