Ongoing research

Villa research today is undergoing profound changes, sweeping away outmoded concepts that had for some time marred the study of this type of site. Estate farming is now a promising avenue in archaeological research.

A recently as two decades ago, discussions were limited to one or two sites per region, but an increasing numbers of excavations have allow researchers to move beyond this situation. Preventive archaeology has played a key role in helping create a real series of villas. Painstaking reconstruction of the individual destinies of these estate-based undertakings will, in time, provide a more solid foundation for conceptualising regional-level changes.

The luxurious parts of villas are no longer the primary focal point. The residence is approached within the framework of extensive open area excavation involving every part of the villa. The fundus is also studied, requiring specialists in geoarchéology and paleoenvironmental research. Investigations are also directed at the distribution of this type of rural site within the context of a region or a city, to the point where a geography of the villa in the provinces of Gaul could be imagined.

The field of study has also been expanded chronologically, if we see the villa not only as a mark of Romanisation, but also as a stage in the domination of the countryside by the upper classes between the end of the Iron Age and the feudal period.


National archaeological map

1/ Groups of dots: thanks to ongoing efforts by the Regional Archaeology Departments, sites and possible sites, known from excavations and prospecting, can be entered into a single database, Patriarche, which is connected to a Geographic Information System (GIS).In addition to providing management and data protection functions for archaeological data, Patriarche is also a scientific tool. Using the tens of thousands of pieces of information (archaeological entities), researchers can draw up maps on various themes, such as this map of known villa sites in France.2/ Density map: although we know of villas throughout the metropolitan regions, they are quite unevenly distributed in the provinces of Gaul; they are prevalent along the Mediterranean coastline, the Rhone Valley and in the northeast. Lower densities are observed in the west and southwest. Some concentrations may be the result of more intense and effective field exploration, as is the case in Picardy following the aerial prospecting by Roger Agache.These differences may be significant for historians, revealing important differences on an economic (and perhaps cultural) level in the development of the provinces of Gaul.
© MCC - SDA, Patriarche
Interactive document - Marquion Villa

Marquion Villa

Archaeological diagnostic prior to the construction of the Seine-Nord-Europe canal (2009): aerial view of a Gallo-Roman villa at Marquion (Pas-de-Calais). Scientific director: Denis Gaillard, Marquion (Pas-de-Calais), 2009.
© Philippe Fruitier-Altimage / INRAP
Interactive document - The Magny-Cours Villa (Nièvre), a rescue archaeological operation in 2009

The Magny-Cours Villa (Nièvre), a rescue archaeological operation in 2009

Scientific director: Maxence Segard (Archéodunum).
© Maxence Segard