The Villa of the Iron Head: outbuildings (Grimault, Yonne)

A villa excavated by a scholar

The Villa of the Iron Head was excavated between 1951 and 1964 by a very talented amateur, Abbot Jean Duchâtel. He left behind a great deal of documentation, including floor plans that were verified by aerial photographs taken by Pierre Nouvel (Université de Franche-Comté).

At its largest, the villa, about a hectare in size, had an axial composition. To the west, the residence was organised around an ornamental pool. A wall with a square tower set in it separates it from the outbuildings courtyard that stretches westward, with two wings of agricultural buildings extending for about a hundred metres. At its western end, the courtyard is closed off by a row of buildings along the paved road that leads south out of the outbuildings zone. To the west of the residence, an enclosure walled on three sides with a corner tower is thought to have been a garden.

The site, which was occupied as of the late Iron Age, is characterised by three main construction phases. In the first half of the 1st century CE, the establishment consisted of four separate buildings around a central courtyard with a different orientation than the future villa. The second phase was not a thorough reconstruction, but rather a series of modifications between the second half of the 1st century to the early 4th century CE. There was an interruption in occupation starting in the mid-4th century. A building on posts was erected in the pars urbana, but then the site was definitively abandoned in the early 5th century. Workshops and outbuildings

The Duchâtel excavations were wide-ranging, and included the outbuildings, which led to a better understanding of the functions of each of the villa's various structures.

The southern wing consisted of Buildings III, IV, V and VI. Building III, a square structure, is thought to have served as a stable, with two areas paved with stones flanking a central area for stabling animals. Building IV was a shed that was used as a workshop. In it were discovered metal objects that had apparently been scrapped, including an ascia and seven objects that appear to be stirrups. The layout of Building VI, associated with building X, a drying shed, appears to be that of a barn or hayloft, with an entrance giving access to an upper floor.

The northern wing consists of Buildings XI, XIII and XIV. The southern room of Building XIII has a complex structure that may be either a grain oven or perhaps a meat dryer. Building XIV had a porch, and the presence of a waste pit for grape seeds tells us that it was used for wine-making activities, even though traces of a wine press and storage area cannot be established with certainty. In addition, Building XIV appears to have been used for housing, with a series of hearths and storage areas. This is also true of the buildings that close off the courtyard to the east (Buildings VIII and IX) that appear to have, at least in the final occupation phase, provided modest living quarters.
Interactive document - The Tête de Fer Villa (Grimault, Yonne)

The Tête de Fer Villa (Grimault, Yonne)

General view of the vestiges uncovered for the various construction phases.
© P. Nouvel, Université de Franche-Comté
Interactive document - The Tête de Fer Villa (Grimault, Yonne) and its environment

The Tête de Fer Villa (Grimault, Yonne) and its environment

The villa is located in a fossilised meander of the Serein, whose steep-sided valley crosses the limestone plateaus of Basse-Bourgogne.
© P. Nouvel, Université de Franche-Comté
Interactive document - The Abbé Duchatel before a treasure-trove of Roman coins

The Abbé Duchatel before a treasure-trove of Roman coins


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - The residential section of the villa

The residential section of the villa

The residential section was divided into three separate wings around a central courtyard. The primary building was found to contain a mosaic pavement. To the north and south, apartments fitted with hypocausts and hearths or fireplaces made of brick, including a small family cult worship area (statue of a fertility or abundance deity). To the north, a small bathing establishment.
© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - Cold bath from the villa's bathing establishment

Cold bath from the villa's bathing establishment

The cladding plates have been preserved, and we can see the iron clamps that were used to attach them to the brickwork.
© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - Cellar in the residential sector

Cellar in the residential sector


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - Floor hearth, created with tiles and ringed by blocks of stone

Floor hearth, created with tiles and ringed by blocks of stone


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - A statuette of an abundance or fertility deity, witness to the villa's religious practices

A statuette of an abundance or fertility deity, witness to the villa's religious practices


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - Chain parts and a ring for a chest or a door, found in Building III, thought to be a stable

Chain parts and a ring for a chest or a door, found in Building III, thought to be a stable


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - Metal objects from the workshop in Building IV

Metal objects from the workshop in Building IV


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne
Interactive document - The remains of a press (?) in Building XIV

The remains of a press (?) in Building XIV


© Fonds MCC-DRAC Bourgogne