Robert THERNOT , Valérie BEL , Stéphane MAUNE - AHR-13 - L'établissement rural antique de Soumaltre (Aspiran, Hérault). Ferme, auberge, nécropole et atelier de potier en bordure de la voie Cesseron-Condatomagus (Ier-IIe s.),2004, 388 p., 363 fig. (ISBN:2-907303-81-3)
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Dug in 1999 as a result of a rescue excavation linked to the construction of the A75 autoroute, Soumaltre (Aspiran/Hérault) was sited not far from the river Hérault at the junction of the frontier between the cities of Béziers and Lodève. Occupied from the turn of the millennium to the second half of the 2nd century, it is an extremely interesting example of a multi-focal settlement. To begin with it consisted simply of an inn serving the north-south road, but it later also acquired a wine warehouse and a pottery factory where the amphorae necessary for the onward sale of the wine were made. Other actvities have also been identified: olive-oil production, wool-processing and stock-rearing.
An important programme of analysis carried out on the finds assemblages from the excavation has made a major contribution to the understanding of the material culture associated with life in this micro-region of Gallia Narbonensis under the Early Empire. The exploration of the site also uncovered some 30 cremations located at both sides of the road. The very detailed catalogue of the graves and the study of their spatial and chronological distribution has allowed an original hypothesis to be put forward, that of a rural cemetery serving more than one community. According to all the evidence, the road appears to have separated the graves of several distinct settlements, which serves to reinforce its role as a vital axis. At this level, this window on the plain of Soumaltre also opens up new research perspectives and encourages further consideration of the diversity and complexity of the southern Gaulish countryside.