Documents de la commission patrimoine

Lost Ancient City of Ucetia Finally Found With Iconic Roman Mosaics

There are many ancient Roman cities that didn’t survive the ravages of time, and it’s not often that one actually gets discovered. Ucetia, a settlement that used to be known only from an inscription, was recently found in southern France with stunning mosaics and structures that paint a picture of an innovative and advanced society.

According to a report from International Business Times UK, the archaeologists began digging in October 2016 to ensure that a construction for a boarding school and canteen in the city of Uzes wouldn’t destroy any valuable artefacts. It was an expedition that was requested by the French state and led by Philippe Cayn of the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP).

Found in Gallia Norbonensis in the north of Nimes, Ucetia used to be only known from some Roman remains on the site and a stone found with the inscription VCETIAE or Ucetia.

« Prior to our work, we knew that there had been a Roman city called Ucetia only because its name was mentioned on stela in Nimes, alongside 11 other names of Roman towns in the area, » Cayn said.

« It was probably a secondary town, under the authority of Nimes. No artefacts had been recovered except for a few isolated fragments of mosaic, » he added.

The researchers found that people lived in Ucetia from the 1st century B.C. to about 7th century A.D. However, there was a break in occupation from the 3rd and 4th centuries, a strange interruption that is still a mystery to the team.

A large wall and a number of structures were part of the discoveries, which are amazingly dated before the Roman conquest of France.

Undoubtedly, the most remarkable find of the excavation were a series of beautiful mosaics featuring geometric shapes and animals like an owl, duck, eagle and fawn. Cayn explained that such elaborate designs were common in the 1st and 2nd centuries in the Roman world, but not during the period of Ucetia, which is roughly 200 years before.