July 29, 2021

From “British Pompeii” to “Second Rome”, Arte puts archeology in the spotlight


What do the buried village of Must Farm, in the county of Cambridge across the Channel, and the Occitan city of Narbonne, in Aude have in common? On these two sites, relatively recent excavations have turned the scientific knowledge acquired so far upside down.

Partner of the European Archaeological Days (JEA), extension of our national days, from June 18 to 20, Arte is seizing the opportunity. Prolific in historical and archaeological documentaries, the Franco-German channel disrupts its programming to broadcast, Saturday, June 19, eight documentaries on the subject. From the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, from China to Iran, from ancient Egypt to Rome.

Read also: “Guédelon II, a medieval adventure”, out of time, in space

While these are mostly reruns, some deserve a “special mention”, such as British Bronze Age Pompeii, documentary dedicated to the unearthing, since September 2015, of the remains of a British village of the Bronze Age at Must Farm, all exceptionally well preserved: a huge wooden frame (the largest in Europe), a unique collection of fabrics… The swampy mud in which they were buried protected them indeed. Hence the nickname, admittedly a little excessive, of “British Pompeii”.

Read also: The “British Pompeii” comes out of the clay

Daily lifestyle

No exaggeration, however, to qualify Narbonne as “second Rome”, as in the title of the first unpublished of the day, broadcast as a bonus. And yet… Who, while walking today in the sub-prefecture of Aude, dominated by its Gothic cathedral, imagines that there was erected there, a stone’s throw away, the largest temple of Roman Gaul, at the time when Narbo Martius, founded in 118 BC, was Rome’s first representative in Gaul? Capital of a province renamed “la Narbonnaise” by the emperor Augustus himself.

Very few people, even among archaeologists, until the discovery, in 1999, of cobblestones in Via Domitia, which linked Italy to the Iberian Peninsula. And that’s the whole attraction of the film: witnessing these challenges over a relatively short period of time. Observe how historical information (the arrival of 6,000 legionaries in 46 BC) or the excavations of a new site (a funeral complex of 400 tombs which could contain up to 1,500) allow to reconstitute the development of the “Narbonnaise” region, but also the daily way of life of its inhabitants.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Narbonne, linked to the Mediterranean by a Roman sea road

A brief geological reminder (the sea level was not the same at Iis century) introduces the naval and commercial part of the demonstration, starting with Port-la-Nautique, maritime access to the Roman Narbonne. Despite certain passages bordering on off topic, Narbonne, the second Rome fits perfectly with these Archeology Days by giving as much importance to discoveries as to the work of scientists, all passionate about it. To the point of sharing, the highlight of the show, the excitement of an important discovery: “It’s marble, it’s massive and quite heavy”… Enough to arouse vocations.

Narbonne, the second Rome, documentary by Alain Tixier (Fr., 2021, 90 min). With seven other scheduled documentaries: From Persia to Iran, by Richard Downes (UK, 2020, 3 × 50 min) at 10:05; The Chinese tank at the origin of the first empire, by Giulia Clark (UK, 2016, 52 min) at 12:45 p.m .; British Bronze Age Pompeii, by Sarah Jobling (UK, 2016, 69 min) at 1:40 p.m. Guédelon II, a medieval adventure, by Bianca Zamfira (UK, 2019, 90 min) at 2:50 p.m .; Ladies and princes of prehistoric times, by Pauline Coste (Fr., 2021, 52 min) at 10 p.m .; Egypt: companion mummies, by Michael Gregor (Germany, 2018, 52 min) at 11:15 p.m. Hecatomb in the Neolithic, by Gabriele Wengler (All., 2019, 51 min) at 0 h 10.