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LALONQUETTE Basses-Pyrénées, France.

Halfway between Beneharnum (Lescar) and Vicus Julii (Aire-sur-l'Adour), near a Roman road that linked these two cities and continued N towards Burdigala (Bordeaux) and S towards Spain are ancient remains on the edge of the river Gabas around the area called Lou Gleyzia. They cover several hectares. To the E, on the national highway from Pau to Bordeaux, can be seen a building the central part of which has been excavated, and some outlying farm buildings that were added W of the road. Noteworthy among the latter is a water mill with a dam, penstock, and tail-lock.

The site has been known since 1843. In 1959 deep excavations revealed some 4th c. mosaics. Houses had been burnt down and rebuilt on the site several times from the end of the 1st c. to the 5th and possibly 6th c., when the inhabitants left for the hills. The earliest architectural strata, now being excavated, can be dated by pottery (terra sigillata decorated with aquatic plants), and 1st c. coins. These strata mark the site of a semi-rural settlement consisting of a few public buildings, separated from one another. Among them is a finely built bath building, a huge rectangular room with an apse on one of the long sides, heated by a hypocaust on low piers, and perhaps a small temple. These buildings survived throughout the whole of the 2d c., and additional buildings were placed around a little square with a well in the middle. The walls are not thick, but are solidly built and decorated with paintings. A large marble basin, incongruous in a purely agricultural building, denotes a certain wealth.

To the W is a large hall opening onto a portico; it can readily be dated by a store of 63 coins from the period from Claudius to Commodus, including 19 from Hadrian's reign. The settlement seems to have flourished in the 3d c. under the Tetrici (46 coins with their names). Various changes seem to have been made at this time: the square became a porticoed courtyard, the bath building was given a new raised hypocaust, and there is a columned atrium against the S wall, although this may date from the preceding period. To the S, a kind of rectangular cella was built on the axis of a large courtyard ringed with buildings. Outside this complex are some rooms filled with piles of metal slag, a sign that craftsmen worked there. To the N the buildings are set closer together; they were all heated by a network of pipes radiating hot air under the mosaic floors. The buildings were destroyed in a severe fire.

In the 4th c. a luxurious villa was built over the original settlement; its walls were erected on the leveled walls from the previous period. The baths were rebuilt, the apsidal hall modified, and both were incorporated in an elaborate complex, with many apses and vistas, arranged around the 3d c. peristyle courtyard, which was raised. The mosaics were restored and the well replaced by a pool sheltered by a sort of tetrapylon. An oecus was added, opening to the E, and a gallery 30 m long was built on the banks of the Gabas with an apse at either end. From the SE corner of the courtyard a series of vestibules of various shapes—octagonal and square—all richly decorated with somewhat carelessly executed geometric mosaics, led to a portico opening to the S on gardens (created on top of buildings razed in the 3d c.). Another collection of 57 coins, 46 of them from the reigns of Constantine and his sons, was found S of the baths under a mosaic that was added at the end of the 4th c. The same date probably should be assigned to the gallery mosaic and especially to that in the oecus, the theme of which is very common in Dalmatia, Palestine, and North Africa in the early 5th c.

The villa apparently survived the Visigoth invasions. Later a modest building, possibly a chapel, was erected on its ruins. In front of its E wall is a solid mass of stone resembling an altar. It is surrounded by tombs, but no grave furnishings have been found.


P. Courteault, “Bibliographie des mosaïques gallo-romaines du Béarn IV: Lalonquette,”REA 11 (1909) 162ff; J. Lauffray, “Note sur les mosaïques de Lalonquette,” Bulletin de la Sté des Sciences, Lettres et Arts de Pau 20 (1959); id., “Lalonquette, Nouvelles découvertes archéologiques,”REA 24 (1963); J. Coupry, “Informations,” Gallia 17, 1 (1959) 407I; 19, 2 (1961) 396-98; 21, 2 (1963) 535-36; 23, 2 (1965) 441; 27, 2 (1969) 376-78.


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