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SCARPONNA or Scarpona, Dieulouard, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France.

Mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary and the Peutinger Table, Scarponna was a way station along the great road from Langres to Trier. It stands at a crossing of the Moselle, which seems to have been the boundary between the territories of the Leuci and the Mediomatrici. The only historical reference to Scarponna is by Ammianus Marcellinus (27.2), who recounts that Jovinus, the emperor Valentinian's magister equitum, exterminated two bands of Alemanni there in 367. The vicus was occupied continuously from the 1st c. A.D. to Carolingian times, most intensely in the 1st and 4th c. Recent salvage excavations (1969-70), necessitated by large public works projects, have shown that from the 1st to the 3d c. residential houses were arranged along the Roman road. Remains of a bridge crossing an old channel of the Moselle were found as well as, nearby, two milestones, one (incomplete) bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian, the other (complete) with the name of Postumus and the distance (XIII leugae) from Scarponna to Metz. In the 4th c. Scarponna served as a defensive bridgehead against barbarian invasions. A castellum was built on both sides of the great road and the course of the Moselle was changed to serve as a moat for the fort, which became an island. In 1970 at the bottom of the branch of the Moselle which runs along the W side of the castellum, remains were found of a first phase of the fortifications. These had been hastily built with reused materials—in particular funerary stelae. The walls had tipped into the river, undoubtedly after a particularly violent Moselle flood. A second wall, built farther back than the first, is still partly visible today, as well as the abutment of a bridge and an old embankment. Other parts of the same fortification, with remains of towers, can be seen in gardens and house cellars. The total area of the fort, which was trapezoidal in shape, was ca. 1.3 ha.

An inhumation necropolis dating to the 4th c. was recently excavated SW of the castellum. (It replaced a 1st and 2d c. cremation cemetery of which only a few funerary urns survive.) The bodies are variously orientated; sometimes they are surrounded by a row of unworked stones; sometimes they are enclosed in sarcophagus-boxes made of tiles set together in different ways. A large and very well-preserved assemblage of grave-goods was collected, including glass and ceramic vases and ornaments (bronze bracelets, rings, necklaces, charms). The many finds collected during the recent salvage excavations are kept in a small storage-depot at Dieulouard: common iron and bronze artifacts, abundant 1st to 4th c. pottery, weights, glass vases, fibulae, coins, as well as several stelae of the house type. The Musée Lorrain at Nancy has most of the lapidary artifacts from chance discoveries or old excavations: a milestone in honor of the emperor Caracalla found in 1778, gravestones with sculptured reliefs and inscriptions (including several stelae of the house type), a basin of a fountain with an inscription, an altar dedicated to Mercury, a group sculpture representing ironsmiths at work.


Lamoureux, “Notice de la ville et du comté de Scarpone” (an extract from “Mémoires du P. Le Bonnetier, dernier curé et prieur de Scarpone”), in Mém. de la Soc. royale des Antiquaires de France (1829) VIII 172-215; (1834) x 55-100 (the MS memoirs of P. La Bennetier are in the Bibliothèque municipale de Nancy); M. Toussaint, “Scarponne au temps de la Gaule romains,” in Pays Lorrain (1938) 529-50PI; id., Répertoire archéologique Meurthe-et-Moselle (1947) 24-41; R. Billoret in Gallia 26 (1968), 28 (1970)PI.


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