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JURANÇON Basses-Pyrénées, France.

The valleys and hillsides of this commune, adjacent to the city of Pau on the left bank of the Gave, have long been noted for their fine vineyards: ever since antiquity inhabitants of neighboring towns have chosen this region for their country seats. In Roman times citizens of Beneharnum (Lescar), one of the chief cities of Novempopulania, built villas there. A Roman road leading to Spain through the Ossau valley crossed the area, and traces of Roman occupation can be found along its path, especially at Bielle (a mosaic, columns, capitals). For over a century Roman remains have been discovered in the neighborhood and the sites of villas and baths identified. Two of the latter are worth describing.

1) In 1850 a huge public building, probably a bath, was summarily excavated near the Oly bridge on the W bank of the Néez, a tributary of the Gave. It was known chiefly for its mosaics, which have now disappeared. The published plan is difficult to interpret, as the position of the doorways is uncertain. Two sets of rooms, four to the S and nine to the N, with independent heating and water supply systems, were arranged on either side of an atrium. A mosaic with fish motifs covered the bottom of the pool in the atrium, and there was a fountain fed by lead pipes. The outer rear wall curves in a huge apse, opposite which are two doors giving on to a porticoed gallery 30 m long. Opening towards the river, this gallery also leads to two groups of rooms bordering the atrium. The N group is a set of baths: the heated rooms and alvei can be identified. Besides the usual geometric motifs the mosaic floor shows a Neptune with a trident surrounded by fish and Nereids.

In the S complex the floors are heated by hot-air radiating pipes, the furnaces of which have been found. These may also be bath buildings; if so, the monument may be a double establishment with one side for men and the other for women. Fragments of columns and elements of marble wall facings suggest that it was a luxurious building. Traces of outbuildings have also been found.

2) In 1958 a fine mosaic, noted in the 19th c. but forgotten, was rediscovered in the area known as Las-Hies. Partial excavation made it clear that the mosaic was the floor of the frigidarium of some small baths standing alone. Their plan is similar to that of two baths found at Sorde l'Abbaye. There were four main rooms. The apodyterium, to the SE, served the two heated rooms. The caldarium had two baths. In the frigidarium, to the SW, the mosaic is geometric in design.

On the hillside of the chapel of Rousse, between the Pont d'Oly and Las-Hies, near the Château Montjoly, a mosaic was discovered on what is probably the site of a large villa.


C. Lecoeur, Mosaïques de Jurançon et de Bielle (1856); id., Le Béarn, Histoires et Promenades archéologiques (1877) 146-63I; G. L. Lafaye, Inventaire des mosaïques de la Gaule (1909-25); J. Coupry, “Informations,” Gallia 19 (1961) 397-98I; copies in color of the mosaics of Pont d'

Oly are in the Archives des Monuments Historiques in Paris. J. LAUFFRAY

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