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SAINT-JUST-PEPIRON Charente-Maritime, France.

Excavations at Pepiron (commune of Saint-Just, near Marennes in Charente-Maritime) have brought to light the remains of a villa rustica. It was built on the S flank of an anticline separating the marshes of Brouage and La Seudre. It is located about 30 km as the crow flies from Saintes (Mediolanum Santonum), which in the 1st c. was the capital of the province of Aquitaine.

The country of the Santoni was thickly settled at the end of Gallic independence. Many Gallo-Roman establishments have been noted along the seashore or the edges of the littoral marshes. They are revealed by foundations or simply by a concentration of potsherds or coins. In very few have excavations or test trenches been made.

The villa of Pepiron has been partially brought to light during the course of eight successive seasons of excavation from 1960 to 1968. The plan of the foundations shows a rather classical arrangement. The patron's house and its dependencies were set around a central court at least 150 x 30 m wide. It is orientated E-W along the long axis. Only the buildings on the S side have been completely investigated. Only limited test trenches have been made in other parts of the villa.

The patron's house was located in the NW corner. Only a group of foundations and some bare walls very carefully built of ashlar masonry survive. The whole included baths and some rooms heated by a hypocaust. It covered only the small area of 21 x 10 m. To the N was a garden enclosed by a hemicycle with a radius of 8 m. A covered drain ran all along the N wall and crossed the garden diagonally before spilling into a cesspool on the outside. The very compact network of the foundations and the reuse of hewn stones faced with ashlar indicate that there was remodeling during the long occupation of the site. There are indications of a certain concern for comfort: remains of a praefurnium; underground heating channels; a hypocaust whose small piers still stand to a height of 0.40 m (the debris of its suspensura littered the ground); another praefurnium near the remains of a small semicircular swimming pool. A degree of artistic elaboration is indicated by polychrome painted plastering and fragments of relief stucco scroll ornaments, statues, and stone moldings. The dependencies continued to the E. Most of their shallow foundations consisted of dry stone walling.

Abundant finds were made during the excavations: jewelry, coins, tools, various artifacts of metal, bone, wood, etc., and quantities of potsherds. Terra sigillata and Early Christian pottery indicate that the site was occupied throughout the Gallo-Roman period. Study of the kitchen refuse has shed some light on stock-raising, agricultural production, and diet.

Finds from the excavations are in the archaeological museum of the Société de Géographie de Rochefort.


Robert Fontaine, “Le site gallo-romain de Pepiron: Roccafortis,” Bull. Soc. de Geo. de Rochefort, nos. 4-10, 12 (1961-67); C. Gabet, “La céramique recueillie à Pepiron,” Gallia 27.1 (1969) 45-70; id., “L'habitat gallo-romain entre la basse Charente et la Seudre,” Celticum 9 (1963) 239, 245MPI.


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