Gallo-Roman Vineyard from Burgundy

The incipit of an interesting item from CNRS … mirrored in various places:

Gevrey-Chambertin, 12 km from Dijon, is famous throughout the world for its Burgundy wines. It is now possible to conclude that winegrowing in this region goes back to the Gallo-Roman era, as testified by the findings of excavations by the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP), at the spot known as “Au dessus de Bergis”. Carried out in collaboration with scientists from the ARTeHIS Laboratory (CNRS/Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication/Université de Bourgogne), this dig revealed 316 rectangular pits aligned in 26 rows, interpreted as being the remains of a vineyard from the first century AD.

Commissioned by the French Government (DRAC Bourgogne), excavations covering nearly 12,000 m² were completed during the summer of 2008 before building work started to enlarge a housing estate planned by Gevrey-Chambertin town council. The dig, divided into two sectors, revealed a series of hollow remains (pits, pot-holes and ditches) from different periods. For the Gallo-Roman era, an area of more than 6000 m² was covered by more than 300, regularly spaced and aligned pits, surrounded by a continuous peripheral ditch. These rectangular pits are 90 to 130 cm long by a little less than 60 cm wide, and sections of the soil filling them indicate the void left by the trunk and roots of a small shrub. Many of the pits are split into two compartments by a small ridge of rubble and soil.

How can these remains be interpreted? The alignment and rectangular shape of the pits are similar to those found at the sites of other Gallo-Roman vineyards discovered in both southern France, the region around Paris and in the UK. The small dimensions of the pits mean that the hypothesis of an orchard can be excluded. The “ghosts” of small shrubs observed in the filing earth are of the size of a vine stock. The two compartments separated by a ridge correspond to the recommendations of Pliny the Elder and Columella, two 1st century Latin authors, which were to plant two vine stocks in each pit and arrange them “so that the roots of the two layers in the same pit do not twist around each other, which will be easy to do by placing rocks no heavier than five pounts in the bottom of the pits, transversally and across the middle.” These pits are the first example how these viticultural and agronomic precepts were applied in Gaul. Some pits are edged by smaller, more shallow ditches. The secondary ditches probably served for provining, an ancient technique for the vegetative propagation of vines, when the above-ground part of the plant (stem, branches, etc.) was buried so that it developed its own roots before being separated from the parent plant and living as a new, independent individual.

This Day in Ancient History

ante diem v idus martias

Festival of Mars (day 11)

222 A.D. — murder of the emperor Elagabalus

ca. 263 A.D. — martyrdom of Heraclius

ca. 300 A.D. — martyrdom of Thalus

ca. 300 A.D. — martyrdom of Trophimus

1903 — birth of Ronald Syme (The Roman Revolution, among other seminal works)