Topic: ancient cooking pot found underground
In advance of the creation of an artisan centre in the federated districts of Bléré-Val-de-Cher, central France, archaeologists have been excavating Neolithic, Antique and Medieval remains. Among the Medieval remains, a well preserved underground refuge chamber was discovered, representing a rare archaeological find.
Refuge of a local elite?
The entrance to the underground refuge was hidden under the floor of a small building on stilts.
The discovery of a ceramic cooking pot in the infill of the underground chamber allows it to be dated to the end of the 11th century. At this time, the Counts of Anjou and Blois were quarrelling over the possession of the Touraine region, where there was a large network of military installations.
The refuge is entered by a staircase dug into the ground and is composed of a network of several hallways and rooms extending along more than fifteen linear metres. It is narrow and low (0.50 m wide on average, and 1.15 to 1.55 m high) and appears to have served as a refuge based on several elements, such as right-angled “elbows” that would have hidden the occupants and slowed down an assailant. The entrance was closed off by a door at the bottom of the staircase, and another protected the access to the three hallways. The chamber could also have been used to store and protect food from looters.
The interior contains rather elaborate modifications including twenty niches to hold old lamps, benches carved into the limestone, a small well, fed by the groundwater table and boards to level the ground surface. All of these elements suggest that it could accommodate five or six persons for a prolonged period, possibly a small family unit belonging to the local elite.
A series of laboratory analyses will contribute to the knowledge and understanding of this Medieval site. A pottery specialist will study the sherds and vases recovered from the infill of the underground chamber, a dendrochronologist will determine the date at which the trees were cut down to make the planks and a xylologist will identify their species. Radiometric dates will also be obtained. The traces left by the tools and techniques used to cut the stone will provide information on how the refuge was dug out. All of this data will be used to verify the hypotheses proposed by the archaeologists and help to clarify the age of this exceptional site.
May 28, 2013