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6.2.06

Christian Ruins in Nice

Archeology on Ionarts:

Tomb of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill (October 2, 2003)

Site of Early Christian Basilica Discovered in Arles (November 17, 2003)

Update on the Arles Excavation (November 20, 2003)

If You Dig, You Will Find It [early basilica excavation in Marseilles] (January 21, 2004)

Gallo-Roman Mosaics Discovered in Besançon (April 19, 2004)

Amphitheater Discovered in Aix-en-Provence (May 27, 2004)

Roman Venus Discovered in Cologne (October 7, 2004)

Excavating the Roman Suburbs (October 15, 2004)

Roman Necropolis Discovered in Modena (December 4, 2004)

Charles IX's Wall under the Orangerie (February 3, 2005)

10th-Century Church in Angers Rediscovered (January 24, 2006)
Before France, there was Gaul. The prehistory of the major metropolitan regions of the country is of great interest to me, and here's the latest news. The Roman settlement of Cemenelum was on the Via Julia Augusta (Via Aurelia), the major road between Italy and Spain. In the first century, it was the seat of the Roman territory of the maritime Alps, and the expected Roman monuments were all built there. There have been new excavations under the Cimiez hill (Cemenelum) in Nice, revealing when a Christian community was established there. As many suspected, Nice had a Christian community earlier than the Early Christian cathedral and baptistery ruins discovered by Fernand Benoît in Nice in the 1950s and 60s, who thought that Christians were established in Nice in the 5th century. An article by Sophie Latil (A Nice, des chrétiens dès le IVe siècle, February 4) for Le Figaro (my translation):
Thanks to a new research campaign financed by the General Council, the French government, and the City of Nice, planned for three years through the end of 2007, last summer's discovery of a larger and older baptismal basin underneath the baptistry has just shaken that theory. "At the opening of the Christian era, the symbol of baptism was that of Christ immersed in water," explains Monique Jannet, archeologist and curator of the Musée archéologique de Cimiez. "The farther along you go, the more that baptismal basins are closed up in favor of the aspersion type that we are familiar with today." Significant traces of fires lead one to believe that this first basin had been abandoned before the narrower one discovered by Fernand Benoît was built. The analysis of ash and ceramic fragments discovered in the ashes permit a dating of the disaster and therefore the age of the first baptistry: at the latest, in the second half of the fourth century.
They have also uncovered a skeleton, buried about ten meters from the cathedral with coins bearing imperial images from the same period. It may be a Christian burial, although it is far from the church for that. There may be more discoveries on the way in Nice. Archeologists are now investigating what may be in the ground on the site of the new city hall. Analysis of ash there, brought up during deep core sampling, with dates between 4000 and 5000 B.C., may indicate the presence of a significant prehistoric site.

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