Site: Oppidum, Roman Town, Theatre, Bridge, Temple
Argentomagus is an important archaeological site as show how an Iron Age settlement transformed into a Roman Town. Although the presence of Romans was known about, after all the relatively well preserved theatre is obvious, it was not until professional excavations that got under way in the 1960s that the centre of the ancient Roman town of Argentomagus was unearthed. The museum, opened in 1990, is an amazing structure built on the remains of a three story Roman house, and is located at the heart of the archaeological site.
In around 50 BC the Romans took over what had been an Iron Age town of the Bituriges Celtic tribe for a few centuries. Understandably, it is the Gaulish and Roman past of Saint-Marcel that is prominently and innovatively displayed in the museum. There are, however, also significant Palaeolithic set of exhibitions as a result of a number of excavations of open air and cave sites in the area. And donations of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age objects complete the history of the region that covers close to one million years.
Facilities & Visiting Argentomagus Museum and Archaeological Site:
The archaeological site is a freely accessible park that is open all day, everyday. There is a charge and opening hours for the onsite museum.
Where is Saint-Marcel?
A number of features typical of a Gallo-Roman town have been excavated. These include both domestic and public architecture. Much of the archaeological site we visit today is within the boundary of what was an Iron Age Oppidum. The artificial earthworks that surrounded an area of about 27 hectares are still visible. The principle features are two domestic houses, shops, a sanctuary area with three temples, and a fountain.
One of the houses, excavated in 1970, belonged to Quintus Sergius Macrinus. It was a substantial domus, with at least three rooms, at least one of which had hypocaust heating. Remains of painted plaster were recovered during the excavations. The remains of another house can be seen in the basement of the museum, as the museum was built on the remains of a three story house.
A large sanctuary area has been uncovered, that had at least three perhaps even four temples within a surrounding wall. Two of the cellae are surrounded by galleries. These temples seem to have been dedicated to the god Mercury. Built at the beginning of the first century AD, the temples appear to have been destroyed at the end of the third century.
The most enigmatic feature of the Roman town is the fountain, built sometime towards the end of the first century. In total the structure measures 21.5 by 12.6 metres, with stone steps leading down to a rectangular pool of about 20 metres square. The fountain was flanked on the north and south sides by roads – which lead to the nearby sanctuary. To the west, were a series of shops which may have been associated with a market. Byond one side was a large residential area. The purpose of the fountain is unclear, it could have had a ritual function or it could have just been a supply of fresh water.
Away from the archaeological site surrounding the museum is a theatre and the remains of a bridge. Although an amphitheatre was located, it is no longer visible. The theatre on the other had is relatively well preserved, with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. This theatre is the second theatre, built in about 150 AD to replace an earlier wooden theatre. Of the bridge, that crossed the Creuse River, only two of five stone pillars have survived.