Archaeologists working on the French island of Corsica discovered around 40 ancient graves where persons were buried inside gigantic jars known as Amphora.
The place on the island of Corsica is known as a necropolis, which comes from the ancient Greek for “city of the dead.”
In the first millennium, Corsica was ruled by a number of distinct civilizations. While the objects discovered in the dig look to be Roman in origin, experts warn that they might have been reused by Visigoths or subsequent residents.
The find was uncovered near Ile-Rousse, a town on Corsica’s western coast, by archaeologists from the French National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP).
Ile-Rouse is a peaceful fishing hamlet that’s become something of a tourist draw, but the excavation reveals more about the area’s ancient inhabitants.
It’s been occupied for at least 6,000 years, but ‘the archaeological indications of previous occupations were rare and fragmentary,’ INRAP said in a statement.
A dozen graves were discovered in the spring of 2019, but excavation in February and March unearthed dozens more with ‘considerable variation in architectural style,’ according to the institution.
In the heart of town, researchers began excavating two 6,500-square-foot sites. Between the 4th and 7th centuries, they discovered amphorae, which were used to transport olive oil, wine, and other items across the Mediterranean from Carthage, now Tunisia.
The large vessels served a second purpose here, the institute said, as ‘receptacles for the deceased.’
Normally, an amphora was only used to bury children, but the researchers discovered that adults had also been entombed. In total, 40 people’s skeletons were discovered, buried between the third and sixth centuries.
During archaeological examinations done in advance of a planned building project, the necropolis was uncovered just behind Ile-parish Rousse’s church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Some of the graves were coated with terracotta materials similar to those used for roof tiling in ancient Roman construction, but more research is needed to understand more about the deceased’s identity.
The Romans did occupy Île-Rousse—then known as Agilla—during the era to which the jars have been dated, according to INRAP, although later inhabitants might have reused them after the Romans left.
Corsica, which served as a small but crucial outpost for anybody aiming to dominate Mediterranean sea channels, had a period of considerable instability in the first century. The island was ruled by the Carthaginians until 240 BC when the Romans took over. Agilla was called Rubico Rocega by the Visigoths around 410 AD it passed to the Visigoths.
It was thereafter ruled by the Vandals and Ostrogoths before being annexed by the Byzantine Empire in 536 AD.
‘While it was believed the area was largely deserted, the discovery of the impressively populated Corsica necropolis raises the possibility that population density in the area during the mid-first millennium was greater than had been imagined,’ the institute said.
Given that such necropolises were typically connected with buildings of worship, there might be a lot more to learn.