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Port Boinot, divine idyll with the city!

Curiosity Frédéric - assistant base de données et TIC By Frédéric - assistant base de données et TIC, the 03 August 2018

Imagine trembling emotion felt by the archaeologist of the Inrap* when, in January, 2018, it extracts piously from the stomach of the former chamoiserie-glove factory Boinot of the antique vestiges dated the end of the 1st century BC until the middle of the 2nd century AD. The " archives of the ground " did not go unheeded!
*Institut national of preventive archaeological researches.

A building is brought to light in the north trench of the reach of the mill, built on a thick platform and the activity of which seems brief. Also, a ditch in the South of the arm to usinier is lined in the East by a path managed towards Sèvre Niortaise in a point where currencies are discovered to the XIXth century during the construction of Ponts Main; suggesting a crossing of the river.

This ditch is situated next to a building of the 1st century destroyed in the middle of the 2nd century and against the north wall of which the Gallo-Roman divinities of the end of the 1st century were as calmed; 110 kg of fragments sculptured in limestone of which hypnotic face of Épona confidentially bound to a head of horse!

By tradition, the goddess of Equidae and travelers is represented sat in rider on her frame or framed by several horses which she feeds. Here, the iconographic composition is rare and to connect with a small series of testimonies where it is next to its horse. Besides, she is cut in round-bump while the majority of the known models are relief. To finish, Épona de “Novum Ritum”* remains one of the most impressive statues known this day on the City of Pictons!

The second goddess in the long run hair and a double statue appearing at the origin of the goddesses-mothers and of whom it remains today that the wearing feet also accompanied Épona in his gangue, grave of ground of more than 2000 years, the oldest find on the scale of the city!
*”Novum Ritum”, meaning new ford, evolves in time and by contracting will give its name to the city of Niort.

These statues, maybe chiselled by itinerant sculptors, were certainly financed by a public subscription or a rich notable of called Niort évergète, a kind of private sponsor. The évergétisme is, by definition, the financing of works by the notables so respecting a tradition typically Roman édilitaire; the implication of the nobility of Gallic origin in the process of romanization being a vector determining for the development of the conquered provinces and a security of integration made a success for Rome.

What thus looked for the sanctimonious person in this sanctuary? He contractualized a wish of success in his agrarian or craft works and offered an image (in terra-cotta, wood or bronze) or of the food in the divinity if he was fulfillled. Believing that the goddesses were sometimes embodied in their effigies to share the banquets of the human beings, Romain thus honored them with some wine paid on the ground, cereal, cooked meat and incense.

Épona and his following ones were redisposées (bases directed in the face of is him) having been voluntarily beheaded (the heads symbolizing their essence and power) and their destroyed attributes. They were so destroyed the sacred aura before their ritual removal marking the relinquishment of this sanctuary outer-urban as that of the Bread Lost, located in the XIXth century and searched in the 70s, who was until now the only one known for the antique city. 
It is the consequence of phases of upheaval of a site where rose of the statuary which, instead of being reused in a construction, was broken and its fragments scattered in pits, because sculptures representing gods or goddesses have an inalienable character, that is they are the property of one or several divinities. The rite of desecration and burying was respected not to risk the divine wrath!

If this old history pleased you, meeting until September 2nd to the museum Bernard d'Agesci for a private meeting with these niortaises divinities.
And which knows, our beloved goddesses could again be reborn where they were born by becoming the totem of the future center of interpretation of the architecture and the heritage of the Country of art and history of the Conurbation of Niortais with Port Boinot: divine one idyll with the city and the territory which asks only to continue two millenniums no more!

Photo credits: INRAP, A. Bolle; Niort Agglo, O. Drilhon


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