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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Excavations at Boulogne-sur-mer.
by CI Seillier, J Y Gosselin, P Leclercq and D Piton.
(Cercle Archeologique de la Cote D'Opale.)

Since ancient times Boulogne-sur-mer has been a town formed by the juxtaposition of two districts: the lower town, on the estuary of the river Liane; the upper town built on the end of the promontory which divides the Notre-Dame valley, that of the Tintelleries and the valley of the Liane. This would explain the two Roman names for the town which were Gesoriacum (the port) and Bononia (the castrum) which were in use from the 1st to the 5th centuries.

The discoveries of the 19th century were centred mainly in the cemeteries and in certain parts of the lower town. No excavation was carried out between the end of that era and 1967 when, thanks to the intervention of the Cercle Archeologique de la Cote d'Opale, excavations were begun inside the fortifications relating to the end of the 3rd century.

The archaeological strata, of which there is no great depth, are often very disturbed by modern construction. However, the various phases in the occupation of the site were distinguishable. This occupation begins towards the middle of the 1st century AD at the beginning of the conquest of Great Britain and continues uninterrupted into the modern era.

After several rescue operations on construction sites, a more lengthy excavation is in process to the north-east of the upper town where two buildings have been discovered. The first building measures 12 metres by 11.25 metres and the stone walls of this construction are reinforced by buttresses. The second building, which is still under excavation, is 6.40 metres wide and its length has been traced for a distance of 30 metres.

The discovery of a large number of tiles bearing the stamp CLBR seems to be an indication that the buildings belonged to an installation of the Classis Britannica of which the general headquarters for the continent was established at Boulogne.

In the 3rd century the buildings were burnt and razed to the ground and replaced by ramparts. Inside the ramparts we were able to study an occupation level belonging to the 4th century. This occupation had been followed by another period of destruction after the reign of Theodosius. A few traces of 5th century occupation and several graves of a 6th to 7th century graveyard were also discovered in the upper town.

Similar to Dover, the base of the British fleet at Boulogne took the form of a harbour overlooked by a lighthouse, and dominated by a fort constructed on higher ground. The similarity does not end there, for stamped tiles of the Classes Britannica from Britain were found in the remains of the fort at Boulogne, similarly, others from France have been found in Britain. This, amongst other factors, is evidence of an exchange which invites a more detailed comparative study of finds made in both the continental and British bases of the Classis Britannica.

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