Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Romans and Vaison la Romaine

Add to Google Reader or HomepageThis story has two parts but the parts are connected by 2000 years – give or take a century or two.

The first part starts in the hills near Mt. Ventoux, between the villages of Beaumont du Ventoux and Ste. Margarite about 20 km southeast of Vaison. High above the Gorges du Maupas are the quarries from which the Romans cut the stones that built Vaison la Romaine.

We went there with Phil and Margaret for a walk/picnic. They parked the car beside the small stream in the Gorges and we walked up to the site of the quarry along the road that the Romans had built for transporting the stones from the site. One can still see rocks in the roadway that have ruts worn into them as a result of the carts and their heavy loads. Because the incline is fairly steep, there are also places where one sees the striations cut into the rocks to improve human or beast of burden traction. The quarry is immense and, even after 2000 years, one can get a sense of the work that was done at the site.

Side note: I know nothing about the etymology of words, but I find it interesting that the French words for career and quarry are the samecarrière.

The second part of the story comes from Place Monfort in Vaison la Romaine. The city had planned to change the traffic patterns and create a park in front of the cafés and bars that line the north side of the center of town. A few days ago, the city closed half of the parking lot and brought in the back hoes and started tearing up the area around the fountain. They worked about one half day…

Gone are the back hoes. The big equipment has been replaced by a team of archeologists who are working with hand tools and brushes because the back hoes had uncovered more Roman ruins about two feet below the surface of the parking lot – probably some of the stones from the quarry are buried in the parking lot.  I don’t know what will happen to the city’s plans, but clearly the city’s plans have been put on hold…