Roman-era trash dump containing naked Venus statue and other artifacts unearthed in France

Roman-era trash dump containing naked Venus statue and other artifacts unearthed in France

Archaeologists in France have discovered a trove of up to 1,800-year-old artifacts — including statuettes of the goddess Venus, a potter’s kiln, coins and clothing pins — in a rare location: a Roman shale quarry that was later repurposed into a trash pit in what is now the city of Rennes.

Located in northwest France, Rennes was founded in the first century A.D. as the Roman town Condate Riedonum (opens in new tab). In order to create houses, walls and public buildings, a significant amount of stone was needed. Earlier this month, while excavating ahead of a development project, archaeologists with the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) announced their discovery (opens in new tab) of a quarry that was likely instrumental in the foundation of Roman Rennes.

Just outside the northern boundary of the ancient city, archaeologists found a Roman-era rock excavation site more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) deep, laid out in stages, from which the Romans extracted slabs of schist, a metamorphic rock commonly used in ancient building construction.

A man excavates a first century A.D. potter’s kiln in Rennes, France. (Image credit: © Emmanuelle Collado/Inrap)

“The Romans are famous for developing quarries all over the Mediterranean,” Jason Farr (opens in new tab), a Roman archaeologist at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, told Live Science in an email. Farr, an expert in ancient quarries who was not involved in the present finding, said that “most quarries in the Roman world would have been local affairs, focused on supplying building stone in bulk to nearby towns and farms. The concrete walls favored by the Romans required a great deal of stone.”

Related: Sacred chickens, witches and animal entrails: 7 unusual ancient Roman superstitions

Small objects, including coins, a metal clasp and antique glass, found at the French site. (Image credit: © Emmanuelle Collado/Inrap)

When the stone was used up and the quarry abandoned in the second century A.D., it became a large trash dump. Inrap archaeologists discovered numerous fragments of pots and plates, a few coins, some clothing pins, as well as several terracotta statuettes, including two depicting Venus in different roles. Known as the goddess of love in the Roman period, Venus became closely associated with the emperors and was often symbolic of Roman power (opens in new tab).

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