[ Le Thovey ] - [ Thovey site plan ] - [ Summer 1999 digs campaign ] - [ Tombs found in Lathuille ]

Le Thovey: a Roman mansio

Under what are now parts of Faverges and the outlying hamlet of Viuz, the Roman town of Casuaria marked an important stop along the Turin-Geneva road, as can be seen in the famous Peutinger Table (the last surviving Roman road map and travel atlas). Several Gallo-Roman sites of old Casuaria have been uncovered; the largest site investigated to date is the dig known as Le Thovey, within modern Faverges. At Le Thovey, on the outskirts of ancient Casuaria, archeological digs have been conducted every summer since 1981. The municipality of Faverges has just acquired several acres of land from private owners so that the dig may be extended beyond its current perimeter. Volunteer diggers have uncovered a mansio, (a type of Roman "motel"), complete with Roman baths, peristyle, and outbuildings dating from the 1st-century BC to the 3rd century CE. The mansio and adjacent buildings were apparently put to the torch by a band of roving Alaman raiders in the year 270, as has been attested both by documentary and archeological evidence.

Numerous artifacts from Gallo-Roman times have been found on the site: after the removal of the topsoil layer, clay typical of collapsed rammed-earth (pisé) wall construction was found to cover thousands of roof tiles. The roof tiles themselves lay over pieces of charcoal which were certainly the roof beams burnt in the fire of 270 CE. Beneath the wall and roof rubble, a complete Roman thermal installation was largely in situ: a dressing-room floored in terrazo, cold, lukewarm and hot bath chambers, the emplacement of the praefurnium/furnace (photo above), numerous tile stacks (pilettes) that originally supported the concrete floor, and hundreds of tubuli, terra-cotta tubes that served as smoke exhausts and heated the walls of the baths (photo at right). A length of lead pipe was found in its original position, along with numerous fragments of marble facing around the bath area. A water pitcher (photo at left) and bone admission tokens were uncovered near the supposed entrance.


In another area of the dig, across the vestibule that divides the two zones now uncovered, were found the columns of the peristyle. Now partly re-erected, (photo at right) it is composed of columns hewn from local stone; the bases and capitals are not perfectly matched, suggesting that these were recycled elements. Next to the peristyle was the kitchen, which was found to contain a large bronze cauldron in excellent condition. Stew bones were found within the cooking pot, compelling evidence that the inhabitants left the premises hastily. The pot is the largest and best-preserved Roman bronze cauldron ever found. It can now be seen on display in the Archeological Museum in Viuz near a legionnaire's hammer, found with part of its wooden handle, (photo below, at time of discovery) and the largest Roman sawblade ever found.

Plan of the Thovey Site

 A: Entrance to baths (yellow)  E: Frigidarium (blue)
 B: Dressing room (green)  F: Caldarium (red)
 C: Hypocausts (orange)  G: Tepidarium (pink)
 D: Wood storage (orange)  H: Annexes (orange)

Digs Campaign - Summer 1999

In August 1999, the Amis de Viuz-Faverges team began to survey and probe the zone north of the Thovey digs, on the other side of the mill run which serves as a border between the digs and the land recently acquired by the municipality. The photo below, a 360° panorama, shows the new land and digs on August 5th 1999. A java applet is scripted into the page, which means that the image should load automatically and begin to spin slowly. Be patient: though heavily compressed, it is a large image and takes some time to load. Once the picture has loaded, it will become visible in the frame below. You can either let it spin, or click on it to "navigate" within the scene.

The first tests show the presence of Roman foundation walls some 1m50 beneath the surface of a water-logged soil. (Michel Duret is seen probing the ground, below left) . The mill run or biel, which on the one hand keeps the diggers' drinks cool, (photo, below right) threatens to flood the digs through seepage.

After having removed manu broken Roman tiles (which bear witness to the collapse of a roof) the diggers began to find large nails as well as potsherds.
The aim of the digs this summer is to try to map out the ground plan of the buildings on this land at the time of the destruction of the villa in the year 270.

At left above, a tray filled with objects found by Alain and Calou (above right) in the east trench.

July 1999: Discovery of Merovingian tombs in Lathuille

While grading the land behind their house in late July 1999, Mr. and Mrs. Liégeois were surprised to find human bones where they had planned to place their swimming pool. Notified by the backhoe operator, the Amis de Viuz-Faverges went immediately to assess the situation and undertook a rapid campaign of digging. The archeologists uncovered several tombs, some oriented along a north/south axis, others in an east-west direction. The sides of the tombs are made of thin slabs of stone. By their orientation, their shape, and the absence of artifacts, these tombs closely resemble Merovingian graves already found in the general vicinity.


The presence of Roman tiles attests to the existence of a gallo-roman settlement in the immediate vicinity. A tomb marker and a fragment of sarcophagus lid were removed to the Musée Archéologique de Viuz-Faverges. The bones found in the graves will be studied this winter by a graduate student currently working on her doctoral thesis at the University of Geneva.

The diggers wish to thank the owners of the land as well as the laborers who had the presence of mind to call in the archeologists, as this discovery will allow us better to understand the patterns of human settlement of the county during the High Middle Ages.

click hereArcheological Museum


You are cyber-visitor No. to the Thovey Digs page!

Page and images © 1996, 2000 by Robert F. Jeantet
end of current digs web page
latest update April 20 2000