Since the discovery of the site of Lattes Saint-Sauveur in 1963, archaeological research has solidly confirmed both its richness and its exceptional potential for future study concerning the lifestyles of the first urban societies in Mediterranean France.
LATTARA : AN IDEAL PORT CITY
This is an exceptional site still in development, located on 25 acres (10 ha) of archaeological reserve acquired by the national government and the City of Lattes in 1974, then the General Council of the Hérault in 1984. It offers the opportunity to study a complete urban system: a developing port city on the edge of a lagoon at the mouth of a major river. The city center (8.6 acres, 3.5 ha), urbanized at the end of the VI c. BC, was occupied continually until the Roman Period. It can be considered as one of the most telling, but distant, examples of modern cities. It is key in the study of both indigenous society and Mediterranean influences on the urban process, especially the beginning of the urban revolution, which had a large impact on regional civilizations.
PEELING BACK THE LAYERS TO UNCOVER HISTORY
The city’s location in a lagoon area incited its inhabitants to continually raise the level of the floors in their houses, as well as the level of the streets. This phenomenon created a profound stratification that is up to 16 ft (5m) deep in excavated areas. The conditions are particularly favorable to a study of the evolution of a civilization that endured almost the entire Iron Age and its transition towards the Roman Period. The moist environment recorded the evolution of the natural environment that humans settled and exploited to suit their needs. Excavations of the site of Lattara have shown the multidisciplinary team the ways in which the city has transformed, why it was placed where it was placed, economic practices of the area (fishing, hunting, surplus and sustenance agriculture), and technical practices (use of construction materials, earth, stone, wood, reeds; use of wood for fire, and use of materials for artisanal purposes).
A TRADE TOWN BETWEEN DIFFERENT MEDITERRANEAN SOCIETIES
Research advances have permitted the discovery of the huge rampart surrounding the city, its network of roads, the evolution of homes and neighborhoods, and the development of the port. Analysis of domestic activities, and the agricultural and artisanal economies has progressed strongly from year to year, revealing the intense connections between Mediterranean traders of all origins. The results are the subject of frequent scientific publication (under the title Lattara- 21 editions).
A PROTECTED SITE OF NATIONAL INTEREST
Aware of the importance of the site, the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the City of Lattes, and the General Council have all united their efforts to make an archaeological reserve, to construct a museum on the site, and to establish a library of archaeology and an excavation center. The rare quality and importance of the site, as well at the research team devoted to it, is noted on the list of Sites of National Interest and is protected as a historical monument.
A PLAN TO DEVELOP THE SITE FOR PUBLIC ACCESS
In 2012, Montpellier-Agglomération acquired the site. This transfer will allow for the development of the site into an archaeological park, open to the public, where the data collected over the past 50 years can be held.
Situated close to the heart of Montpellier, in its exceptional natural setting on the north bank of Lake Méjean, this park will be a central tourist attraction focused on educating visitors about the history of France.