Fourteen centuries of discoveries

The Cluny baths prior to
their excavation during
the July Monarchy.
Engraving by Jean-Baptiste
Jollois, 1843. P. Cadet / CMN

Roman houses, from the
papers of Th. Vacquer.

Arretine ware discovered
during the First Empire in
the Luxembourg Gardens.
Engraving by Claude Grivaud
de la Vincelle, 1807.
P. Cadet / CMN
P. Cadet / CMN

Maisons romaines, extrait des manuscrits de Th . Vacquer. BHVP

P. Cadet / CMN.
  19th century scholars

Under the Restoration and the July Monarchy, many scholars became interested in the archaeology of Paris. Among them was Dulaure, who was the first to identify a section of the Late Roman city wall, found during the demolition of a church on the Île de la Cité. The most remarkable of these scholars was undoubtedly Jean-Baptiste Jollois, one of the archaeologists who had accompanied Napoleon's Egyptian expedition. Closer to home, as a civil engineer for the city of Paris, Jollois reported the discovery of Roman roads and graves discovered during earthworks. More importantly, he published studies accompanied by interesting engravings of the aqueduct and the Cluny baths.

The birth of Parisian archaeology

The work of Théodore Vacquer (1824-1899) heralded the real birth of Parisian archaeology. An architect with a colourful personality, Vacquer held various positions in the Paris administration overseeing archaeological sites until he was appointed curator at the Carnavalet Museum, where he created the archaeological section. It is to Vacquer that we owe the rediscovery of most of ancient Paris-including its monuments and its road system, unearthed during Haussmann's great urban reconstruction program. Before Vacquer, the layout of Lutetia had only been based on ancient accounts, and every new discovery forced scholars to make these sources correspond to the finds, with mixed results. Unfortunately, Vacquer's work was left in the form of notes. Finally, in 1912 Félix-Georges De Pachtere took this precious archive and incorporated it into his book Paris à l'époque gallo-romaine. For the first time, an overall view of the birth of the city was available. Paul-Marie Duval took up from De Pachtere, concentrating on the city's monumental structures. He published the second major contribution to the understanding of the city's origins, Paris antique, which appeared in 1961.