Archaeologists discover a 'Little Pompeii' in southern France

SAINTE-COLOMBE, France, Aug 4 (Reuters) - French archaeologists have unearthed the ruins of a Roman settlement in southern France that was deserted by its inhabitants after fires that ultimately helped preserve the site now being dubbed "Little Pompeii."

The site on the banks of the Rhone near the town of Vienne, discovered on land earmarked for a new apartment complex, has revealed luxury homes, mosaics and items of furniture that date back to the 1st century AD.

Ash from the fires helped preserve the ruins, just as the Roman city of Pompeii was largely preserved after being buried in volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius.

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Archaeologists discover a 'Little Pompeii' in southern France
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Archaeologists discover a 'Little Pompeii' in southern France
An archaeologist works on a mosaic on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologists works on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
An archaeologist works on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologists works on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologists works on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
An archaeologist works on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
An archaeologist works on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologist carry out searches on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologist carry out searches on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
An archaeologist works on a mosaic on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologist carry out searches on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Romain city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologists carry out searches on a mosaic on July 31, 2017, on the archaeological antiquity site of Sainte-Colombe, near Vienne, eastern France. Remains of an entire neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienne have been uncovered in Sainte-Colombe, with lavish residences decorated with mosaics, a philosophy school and shops. The dig of the site, discovered prior to housing construction on a parcel of 5000 m2, began in April 2017 and was due to last six months, but have been extended to December 15, 2017, after the site was classified as an 'exceptional discovery' by the French Culture Minsitry. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The two fires fossilized, solidified the entirety of the remains ... in every space we found furniture left by the inhabitants who had to flee the fire," said lead archaeologist Benjamin Clement.

"It's rare to discover such a well preserved site."

Found among the ruins was a near-complete mosaic showing Thalia, the muse and patron of comedy, being kidnapped by the god of the satyrs, Pan.

The remains will be measured, photographed and drawn. Some will then be removed from the Sainte-Colombe site and sent to the Gallo-Roman museum in Vienne for restoration.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Richard Lough and Robin Pomeroy)

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