Chateaubleau…

Since the middle of the 19th century, Châteaubleau has become a quite famous town in the scientific community, especially thanks to the consequent Gallo-Roman vestiges on its territory of 345 hectares. Major monuments such as sanctuaries, craft and living districts, as well as a theater were discovered since the beginning of the excavations in the 60s.

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The last news of the theater, by Fabien Pilon.

The results of the 2013 excavation campaign of the theatre (27/07-25/08) confirm, firstly, the existence of a primary status of theatre (F38), built in the beginning of the 2nd century and which is used until the century last quarter. Its structure gets notably clearer. Seven radiating walls are henceforth known and make us consider at least two aisles, in the Northeast and in central position. These walls join the foundations of the curved wall of F117, which implies that the two statuses of the outer walls are superimposed. The importance of the cavea of F38 and the absence of chaining of the north and south walls of the F22 stage imply that this area was located farther east for F38, in the location of the assumed rear building of F117. The partial plan obtained is actually very similar to those of the theaters of Solognes-en-Montois, or even of Augers-en-Brie and Meilleray, all three geographically close by and known through airborne photography.

The second status (F117), for which a raised section currently appears, was built in the last quarter of the 2nd century, after the destruction of the first one. It is characterized by: a cavea including six sectors and five aisles, among which at least one was roofed by a vault; an alignment of limestone blocks along the orchestra wall, opposed to four of the six sectors of the cavea; a vast stage; a potential rear building in the axis of the stage which would then imply the existence of a frons scaenae; and by the stone-floored layout of the north and east surroundings of the monument. This second theatre was without a doubt used for performance until the first half of the 4th century. In 2013, most of the central F40 aisle was excavated, except for a crumbled vault whose preservation was decided. The height under the vault could be estimated to 3,0 m. The hypothesis from there is that the floor under the vault was stone paved (at least for the eastern section) with big limestone slabs similar to the one still in place at its end opening in the orchestra. The excavation of the F35 aisle was finished by the clearing of the previous masonry, and the extrication of the F41 aisle has begun. The section of the curvilinear outer wall bordering the F43 sector has been completely cleared, as well as the adjoining buttresses. Finally, the excavation of the Southeast quarter of the orchestra showed that the mortar slabs still partially covered a stone paving which includes the razed walls of the first theater. This result, combined to the previous discoveries of stone-flooring and mortar slabs, support the hypothesis of a slab layout of the orchestra.

The sketches of the raised masonries were fully drawn for the F27 and F35 aisles, the eastern third of the F40 aisle, the Northeast section of the curvilinear outer wall and the orchestra walls.

After the cessation of the use of the theater as a performance place, the site is reoccupied for civil purposes around the end of the 4th century and during the first half of the 5th century at least. This phase is characterized not by the setting up of dwellings, but by the settling of a type of craft, the manufacturing of lime, with the implantation of a kiln (F32) in the stairwell of an ancient access to the bleachers. The excavation of a second limekiln (F116), dug in the silts of the the F56 sector, has also begun. The presence of this medieval structure (C14 dating: ca 15th century) shows that the stones of the monument and the other vestiges around (like the central group of temples) continued to be used to produce lime, but also to extract stones for other buildings. The theater was thus used as a quarry until the 1850 and 1860 decades, these last big salvages being at the origin of the identification of the monument and its first overall plan.