Gallo-Roman Influence around Pressignac

See the impact that Roman influence left on the shape of Pressignac

On the crossroads of ancient trade routes north and south.

Roman Burial Tumulus, La Motte A tumulus covering a 500 BC Chevalier’s burial, La Motte, Pressignac.

The area around Pressignac teems with ancient Gallo-Roman evidence. Pressignac itself has a Roman “Stem” in its name, the “-ac” suffix having formerly been a Roman “-acum” – one of the most frequent formative components of Roman place names and crucially, indicates a personal association. So we have several options, it could derive from a Roman family name, perhaps Pressinius or Priscinus, or perhaps from the Latin word “Praesignis” means “Pre-eminent” or “Outstanding”. Could the proximity of Pressignac (Praesign-acum?) to Chassenon indicate either something like Officers’ quarters, or wealthy or powerful people? Literally: “The important peoples’ place?”There is lots to back up that it was an important location, for sure.

Pressignac sits at the junction of two very important and ancient roads. Dating actually from the iron-age Hellstatt Civilisation of 2,800 tp 500 BC and therefore pre-dating the Romans by some way is the ancient North-South route that ran from Narbonne, to Toulouse, Périgueux, Courbefy (near Chalus), Oradour sur Vayres, St Gervais and crossed Pressignac just by La Croix before running on to St Quentin, Suris and La Peruse towards Nantes and Brittany.

On this road are two very important discoveries.

Tumulus of La Motte and the “Ancien Camp César”

Rochechouart from Presignac

A Tumulus was discovered in 1881 at La Motte, 1 km away from La Croix Spa (see picture above). “Tumulus” is the Latin for “Mound” and usually covers a burial. In the Tumulus were found a bed of cinders, a funerary urn, a horse bone and molar and horse’s bit. It is probably the burial place of a high-ranking Chevalier of about 500 BC and is unique in the Charente.

The view from the hill by the tumulus looks out to Rochechouart (see picture above). The Tumulus is about 25m behind me). Perhaps the chevalier in question kept guard of the road at this great vantage point.

This picture looks West. Pressignac is (out of shot) to the left. Chassenon also, via Pressignac, would be to the left.

Agrippan Way Pressignac

The road also boasts an “Ancient Camp of Caesar” and joins the Agrippan way at Bois Des Besses. This camp, again, predates Roman times and was possibly a safe stopping-off place for travellers along this ancient route – as the presence of the chevalier also suggests.

I love this photo. I am standing on tarmac, that covers what was once a Roman Road leading from Camp de Caesar, Pressignac. But you see clearly the continuation of the ancient road (those tell-tale ‘humps’ that grew as the road was maintained – even though it now looks like a ditch. This eventually leads past La Croix Spa to La Negrerie and up towards Bois Des Besses where it joins the Agrippan Way and leds past St. Quentin sur Charente, where a stash of Roman gold coins was found in 1850.

There are so many Roman clues here, you have to keep your eyes peeled!

“Cadastration”

The land between Pressignac and La Croix also shows evidence of “Cadastration” or the Roman method of land-division which parcelled land into 50 hectare chunks around an obvious point of orientation – often a cross-roads. There are many old, wide tracks that run almost in parallel to each other at a distance apart from each other between Pressignac and La Croix. One wonders whether the very name “La Croix” meaning “The Cross” has nothing to do with religious overtones, but more likely with the orientation of land around key junctions. There is certainly an ancient cross-roads at La Croix, which would suggest this interpretation is very likely.

“The Treasure of La Guierce”

Two farmers found a beautiful bronze enamelled vase in 1849 at La Guierce (3km from Pressignac right by the Lacs De Haute Charente at Lac Lavaud). This magnificent floral vase now sits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and would certainly back up the idea of wealth in the area. However, a replica has been made by an enameller in Limoges and this will be put on display at the Gallo-Roman Baths, Chassenon. La Guierce is 6km South-West of Chassenon (ancient Cassinomagus), and only 2 km from the Agrippan way which linked Lyon to Saintes. See my map below to find La Guierce, Chassenon and the Agrippan way.

Roman roads around La Guierce & Pressignac

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“Gallo-Roman influence: Pressignac & La Guierce” by Richard Martin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
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The Gallo-Roman Baths at Chassenon is one of many attractions for people of all tastes. From visiting archaeologists to historians, or just those interested in historical monuments. Chassenon (Roman Cassinomagus) is, to our mind, at the very epicentre of ancient Gallo-Roman France, controlling as it did the trade route from East to West, as well as roads and the River Vienne flowing north. The Gallo Roman Baths at Chassenon would have been a cultural and political centre in which to see and be seen. We are lucky to have it on our doorstep. For this and many other activities, come and stay in a fascinating region of France.


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