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Les jardins du Carrousel (Paris)

Paul Van Ossel


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2An area of more than 3 hectares in the heart of Paris has been explored in the course of excavations at the Carrousel Gardens site in 1989 and 1990. Vestiges from Neolithic times up to the 19th century have been discovered. These excavations constitute the final stage of archaeological work related to the Grand Louvre, after the Cour Carrée and the Cour Napoléon.

3Part I – The Carrousel prior to Paris

41 The ancient site : pedology and environment

5A pedological study of silt deposits at the site is necessary in order to understand the vestiges. A macromorphological analysis of the soil and its variation across the site were compared to micromorphological observations and to the findings of physico-chemical analyses. A restitution of the pedological and topographical landscape prior to human settlement can be proffered on the basis of this data; the agricultural value of the soil can be evaluated and the progressive anthropisation of the site characterised up to the radical changes of the late 16th century. The existence of an alluvial ridge bordering the river played a determining role in the settlement of this area.

62 Prehistoric and protohistoric settlements

7The most ancient evidence found dates back to the Neolithic period (Cerny culture). No habitat structure has been uncovered, but the presence of dwellings nearby is attested by those few trenches that contain burned clay-and-straw walls and abundant stone and ceramic furnishings. Protohistoric occupation is more clearly outlined, materialised by wooden structures, trenches and several granaries (some rich in materials) dating from the late Bronze Age and the early La Tène period. From this period onwards, the environmental and archaeological data point to a marked human influence on the landscape, accompanied by the beginning of farming.

83 Occupation during the Gallo-Roman period and the Early Middle Ages

9At the end of the Iron Age a small quadrangular enclosure was set up on the alluvial ridge. It appears to have existed for only a short time. From the early 1 st century AD a silt extraction quarry was opened and gradually extended over more than 4 ha, covering the Cour Napoléon as well. Detailed aspects of its operation are revealed by further study. In the 4th century the land was cultivated once again. Plots linked to a small settlement mark this change of use at the site. The settlement consists of two buildings and certain structures on wooden poles. Abandonment of the settlement can be situated after the beginning of the 5th century. Many clues in the Cour Napoléon suggest the existence of a similar sort of settlement that was occupied during the Early Middle Ages. The plots of land are outlined by dry ditches. Several outlines are superimposed, and the ditches were frequently redug, suggesting that the system was used over a long time. This conjecture is confirmed by analysis of the fauna and the archaeological furnishings. The absence of evidence later than the 9th century suggests that the site was then abandoned.

104 The Middle Ages prior to the city: a peri-urban manor of the 14th century

11The first traces of medieval occupation of the site appear in the 14th century. From this period subsist the remains of a residential building, razed around 1360 to make way for the city enclosure wall. The residence was made up of three wings placed around a courtyard opening towards the South. Despite the destruction, various clues testify to the nature of this manor, which was at that time in the inner suburbs. The most spectacular discovery is a major group of mural paintings on plaster from the building. The status of the proprietor is demonstrated by the quality of the figurative and geometric decoration, the varied and lively colours, and the legitimate comparisons they elicit with other paintings in France and Italy. The presence of heraldic patterns brings to mind a princely or royal entourage. On the basis of archival sources it is proposed that the manor can be identified as the one that for a while belonged to Pierre des Essarts.

12Part II – The Carrousel engulfed by the city

135 The city walls and their place in the evolution of medieval military architecture

14A section of close to 200 m of the city wall designated at the "Charles V" wall have been excavated at the site. These works are made primarily of earth, some 90 m wide. The wall was initially made up of an earthen rampant and one or two (?) moats filled with water, preceded by two dry ditches and an earthen embankment. The earthworks were transformed, first in the 15th century when the frontline defences were remodelled, and then a second time in the 16th century when a steeply banked wall and counterscarp bank and a firing platform were built, alongside the water-filled moat. Dendrochronological analysis of the oak longitudinal beams set at the base of the walls dates their construction to after 1505-1509. The study of this construction reveals the innovative features that emerged in the fortification of cities at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War. Later alterations, particularly implementation of the polygonal System, attest to the same spirit of adaptation to progress in siege techniques.

156 Growth of a city: creation and development of a quarter in the Faubourg Saint Honoré district

16When the city enclosure was built, a new suburb grew up outside the walls. The houses built on the ʺvoyrie des fossezʺ ("ditches’ roadway") were part of a systematic subdivision of plots on an estate belonging to the Quinze-Vingts hospital which had been split in two by the wall. A sign of the extension of the city in the late Middle Ages and the urbanisation of the faubourgs, this quarter grew up by subdivision in the 15th century. It marked the westernmost extension of Paris up to the 16th century. Several plots have been entirely uncovered. Each one included, at least in its final phase (first half of the 16th century) a dwelling or workshop giving onto the street, a courtyard containing outbuildings and garden at the rear, connected to the Street by a narrow passageway.

177 Growth of a city: the Parisian tile works in the Faubourg Saint Honoré

18The greater part of a vast suburban zone given over to crafts, in activity from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, has been excavated in the Southern section of what is now the Carrousel gardens. This highly specialised district comprised several tile Works side by side; their evolution and transformation can be followed over the long term, as the capital saw development and went through recessions. The vestiges are in excellent condition, so the tile manufacturing process can be retraced in detail, with ail the corresponding infrastructure; far too often the excavation of workshops goes no farther than the kilns. In addition most of the tile Works have been identified using archival sources.

19Part III – The Carrousel becomes a palace

208 The Tuileries domain in the second half of the 16th century

21In the second half of the 16th century the site underwent profound changes as a consequence of the construction of the Tuileries castle. Several plots in the outskirts were razed, and the lands filled in to accommodate the gardens. The garden in turn led to the construction of a high retaining wall buttressed against the old counterscarp wall. The most important finding concerns the Tuileries castle. The original floorplan of the castle, a main wing and two flanking wings at right angles, can now be determined from the uncovering of the foundations of the lateral wings. This design, conceived in the period 1564-1570 by the architect Philibert de l’Orme, was undoubtedly never carried out in full, but the grandiose image projected by J. Androuet du Cerceau in 1579 in his work on the Plus Excellents Bastiments de France is not entirely imaginary.

229 Improvements in modern and contemporary times (17th-19th centuries)

23These excavations do less to enhance our knowledge of this quarter in the modem period. The main discovery is that of buildings put up in the Cour des Suisses during the Regency which were part of the household infrastructure for the Tuileries castle. What remains of them is meagre, isolated vestiges without any organic link between them. They are of interest primarily for their historical destiny, and for the social circumstances that can be perceived through them. They also furnish three enclosed ensembles, clearly delineated in time and rich in furnishings, clearly relevant for the study of dishware in the 17th century. The pilings which constituted the foundations of the old Louvre post station, in the 19th century, were also uncovered, providing a link with the contemporary period.

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