Prehistoric and archaeological sites in France

Le Petit Mont

Dating from c. 4600 BC at the earliest, Le Petit Mont is one of the most significant Cairns in Brittany, but unfortunately one of the most brutaly vandalized. The cairn measures 60 meters in length, 46 meters in width, and between 6 and 7 meters in height. It is built over several dolmens with antechambers. The dolmen in the southwest has engravings that include axes in circles, fitted axes, and undulating signs. The Roma ...
Founded: 4600 BC | Location: Arzon, France

Lugdunum Convenarum

In 72 BCE the Roman General Pompey, while on the way back to Rome after a military campaign in Spain, founded a Roman colony in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. The goal was to defend the passage to the Aran Valley and the Iberian peninsula. The colony was named Lugdunum Convenarum and had reached around 30,000 people at its highest point. It belonged to the Roman province of Novempopulana and had a growing Christi ...
Founded: 72 BCE | Location: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, France

Vieux-la-Romaine

During the 1st century AD, Aregenua (Vieux) became the capital of the Viducasse tribe. Situated at the crossroads of two Roman roads it became an important commercial staging town. Aregenua and Lillebonne are the only two capital towns in Gallo-Roman Normandy that did not become Medieval towns. A number of buildings have been excavated, and some have been partially reconstructed.
Founded: 0 - 200 AD | Location: Vieux, France

Gavrinis Passage Grave

The Gavrinis island is famous because of its important passage grave, a megalithic monument from the Neolithic period, belonging to the same broad context as the Breton megaliths of Carnac and Locmariaquer. At the time of its construction, c. 3500 BC, the island was still connected with the mainland. The rich internal decorations make Gavrinis one of the major treasuries of European megalithic art. The tomb is also remark ...
Founded: 3500 BC | Location: Larmor-Baden, France

Cave of Niaux

The Cave of Niaux contains many prehistoric paintings of superior quality from the Magdalenian period. It is one of the most famous decorated prehistoric caves in Europe still open to the public. The paintings had been emerging on the cave walls during a long period between 11500 and 10500 years BC. From the very beginning of the seventeenth century the cave was of great interest for tourists, who left numerous traces on ...
Founded: 11500 BC | Location: Niaux, France

Alauna Roman Therms

There are imposing remains of the Roman therms of the ancient antique city of Alauna (today Valognes), built in the 1st century AD. The edifice was built in a symetric plan and had about ten rooms, including a steam room, a hot pool and a cold pool. The masonries were elevated at about a dozen metres and neatly built, associating small cubic stone block bases to brick layers.
Founded: 0 - 100 AD | Location: Valognes, France

Ambrussum

Ambrussum is a Roman archaeological site in Villetelle. Ambrussum is notable for its museum, staging post on the Via Domitia, bridge Pont Ambroix over the Vidourle and the oppidum (fortified village). Its history of settlement spanned 400 years. The whole site is still being excavated. A lower settlement prone to flooding was a staging post for travellers on the Via Domitia and provided stabling and accommodation and the ...
Founded: 300 BC | Location: Villetelle, France

Camp de César

Two kilometers north of Laudun-l"Ardoise, Camp de César is an 18-hectare archaeological site among the most important in the region. On a limestone terrace located 200 meters above the Rhone valley the Gallo-Roman Oppidum presents vestiges of five successive periods of occupation from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages. Located in a belvedere, it offers a remarkable point of view. Many remains have been uncovered durin ...
Founded: 5th century BC | Location: Laudun-l'Ardoise, France

Corseul Roman Ruins

Corseul was called Fanum Martis ('Temple of Mars') in Latin and was the capital of the Gallo-Roman province of Coriosolites. It was founded in 10 BC. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, like many other cities, Fanum Martis was renamed for its people, the Curiosolitae. This name change occurred as the Roman Empire weakened and paralleled a revival of the ancient Gallic gods in local religious sculptures and dedicatory ...
Founded: 10 BC | Location: Corseul, France

Gisacum

In the 2nd century AD, the city-sanctuary of Gisacum extended near Saint-Aubin, which was gradually abandoned until disappearing in 5th century. In the 1801 archaeological excavations uncovered this important Gallo-Roman site; but in reality at the time the town covered an area of 250 ha. The interpretation centre has a permanent exhibition tracing the history of Gisacum, and the archaeological garden offers an original d ...
Founded: 0 - 100 AD | Location: Le Vieil-Évreux, France

Lillebonne Roman Amphitheatre

Lillebonne is located on the north banks of the Seine River. From the first to the third centuries AD the town, then called Juliobona by the Romans – a homage to Julius Cesar, was a very prosperous port. The relatively well preserved Roman amphitheatre (capable of holding 3,000 persons) and baths are all that remains from these times. Many Roman and Gallic relics, notably a bronze statue of a woman and two fine mosaics, ...
Founded: 0 - 200 AD | Location: Lillebonne, France

Fréjus Roman Aqueduct

The aqueduct of Fréjus was built in the middle of the first century after the ramparts were in place. It functioned for 450 years until the 5th century. It is 42 km long, with a difference in altitude between the highest spring of Neïssoun and the castellum aquae in the city of 481 m. The aqueduct runs mostly in a covered conduit for 36.4 km and for 1.8 km on bridges and 500 m on walls. Large parts of the aqueduct are s ...
Founded: c. 50 AD | Location: Fréjus, France

Nemetacum

Arras was founded on the hill of Baudimont by the Celtic tribe of the Atrebates, who named it Nemetacum or Nemetocena in reference to a nemeton (sacred grove) that probably existed there. It was later renamed Atrebatum by the Romans, under whom it became an important garrison town. The archaeological site Nemetacum in Arras is one of the rare sanctuaries devoted to the oriental god Attis in France.
Founded: 15 BC | Location: Arras, France

Kergavat Dolmen

The Dolmen de Kergavat has a large chamber and huge single capstone. It is located right beside the busy D.781 road.
Founded: | Location: Plouharnel, France

Rondossec Dolmens

There is a group of three is a simple passage tombs in Rondossec. The southern dolmen is a smallest, partly collapsed. The central wedge-shaped dolmen has a 6-metre chamber with engravings. The northern dolmen has an 11-metre long passage and a small side-chamber. Gold necklace, vases and stone axes were buried in the dolmen.
Founded: | Location: Plouharnel, France

Mane Braz

Mane Braz is a Megalithic tomb located 2 km southeast of Erdeven. The site comprises four side chambers and two small dolmens. It is built into a hill and appears to be the remains of a tumulus.
Founded: 5000 - 3000 BC | Location: Erdeven, France

Loupian Roman villa

Excavations on a three-hectare site south of the Loupian village have revealed remains of a Roman farm villa with extensive 2nd-century Gallo-Roman mosaics. The site was occupied for more than 600 years. Originally a modest farmstead built a few kilometres south of the Via Domitia, on the hillside overlooking the Bassin de Thau, it rapidly prospered and grew. During the early Empire, in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the vil ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Loupian, France

Toulouse Roman Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre of Toulouse-Purpan is constructed on a filled structure, unlike those in Arles, Nîmes, and the Colosseum in Rome, where a hollow structure composed of vaults and pillars supports the tiers. The cavea (the rows of seats intended to receive the public) is fifteen meters wide. This area is separated from the arena by a wall and bound at the outside by a high wall covered in brick. The cavea is divided into ...
Founded: 40 AD | Location: Toulouse, France

Briga

Briga was a medium sized Roman town that was discovered during the digging of a local road shortly after the French Revolution. From the first century AD onwards, the Romans developed a substantial sanctuary complex on the site of what was a Celtic shrine, as well as the other features one finds at Roman towns, such a theatre, bathhouses and a forum.
Founded: 0 - 200 AD | Location: Eu, France

Montmaurin Gallo-Roman Villa

The Gallo-Roman villa of Montmaurin dates from the first centuryies AD. The most ancient part, the residential section, now open to the public, dates from the 1st century. It was extended and enhanced in the 4th century then remained occupied until the early 6th century. The area where the accommodation and farming outbuildings (forges, brick and tile production, weaving, etc.) stood stretched to the southeast of the bat ...
Founded: 1st century AD | Location: Montmaurin, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).