The southern Languedoc-Roussillon region is where the Pyrénées Mountains and the foothills of the Massif Central come down to the Mediterranean, from the Spanish border across into the Rhone Valley in the east. The region has some important historical cities, including Carcassonne and Nîmes, but Montpellier is one of the few larger cities without a Roman past. The departments in Languedoc-Roussillon are: Aude, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Pyrénées-Orientales.
In 1971 archaeologists recovered the skull of a young man that has come to be called Tautavel man, an ancestor to the Neanderthals. This skull has been dated to about 450,000 years ago, making it the oldest human ancestor yet found in France. The skull and the many other discoveries made at the cave make this archaeological site one of the most important in the study of human evolution in Europe
The fortified city of Carcassonne, known locally as la Cité, is a popular destination for visitors to the south of France. As spectacular as the imposing walls are, much of what we see today is the result of significant nineteenth century restorations, which are not wholly accurate. But well worth a visit, even with the tourists, for the Roman and Medieval ramparts and the Medieval castle museum
In the centre of Narbonne’s town square is a cleverly exposed section of the Via Domitia, the first Roman road in Gaul. Although Narbonensis was the regional capital and a very prosperous town and port, very little of that grandeur survives for us to visit today. There is one of the finest collections of Roman wall paintings in France in the local municipal museum … read more.
Although the city of Nîmes has evidence of human occupation going back a few thousand years, it is the Roman monuments for which the city is best known. Certain features are not only well preserved, they are amongst the finest examples of their kind from the Roman era. The so-called Maison Carrée, for example, is the only remaining Roman temple in the world that is preserved in its entirety … go to Roman Nîmes
Le Musée de Préhistoire de Tautavel is located in the town of Tautavel, just a few kilometres from the Cave of Arago where the so-called ‘Tautavel man’ was recovered during excavations by archaeologists in 1971. The exhibits here focus on the skull and a number of the associated archaeological artefacts, detailing their importance in reconstructions of the history of humans in Europe.
The museum, le musée de l’Ephèbe et d’archéologie sous-marine in French, is named after an ancient Greek statue recovered from the bed of the Hérault River. The Éphèbe d’Agde is a 1.4 metre high bronze statue of a nude adolescent boy that dates to the 4th century BC and the presence of ancient Greeks in the south of France. Besides the celebrated Ephèbe, the museum has equally spectacular bronze statues of (the son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra) and Eros. Given its coastal location, the museum specialises in underwater archaeology and has interesting permanent exhibits on maritime trade in the area, as well as the prehistory of the area. [Website]