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Exploring the Past in Midi-Pyrénées

The Midi-Pyrénées is located in the southwest of France, halfway between the Atlantic seaboard and the Mediterranean. Toulouse serves as one of the European bases for the aerospace industry and its university is one of the oldest in Europe. The region is rich in both cultural and natural heritage. The departments in Midi-Pyrénées: Ariège, Averyon, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot, Hautes- Pyrénées, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne.


Archaeology & History Sites in Midi-Pyrénées

The ticket office at Grotte de Cougnac.There are two different caves at Cougnac, one that is of geological interest and the other with Palaeolithic cave art. During a guided tour visitors get an idea of the geological processes that create the limestone caves in which Stone Age artists made their depictions of animals and humans. Here at Cougnac, the paintings are thought to date to between 25,000 and 14,000 years ago … go to Cougnac

Gaulois Village
An aerial view of the village.On the banks of the Garonne River is an archaeologically sensitive reconstruction of a Gaulois village that shows what life was like during the Iron Age before the arrival of the Romans in Gaul. Besides the nine hectare, reconstructed village a number of artisans are on hand to demonstrate various traditional skills, including metal smelting, weaving, working with gold, and the making of coins. [Website]

La Graufesenque
A range of samian ware on display. Condatomagus was an important Roman town centre for the production of high quality, red pottery, or Samian ware. These pots were exported throughout the western Roman Empire. Visitors are able to explore the archaeology of the potters’ village – of which only a fraction has been excavated. An obvious feature is the many wood-burning kilns, a number of which are remarkably well preserved. [Website]

Grotte des Merveilles
Painting of a horse and deer. Above the cliff-side town of Rocamadour is a small cave known for its geological features and Palaeolithic paintings. Besides depictions of animals, including horses, deer and a feline, there are 6 negative hand stencils. This is the image created when a hand was placed on the rock surface and pigment was then blown onto the rock surface leaving a negative impression of the hand … go to Grotte des Merveilles

Black bison in the cave of Niaux The paintings and engravings in la Grotte de Niaux are widely thought of as some of the finest examples of prehistoric art in Europe, dating to about 13,000 years ago. While the cavern is nearly two kilometres deep, the best depictions are only about 500 metres from the entrance. Graffiti next to the panel of painted bison shows that this art was known about as long ago as 1660 … go to Niaux

Peche Merle
The celebrated spotted horses.La Grotte du Pech Merle is one of the most striking cave art sites still open to the public. Since its discovery in 1922 archaeological research on the paintings here, including how they were painted, what pigments were used and how some of the panels developed over time, have been at the forefront of research on and debates about Palaeolithic cave art in western Europe. This is a cave art site not to miss … go to Pech Merle

Roman Toulouse
A section of the Roman ramparts in Toulouse.Before the arrival of the Romans in the area, Tolosa was settled by Iron Age, Celtic tribes. Under initial Roman occupation Toulouse was a military garrison, but with the conquering of Gaul by Julius Caesar, and the strategic position for trade between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the city increasingly achieved Imperial favour and became a major Roman city. Photo © Pinpin [Website]

Séviac Roman Villa
Looking over the the archaeological site.Built in the 4th century AD, Séviac Villa was a luxurious mansion with a typical villa layout, including an inner open courtyard (peristyle), heated baths and pool, a hypocaust system for under floor heating, and over 600 m2 of mosaic floors. The polychrome mosaics are said to be amongst the most exceptional in the region. The site is open to the public from March to November. [Website]


Museums in Midi-Pyrénées

Champollion Museum – Writing of the World
A page from a Medieval illuminated manuscript.What was once the Champollion family home in 1986 became the Musée Champollion, to honour the work of Jean-François Champollion – the decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs. In 2007, after two years of substantial renovations, and the purchasing of neighbouring buildings, a new museum opened that is the only museum in Europe to explore the history of writing around the world. Photo © Musée Champollion [Website]

Eugène-Camoreyt Museum
One of the mosaics in the museum. One of the oldest local history museums in the Gascony area, with palaeontology, archaeology and history collections, the various objects from the immediate vicinity. The museum has one of the most important collections of Roman taurobolic alters. The archaeology collections are located in the cellars of what is today the Hôtel de Ville, formerly the palace of the bishops of Lectoure. Photo © Le Musée [Website]

Fenaille Museum
The so-called  la Dame de Saint-Sernin - decorated menhir. The museum has its origins in the private collection of Maurice Fenaille. A local history museum, best known for its collection of decorated statue-menhirs, probably dating to the Neolithic. The museum also has a large collection of Iron Age artefacts of the Ruteni tribe. Other objects include Medieval sculptures from religious buildings in the area, and some impressive Renaissance tapestries. [Website]

Georges Labit Museum
The entrance to Musée Georges Labit. The museum was founded in 1893 and based on the personal collections of a passionate amateur collector of art and antiquities, Georges Labit. Today this museum has one of the finest collections of Oriental art and an important collection of Egyptian antiquities in France. From India to Japan, the museum’s Asiatic exhibitions cover some three thousand years of Asian art history. Photo © Vigneron [Website]

Pyrénées Park of Prehistoric Art
The visitors centre.In the foothills of the majestic Pyrénées is the Parc Pyreneen de l’ Art Prehistorique, a 13 hectare educational theme park that provides an idea of what life might have been like during the time when Palaeolithic people were making cave art. Besides demonstrations of various aspects of daily life and outdoor reconstructions, not to be missed is the accurate reproduction of the cave art in Niaux nearby. Photo © Babsy [Website]

Saint Raymond Museum
The Saint Raymond Museum.The musée Saint-Raymond is housed in the 16th century university college of Saint-Raymond, opposite the spectacular Basilica of St. Sernin. The museum focusses on the Iron Age and Roman history of Toulouse and the surrounding area. The collection of busts of Roman emperors is the second largest in France after the Louvre. In the basement are the in situ remains of an early Christian necropolis. Photo © Pinpin [Website]


Travel Tips for Visiting Sites & Museums in Midi-Pyrénées

Archaeology Travel Guide to Cave Art in Midi-Pyrénées and France
Archaeology Travel guide to the best cave art in France. France has some of the finest prehistoric cave art in the World. Besides some of the more well known decorated caves in the Vézère Valley of the Dordogne area, there are two areas in the Midi-Pyrénées that have some equally spectacular sites, which are still open to the public. For a comprehensive guide to visiting cave art throughout France, including practical details about each cave, links to their websites and how to get the most out of your tour, whether you want to see a few of the best sites, or have a few days and want to see as much as you can … Continue Reading.