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Exploring the Past in Poitou-Charentes

The Poitou-Charentes region is centrally located on the western seaboard of France, the Bay of Biscay. A picturesque coastline, including the medieval port of La Rochelle, contrasts with the rolling countryside with its numerous fine Romanesque churches that served Pilgrims on their route to northwest Spain. The departments in Poitou-Charentes are: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne.

Archaeology & History Sites in Poitou-Charentes

Arch of Germanicus

The arch of Germanicus in Saintes.This Roman triumphal arch, built in either 18 or 19 AD, was dedicated to the emperor Tiberius and his adoptive sons Drusus Caesar and Germanicus. This typical, two-bay arch was built at the head of a Roman bridge, on the terminus of the road that ran between Saintes to Lyon. During work on the nearby quay in the 19th century, the arch was moved to its present position and restored. Photograph © Kokin

Bougon Tumulus Museum

The entrance to one of nine tumuli.The museum is set in what were once the grounds of a Cistercian monastery that now extend to include an area in which 5 Neolithic burial mounds and a botanical garden can be visited. Through a series of modern exhibits, the museum explores the Neolithic period and the “origins of farming” in Europe. In the park, a path guides visitors around the burial mounds and a reconstruction of a large Neolithic house that is based on nearby excavations.

Cassinomagus Archaeological Park

The substantial remains of what was a large Gallo-Roman town may today seem out of the way, but during Roman times it was an important stop along the Agrippan Way, a road that ran between Lyon and Saintes. Then the town covered some 300 hectares, the sanctuary alone taking up 25 hectares. Today, research excavations are ongoing, and a new visitor centre has just opened.

La Chaire à Calvin

Sculptured animals at La Chaire à Calvin. One of the few shelters with carved animal images that is on open view. The small panel, just under three metres long, is protected behind a secure fence. In all here are eight carved animals. Rock art scholars do not agree on their identification as their defining features are absent or very badly preserved. They may depict horses or bovids, but they also bear a striking resemblance to ibex carvings at other similar sites … go to La Chaire à Calvin

Les Bouchauds Roman Theatre

Théâtre gallo-romain des Bouchauds was the largest Roman theatre in the Roman province of Aquitaine. Situated on the via Agrippa, the Roman road that ran between Saintes and Lyon, and set into the side of a hill giving the audience stunning views over rolling countryside, the theatre was constructed at the beginning of the 1st century AD. There is a small shrine thought to have been dedicated to Mercury at the top of the hill.

Saintes Amphitheatre

This well preserved Roman amphitheatre was built into the side of a hill, and today affords some wonderful views over the city of Saintes – juxtaposing architecture from many different periods. The amphitheatre was built around 40AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius, when Saintes was known as Mediolanum Santonum and was capital of the Aquitaine Province – before Bordeaux.

Sanxay Gallo-Roman site

Near the town of Sanxay are the remains of a small rural Roman town, or a vicus. Originally the site of a Celtic sanctuary that attracted pilgrims from a wide surrounding area, the Romans replaced this in the 2nd century with a temple dedicated to Apollo and Mercury. Also still visible are the remains of a small theatre and thermal baths.

Sèchebec Dolmen

Unusually situated amongst apartments blocks on the eastern outskirts of Cognac, this portal tomb has a single capstone held up by 8 support stones. The chamber measures about 4.5 by 2.5 metres. The capstone is not very high off the ground, and it is hard not to think that this dolmen has been modified in some way.

Museums in Poitou-Charentes

Centre d’Interprétation de la Frise Magdalénienne – Roc-aux-Sorciers

Sculptured bison's head from Roc-aux-Sorciers. A rock shelter near the town of Angles-sur-l’Anglin has a panel of 18 metres with exceptionally carved animal and human figures. Traces of red and black pigment have been found on the carved figures, suggesting that they were coloured when they were made. Today the shelter is closed to the public. A very accurate facsimile can be seen in an innovative interpretative centre in the town … go to Roc-aux-Sorciers



Travel Tips for Visiting Sites & Museums in Poitou-Charentes

Archaeology Travel Guide to Cave Art in Poitou-Charentes and France
Archaeology Travel guide to the best cave art in France. France is well known for having some of the finest prehistoric cave art in the World. Few, however, would associate the Poitou-Charentes region with cave art. While there may not be the number of decorated caves in the Charentes as there are in other regions of France, if you are visiting the region there are two sites open to the public not to be missed. For a comprehensive guide to visiting cave art in France, including 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.