Skills of the ancients


In our classes this summer we have had conversations about the amazement we feel about structures such as Stonehenge or the pyramids or even the Nazca Lines and we sell human skills short by thinking someone from “the olden days” could not possibly have created such things.  In this part of France there are many opportunities to marvel at the skills of our ancestors.

The Pont du Gard is one such structure, standing through wars, earthquakes, and floods since 19 BCE.  The Maison Carre in Nimes, is the world’s best preserved Roman Temple from 16 BCE.

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The Pont du Garde crosses the Gardon river and is part of an aqueduct that carried water from a spring near Uzes to Nimes.
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The river is quite low now as it’s summer but in 2002 flooded to the extent that piers had to be added, one of the only modifications to the aqueduct.
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The water channel covered by stone slabs on the top carried 4.4 million gallons of water 31 miles. Unknown how long the aqueduct remained in use but may still have been functioning in the 9th century.
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Limestone blocks some as heavy as 6 tons were erected without mortar.
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1000 year old olive tree and the aqueduct which was the tallest of all the aqueducts in the Roman Empire.
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Lower section has built onto adding a road in the 18th century as this became a tourist destination and one could drive on this section until 1996.
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In 2000 in keeping with this as a World Heritage Site and to preserve the environment surrounding it an extensive visitor center with parking, a museum, and well designed paths were installed.
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While I’ve seen photos of the Maison Carre, coming upon it right in the center of Nimes in its stark whiteness was startling. Apparently it was cleaned in 2014.
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Built by Marcus Agrippa it is Hellenic with Corinthian columns both freestanding and engaged. Louis XIV’s chief minister wanted it taken apart brick by brick and re-erected at Versailles. Fortunately that did not happen.
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Looking through the temple portico across the square is the Carre d’Art (Contemporary Art Museum) designed by architect Norman Foster. It’s interesting how it mimics a portico and columns.
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You can see why this is considered the best preserved temple. It’s detail is pristine and looks almost new.
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Inside the portico looking up at the ceiling details.

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