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Pont du Gard Gets Face-lift January 11, 2000
by Chris Hellier

Work is currently under way on a $34-million scheme to build an archaeological and interpretive center near the Pont du Gard, the extraordinary Roman aqueduct in southern France that once formed part of a 30-mile-long system carrying water to Nîmes. A parking lot near the bridge is to be closed and larger parking areas opened half-a-mile away. The bridge attracts more than two million visitors a year.

Built ca. 19 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, the 890-foot-long Pont du Gard comprises three tiers of arches: six crossing the River Gard, 11 on the middle tier, and 35 smaller arches carrying the water duct above. The bridge was listed as a protected monument as long ago as 1840, when major restoration was undertaken, and was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. But millions of visitors per year are taking their toll. Tourists are now forbidden from walking along the top of the bridge.

Some conservationists, however, believe that visitors should also be prevented from walking along the bottom tier of the 2,000-year-old structure and restricted to an adjacent road bridge, now closed to traffic. While there is now little information for tourists at the Pont du Gard, when an interpretive center is complete they will be able to wander around exhibitions and watch films about Provence in Roman times. The recently excavated Roman quarries that provided the stone for the bridge are also to be opened to the public. The project is due for completion in June.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America