Ruines des Cars, a major Gallo-Roman archaeological site


Outbuildings and monolithic tank

Les Ruines des Cars are considered a major Gallo-Roman archaeological site.

The site is located near Meymac on the Plateau de Millevaches, at the border of the municipalities of Saint-Merd-les-Oussines and Perols-sur-Vézère.

The site is nestled in the heart of vast meadows surrounded by forests.

Les Ruines des Cars was classified Historical Monument in 1935, at the start of the excavations.

The importance of the funeral buildings – a temple and two mausoleums – initially led archaeologists to think that Les Cars was an ancient place of worship.

Vestiges of a Gallo-Roman villa

These ruins are in fact those of a large Roman villa.

The mansion was built in the 1st or 2nd century AD and stood at the heart of a very large farm.


Ruins of the temple

This noble residence, located by the stream Ruisseau des Cars, had all the refinements of Roman architecture.

It indeed had an atrium surrounded by galleries supported by columns.

It was heated by the ground, had running water and a heated pool.

The largest of its many rooms faced a vast park.

The water supplying the house’s heating system and pool was carried out by a network of lead pipes connected to a large monolithic water tank, which can still be seen outside the mansion.

A large pond with a fountain was dug probably during the 2nd century AD in the centre of the park, in front of the villa.


Ruins of the temple

Nobody knows why the pond ceased to be used, the villa abandoned and the farm disused simultaneously towards the end of that same century.

The surrounding land, today mostly wooded, was then arable land dedicated to the cultivation of cereals.

The lesser land was left as moorland and used as pasture.

Surrounding soils and pollen analysis, conducted during the various archaeological excavations, concluded that this large farm produced rye and buckwheat.

The excavations also revealed that this fertile land had been cultivated since the Second Iron Age or La Tène Culture, from around the 4th century BC, long before the Gallo-Roman Period!

Vestiges of the temple and funeral buildings

The ruins of the funeral buildings consisted of a temple and two mausoleums.


Plateau de Millevaches

They were both attached to the mansion, yet placed in a remote location.

The extensive Ruines des Cars give us a great idea of the magnitude of this villa and its estate.

It is regrettable, however, that they served as stone quarry in the 17th century.

Many architectural features were indeed destroyed!

Sadly, no oral tradition seems to refer to the site, so the origin of the Ruines des Cars is still a msytery!

Access to the site is free, however, guided tours take place during the summer season in July and August.

Finally, the Museum Marius Vazeilles in Meymac exhibits the various artefacts found on the site.

Coordinates and map for Ruines des Cars: Lat 45.606228 – Long 2.030212

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: outbuildings with monolithic water tank by Aubussonais is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0Ruins temple #1 and Ruins of the temple #2  by Thierry46 are licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 – Plateau des Millevaches by Babsy is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0