| ||One of the largest Gallo-Roman sites in ancient Gaul, Pontchartrain, which means “bridge of the Carnutes,” marks the entry point of the Roman road that crossed its lands. The ruins were discovered when the Route Nationale 12 bypass was being built around the town of Pontchartrain, and were subsequently protected to allow excavation. The idea that such sites are part of French heritage is a recent one. Roman and even Gothic ruins were often used as sources of building stone, and minor finds were thrown away by treasure hunters. From the 1960s onward, a new interest in the past, combined with economic growth that was transforming the landscape, encouraged archaeological investigations and brought a sense of their importance to the nation. According to historian Pierre Chaunu, more than a billion people have lived and left their mark on French soil since the time of Cro-Magnon man.
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