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Pont Du Gard

Faced with the prospect of dwindling water supplies to service the thriving city of Nîmes in southern France, the Romans in the 1st century AD came up with an amazing solution. Build a canal to bring water from Uzès, some 20 km away. However, to adapt to the terrain, the canal would be 51 km long.

The aqueduct descends by only 17 m over its entire length (about the height of a match box over the length of a football field), so construction had to be precise to ensure the water would flow. To finish the project quickly, building was started in several places at once and amazingly, the Romans succeeded in having each section match up at the correct location and at the exactly the right height – an indication of the great precision that Roman engineers were able to achieve using only simple technology.

The bridge has three rows of arches, standing 48.8 m high, and formerly carried an estimated 200 million litres of water a day to the official buildings, parks, fountains, baths and homes of the citizens of Nîmes.

The Pont du Gard was constructed largely without the use of mortar or clamps. It contains about 50,400 tons of stone with some of the individual blocks weighing up to 6 tons. They were precisely cut to fit perfectly together by friction alone, eliminating the need for mortar.

It was possibly used until as late as the 9th century, well after the fall of Rome. The aqueduct was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985. It is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is the best preserved after the Aqueduct of Segovia. The Pont du Gard is visited by more than 1,250,000 tourists every year.


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