National Parks have the mission of studying, protecting and promoting the heritage of their territory. The Cévennes National Park – unique in France in being an inhabited park – is rich in a heritage that combines natural history with human history, men and women having shaped the territory since Neolithic times. This human history consists of various struggles and resistances – in particular for the freedom of conscience – and is key to understanding the area.
In prehistoric times the first populations can be traced to near Meyrueis and the Aigoual and Lingas massifs. They date from the Palaeolithic (400,000 B.C.). After the Neolithic and the end of nomadism, sedentary agricultural civilisations began (around 4,500 B.C.). As of 2,500 B.C., hundreds of menhirs and dolmens were erected, scattering the ridges and slopes of the Grands Causses and Mont Lozère.
In Antiquity, the Park region was settled by several peoples. The largest part was occupied by the Gabales, whose territory corresponds to the Gévaudan (Lozère), with Anderitum-Javols as capital. At the time, the area was widely settled, its land developed and its resources – minerals and wood – used. There is evidence of towns and farms; overland communication routes allowed the economy to develop.
In the Middle Ages, the region now covered by the Park was part of four départements (Lozère, Aveyron, Ardèche, Gard), each with very different historical backgrounds. This vast geographical area south-east of the Massif Central also straddled several earldoms: the Gévaudan, the Rouergue, the Vivarais and part of Lower Languedoc.
Modernity: page under construction.
The Contemporary Period, from the second half of the 19th century onwards, has above all been shaped by a strong population exodus. Agricultural disasters and the Great War were its main causes. But since the 1970s, the local population has been undergoing something of a revival, which has coincided with the development of the Park.