1.1 The Argonne, a perfectly preserved zone

Flanked to the west by the Aisne valley and to the east by the Aire valley, the Argonne region takes the form of a vast rectangle 40km long and 15km wide. The region’s subsoil is composed exclusively of ‘gaize’ (a form of siliceous rock), giving naturally poor soil in which only the forest can thrive, on rolling hills ranging from 170 to 280 metres above sea level. In the early stages of the Great War (October-November 1914) the front cut right through this forest, forming a line running east to west. 

On either side of the front the French and German armies made the most of this natural cover to construct the various logistical installations required to supply the front lines. After 4 years of fighting which caused fairly extensive deforestation, American forces took control of this zone in October 1918. Once the conflict was over the forest gradually repopulated this land, thus protecting the many traces left behind by the opposing forces of the Great War (trenches, camps, railways etc.). Almost a century later the Argonne is still home to a near-intact section of front line, preserved by the presence of the forest.

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