a weekend in the country   Leave a comment

We think we live in the country. That is until we leave our little village on the plain and venture 40 minutes south into Les Hautes Corbières, to stay with friends in a renovated bergerie in its own valley. Here wild boars outnumber humans ten-to-one, and eagles cruise the thermals.

I was expecting to make a 2 hour trek, following the excellent guide to ‘Dolmens et Menhirs en Languedoc et Roussillon’ by Bruno Marc. It turned out that the dolmen de la Porteille was just 45 minutes from the house – and though not fully signposted from our end, it was a glorious ramble on yet another sunlit day.

porteille-dolmen-1.jpg

The bright light almost overwhelms the photos with contrast.

It’s orientation is 245. The coordinates given on the Megalithic Portal put it about 500 metres across the valley to the NE. Using the French GeoPortail.fr site, I make its coordinates 2.35’57” E, 42.59’48” N or in decimal degrees: 2.599166, 42.996666

porteille-dolmen-2.jpg

This is peering down into what is quite a deep cavity. The stone on the left side seems less an orthostat than a natural flat slab, making this almost a fissure tomb. It measures 3 m. long outside [2 m. inside] and 60 cm. wide inside. It’s 1.5 m. deep.

porteille-dolmen-3.jpg

The dense maquis conceals the fact that we are on the crest of a ridge with views of holm-oak covered hills all around. But it was no surprise to find that Pic du Canigou, the sacred mountain of the eastern Pyrenees, was also in sight. Developments in prehistoric funerary practice and ceramics came as much from the Iberian south, as from east across the Mediterranean [or from the Alps]. This region was and is a crossroads of cultures.

And it was no surprise either to discover there was a grotte de Matthias not many minutes further down the slope. The conjunction of cave and dolmen is repeated all over the region. A later post will examine this relationship.

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