Archive for March 2008

Cros hillfort   Leave a comment

Commanding the valley-plain of the Aude, at the edge of a plateau, the Cros hill-fort was built at the end of the Bronze Age (VIII-VII bc). This defensive construction is the most complete exemple of a fortification of this period in west Languedoc. The 470 metre long wall encloses an area of 5,25 hectares or 13 acres. It was constructed without elaborate care in dry-stone walling, 2.5 m. wide, with two facets and a rubble in-fill. Its original height was 2 metres – now reduced to one. Bastions or towers are still visible: these would have been higher. Wooden palissades would raise the height further.

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Now covered by pines that provide welcome shade – the original fort would have stood on clear ground: at 350 m. above sea-level this would have been cold and exposed in winter, and very hot in summer.

Go to Pages, on the right, for more info, photos and references.

unfound stones   Leave a comment

I have yet to return empty-handed from a day of dolmen-hunting, even if I fail to find anything. The map may say ‘Pierre Droite’ but a tractor or a religion may have removed it.

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I have searched repeatedly for these, and will continue until I find their ‘presence’ or the reason for their absence. These searches uncover places and reveal people: Germain, an old man with passionate memories of a megalithic necropolis discovered as a young man up on les Causses de La Planette – meeting him up in the hills has set in motion a whole new area of reseach.

This Easter, we went looking for le dolmen de Combe Violon above La Livinière, but a cold wet wind cut short the search. The dolmens de Mousse were not far away but again it was too cold to stay – even though we were close to hell. L’Enfer is a barren hillside of white jumbled rubble, a petrified torrent of shattered limestone that resolves into walls and tumuli and capitelles –

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Just beyond is the hillside that contains les dolmens de Mousse and le grand dolmen de Lauriol – but not for us that day. I returned to the internet to research these dolmens – and discovered that someone else was up there that afternoon – Yves Le Pestipon had posted photos of them on a remarkable multi-author weblog called L’Astrée.net – an unfolding series of events and situations, writings and images – including many on megalithic culture.

Anghelu Ruju hypogeic necropolis   Leave a comment

The hypogeic necropolis of Anghelu Ruiu – the Red Angel – is one of the most important sites in Sardinia. It is a complex of 38 hand-cut subterranean tombs used by different cultures from 3000 to 1500 BC.

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From the inside out – and from the outside in.

Many more photos and info on the Anghelu Ruju Necropolis Page – to the right.

Monte Baranta megalithic complex   Leave a comment

A week of winter sailing round Sardinia has left me deeply impressed with the richness and complexity of the prehistoric cultures that thrived there. The late neolithic Ozieri culture followed by the Filigosa, Abealzu, and Monte Claro cultures – up until the early Bronze Age Bonnanaro culture – all left a dazzling wealth of architecture and artifacts, far more sophisticated than the vestiges here in Languedoc. From hypogeic multi-chambered tombs with ornamental carvings and pillars, to detailed bronze statues of goddesses and bulls and castles – these sites speak of a highly organised and creative civilisation.
The hill of Monte Baranta gives its name to a remarkable pre-nuragic [ Early Bronze Age, 2500–2200 BCE ] megalithic complex consisting of various structures: a fortress, a long wall, a sacred area, and a settlement. The site must have been very overgrown, since it was unknown until well into the 20th. century. An extensive survey of the North West province of Sardinia was conducted by Nissardi, who investigated with great care the Olmedo territory. Even so, in the 1922 Governmental survey of Buildings and Monuments, it was absent. The megalithic complex of Monte Baranta seems to appear for the first time in 1958, in the publication of the Military Institute of Geography under the name Nuraghe Su Casteddu – the Castle.

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More photos and info on the Monte Baranta Page, in the panel on the right.

Standing Stones and Swimming Pools   1 comment

If you’ve followed any of these recent posts and pages then you’ll know that we are happily situated in the midst of a lot of old stones in the south of France. And while I’m a relatively recent arrival to the online community of stone-seekers, we [Mary & I] are old hands at the holiday business.

We’ve been running an open house for all sorts of courses and speciality weeks for six years now: yoga teachers from the UK come with their groups and we cook for them – painting groups from San Francisco, cookery groups from Cork, Cathar researchers from Dublin – walkers, botanists and birdwatchers : and that’s not counting our own painting and mosaic groups. We have a big pool, great food – and the wine is free.

So we are proposing a week of stone-chasing around one of the lesser-known but still fascinating megalithic centres of southern France.

UPDATE NOTE    I’ve made a fixed page for this post and moved the rest of it over to the Megalithic Holiday in Languedoc Page. So for more info on this holiday offer, please look in the right-hand column.

man-stone and woman-cave   Leave a comment

Drive to Lagrasse and spend a morning there: ‘L’un des plus beaux villages de France’ with an abbey rebuilt by Nimphridius under Charlemagne in 779. It was the temporal and spiritual centre of all Languedoc for many centuries, holding sway from Albi to Zaragoza. Then drive out on the D3, turning left to Tournissan. The lower menhir is on the left before the village. Turn right in the village for Talairan and at the first juntion go right on a metalled lane for 2km. The upper menhir stands atop a small hill – and possibly a tumulus – on the right about 100 metres after the tarmac ends. On the IGN map its location is 2. 38′ 37″ E , 43. 4′ 12″ N. or DD 2.643611 E 43.070000 N

Down here in the Aude we are not over-burdened with standing-stones. Passage-graves R Us – but Pierres Droites? Or Plantées? We have a few – and some of them among the biggest – but this is not Tall Stone Country.

All the more surprising then to find two menhirs in the one small valley. The better known one stands in the valley bottom – unusual enough – and by the roadside, rather than a more isolated spot. The valley is small and this route must have been the only way out, as it leads east between two hills towards the river Orbieu and Lagrasse.

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This lesser known menhir stands on a small hill, and is directly due south of the first. There is a path kept clear all the way up the hill to it. Neither menhirs are marked on any map. However they are both in full sight of the Le Roc Troué – the Holed Rock which is marked and is situated at 43.089444 N 2.664166 E . It is a large and dramatic cavern high up in the face of a prominent rock outcrop.

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In the foreground is one of the wells [with modern surround] and diectly behind is Le Roc.

The valley has other remarkable features: in line with the two menhirs, due north, is another rock outcrop – this time distinguished by its strong red colouring. There is a captured spring at this place called Terre Rouge. Other wells can be seen high up above the valley floor in the middle of fields – attesting to an unusual water-table. Such abundance of water and such rich oxide soil make this valley very fertile.

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Terre Rouge in middle distance – with Alaric mountain behind.

Less than a mile from the two menhirs is a place called Les Morts : The Dead. At the summit of a small hillock, among trees and scrub is a tomb. Monks of the Middle Ages lived in a Priory close by and in Lagrasse, and the entire valley would have been worked by them. It is unusual to find a solitary tomb, set apart like this.

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The stone stands 2.5 metres tall with its flat faces roughly east & west. It ‘points’ north at 30 degrees, straight at the lower menhir.

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I came to hear about this beautiful stone from a friend. She had been told about it by a sourcier. Not a wizard – this is the local man who locates water for farmers and vignerons. He also believes in ley-lines and fertility stones . . . And for those women who cannot conceive when they wish, he suggests visits to this menhir. My friend wanted a baby, and visited the stone often. It is in a beautiful place, in a beautiful valley. The existence of a well-trodden path is significant.

Elsewhere in Europe stones were toppled or broken by the Catholic church in their zeal to eradicate traces of former beliefs. But you can’t erase a vast gaping hole in a cliff, and you can’t stop women wanting children. And so perhaps they let stand a ‘pagan’ stone or two, thinking “well, if the women believe in it, and if it helps bring more babies . . . ”

The name of the water-diviner, le sourcier ? Labitte. It is the word for the male appendage.