Semi-detached oppidum at le Carla, Durban Corbieres   10 comments

Quid.fr is France’s Encyclopedia Britannica – and has this to say about the canton of Durban Corbières:

Vestiges Préhistoriques : 1 – Oppidum de Carla. 2 – Habitation Gallo-Romain au Roc de Carla

. . . and that is the sum-total of information that I can find on the site. I came across this meagre thread while researching the dolmen de Palats which lies 2 km. north. We drove past le Roc a few days ago :-

oppidum roc de carla

– and the only words for it are impregnable and inhospitable. With uninhabitable running a close third. The first two are desirable in a defensive stronghold – but its location is not obvious. As far as I am aware this oppidum is a lone outpost, far from the linked chain of defensive hill-settlements that runs east-west along the Aude river valley to command the long-established trade-route [that became the Via Aquitania and now the Autoroute des Deux Mers]. It has intermittent streams at the base of the rock [Carla is a version of Cayla, or Caylar – occitan for caillou, or pebble – a diminuitively affectionate term for these jagged outcrops that were favoured sites throughout the region]. But the main river that runs through this fairly barren part of the Corbières is La Berre, and that passes well to the south, through Durban – with its mediaeval castle high on a rock.

It is also possible that this was one of the more northern oppida belonging to the ibero-celtic tribes who built the oppidum de Ruscino [at Perpignan] later to become the ‘capitol’ of the Roussillon region.

Had I been alone I would probably have spent a painfully futile afternoon up there, hoping for a photograph of a crumbled wall or two – but I had wiser counsel beside me. So we drove on to the dolmen. This now joins the lengthening list of sites that require some local knowledge – and a set of crampons.

Co-ordinates for the oppidum will be available from S.E.S.A. at Carcassonne – or from me.

10 responses to “Semi-detached oppidum at le Carla, Durban Corbieres

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  1. As an ex archaeologist it is good to see your site.I have always been surprised that France has not located more of its archaeology on maps.Do you have any detailed coorinates for the oppida in the Bezier Narbonne area, as I would like to visit some sites in September

  2. Paul – as a non-archaeologist it was good to see your comment! My self-imposed bailiwick is the Aude, and Beziers is just outside that. But I do stray occasionally . . .
    I ran an exploratory ‘dolmen-hunting week’ earlier this year, based at our guesthouse/artcentre (www.artholiday.com) and was considering putting on another in September. Would this interest you?
    I gather that Roman oppida are ten-a-centime all over France. What interests me are the sites that were shared by Volcae Tectosages and their ilk, and how these sites were revived. These encampments/strongholds/marketgrounds were significant places to the ‘peuples elisyques’ and to others before them. The Bronze-Copper people are where it all starts – for me!

  3. Very nice site. I have been up le Carla three times, taking a metaldetector with me the last visit. There are some crumbled walls up there, a Roman villa some local told me, and a Roman grave, what has been emptied some years ago by a local.
    It toke me about an hour to climb all the way up, and holding a detector and spade in one hand made it a risky climb due to many lose stones, but I did find some nice artifacts, and some nice pottery up there.
    By the look of it there where some other diggers up le Carla because somebody dug trenches around the ruine.

  4. Have you spoken to Bernard Pauc at Coustouge about this? He is likely to have information both about the origin of the name ‘Palats’ (there are other, local, interpretations than the ones you cite) and information about any local excavations or studies that may have been undertaken in the last fifty years or so.

    • Hello Chris. Thanks for the contact. My dolmen-hunting has taken the back seat of late. Most of my time now is occupied with two potagers, and this summer’s ArtHoliday.com business – and related blogs. I’m hoping to resume in the autumn.

  5. Je n’ecris pas en anglais … je pense que vous comprenez le francais puisque vous venez dans la region
    je ne suis pas ravie d’apprendre que des grens viennent avec des detecteurts de metaux sur des sites archeologiques … il y a une reglementation en France … comme en GB, d’ailleurs … mais c’est si facile de prospecter dans les Corbieres ou personne ne dira rien … ne verra rien … sauf que j’ai vire quelqu’un l’an passe et que ca s’est mal termine … les gendarmes s’en sont occupe.
    Alors n’allez pas croire que Bernard Pauc, mon mari va vous donner toutes sortes d’indications. Nous faisons de la recherche … pas une collection privee … et moi des etudes en Prehistoire. Pillez les sites archeologiques n’est pas tres honete. Le patrimoine n’est pas un loisir …
    Paulette Pauc – Coustouge

  6. Hello AB…
    Archaeological sites are protected in France, this is why the archaeologists do not advertize their precise location : enough people visit them with metal detectors, and we do not want to encourage a practise which spreads data to unknown locations… If you made any metal finds on the site, they need to be registered. Please send me details about them, I can tansfer them to the Service Regional de l’Archeologie at Montpellier, as well as to the local archaeologists (B. & P. Pauc), who will be interested. Thanks in advance (Michel.Feugere@wanadoo.fr)

    • Well! An interesting conversation, between contrasting parties.I only take away photographs, from any site I visit.
      A careful reading of all my posts and pages will show that I have equal respect for the gifted and dedicated amateur archaeologists (who never had the chance or the money to go to university) as for the trained academic experts (who have built and who protect their careers). We need to encourage the young amateur (yes even with his metal-detector!) and we need to control the egoistical academic. Both need to be reminded that it is not personal gain that is most important.
      Most countries in Europe have needed both kinds of searchers, in the past. And both sides have often hidden their findings from us, the people who live here! We don’t know how much has been stolen by the illegal searchers – they certainly do not publish their finds online. Nor sometimes do the official searchers – they protect their sites, for professional reasons. Who is the biggest loser? It’s usually us, the ordinary man and woman, who would like to learn about the land they live in. And who lose both ways: by never seeing the finds that stay in private collections, and by paying for the spades and sandwiches and wine of the academics (who then never bother to reveal their findings).

      One of the ugliest prehistoric sites I have ever visited, was one protected from public visits. It has been repeatedly pillaged over a period of 20 years by academic teams (who have made many important discoveries) but who have left the site in a mess – as if vandals had attacked and destroyed it. It’s Le dolmen des Peirières à Villedubert – and I have been too angry and upset and confused by the horror of what the archaeologists left behind, to write about it, or to show the photos. I simply do not know how to reconcile my respect for their immense patience and expertise, with the utter callousness in leaving the tomb in such a disgusting state.
      I do not believe in secrecy. Nor do I believe in theft. I believe in information being made open and available to everyone.
      Paulette writes of illegal and unwanted activities taking place in the Corbieres ‘where no one can see’. The careful and professional wreckage that has continued for 20 years at Villedubert was also kept ‘out of sight’. So much information about our prehistoric past was discovered there – so much public money has been spent! But there is nothing in the village to tell us of their discoveries, and nothing in the press, or in a book. There is an arrogance about this that I find equal to the selfishness of the amateur treasure-hunter. I hold the archaeologists who worked on this site in the highest respect – they have gone on to become famous in France. But their team have left this burial site in a most disrespectful state. It is a cause for shame.
      We need to think carefully about what exactly is ‘the public good’. When our tax-money is spent by experts, we need to see that it is not just money spent on their jobs and careers. And no, I am not a retired Englishman and yes, I have my Siret number, and yes this situation is the same all over Ireland and England and France . . . ).
      If one wants to get angry (and I try not to – it’s not good for one’s health . . . ) then there may be two targets for one’s anger, not just the one easy one!
      History belongs to Everybody.

  7. Very well said Richard. The truth is even wurse; I know of people in France, working as a proffesional archaeologist, who report everyone they can spot searching with a metaldetector while using one themselves at night. Night-hawkers of the worst kind.
    I on the other hand, when finding items of any historical value stop digging, report the location and work together with the local archaeologists. In the Corbieres that would be a team from Perpignan, not a local night-hawker (without pointing fingers).
    The grave tomb on the Carla has been robbed many years ago, I was to believe somewhere in the 70’s by a local, so I was told. The bones, pottery and beads from necklaces and bracelets lie in a cardboardbox in the persons shed in Durban les Corbieres. I have asked this person for the box so it can be examinded, but he refuses to hand the box over, saying he onwed the vineyards around Le Carla and the tomb was on his land. He was rather suprised I knew about the existance of the box.
    Next time I am on vacation in the south of France, I will try again once more, as the person is very old now, and the last thing anybody wants is to see it end up on a garbish tip.

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