Grave-robbers   Leave a comment

Two weeks have passed since the last post : now that could mean a) interest in dolmens tailing off, or b) pressure of work.

Unfortunately, it’s neither : I’ve gone and broken the unwritten Law of Blogging – I’ve been ‘working on a theory’ when I should have been writing about my searches on the hillsides. The Theory involves the old archaeology versus the New Archaeology, the French mind-set versus the Anglo-Saxon, Processual Archaeology versus Post-Processual – and the more I read and think about it all, the more difficult it gets to write anything.

Meanwhile I continue to drive across the Aude bassin, and up onto ‘les causses de Minerve’, every week, in search of the five lost dolmens of Le Bouys, and the six dolmens of Les Lacs. These two adjacent hill-plateaux – together with the sixteen (?) tombs at Bois Bas and the two at Mayranne – have been dug a half-dozen times over the last century or so by many a ‘savant’ and several experts. What they have left behind, and what they have put forward, have frustrated and infuriated me.

Armed with hightech tools and equipped with a multi-pinpointed battle-plan thanks to Google Earth and the GPS, I have crisscrossed many thorny hectares. For all the satellite-guided wizardry, it was actually through simple luck and determination that I found the dolmens. The very fact that I have NOT yet found half the tombs they mention ( tantalisingly briefly in the few documents available ) – is at the core of my Theory. It amounts to an intentional (or possibly unintentional, i.e. systemic) obfuscation or concealment of these sites, by the academics concerned.

What I have been testing – over the months of this long winter, and over the years of this blog –  is the availability to the interested public of sites of immense human importance – up to sixty dolmens on the Causses between Carcassonne and Narbonne alone. What I have been discovering is the professional/academic archaeologist’s determination that the public should not find them. The Theory, which eventually will get articulated fully on its own page, turns out to be a mirror of the very movement that archaeology has made from its early amateur days, through the closed  ‘scientific period’, to the present-day ‘open-ended’ situation. It’s a movement in thinking about the past that seems to have been conducted mainly in English, and which has not apparently involved the French that much. It’s why you can’t find a blog about archaeology in French that’s very interesting, reflexive or challenging. It’s why that list of  ‘the 50 best blogs on archaeology’ is exclusively in English.

I regret now that every unsuccessful outing, every thwarted foray, each laborious slog through garrigue was not logged and blogged. And I confess now that the Big Idea was to wow everyone (by which I mean the 40-odd people who visit this site every day, who now total 20,000.) with the full story of those five lost dolmens of Le Bouys, and the six (?) dolmens of Les Lacs.

The idea was to ‘write the book’ on the whole story – from the earliest amateur-gentlemen who saw megalithic tombs in every pile of rocks, to the present-day dolmen guide writer who cannot locate most of these. But it’s a bad day when a big idea swamps the modest aims of a blog – which should after all be simply the record of the everyday ups and downs of a dolmen-hunter.

The book will have to wait its day – it may well grow out of this blog, and from a presentation I have been invited to make to my ‘learnéd society’ : la Société d’Etudes Scientifiques de l’Aude (SESA). One of its central themes will be a discussion concerning the solo amateur and the group professional – the conflict between the idea of the past as a shared, public and inclusive realm, and the practice of a closed and exclusive academic domain.


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