a little dolmen with a big history   Leave a comment

Time to take a break from les Lacs – the density of tombs and the ‘heavy traffic’ of amateur and academic diggers becomes wearisome after a while.

There are other, more solitary prehistoric tombs dotted along the limestone karsts of the Minervois. But they exist in a kind of limbo: a half-life that continues in reference-sources such as the records of communes, on Quid.fr, in Wikipédia, and in the Megalithic Portal where ‘the Captain’ has assiduously done his homework in citing all known reports. They really do deserve the name of  ‘France’s Most Forgotten Dolmens’.

There’s a string of them, between the almost-necropolis of la Matte and the real necropolis of Bois-Bas, and the semi-necropolis of les Lacs : Les Dolmens de Combe Lignières, de Combe Violon, du Vallat de Vignes, de Combe Marie . . . and then others, even more ignored – de La Foret, de Mousse, de Fournes, de Castel Bouqui . . .

Here’s the very small, very strange little Coffre du Combe Marie:

It’s not very impressive, with headstone cracked and fallen forward.

Why contemporary archaeologists no longer take interest in locating these dolmens, is no great mystery – they’re no longer sexy and there’s no money available. Or – the book’s been written : the archaeologists of the ’70’s have been in, and have trashed the site forevermore (see some future post : Archaeology is Destructive) – so what’s the point?

As long as prehistory, and archaeology, and dolmens are seen as the sole preserves of archaeologists – who, having visited, move on with little concern about how others view the distant past (other than a strictly scholastic view, as opposed to an Everyman’s Right to view the past) – then large chunks of humanity’s impact on the earth will go unobserved/unvisited/undiscussed.

Peak-Wood happened to prehistoric communities. Peak-Tin, and Peak-Copper altered the trade and development of proto-societies. Peak-oil is about to change the direction of our ‘modern society’ in unimaginable ways. The wilful closetting of information, into various ‘expertises’ that are impermeable to other areas of knowledge – looks close to criminal. Looks deliberate. Looks like ‘they’ want ‘us’ to remain ignorant. Of course, more prosaically, they don’t want ‘the general public’  trampling over ‘their’ territory.

Sometimes you wonder – who do archaeologists hate most? Greedy landowners who ransacked dolmens to add to their collections? Early ‘gentlemen-scientists’ who covetted a few bronze daggers? Ignorant landowners who used the stones to cap their wells? Shepherds who rebuilt the ruins to make a shelter? Stricken peasants looking for a bit of gold? Previous archaeologists blundering about? Tourists trampling the precious evidence? Sad detectors with a spade?

Our modern-day prehistorian is a poor paranoid creature: 140 generations of unscientific people have been busy, messing up his dig. Fortunately, France is good at making Laws. And there is a law against all this. Any mediaeval person desecrating a tomb will be punished. Unfortunately, anyone nowadays with a metal-detector will go unpunished.

Small tomb – ok. But the big history? The big history lies in the 880 teeth that were found by Paul Ambert, during his meticulous search in 1971. And that there is evidence of early Bronze Age incineration.

For more on this, see Le Coffre du Combe Marie page, to the right – under Dolmens.


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