Combe Lignières – a little lost world   Leave a comment

Never mind that the world is going to hell in a motorised golf-cart, never mind that the next volcano will trigger the collapse of tourism and take our livelihood down with it – this May day was insanely munificent : it kept delivering surprises and delights that went way past what I asked for.

This is the day that was in it : hot sun and breezes, grassy gullies and massive rock-shelters,  micro-vineyards interplanted with young olives, ancient cherry-trees and antique wells, wierd rock-formations and a rare stone-alignment . . . and a long-lost dolmen.

The walk up the combe was lush with grasses, wild asparagus and fennel – but the path led upward onto the hot stoney causse.

But up among the hot vines was a cool slot : limpid water gulped down, flavored with wild aniseed.

It’s a complex photo, but a simple scene : one ancient ‘guine’ or sour cherry; one stone shed with an old Peugeot, and one extraordinary stone chamber above. On the bed of the truck was a note : ‘VENEZ BOIRE une verre à la maison au-dessus. Pascal.’ An invitation to a friend, or to the world?

Stumbling around on the top of this little ‘causse’, I found this row of stones. Three are visible and another 6 disappear into the scrub : all in a clear 15 metre line running south-east: towards the winter solstice. At first I thought this was ‘the dolmen’, and was mightily disappointed – it looked all wrong. [More on the cromlech/stone alignment of Saussenac in the next post & Page].

But I have done my homework : I have identified other likely ‘white blobs’ on Google Earth, and I have Paul Ambert’s generalised description from the  ’70’s and so it’s on up into the sea of  prickly ilex. And after an hour of thorns and trees and scrub, a stoney ‘island’ appears, with that heart-jolting, breath-seizing glimpse of a white slab jutting above the garrigue : it’s there! It does exist!

It’s huge and it’s magnificent – and it’s a complete wreck.

The photos that follow, on the Combe Lignières Dolmen Page, will show what a mess time and peasants and archaeologists have made of the place. This is the Last Stone Standing. As usual, it’s the primary, eastern orthostat – almost always the deepest set and the biggest. Yet this recurrence is never mentioned by any of the experts who have visited all these dolmens of ours, over the past century. Do they not see these as buildings, as architecture? Do they only see them as ‘boxes’ that hold the objects they are so desirous of?

The expertise of archaeologists is not in doubt here – but the narrowness of focus has I fear, led to a failure of imagination. The subject of Ruins is going to be a recurrent theme in subsequent posts.

The day didn’t end there :

This old fellow was in clover – he thinks Combe Lignières is heaven.

We live under the slumbering bulk of Alaric, and forget how large it looms to others.

When architecture and landscape mean so much to ordinary people, I wonder at their exclusion by archaeologists : Ambert’s insistence that the Combe Lignière dolmen is oriented to the north – when this view is so present to the south.

The dolmen hunter’s reward :

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