All the rain that never fell this summer is falling now and will continue to fall for days yet.
Which gives me time and excuse enough to work up my latest observations into a Grand Theory. In the course of the last few weeks I have been trying to make sense of the scant information about the dolmens of ‘les causses de Siran’ that has filtered down through the decades, and thus locate and identify them. One small key was a brief mention of the Peyro-Rousso dolmen by Jean Miquel de Barroubio in his 1896 ‘Essai sur l’arrondissement de St. Pons’. The dolmen, he says, is both ‘un rendezvous de chasseurs’ and ‘une borne entre les communes de Siran et La Livinière’.
Earlier this year I had noted that the two dolmens at Fournes, and the menhir, were also located at a boundary: that between Siran and Cesseras. Yesterday it occurred to me that these may not be solitary examples, accidents or exceptions: there might be others.
There were indeed. To economise on space I have randomly paired the following screen-captures of megaliths in the area. The purple line appears when you add the ‘Unités Administratives > Limites Administratives’ layer on the IGN GeoPortail.fr site.
There are twenty so far: the last example – the two menhirs at Tournissan – is the most graphic.
Above : Agel and Ventenac – Below : Arques and Talairan
Above : Azille and Tourril – Below : Balsabé (or Cigalière) and Jappeloup
Above: in the top left corner the dolmen of les Lauzes couvertes, or Liquieres, near Cébazan – and the two Villeneuve dolmens.
Below : the vanished standing-stones above Conilhac and Montbrun.
Above: Pépieux and Monze – Below : Laroque-de-Fa and Talairan
Above: one of the Massac dolmens, and (unmarked) the dolmen de la Roudounière – see Page, left.
Below: Trassanel and Olonzac
Below: two views of the menhir at Malves
And below are the last two: left – the higher of the two menhirs at Tournissan and right – the stone by the roadside.
Here they are seen together : there is no mistaking which direction the boundary line is following –
And here is a late addition: I should have thought earlier of the Grand Menhir de Counozouls. It is 500 m. from the boundary between the communes of Counozouls and Roquefort-de-Sault, and 200 m. from the ‘ancien chemin‘ that linked the two villages. At 8.9 metres tall, and weighing 50 tons, it is the biggest in southern France, and one of the largest in Europe.
My theory is stuck at the ‘Chicken or Egg’ stage (for foreign readers, this means “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” It’s a common, if false dichotomy): were megaliths just useful and durable objects in a landscape, allowing communal boundaries to be easily drawn? Or were communes the extension, into a more modern world, of Neolithic tribal or clan territories? And if dolmens were sited so close to the borders of a neighbouring group – what implications does that have for our understanding of the functions and rituals that surround the burial-place? Were menhirs placed there as a warning or a welcoming sign?
Of course, what I have not shown are all the megaliths that are located far from any boundary-line. I don’t yet know which are the greater in number. Nor whether it is worth pursuing : perhaps it’s all random – perhaps all can be explained by ley-line energies.