Clot de l’Oste dolmen   Leave a comment

The dolmen du Clot de l’Oste was not easy to research. The post that accompanies this page showed the confusion surrounding its unusual name. Finding the actual site was a problem too – it doesn’t appear on the IGN Série Bleue  map, and there is nothing on line to indicate where, in the large commune of Bouisse I should start looking. Hours were spent ‘inching’ my way around at the cadastral level on GeoPortail.fr, and worming my way through the books at S.E.S.A. in Carcassonne. Finally finding le Ruisseau du Clot de l’Oste and the area that shares this name, brought me a little closer.

But first – what about that giant? Did the jaw that Jean-Baptiste Bonis found in 1897, really belong to a race of colossi? Without digging up the graveyard at Bouisse, we’ll never know. Fortunately, Bernard Dandine’s search in 1940’s produced four more well-preserved teeth which he sent to a specialist – in London. Dr. Gan’s detailed report on them concluded: they are no different from the teeth of contemporary humans. Whoever was buried at le Clot de l’Oste was just a big bloke. A big grave for a big chief – big surprise.

There was just one other find at the dig: a fragment of crudely-formed pottery. The markings allowed it to be dated to the late Bronze age. However, its previous history as of burials is unknown.
Dandine also noted that this was the most westerly of megalithic tombs, at least in the Corbières. And it certainly does feel West: three kilometers of axle-testing forestry-track took me deep into country I had never visited. It’s not surprising that few know of its location. Dandine pointed out that Sicard was too experienced an archaeologist to mistake a menhir for a dolmen – thus he concludes that Sicard never visited the site, but merely took Abbé Ancé’s word for it. Likewise, I can only conclude that Bruno Marc committed the same error – by never visiting the megalith to verify the facts before publishing.

My recent discovery of Pierre Bascou’s clear and informative site on Bouisse has helped me enormously in my understanding of the shaping of a parish. What follows is a précis and translation of the part of his researches concerning the area called ‘le Clot de l’Hoste’. Curiousl, however, he does not seem to know of the existence of the dolmen there.

During the second half of the 16th. century new arrivals settled in the south and southwest parts of the parish of Bouisse. The compoix of 1569 shows that in August, Bartélémy Provencol registered in the parish. Records elsewhere show other families moving in to the Hautes Corbières : the Alverny family in Cubières, the Bascou, the Limousi, the Loumagne etc. These anthroponyms reflect their place of origin.
In the course of this colonisation, the people of Bouisse began cultivating areas hitherto reserved for grazing. These new settlers were called ‘hôtes’ – peasants from outside the area. One of them, Guilhem Chamma, ‘hoste’ originally from Palairac is certainly known to have established the farm called ‘le Clot de l’Hoste’ – as legal documents attest to his presence there in the mid-16th. century.

This now presents a completely different interpretation for the name of the dolmen. He is evidently taking ‘hoste’ as a variant of ‘hôtes’, an ‘outsider’ which is accurate enough – but then assumes ‘clot’ to mean a fenced area.

However, I think Bascou is looking at the wrong dictionary, and at the wrong part of the map :

I have pivoted the land-registry map 180°, for ease of reading. Running up diagonally from left to right is the Rau. (ruisseau) du clot de l’hoste. Now this is the crucial point: I think that places and streams are given names from the very earliest of times – and that the dolmen had been known about from those very early times. Thus local people had always called that stream and that area by its simple name : the Grave of the Stranger. When Guilhem Chamma arrived from Palairac in the 1550’s he settled in a place that already had a name. It is highly unlikely that he had a stream and a hillside named after him. In fact not even with his own name – but his status as ‘incomer’.

Below is a wider view of the area, the correct way up. The track running from top L to lower R is the ‘ancien chemin d’ Albières à Limoux’. It intersects with another track – the ‘ancien chemin du Col du Paradis’.

From Pierre Bascou’s site on the history of Bouisse: ‘To the west of the ‘Camin Grand’ [the old highway linking Limoux to Albières] and across that large part of the parish, the land improvements were largely the work of other new settlers : the Barbaza family and the Delbourgs, around 1550. The Barbaza family established several farms: ‘le Caïtiu’, and ‘les Grouilhets’ (now called le Franciman), as well as “Le Ferrié’ ” an area rich in iron-ore, and now part of the Arques parish.’

The dolmen is located just 30 metres from the ‘Camin Grand’ and 100 metres from that crossroads. It must have been a well-known feature on this stretch of the highway, and consequently well-ransacked.

The story of le Clot de l’Oste may seem convoluted – but scholarship and clarity prevail in the end. A few years after Dandine’s work René Nelli – an Occitan poet and historian – took it a stage further, assembling the known history and providing us with a precise hand-drawn map.

I only recently discovered this in the SESA archives and was thus able – finally! – to see the place for myself. It is no longer buried amid a thicket of broom and heather as they saw it in the 1950’s – it now stands in a glade of forestry-commission pines.

It’s an impressively large tomb, in a tranquil place – sheltered from the buffeting tramontane wind by Monginié Hill (le mont des genets?) above and behind it. And it’s real name should really have been taken from the flat promontary on which it lies : Fougadous – lo Foun d’Agua Dous?

Posted October 25, 2010 by Richard Williams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: