Combe Violon dolmen   Leave a comment

As usual with all these obscure dolmens up on les Causses, there are problems with the names. From early in the 1900’s when Jean Miquel de Barroubio was compiling his inventory of dolmens in the Minervois, right up to the present day when ‘the Captain’ submitted his list of dolmens to The Megalithic Portal – the names and locations of these small upland tombs has been problematical.

When Paul Ambert was conducting the last major digs of all these dolmens des Causses in the early ’70’s, he too encountered some erratic descriptions in Miquel’s researches. And it was here that the alternative name – le dolmen du Vallat des Vignes – first appeared. I have one account by Ambert where he details his problems with Miquel’s imprecision, and resolves it by naming the dolmen ‘ Combe Violon au ravin des vignes’.

However there is another paper by Ambert where he calls it ‘le dolmen du Vallat des Vignes’. Quid – the Encyclopedia Britannica of France – picks this name up and adds it to the ‘list’ of dolmens in the commune of Siran. Quid also gives this name to one of the dolmens belonging to the commune of La Livinière – as well as Combe Violon. Two dolmens for the price of one.

In addition, we now have the Calamiac dolmen, which the generally assiduous ‘Captain’ has added to the nearby dolmens of Combe Lignières, Combe Violon and Combe Marie. His source may well be Quid again – but as far as I can ascertain Calamiac only comes into the picture because Ambert mentions that our little dolmen de Combe Violon is ‘facile à atteindre depuis Calamiac’.

It is with relief therefore, that I can state that I have met the owner of this hidden-away little valley of vines, and she knows that it is called La Combe Violon. They also own La Combe Marie, the little ravine next to it – which throws into doubt the correctness of the Combe Marie dolmen name – since that is located half a kilometre to the east . . .

Here is the sadly dilapidated subject under discussion:-

It doesn’t really bear many similarities with Ambert’s plan:-

The photo above shows the view from the foot, towards the very reduced ‘chevet’ or headstone. But there are other orthostats in the photo that do not appear on his drawing.

Ambert’s ideas concerning orientation are unusual : he seems to see all the dolmens he studied on les Causses, as ‘orientés vers le Nord’ [Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française  1975  Volume   72  Numéro   2  pp. 57-64]. This insistance seems curiously at odds with the current understanding that it was the opening to the tomb that matters, and that this was governed in some way with the rising or setting sun – to the south. This tomb is very much a south-wester, at close to 240°.

This was taken from the N-W corner, showing the long eastern slab, plus additional stones near the foot. It measures 3 metres long by 1 metre wide.

The orthostats are remarkably thin, and small : my earlier searches of the nearby slopes showed a distinct lack of suitable building material.

What has been recorded of the finds is also very modest : J. Miquel notes several skeletons and a flint blade, while Ambert recovered just a few long bones, some skull fragments, and 14 teeth that came from at least two individuals.

In contrast to some of the grander dolmens of the region, this tomb seems evidence of a small group of people, living in a modest but protected and fertile hidden corner of the Causses. The dolmen may not be impressive, but its location is both intimate – set low between two higher ridges – and yet dramatic : the mighty bulk of Alaric mountain is what draws the eye south, down this Vallat des Vignes.

NB The precise coordinates for the dolmens I find are no longer going to be displayed here on line. There has been a suggestion (a local village website whose author has hidden behind elaborate anonymity) that I encourage illegal searchers. Therefore all location details will now only be available at the library of S.E.S.A. in Carcassonne, or from me.

Posted May 9, 2010 by Richard Williams

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