La Pierre des Couteaux dolmen   1 comment

Why this dolmen should be called ‘The Whetstone’ is both obvious, and inexplicable. Its massive table [1.8m.long by 1.5m. wide and 25 cm. thick] is certainly made of very hard sandstone. But so is the capstone of Le Roc Gris a few hundred metres north  – and many other dolmens in the Minervois Hills.

Nor is this tomb close by a natural outcrop – unlike its neighbour, which nestles close to a notable rocky ridge. The confusion over the names of these two megaliths, and the vagueness of what few descriptions I could find in the S.E.S.A. library, has led to much time spent poring over maps and satellite images. Not to mention an hour of crashing through undergrowth . . .

And all along, it was barely 50 metres from the road.

One point of confusion (deliberate on the part of some wary, or jealous, archeologue ?) was its siting ‘almost entirely surrounded by the meanders of the Barroubio stream‘. In fact the stream closeby is the Rec d’Aymes.

Early experts on these sites, like M. Miquel and M. Blanquier who wrote about his visit to Bize and ‘les dolmens de la Roueyre’ in 1897 – were perhaps rightly fearful of ‘fouilleurs clandestins’ who had already wrecked many tombs in search of gold.

The dolmen appeared in Germain Sicard’s 1926 inventory of  megaliths in the Aude – but a further thirty years would pass before a serious dig was undertaken:
Dernières découvertes au dolmen “La Pierre des Couteaux”, La Roueyre, commune de Bize (Aude)  – Jacques Lauriol, Bulletin de la Société d’études scientifiques de l’Aude 1957

Among other grave-goods typical of the late-neolithic/chalcolithic, he found a finely-worked copper dagger. This featured in a 1977 review of further discoveries in the Minervois region:-

Un poignard métallique au dolmen des Fados (Pépieux, Aude)
Paul Ambert
Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 1977 lien Volume  74  Numéro  4


Dolmen de la Pierre des Couteaux (Bize, Aude) (fig. I, n° 3).

Cette tombe a livrée à J. Lauriol (1957), un poignard en cuivre, long de 93 mm, mais vraisemblablement cassé. La lame a été particulièrement soignée, les fils en sont amincis et tranchants. Elle est moins large que le manche. Le matériel associé comprenait une belle lame de silex de 17 cm, plusieurs flèches foliacées, des perles en os, en coquillage, et un minuscule tesson de campaniforme international.

It seems likely that metallurgy came late to south west France, and probably via northern Italy. The dolmen contained not only the impressive 17cm. long flint blade, but a flint javelot head that had never been used – and cut like a razor.

The last searches of these two dolmens took place in the early ’80’s:

Les dolmens de la Roueyre à Bize-Minervois (Aude)
Paul Ambert.  Archéologie en Languedoc 1985, no4

More than 250 human teeth were found.

The dolmen is 5 m. long with a possible inner chamber of 3 m. There are 5 small orthostats each side, of limestone. The orientation is 210° and there is evidence of a tumulus, although an additional pile of stones from field-clearance confuses the picture.

The dolmen is sited on a small hillock on the last bend of the stream as Les Caves come into view. Park by the small olive grove and take the track that crosses the dry stream-bed. The cadastral map shows this to be the old road to the hamlet. The track continues on the far side of the field, and passes within a few metres, behind the hillock. It’s unusual in being situated so low down in the valley, and so near a track. There is a sense of ‘pride of place’ and security about the siting.

Location on Google Earth 41º 21′ 45.45″ N, 2º, 51′ 50.40″ E.

Posted December 6, 2009 by Richard Williams

One response to “La Pierre des Couteaux dolmen

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  1. Found it thanks but your coordinates put it in the sea east of Barcelona

    Try:

    43 21′ 45.66 N 2 51′ 50.53

    I have been told that there is also a Dolmen further up the valley on the other side of the river facing the Boneli’s winery but have never found it and have no precise directions.

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