Les Lacs dolmens revised   Leave a comment

There’s surprisingly little on the internet about any of these three dolmens. Bruno Marc mentions this, the first of the Lacs Dolmens, briefly in his 1999 guide-book,  before dealing in more detail with dolmens 2 & 3. He alludes to three more in this ‘zone’ – describing them as ‘difficilement accessibles’. In the absence of proof to the contrary – in print or online – I would take this to mean that these have not been located recently, by anyone with authority.

This is Dolmen 1, looking just east of south – 160°. The hedge of box shrubs conceal its location from the track, 60 metres south – look for some stones before the bend swings south, on the right: there is a very faint path leading NW.

The chevet or headstone must,  in my opinion,  be the first stone to be set in place – as the tomb’s orientation is fixed by its placement. It is almost always the least disturbed of all orthostats, due perhaps to its being sunk deeper than the others – which literally depend upon it for their rigidity (though little study has taken place on this element of dolmen-construction). Here it is small, and jagged in appearance – perhaps a result of the force needed to drag the table off to the side. Or vandalism.

The carved hole in this massive left-side orthostat is highly unusual, and should of itself have merited some mention by an expert. The remaining orthostat is of mediocre dimensions, even though the overall size of the tumulus at 15 metres across is impressive for an upland ‘causse’-type tomb. The internal measurements of 3m. length and 1m. width are also those of a sizeable dolmen à couloir .

To set my own record straight, and to get the numbering right, here are the other two dolmens of the group:

This is Dolmen 2, from the foot, showing that some care has been taken to reveal the length of its ‘P’ shaped couloir.

And above is a view from behind the chevet. It faces due south.

Above, a view from the east side of Les Lacs dolmen 2.  Below are photos of the third dolmen, 50 metres away:

It has been typified as a dolmen simple – but it’s impressive all the same.

It is oriented at 150° or S. S-E. All three rest on vestiges of their tumuli, 15 m. across.

Returning to the question of other dolmens nearby, but so far not documented or located – here is a tantalizing report from early in last century:

M. J. Laurent-Mathieu, d’Olonzac, writes in his  Notes sur la grotte de Fauzan (Aldène)  Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 1935  Volume  32

Tout le plateau du Causse minervois, depuis La Caunette à l’Est, jusqu’à Saint-Julien des-Molières, à l’Ouest est parsemé de dolmens. Nous en connaissons 62, divisés en 5 groupes, dont 55 sur la rive gauche (Grand-Causse) et 7 sur la rive droite de la Cesse.

What is certain – or rather what is stated –  is that there is a dolmen at Brunan (or Bruneau, or Brunau), recognised officially by the State as a Monument Historique in 1889 –  and it’s on the Minerve commune records. Other websites dutifully repeat this bald fact, but offer no further information. Perplexingly however, it fell to a completely amateur dolmen-fan,  Jon Knowles,  to post the only image of any supplementary dolmen in this immediate area. And he admits to having no clue as to his precise whereabouts on this bewilderingly chaotic terrain. His photo shows a dolmen with a capstone, in fairly good condition, some way down towards the Cesse precipice.

I detail all this to show how little study or work or effort is being devoted to these disappearing dolmens. Commercial guide-books like Bruno Marc’s excellent series range far and wide – he covers many regions and departements,  but with tourists in mind. As always, the lesser known and less well preserved megaliths are left by the wayside.

A note on names.

Names are important, and toponymy is fascinating, particularly in a region that has undergone in the past a state-suppression of its local language. I find that I frequently need to slip from French to mediaeval Occitan – from Caunes to caughounos, grotte to balma,  and from aven to abenc, if I’m to find my way round the various maps that Geoportail.fr offers.

Sometimes the most fascinating and frustrating level of Geoportail is that of the ‘plan cadastral‘. Here we are at the root of land-ownership, and land names. Here we see what local people call their little parcelles, because they have to pay tax on each, or buy and sell them. The names go back to occitan – and beyond.

So a thorough-going, root-and-branch revised naming of the dolmens of Les Lacs would have the name ‘Lacs’ removed entirely. Not one of them actually sits on the cadastral landmap named ‘Lacs’: dolmen 1 sits on Caudraudric Bas, dolmen 2 is on Brunan, and 3 is on Causse Grand.

Fortunately I am in possession of a wife with a Philosophy masters: when I start being pedantic she reminds me of Wittgenstein’s dictum in  Philosophical Investigations No.43 – “the meaning of a word is its use in the language”.

So I am not about to confuse matters by insisting that we call these dolmens by a different – if strictly correct – name. They are commonly known as les Lacs dolmens. But I still need to clear up the problem of the missing Brunan/Bruneau dolmen. Is it, after all, simply dolmen no. 2? Or is there another dolmen, also located on that parcelle?

Precision about names is important sometimes, and Wittgenstein has this pertinent reminder, to those who profess to be expert: “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” .

Claiming knowledge of dolmens, or gods, is not sufficient : there must be evidence, based on experience: something that can be demonstrated. The study of our predecessors, our grandparents-to-the-power-of-ten, is a public matter – not a private horde nor a commercial gain nor an academic privilege.

Posted February 16, 2010 by Richard Williams

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