‘C’est une pauvre ruine . . . ‘ Thus begins Paul Ambert’s 1972 report on the smallest and most southerly of the three tombs of La Combe des Morts – Deadman’s Gulch.
It sits on a small tumulus of 6 x 6 metres – so covered in box, thyme and grass that it does not show up on Google Earth. Ambert typifies it as ‘un dolmen simple’ and it features just three stones, all about 20/30 cm. thick and each measuring roughly just under 2 m. by just over 1 m. He reads its orientation at 260° – while I make it 240° ,sighting my compass straight along the last stone standing :
Ambert found very little at the dig : 17 teeth, a finger-bone, other bone fragments, and some undifferentiated pottery shards. The dating of the site was therefore inconclusive – but from evidence obtained in similar simple dolmens in the immediate area, it would be safe to assume use during the early/mid Bronze age.
Above shows the capstone now lying to the north side.
This is the view from the W S-W, foot end of the dolmen. In our region, south-east or sunrise dolmens are considered to be the oldest form.
Ambert notes that there were no layers of soil intact : no strata. This, and the removal of the table would suggest that an organised effort was made to search the dolmen. It would take a horse or two with ropes, or a team of men with long poles to lever the capstone clear off to one side. It seems unlikely that shepherds or hunters would be capable of such work – which leaves the question hanging : did some early ‘gentleman-archaeologist’ or his hirelings, break open the tomb and dig up its contents?
I came across this description, while reading about Jean Miquel de Barroubio – the first person to mention these three dolmens, in 1896 :
Après 1925 il ne sortait pratiquement plus sur le terrain mais rangeait et étiquetait ses anciennes trouvailles ainsi que celles que lui amenaient ses ouvriers et collaborateurs.
It is commonplace for more recent archaeologists to blame anyone and everyone else for the damage done to megalithic tombs – but never previous practitioners.
The coordinates for this dolmen will be made available to members of la Société d’Etudes Scientifiques de l’Aude – S.E.S.A. in Carcassonne – or contact me for a guided visit.