Alaric Dolmen and Cave   3 comments

The dolmen was ‘found’ in 1956 by a sixteen-year-old, Régis Aymé of Conihlac-Corbières, the youngest member of S.E.S.A. (la Société d’Etudes Scientifiques de l’Aude) founded in 1889. He is now its longest serving member, 50 years. His discovery, plus others including Les Chambres, caught the attention of an ambitious young archaeologist, Jean Guilaine, who formally searched the site. Guilaine has been, since 1994, professor at the Collège de France where he holds the chair of Civilisations de l’Europe au Néolithique et à l’Âge du Bronze. He is a native of Carcassonne, an expert on the protohistory of southern France, and a member of SESA.

The dolmen appears in no maps, nor in any publication that I have found so far. I am now a member of SESA. ( http://www.sesa-aude.com ) and have spent some hours searching their library, but as it is a voluntary organisation with no inter-library-loan facility and few funds, it is dependent on the generosity of its learned and illustrious members to provide copies of academic articles. The full accounts of these excavations is out there I am sure – but France as a whole has been slow to embrace the internet, and none more than the academic world, who demand E30 for access to such articles that have been digitized. Thus there is little to go on, apart from my interviews with Régis, and his file of memorabilia, which includes a photo of the excavation team including Jean Guilaine, and his copy of an issue of Cahiers Ligures (Ligurian Notebooks), an in-house SESA publication, in which I believe an account of the find is made. He is reluctant to part with these, but has assured me he will make copies this week.

Alaric dolmen from the cliff

View S.E. from the limestone cliff known as Le Roc Gris (418 m.) part of La Montagne d’Alaric (600m.) the most prominent and most northern of the Corbières Hills, in the departement de l’Aude. The dolmen is at the foot of the cliff, directly in front of a shallow grotte (cave or rock shelter). It looks across a wide ledge known as le Champ de Roland, and beyond to le chateau St. Pierre, a mediaeval fort. Beyond that, across the ravine is a large grotte called Les Chambres d’Alaric.

Alaric dolmen view from chevet

This view is from the chevet or headstone, which measures 90cm x 90cm. Along each side are 5 orthostats in diminishing stature: Left – 90w x 90h, 80 x 80, 70 x 70, 60 x 60. Right – 60w x 90h, 70 x 90, 60 x 90, 60 x 60, 40 x 60.

The cave behind the dolmen

What makes this dolmen unusual is the cave behind it. There is a large boulder to the left, about 1.6m. high blocking the entrance and against which the chevet is set. Inside is evidence of excavations old or new, official or clandestine I can’t tell. Alaric mountain has suffered the depredations of many a gold-hunter, egged on by legends and Rennes-le-Chateau writings. The dalle or slab in front of me is a possible candidate for the dolmen’s missing table, or capstone.

Alaric dolmen from foot to chevet

There is a second dalle to the side and half-buried in soil and rubble: two such would be needed to cover the dolmen’s length of 4 metres.

About fifty paces east is an aven or pothole opening in the cliff-face. This aven or diaclase is just wide enough to enter, and the slope downwards of 45 degrees is just gentle enough for me to imagine going further in. The co-incidence of grottes, avens, and dolmens is frequent enough in Languedoc for me to think there is purposeful connection. My research online and in the library of SESA seem to point to a developmental progression in protohistoric funerary rites, leading subsequently to the adoption of incineration around the beginning of the Iron Age. More reading and time and thought is needed here.

Using GeoPortail, coordinates are: 2.38’01” E , 43.09’45” N DD: 2.633611 E 43.162500 N

A rather breathless commentary on this video . . .

Posted January 25, 2008 by Richard Williams

3 responses to “Alaric Dolmen and Cave

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  1. Wonderful stuff! I live near the Montagne d’Alaric, I know Régis Aymé through the association Via Aquitana, the road that runs at the foot of Alaric, and I want to reproduce this article on my site http://visigothscentre.blog4ever.com

    Mille fois merci!

    • Thanks Val
      I read your articles with interest always. And Régis is one of this region’s unsung heros – he must know every square centimetre of our corner of the world: archaeologising since he was a young lad!
      Richard

  2. thanks Richard, it is now on my site

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