The cave is half-way up the eastern slope of a small pass that cuts through a low range of hills between Mailhac and Aigne to the north.
Local people have no idea what or where La Treille is – but it is referred to thus in historical documents. It is considered significant enough to have become the Property of the State, and thus in need of a lockable gate – which fortunately swung open for me.
It’s dry and spacious at 15 metres long and 3 wide, and 3 high. It looks down on the narrow road some 10 metres below – but much more important was the stream that flowed abundantly from two springs. One to the north supplies the village of Pouzols – the other to the south feeds Mailhac. Both have been contained and controlled in concrete cisterns and channels.
Such an unfailing supply of water, in a frequently arid landscape, brought humans and animals and permitted the earliest settlement of the area and allowed it to develope into the hillfort settlement on top of Lou Cayla, and later the habitat in the valley below.
The cave contains no evidence that it was inhabited, but rather it played another role in the cycle of life and death in the Chalcolithic period – as an intermediary stage in the funerary rites before final inhumation in a dolmen. Water, grotto and dolmen – all must be a short walk from eachother. The dolmen of Boun Marcou lies at the eastern end of Lou Cayla hill.
Excavations in 1959 by Henri MartÍn , Jean Taffanel and Jean Ambert revealed three distinct layers containing various bronze items (including a child’s bracelet) and a wide variety of ceramic fragments from the Pyrennees, the Iberian peninsular, the Bordeaux region and both pottery, alabaster and glass paste from N. Italy. The ceramic styles of the Campaniforme or Bell Beaker culture were the earliest people to use the cave as an ossuary.