Les Remparts des Sarrazis   Leave a comment

There is little online or in the SESA library about this Bronze age stronghold – apart from Sicard’s account in his “Excursion dans les Hautes-Corbières de l’Aude à Camps, Cubières, Soulatgé, Rouffiac et Massac “, Bulletin de la Société d’études scientifiques de l’Aude, t. XXVIII, 1923 . Its only other appearance is on a self-made map, in a website dedicated to the history of the Fenouilledes district. The creator – ‘Esprat’ – has not yet responded to an appeal for additional information. His site is fenouilldes.free.fr –  a curious mis-spelling (considering his impassioned essay about the actual name of the region, and about which he is probably still kicking himself) for what is otherwise a most authoritative and interesting site.

It’s a stiff two-hour walk to reach the peak – but the views alone are worth every breath. The archaeology is not easy either. I put my trust in Germain Sicard’s 1923 account of his trek up here , and I was not disappointed.

Many oppidums and other prehistoric sites have been attibuted by the local populace to the Saracens/the Moors. In the same way, Early Victorians linked the names ‘dolmen’ and ‘menhir’ to the supposed Gaullish and Druidical builders. We should learn not to laugh at local idiocy.

Below is the view down into the Gorges de Galamus – it’s a drop of about 2000 feet.

The place is well known, however, to the local hunters : if you hunt wild boar you are acquainted with wild places. And it was, after all, le monsieur du Moulin de l’Agly, a hunter himself, who led them up the trails to this extraorinary place.

Now there is a crude and brutal steel lookout tower close to the base of the ‘citadel’ –  ‘le commencement des défenses de l’enceinte préhistorique‘ as Sicard describes it. Nearly a century separates his visit from mine – and Time, combined with Weather has destroyed yet further the remnants of walls and towers that he saw then. The photo below shows the Gorges de Galamus seen from the dolmen de l’Arco dal Pech above Cubières, with the ‘plateau de Moufri’ (or Mont Frigoula) on the right. It is 680 metres (2,500 ft.)above sea level, and covers about 3 hectares of land.

‘Frigoulo’ in old Languedocian means thyme – ‘frigoule’ from the same dictionary (edited by Baron Louis Augustin d’ Hombres-Firmas), means a small sprite. Up there, the one can be seen and the other imagined.

He admits that due to the dense entanglement of roots, an archaeological dig would be well-nigh impossible – but still asserts that certain elements can be traced:  ‘des avenues‘, and  ‘murs très épais, composés de fortes pierres, grossièrement appareillées‘ within which can be discerned ‘de petites enceintes circulaires de trois à quatre mètres de diamètre, et d’autres compartiments séparés de formes diverses’. It would need a serious team of archaeologists, ready to live in the wild for days on end, to undertake a study of these ‘small enclosures’. They are nothing more than small dips in the rock substratum – but with branches and leaves, and a crude roof . . . life would be possible up there for a short while.

I was at first rather doubtful about Sicard’s claims, and in the first video I voice some of these concerns. After a couple of hours up there however, I began to ‘get my eye in’ – began to see shapes and forms in the chaos of rocks and boulders, trees and bushes. In the photos none of this comes through clearly, of course.

But having seen what little remains of our own local ‘enceinte fortifiée’ up on Le Roc Gris de l’Alaric (called locally Camp Roland) – which was another emergency stronghold of the Bronze age and never inhabited for any length of time – I am more convinced of Marie Landriq’s discovery and Sicard’s confirmation of it.

What would clinch the matter would be some accredited and documented ‘finds’ : flint tools, pottery etc. I am hoping that a local historian can be found to settle this. I doubt if there are funds for a dig : it’s not a high-priority location . . .

Posted August 24, 2010 by MH

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