Archive for the ‘Fournès’ Tag
We’re still up on Le Causse de Siran – and could be here for quite a while yet . . .
It’s a big, heart-shaped expanse of featureless garrigue, ribbed with little gullies and sudden ravines – and at its widest it is three kilometers across. If the Peyro-Rousso dolmen marks its western border with the commune of La Livinière, then its eastern limit is marked by the two Fournes dolmens – and this standing stone. The boundary-line between Siran and Minerve to the east runs right through it.
It’s not very big or impressive – which may explain why it has gone unremarked. The only place it appears is on Bruno Marc’s list of menhirs of Herault – where it is described as 1m. 35 long (about right) – but ‘couché’ : fallen over.
However – this stone does not look like it has recently been resurrected (extensive evidence of weathering and more importantly, lichens) : so one wonders where Marc got his information from. I suspect that part of his list for the Aude and Herault is based on Sicard’s 1929 Inventory.
Menhirs cause trouble. They may not mean to – but they do. Some are magnificent – and somewhat manly. Others are more modest. Some are carved and others are just lumps of rock. This one is on a border line and has an ‘orientation’ of North/South, while others seem to ‘point’ in random directions and are in the middle of nowhere. Some have neolithic artifacts around their bases – others are documented as mediaeval constructions.
And then there are the theories that would have these stones as geo-astrologic artifacts : coordinates for mapping the heavens or conduits for ley-line energies.
[Note: In the interests of balance and fairness – here is a link to a site that takes all that stuff very seriously, and a stage further. It’s a home-grown site that maps our region into a veritable spiders-web of energies. So you can all go out and put his exhaustive theories to the test. Please report back here the moment you feel more centred, or spiritual – or silly.]
I sometimes wish I had not stumbled across this one : there is just too little – or too much – to say on the matter of Lone Stones.
There is more (basic) information and a few more photos on the Fournes menhir Page – now to the left, on the new-look site. GPS coordinates will be available through SESA in Carcassonne, or from me.
Nous sommes en plein cagnard. It’s scorching now from 10 to 6 – so any excursions on days off must happen at dawn or not at all. I don’t need an alarm in the summer here – most days start around sunrise. So it’s off at first light across the valley to the pretty little hameau de Fauzan in search of the second dolmen de Fournes that eluded my Jessi and me the first time, and me a few weeks ago.
Like most men, I’m reluctant to ask directions – seeing it as a defeat of my navigational prowess. But I have also discovered that good fortune comes from talking to people out on the hillside – and so it was that my daughter and I found ourselves being conducted to Fournes dolmen No. 2 by a cheery vigneron, after a fruitless afternoon thrashing through the garrigue. She was back in France again – but fast asleep – when I set out to recover some of my honour by finding No. 1, tout seul.
Paul Ambert’s 1970’s report on the two Fournes dolmens states confidently that ‘on peut facilement les trouver’. Well, it’s always easy when you know how – but more difficult when the only two references to them contradict eachother. Ambert gives a fairly precise description of No. 1’s location – while managing to mix up the latitudes & longitudes – as 500 m. to the east of Fournes. Michel Barbaza’s 1979 ‘Inventaire de l’Aude Préhistorique’ echoes this, but puts No.2 at 100 m. to the south-west, when it is in fact 750 m. to the south-east. But the confusion was compounded by the hand-drawn sketch-map, possibly borrowed from a 1946 dig by le Docteur Arnal :
This looked so useful at the outset – but in fact led to hours of vain searches : the lower dolmen (No. 2) was nowhere near this position, and nowhere near a track. Another description of the southern dolmen as having been a shelter for children on the way to school must have been a garbled mis-literation of some local story : it’s several hundred metres from the track between the two hamlets. The conflicting locations, the confused story and the inaccurate map all succeeded in scrambling my understanding of where these two dolmens were in relation to eachother – or to anything else.
The description above – ces deux ruines – coupled with the humble-looking sketch-plan, left me feeling that maybe there wasn’t much remaining of tomb No. 1, and that I would probably never find it in the invasive garrigue:
In fact, it turned out to be quite sizeable and solid – once the undergrowth was cleared back:
It really was buried in the thickest of thickets – and I’d be amazed if more than one or two people know of its existence, or its location. What a shame that it has been so long ignored : its position is dramatic and the uneroded stones are massive and have great presence.
More photos & info & video on the Fournes dolmen 1 Page >
My birthday passed in a small cascade of surprises – and among them was my daughter, over from Cork, keen to go on another dolmen-hunt. This time, I assured her, things would be much more organised. I had found a short account of Paul Ambert’s digs around the hamlet of Fournes, on the ‘causses’ above Siran in the Minervois Hills. I showed her how high-tech I had got since our last shambolic wanderings : how my GPS and GoogleEarth worked so well together with waypoints entered and screen-captured printouts of likely tumuli . . . I promised there would be no crashing through the garrigue, and that we’d hit two dolmens that have not been recorded for forty years, no problem. You know where this is heading.
First hitch in Dad’s glitch-free foray: new vineyards have appeared since the GoogleSat last passed over – and someone had planted a new standing-stone:
Naturally I got inordinately excited, before she pointed out that it looked . . . too new to be prehistoric.
I reluctantly conceded that yes there was no lichen. So we headed off, stage left, in search of Ambert’s ‘dolmen de Fournes No. 1’.
An hour or so later we gave up, and were about to embark on the 100% copper-bottomed certainty of strolling up to Dolmen No. 2 – when A Man in a Tractor appeared. He saved the afternoon and he saved my skin and he led us by the hand with great humour to The Dolmen. This was the only dolmen he knew, and had known since he was small. He remembered crawling into it, and hunters scanning for game on top of its capstone. And he remembered how annoyed everyone was when the archaeologists came and stripped the tomb open. And how they demanded that some repairs were made. And how the archaeologists slapped down a bed of concrete, by way of conciliation. “Une couche pas trop archéologique!”
This, incidentally was not some local ‘abruti’, or thicko: he was a ‘Prof. de Sciences’ who had taught all over France, and had retired recently to grow vines in his native earth. He was the most amiable of men – open and good-humoured – and we completely forgot to ask if he was responsible for setting up that third megalithic monument.
So here is, at least, one of the two genuinely prehistoric stone structures at Fournes:
As a graduate of French (&Politics) she puzzled over the none-too-clear description of the two digs, and the sketch-map that Ambert added. And only thanks to our unknown guide do we now realise that both map and description are faulty.
So for a more detailed account of our visit, go to the Fournes Dolmen 2 page, to the right. Dolmen number one awaits another trip.
Up ’til this morning I was unaware of the existence of Fournès-Cabardès ( the difference, were you wondering, between è and é, is that between the vowel-sounds of ‘may’ and ‘egg’. Not a lot to us, but of great matter to the French. Say ‘may’ and your jaw drops – say ‘egg’ and your mouth widens. Crucial. If you live here).
I was living in happy ignorance also, that there were two megaliths close-by. But now that I have been there and seen them I am no longer happy – because They, the French mapmakers IGN, have got the pair of megaliths all wrong, back-asswards, vice-versa and widdershins.
The Captain, over at Megalithic Portal, of course had it right all along : the site to the west marked dolmen, is in fact a 4 metre long monolith, fallen half out of a fearsome-looking entrance hole to Hades.
While the Pierre Plantée (stretch the mouth just a leetel wider . . . ) with its massive cap-stone, and solitary orthostat, and S-W orientation, better merits the name dolmen.
I’m not sure how The Captain came upon the reference to Peyregat menhir – because there’s no such place in the region – but somewhere in the archives of the Carcassonne scientific society SESA of which I am a member, there are photos which I will unearth asap : Fournes-Cabardès – Menhir couché au lieudit Peyregat. Vues du nord-ouest et du sud-est, 8 x 11 cm, photographies de Germain Sicard prises le 9 mars 1897.
But for more modern photos and info on this impressive stone – look in the Peyregat Menhir Page.
For more of the same on the Fournès ( jaw just a leetel lower . . . ) dolmen – go to the Fournès Dolmen Page. Lesson concluded, you may relax now.