Archive for the ‘necropolis’ Tag

More dolmens at Les Lacs – but it’s hard to keep track   Leave a comment

I now have photocopies of Jacques Lauriol & Jean Guilaine’s 1964/65 dig, and some time to compare their diagrams with Paul Ambert’s. It’s worth noting that in the five years combined, only three photos can be accessed – and only then with some difficulty. And that Lauriol had to rely on a M. Gibert of Lauragel for the photo of dolmen no. 2 (Lauriol’s numbering, which jumps around without reference to any north-to-south progression.)

What kind of science were they all practicing, if photography was so absent? What was their idea of a record of events, of architecture? ( To be accurate, Auriol or was it Guilaine, does actually mention the word ‘architecture’ – it’s a rare occurence. It might be why Jean Guilaine has become one of France’s foremost writers on the prehistoric world of southern Europe – he seems to have a wider perspective over the entire prehistoric period in France . He’s also written one of the very few ‘prehistoric novels’ : ‘ Pourquoi j’ai construit une maison carrée‘. EPONA, Paris (1994)

The situation up there on the Causse seems to get more confused with every team that visits. Both of these teams – the last serious excavations, now 40 years ago –  refer to all the many previous researchers in a generalised and dismissive way. And of course they never fail to take a swipe at ‘les fouilleurs clandestins’ , as if 4000 years of labour and occupation ( which is 120 generations of shepherds and farmers and hunters and plain simple poor folk ) wouldn’t have had some effect on the tombs . . .

But there seems to be little readiness to establish any sensible order in the numbering or location of the dolmens. There seems to be little serious acknowledgement of previous work – let alone a concerted effort towards building a picture of the prehistoric life that would be accessible to the general public. The overall impression I get is that of a closed group of researchers in competition with themselves. The blanket laissez-passer is ‘Le Patrimoine’ – they are doing it for the common good, for the history of us all. And beneath this shroud all manner of confusion and misinformation is allowed to proliferate.

While trying to locate the last three dolmens of Les Lacs, I came upon this structure.

In my eagerness to locate dolmen number 4, I thought it was this. But now that I’ve had time to look at my photocopies of Lauriol & Guilaine’s drawings and diagrams, I realise it’s something else entirely. In the heat of the moment I convinced myself that it shared similaties with a very ‘old’ and ‘early’ little circular dolmenitic tomb that I had visited up on Serre Pascale.

Now I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m confused. The dolmen 1 of Serre Pascale is tiny, and has ‘hallmark’ stones of varied colour. What I found was too wide to bear a capstone. So was that a neolithic ‘cabane’ that some archaeologist has cleared, or an elaborate hoax? It seems half-set in a tumulus of 8 metres, like a dolmen, but I can find no reference to it anywhere. Which means that I now have to go back up there to find Lauriol & Guilaine’s dolmen No. 4.

There are more photos of this ‘building’ on the Unknown Structure of les Lacs page.

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The dolmens of les Lacs is turning out to be a much more complicated subject than I ever imagined. A more detailed explication with diagrams, (and poorly reproduced photos of the time) of the conflicting reports is to be found on the permanent Pages, to the right, under Lacs dolmens diagrams.

The situation on the next hillside to the west – Le Bouys – with five contested dolmens, is not going to be any easier to sort out. The situation at Bois-Bas, to the west again, is likely to be hellish: it’s a necropolis of 12 to 16 tombs . . .

La Clape necropolis at Laroque de Fa   Leave a comment

This hunt could have gone disastrously wrong: with my enthusiastic daughter visiting from Ireland, and my unenthusiastic wife, I nearly managed to have us stumbling around the wrong mountain all afternoon. For, when doing anything involving maps and the wilds, it is generally advisable to know where you’re actually starting from . . .

Fortunately this time, despite starting from the wrong place and aiming at the wrong place, with Jessi’s unquenchable enthusiasm plus Mary’s unerring sense of direction plus a lot of luck, we got to the dolmens.

This is La Clape in the middle-distance : it’s occitan for a stoney hill. There are 8 dolmens scattered around this acre or two of limestone and box-shrub, according to Bruno Marc in his excellent ‘Guide to Dolmens & Menhirs of Languedoc-Roussillion’ – but we only found six.

How to get there plus lots more photos and text, on the La Clape Necropolis page, right column.

Anghelu Ruju hypogeic necropolis   Leave a comment

The hypogeic necropolis of Anghelu Ruiu – the Red Angel – is one of the most important sites in Sardinia. It is a complex of 38 hand-cut subterranean tombs used by different cultures from 3000 to 1500 BC.

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From the inside out – and from the outside in.

Many more photos and info on the Anghelu Ruju Necropolis Page – to the right.

Necropolis at Bois Bas   Leave a comment

Bois Bas is a farm at the end of a narrow winding road high up on the Causse above Minerve. It’s a maze – and an amazing place. Twelve dolmens and five diaclases, or fissure tombs on less than one acre. And all in a near-trackless jungle of maquis : holm-oak, box, spiney juniper and rock. Lots of rock. Terraces and pavements and slabs and piles of blinding-white limestone – any of which might be a tomb.

Dolmen 14 Bois Bas

The farm was bought by a co-operative or commune of ten, a year ago – they are carrying on from where the old owners left off: a big herd of goats, a handful of sheep, and some cows. They are modernising the dairy, and extending the campsite, with earth-closets. There are ensuite rooms to rent, a restaurant, a pool, and a stage for the weekly music and drama gigs. It’s ecological and not political – and while they don’t mind the odd dolmaniac turning up, they are busy and likely to get busier with the season. Park carefully, and ask for permission & directions at the main house.

The maquis covers most of this headland that slopes south of the farm towards the cliffs of the Gorges de la Cesse. Skirt two meadows and go through a gate and the low-growing woodland begins. A cart-track runs south: pass the first junction, leading off left, and continue a couple of minutes ’til you see two small piles of stones on your left. You leave the track here to enter the maquis. The owners have no wish to tart the site up, so you’ll need to sharpen up your ‘trackers’ eyes to spot the unobtrusive signs they have placed by the side of the path, and in the crooks of branches – indicating where there are ‘interesting events’. Some are no more than a jumble of rocks half-buried in the undergrowth, where a half-visible orthostat and a compass-alignment are all you have to help identify it. Others are breath-taking in their massiveness. Most are within a few paces of the main path – others lie beyond. It is easy to become disorientated as you duck and weave between the dense dwarf-oaks. And it’s easy to find yourself deep in a thicket standing on a pile of rocks that lured you on, only to leave you disappointed, and lost.

Les Gorges de la Cesse

Bruno Marc has written extensively about megaliths in Languedoc-Roussillon, and he has numbered twelve here, with a further three north of the farmhouse. I only found eight this time, and five diaclases – before stumbling suddenly out of the dense maquis onto the rock-ledge above the gorge. To go from ten-metre-visibility, to 500 metres of empty air, and a drop nearly as much – is stunning. The necropolis merits a good day – so pack lunch and sit out up high on warm rock- before plunging back in for more.

For more photos, descriptions and short video – go to Bois Bas page >>

The Minerve Dolmens   Leave a comment

Around Minerve, the number of dolmens counted stand at: one at Bruneau, four at Mayranne, six at Les Lacs, five at Le Bouys and twelve at Bois-Bas. The necropolis at Bois-Bas is unique in the Minervois by the sheer number of dolmens distributed over such a small area. The count varies : from 12 dolmens in a good state of conservation, there could be as many as 25 in all. Various forms of construction are represented in this necropolis: dolmens with passages, dolmens with low stone walls, megalithic cists, and at least two diaclases or fissures in the limestone pavement, still covered with slabs. In the commune of Minerve alone, four groups have been registered. The dolmens of Le Causse Grand were first noted by Renouvrier in 1831, and were searched thoroughly. Cazalis de Fondouce in 1879 described six dolmens, and J. Miquel thought there were ten below the farm of Les Lacs, between the chemin du Bouys and the rocks that overhang the Gorge de la Cesse. J. Lauriol, J. Guilaine, Audibert, Doctor Arnal, J. Hinault and P. Lambert have all added their descriptions. The orientation is generally south-west and south. The builders belonged to a nomadic group called Pasteurs des plateaux, the upland herdsmen, who lived in dry-stone huts and wooden dwellings.

Finds recovered from the dolmens include:-
Personal ornaments and weaponry, pottery, and skeletal remains. Calcareous pearls – perles des cavernes – which are pisoliths composed by accretions of calcite around a germ of grit in running water. Ornaments made of shell; schist stones glittering with micas, hornblende, graphite and quartz; polished bone.
Arrow-heads of flint, bone and bronze.
Awls, rings, amulets and buttons in bronze
Clothing and hair pins in bronze
Large pottery items – campaniform and Verrazian
Skeletal remains: teeth, skull-bones, finger-bones

These items and documents relating to the various sites can been seen at the museum in Minerve village.

For more photos, 19th. century drawings and full text, go to Pages >>

Les Lacs 1 Passage grave