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photo by Michel Polard

Detail of "kennel-hole" in the southern dolmen of the aligned megaliths at Wéris in Belgium (3 km ESE of Dubuy in the eastern Belgian province of Luxembourg).

Click here to see

large pictures of two of the most impressive tombs in the South of France

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


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EAST OF
BRITTANY

part III:

 

By far the largest number of prehistoric tombs in France is scattered across the limestone plateaux to the south and west of the Massif Central: the area of the causses.
The limestone
départements of Lot, Aveyron, Gard, Hérault and Lozère contain over 2000 megalithic tombs of all sizes -
mostly dolmens simples with a few megalithic cists (coffres), and tombs which are morphologically between dolmen simple and
allée-couverte.




Ferrussac (Hérault)

Few are as elegant and impressive as this one.
And not many are as poetic as the handful of related wedge-tombs to be found on Ireland's tiny causse known as the Burren.

Many have been damaged or pillaged.
I was told that during the Second World War the Resistance maquisards whiled away the long days excavating for hidden treasure as their ancestors had done right back to the time that the tombs were built. Others have found themselves too close to 'progress'.


Azinières (Aveyron)

But many also have been preserved as overnight shelters for shepherds. They have made some tombs more weatherproof, and beside them can be seen the circles of fires lit, I think, by more recent overnighters.

Dolmen d'Aubiac click for more

Dolmen d'Aubiac, Saint-Jean-de-Laur (Lot)
compare with a caselle or gariote


Pathetically few of these tombs are marked on Michelin maps.
A small percentage are roughly indicated on the IGN (Ordnance Survey) 1:100,000
Série Verte maps, and a few more are marked on the IGN 1:25,000 (1 cm = 250 metres) Série Bleue - but only the dedicated dolmen hunter will go to this expense, especially as the dolmens are almost invisibly - and sometimes misleadingly - marked!

However, local enthusiasts and tourist centres have, somewhat belatedly, recognised that megalithic tombs are of interest to outsiders, and they have put up handsome little signs. On the Causse de Sévérac, west of Sévérac-le-Château near the source of the river Aveyron, wrought-iron signs will lead the curious to the most accessible dolmens, and the tourist office publishes an illustrated brochure with a map.

La Vernhiette on the Causse de Sévérac (Aveyron)


This well-known tomb with a chunk of its capstone (and its end-stones) missing is known also by Occitanian name Lou Cibornié: 'The Dolmen'. It can be seen clearly from a local road, and from afar by those with keen eyesight.

The low-flying aeroplane indicates how the tomb fits into the modern landscape.

Dolmen de la Galitorte, Buzeins (Aveyron)


Some of these dolmens simples are quite low, their single roof-slab fragile and often damaged -nothing like as impressive or robust as the allées-couvertes which survive farther north, especially in the valleys of the Seine and the Loire. Some retain a good part of the tumulus in which they were embedded.

Concoules IV, Montjaux (Aveyron)


Buzareingues I, Buzeins (Aveyron)


Occasionally a tomb will be graced by a roof-slab of character.

Dolmen de Jonquayrolles, Montjaux (Aveyron)

 

Since all the stones used to construct these tombs are limestone slabs, sidestones sometimes lean and lurch attractively...

Dolmen de Restous, Buzeins (Aveyron)


...or have collapsed.

Dolmen de la Glène, Saint-Léon (Aveyron)


Farther west, on the Western causses of the ancient province of Rouergue and on the Causses de Quercy, the dolmens have a neater, more box-like character - due probably to the different nature of the limestone - and they more resemble Irish tombs in the Burren.


click for more

Bois del Rey, Martiel (Aveyron)


A few are still largely embedded in their cairn, which is also incorporated into
dry-stone walls.


click to enlarge

Mas de Labat (Lot)


A very few have been "restored", including two (amongst 80 in ruins) near Salles-la-Source (Aveyron).


click to enlarge

Peyrelevade (Aveyron)


Some recall the epithet "griddle" often used in the names of Irish prehistoric tombs.

Laramière (Lot) Dolmen de la Peyre Levade ou Peyco Levado (= raised stone)


click for more


One or two others seem at first glance more like Irish portal-tombs than the later wedge-tombs to which they are morphologically related.

agrandir
click for another photo

Pech de Fourès, Saint-Chels (Lot)



By the roadside, le dolmen de Majourals, Saint-Chels (Lot)

 

One can find remarkable stones on the causses, pierced or eroded due to the effects of water and frost, and some dolmens have orthostats with natural holes in them, as well as natural cupmarks. The most impressive pierced stone is in the Pierre Levée, a dolmen of Irish dimensions, situated on the right bank of the river Lot, near Faycelles.

click for more photos


 

The causses were also the landscapes of the celebrated Statues-Menhirs.

Some of the most impressive are now in the care of the Musée Fenaille in Rodez.


______________________________________

 

Click here to visit

two of the most imposing tombs in Southern France.

 

 

return to part one




go back to part two

 


For a neat, well-illustrated itinerary-
Guide to megaliths
on the limestone plateaux, see

'Statues, menhirs et dolmens des
Causses et du Haut-Languedoc
'
by Bruno Marc
Les Presses du Languedoc
(Patrimoine Archéologique)
ISBN 2859982256 - price 16,77 euros
and available through amazon.fr.


 


Kermario Alignments, Carnac, Brittany

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