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Mégalithes de France

 

DOLMENS around SAINT-ANTONIN-NOBLE-VAL (82)

IGN SERIE BLEUE (1:25.000) 2140 E

Although none of them is worth a visit unless you are an archæologist, the uplands north-west and south-east of Saint-Antonin have a density of megalithic tombs to match that farther north in the Lot; this group is really a southern outlier of the hundreds of very similar dolmens surviving on the causses, aligned towards the rising sun and tending to occur in places with chalk slabs surfacing through the limestone of the Upper Jurassic period. They have rectangular or trapezoidal cairns.
Several have been systematically excavated, with interesting results, and two, the adjoining "boxed tombs of Le Pech" between Penne and Caussade, have had their rectangular cairn entirely 'restored' almost à la Newgrange, complete with ugly and intimidating fence. These tombs, like most in the area, have a short entrance passage leading into a simple roofed chamber. The W tomb was covered with cairn material after excavation, though part of it was visible before.

The other tombs in the commune of Saint-Antonin are in a ruinous to very ruinous state, and some I was unable to find. The nearest tomb to Saint-Antonin is at La Canelle on the Pech Dax NW of the village. It is marked on the map and visible from the track.

La Canelle

Although this tomb is roofless, its cairn or tumulus has survived, and the chamber is at something like its original depth. This is not the case with the Dolmen de Clauset no.1, the easiest of the Saint-Antonin tombs to find, and worth visiting if only for the splendid view over the Aveyron Gorges from nearby.

Clauset No.1

Il est situé sur le bord droit du chemin allant au hameau de la Veyrie (pancarte : Poterie de Grès) et au-dessus des Gorges de l'Aveyron.
Pour le trouver, il faut emprunter le premier chemin sur la droite de la route D5 entre Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val et Septfonds.
Le dolmen de Clauset n°1 est situé environ une cinquantaine de mètres avant une fourche de cette petite route.
Un panonceau en bois « DOLMEN: VESTIGES » signale ce dolmen quasiment ruiné. C'est l'un des 24 tombeaux mégalithiques inventoriés sur la commune de Saint-Antonin. Dans les proches environs, 4 autres dolmens (vestige d'une nécropole ?) sont connus (à moins de 300 mètres).
Ils on tous fait l'objet d'études et fouilles (1988-1992) sous la direction de M. Bernard Pajot (C.N.R.S. Toulouse). Il s'agit de mégalithes funéraires ayant contenu de nombreuses sépultures successives sur un période de plusieurs siècles - 15 à 25 siècles avant le commencement de notre ère.

Ce dolmen a subi d'importantes dégradations: sa dalle de couverture a disparu, son tumulus est largement effondré et même détruit du côté de la route (monticule entourant le dolmen).

De l'exploration méticuleuse on y a trouvé de sépultures (dents, fragments d'ossements, etc.) qui ont permis de déterminer l'âge et le nombre de sujets ensevelis; d'éléments de parures (perles, anneaux, pendeloques); d'armes (points de flèche, de lance, poignard, en silex); d'outillage (lames, fragments de meule, percuteur, galet, etc.); et de poterie (vases, gobelet).

"Ces vestiges nous disent que nous marchons sur les cendres de ceux qui nous ont précédés il y a 40-50 siècles dans la contrée où nous vivons!

"Nous nous devons d'assurer la pérennité de ce site en le respectant - Merci."

 


Situated on the right-hand side of the untarred road leading to la Veyrie (signposted Poterie de Grès), which overlooks the dramatic Aveyron Gorges and is the first on the right on the D.5 from Saint-Antonin to Septfonds, some 50 metres before a fork and beneath a wooden sign labelled DOLMEN: VESTIGES), this largely-destroyed tomb is one of 24 reported in the commune of Saint-Antonin - four of which (remains of a necropolis ?) are nearby at distances of less than 300 metres.

These four tombs werre carefully excavated from 1988 to 1992 under the direction of Bernard Pajot, who established that these were megalithic tombs containing several successive interments over a period of several centuries, some 15 to 25 centuries before the beginning of the Christian era.

This tomb has been fairly wrecked, and its tumulus used as road-material. The capstone has disappeared or been smashed.

The excavations uncovered teeth and fragments of bone which permitted a fair estimate of the age and number of the interred. Fragments of personal ornaments (pearls, rings, pendants) were found, as well as flint arrow- and spear-heads, and dagger blades. There were also fragments of pottery (vases, drinking vessels) and remains of tools such as blades, grindstones, hammer-heads and pebble-tools.

The hand-written notice from which this information is taken also declares:

"These remains remind us that we walk on the ashes of those who preceded us by 40 or 50 centuries in the land where we live.

"We must respect this site to ensure that it remains. Thank you."

Two more tombs are reported close to Clauset No.1. Clauset No.3 is stated to be 150 metres E of Clauset No.1, and Clauset No.2 is stated to be a further 200 metres SE. But I have been unable to find them, and conclude that they must be under dense shrubbery.

There are, however, two tombs in different lieu-dits nearby (on the other side of the track) which can be found, though it is hardly worth it. The Dolmen de Las Gamasses is 500 metres NE, just past the electricity sub-station and 75 metres from the track. The Dolmen de Gastinel is about 600 metres NW, about 200 metres W of the PR 12, very near a spoil-heap of a new villa farther to the W. It is hardly visible amongst the undergrowth.

Click for another picture Gastinel



By far the most interesting tomb in the commune is the Dolmen de Clauzel/Clausel, which is not to be confused with Clauset (above) and is some 3.6 kms S by E of Saint-Antonin on the other side of the river in the Albigeois. Although it is very close to a wide but rough track, it is unfortunately difficult of access because it is behind the high fence of a weekend or summer property.

Its co-ordinates are: 44.12208367002676, 1.7590570449829102.

It is remarkable that it was long ago christianised with a cross incised on its Eastern roof-stone. Though christianised menhirs are frequent in Brittany and Western France, christianised tombs are exceedingly rare. I know of no other in France, apart from a monolithic cross erected close to a dolmen farther north which is on the old Pilgrim Path to Santiago. I know of none amongst the hundreds of tombs I have visited in Ireland. The cross on the tomb at Clauzel is not, like some crosses on menhirs, of crude or recent execution, but is an equal-armed cross whose expanded terminals are typical of the period from the 6th to 9th centuries, and of a type found at Early Christian monastic sites in Ireland.

This kind of cross clearly suggests the crucifixion by the top arm having no terminal.
To the left of this fragment of roof-stone is one of the side-stones of the chamber.


The complete tomb from the front. (These tombs almost always face the rising sun.)
The roof-stone has been dragged forward, and the break looks as if it occurred in the 20th century.
The chamber is very narrow.


The tomb from the rear.


The tomb from the South, with the roof-stone on the right. On the far side is a boar-proof fence
erected in the 1980s. On this side a new driveway to a second (summer) home has been created,
which has done a little damage to the cairn, but has made the tomb easy to find.


The Clauzel tomb is not difficult to find - though I discovered it right in front of my eyes only on the third attempt! It is 3.5 km S by E of the bridge of Saint-Antonin, at a point 0.8 km (0.6 miles) down a wide but pot-holed track running SE from the GR (chemin de Grande Randonnée) 46, behind a modern metal fence and gateway (on the left) which is usually locked.


For a tomb Christianised very differently, a few kilometres North of Saint-Antonin, also on the GR 46,

click here
.


For an exhaustive study of all the megalithic tombs of Saint-Antonin (with no mention of the Neuf Pierres which may have stood on the flood-plain of the little Bonnette river close to the town, and served a different ritual function for the same population) see the superbly-produced LES DOLMENS DU PECH ET LE MÉGALITHISME DE SAINT-ANTONIN-NOBLE-VAL, by Bernard Pajot and others, Toulouse & Caussade, 1996, which has plans and colour plates of all the surviving tombs, plus a summary in English. This book is in the municipal library (Médiathèque Amélie Galup) of Saint-Antonin.

The photos below of the Boxed Tombs of Le Pech, on the D.75b between Penne (whose Cathar castle was burned by Simon de Montfort in 1211)
and Caussade (former centre of the hat industry), have been taken from that work.


The main tomb and the cairn after excavation but before 'restoration' and fencing.


Looking directly into the passage and the main chamber,
and through to the secondary chamber at the West end.


A closer view from the E.


The site from the left (road) side before clearance and excavation.


The site from the West before clearance and excavation,
showing the second and secondary chamber now covered by the 'restored' cairn.



 

Not far away from this dolmen, and E of the same road, is the much-better-preserved and beautiful Tombeau du Géant at
Saint-Cirq,

also known as Septfonds Dolmen no.4
(click here for other Septfonds dolmens).



 

12.5 km S by E of Saint-Antonin (and in the Albigeois) are the remains of a tomb at La Fage,
on the E side of an un-numbered road which cut through its cairn in the forest of Grésigne,
and marked on IGN 1:25,000 sheet 2141E.

N44.04265 : E1.79489

 


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