|Accounts on some prehistoric antiquities in the departments of the Vienne and Charente, France.
by A. L. Lewis officer d' Academic.
The following particulars were collected by me, while attending the meeting of the Congress prehistoric de France, held at Angouleme in August 1912, at which I had the honour of representing the Royal anthropological Institute by request of the council.
There is a fine Dolman, near Poitiers; it is called the "Pierre Levee" and tramcars run from the hotel de Ville past the prison, at the back of which the Dolman stands in a garden at the corner of two roads. The capstone is about 15 feet in extreme length and breadth, and a further length of 4 feet, apparently broken off, lies on the ground at the north east end. The bearings are nearly north-east and south-west; there are the remains of seven supporters, forming originally a chamber, 10 feet wide from northwest to southeast, and 7 feet or 8 feet from north-east to south-west. Of these supporters, two at the south-west end are from 5 feet to 6 feet high, but those are the north-east have fallen and let that end of the capstone down to the ground, so that without excavation it is not possible to say whether another chamber existed there or not. The capstone is nearly 3 feet thick, and on the top of it, near the north corner, are a remarkable boss and ridge.
In the Foret de Boixe, near Vervant, there is a remarkable monument called le Gros Doignon. It consists of a tumulus with a large capstone supported by other stones. On getting down under this stone through a narrow opening, one side of the space beneath it is found to consist of a wall with a large carefully squared opening through it communicating with another rectangular chamber, which is completely covered by the tumulus. Whether this is a later addition, and if so, when it was constructed, I do not know; but when Richard wrote his France Monumental sixty or seventy years ago its existence was apparently unknown, and the only the capstone was to be seen.
About 6 km north from this monument there are were formerly five dolmens, of which only two remain, these are called the great and little Perottes, and stand about 165 feet apart in a line 25 degrees east of north. The great Perotte, which is to the south, consists of a very regular and nearly rectangular chamber 10 1/2 feet internally from north-west to south-east, 9 feet from north-east to south-west, and 6 feet high. Three of the sides have three supporters each, and the fourth (South West) has four; one of the north-east side has been forced inward, and the gap thus made forms the present entrance; one next to it, on the north corner, has sculptured upon it the representations of two stone axis. The capstone is nearly 18 feet long by 13 1/2 feet wide, and from 6 to 8 feet thick. There are other stones, two of which are of great size, and also remains on the tumulus surrounding the chamber.
The Little Perotte is small only by comparison, the capstone being about 14 feet long by 8 1/2 feet wide and 4 feet thick. It has, however, remains of only five supporting stones, but there are what seem to be two smaller capstones covering an entrance passage, or it may be another chamber, on the south-east side. The longest axis of the dolman itself is 25 degrees east of north and west of south. Several stones are scattered about near the two Perottes, which are no doubt remains of other monuments. The material was said to be coralline limestone with terebratula, &c., brought from Chateau-Renand, 3 kilometres distant.
Richard (France Monumental) describes three other dolmens in the neighbourhood, which I suppose were those mentioned to the Congress as having been destroyed.
A. L. Lewis officer d' Academic
Man, Vol. 14, (1914), pp. 40-42 Published by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
While travelling through France and Switzerland in September 2008, I visited some of the sites mentioned, these being in the Department of Vienne , La Pierre-Levée (Poitiers) and in the Department of Charente , La Grosse Pérotte and it neighbour La Petite Pérotte. Charente is also home to the Forest of Boixe, near Vervant, and although I did not visit the Le Gros Doignon, I did find the capstone from one of the other destroyed monuments in the forest, the aptly titled Pierre du Sacrifice , whose destruction was also mentioned.
Posted by Chance
12th June 2010ce