Megaliths

Cultural Heritage
Principal

Megaliths are large and roughly hewn stones, erected since the end of the Neolithic period. They could have a religious function, were used as graces or preserve the memory of an important event, and are quite noticeable in the landscape.

The Causses and the Cévennes are, after Brittany, the French area where there are the most numerous megaliths. On the way to Saint-Guilhem, you walk alongside dolmens, menhirs and cromlechs.

On the Causse de Sauveterre, one can see the dolmen of La Rouvière, the dolmen of La Cham and the one of the Aire des Trois Seigneurs. Not far from Sainte-Enimie, the menhir of Le Bac can be admired. After having crossed the Cévennes, the hiker arrives on the Causse de Blandas where 70 menhirs, dolmens and cromlechs can be found. Some of them can be seen from the route.

 

A dolmen is a collective tomb used by a whole communitu, with one – or sometimes several – funeral chamber(s). It consists of big upright stones supporting a bigger slab on top : this was the center of the grave, which was itself burried under a big mound made of soil or loose stones. Most of the time, erosion removed all traces of the mound and only the monoliths can no be seen : the grave, which was once underground and covered, is therefore often become visible…

There is nearly one thousand Megalithic tombs on the Grands Causses. These monuments were built at the end of the Neolithic period, but were used and reused for centuries : thanks to archaelogical digs, one knows that there were successive funerary deposits (bones and funerary objects) for at least one thousand years. Thereafter, some dolmens were used for another usage : as a shelter or a mere landmark.

Le dolmen du Planas, sur le Causse de Blandas, est un dolmen à couloir : un couloir permet de relier la chambre funéraire à l’extérieur du tertre. Crédit photo: Hélène Normand

The dolmen of Le Planas, on the Causse de Blandas, has a corridor which links the funeral chamber to the outside of the mound. Photo credit: Hélène Normand

 

A menhir is an isolated and often huge monolith erected on the ground. Its meaning is still unknown. A number of hypotheses have been advanced : the menhirs may have been landmarks, commemorative monuments, they may have shown the presence of Megalithic tombs near them or been used as religious symbols (phallic cult, astronomic cult, geomancy…)

During the Christianisation (in the 4th and 5th centuries), many of these old sacred stones have been thrown to the ground, but others have been christianized. So you can have the surprise to see some of these megaliths with a cross on top.

Menhir christianisé, hameau des Lavagnes

Christianized menhir, in the hamlet of Les Lavagnes

A cromlech is a circle of erected stones. Its function remains mysterious : it may have a religious use, as a cultural meeting place. Three cromlechs – which are quite unusual in this area – have been discovered for sure on the Causse de Blandas. One of them, the cromlech of Perrarines, is near the route to Saint-Guilhem.