Tips, deals, and advice on traveling the continent on a budget.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'Le Pierre aux Oeufs' A Late Neolithic Sacred Stone Near St Chaffrey, Serre Chevalier, France

At thirty minutes up from St Chaffrey in the pine wood a sacred stone can be found lying on the ground next to the edge of the Ravin de Réguinier, the other side going down to the fields of Dormilliou which was cultivated up until 1914. The sacred stone is 0.70m wide and 1.15m in length. The thickness is 42cm. 13 cups which average 4 cm in diameter have been hollowed in no apparent special order. The stone is set towards the north-south long ways. This cannot be the work of erosion or that of freezing. It must be that some men have attacked the block by striking it successively in a rotation motion with small stones or pebbles.

This megalith with cups is similar to those which have been detailed in Maurienne and Tarentaise, and in particular around Lans-le-Villard, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville and Bourg-Saint-Maurice. There the cups are more or less regular. Engravings of sun forms or spirals sometimes accompany them. Similar stones have been listed in Briançonnais, for example, at the 'Table Percée'' on the Col of l'Echelle, is the "Pierre de Fontenil".

Recently, two new megaliths of the same kind have been discovered: one on the road to Puy-Saint-Pierre, and the other in the mountain pastures of L'Eychauda near Monêtier. All are situated at the same level (at about 1500m). These stones emanate from a similar pastoral civilization that carved stone axes that have been discovered at Oulx, Salbertrand and Cezanne in Italy and Freissinière (near L'Argentière) and in Ubaye (just south of the Lac Serre Ponçon) in France. François Arnaud discovered no less than 27 in Ubaye made out of the green stone of the high Durance, which indicates they were made in Briançonnais.

These lucky finds are localised in the mountain pastures, like the 7 stones with cups at Maurienne. All these testimonies are proof of a Neolithic human presence in these areas, but the Alps, having been covered with ice, were uninhabitable before the 4th millennium. It is from this period that the climate warmed up and that the glaciers moved back. Thus the first populations could not have been here before 2000 years BC. The archaeologists agree that the age of the stones date to late Neolithic. It is thought at the beginning of the Bronze Age, towards 2000-1700 BC. The same techniques were used for a long time and it is possible that this stone was cut by a group of farmers who came here at the beginning the 2nd millennium.

Elsewhere, the cups are sometimes accompanied by drains and it is thought that these megaliths may have acted as sacrificial tables, collecting the blood in the cavities. It is absolutely not the case at St Chaffrey. Here this megalith is called the stone of the eggs, because tradition goes that food for the lepers and the plague victims of the Middle Ages was left there regularly by the people of the village. Indeed, while continuing higher on right bank of the ravine, at the end of cliffs called Combe de Ricou, which finishes the ravine, one can find shelters under rocks and a small cave whose entrance today is obstructed by debris and at the foot of which a water source spouts out. It is in this hollow called 'grotte des lepreux', according to local tradition that fugitives with the plague always went. This is not a chance stone has been chosen to feed the plague victims but indeed a sacred stone.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home