The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Dolmen De La Frebouchere, Le Bernard, Pays De Loire, Vendee, France

Dolmen de la Frébouchère

Dolmen de la Frébouchère (Photo credit: Wladyslaw Disk – Wikipedia).

Latitude 46.448429. Longitude 1.469464. About one mile north of the village of Le Bernard, Pays de la Loire, Vendee, in western france, stands the megalithic monument called Dolmen de la Frebouchere also known as ‘Dolmen De La Bernard’ and ‘Pierre Couverte a la Frebouchere’. It stands beside a wooded area to the east of the D91B highway at the northern end of the Rue de la Frebouchere road. A lane leads up to this huge prehistoric burial chamber where there is a carpark and picnic area. It probably dates back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze-Age periods – between 3,000-2,000 BC. The nearest large town is Les Sables-d’Olonne 12 miles to the west and, Avrille another smaller town is 3 miles to the north-east.

The huge granite monument is said to be the largest prehistoric burial chamber in Vendee – it certainly is an impressive structure at a height of 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches) and approx 7 metres (23 feet) long and 3.5 metres (11 feet 5 inches) wide. It is in a resonably intact state with a mighty capstone that is, sadly, broken in the middle. This is said to weigh between 80-100 tonnes! Three massive up-rights help to support the capstone at the eastern side, while one long stone supports it at the opposite side (western end). Also at the eastern-most end two blocking stones approx 1 metre (3 feet 3 inches) high – though these do not completely close or block the entrance; also two more entrance stones support the other end of the capstone. Just inside the chamber a nicely shaped, tapering standing stone almost touches the roof but has been cut away at the very top.

Originally the whole chamber was covered over by a mound of earth with only the two outer blocking stones on view. Over the centuries the structure had fallen into a bad state after being used as a sheep enclosure, but in 1887 it was restored. You will notice that the ground around the monument is often covered by pink gravel in order to decorate and add to the beauty of the ancient site. All in all, a very nice site. There are a number of ancient monuments in this area, including two standing stones (menhirs) to the north and, just to the east is Dolmen de la Savatole.



Pierres-Folles, Commequiers, Payes de la Loire, Vendee, France

Latitude 46.753287. Longitude 1.849797. The ancient monument known as Pierres-Folles or ‘Alle Couverte de la Pierre-Folles’ and also ‘Dolmen de la Pierres Folle’ is to be found near the tannery and along a footpath to a woodland clearing about half a mile south-west of Commequiers village, in Vendee, western France, at the north-east end of Pierre Folle road and to the south of the D754 St Gilles highway. It is a dolmen (table-tomb) or burial chamber that dates from the early Bronze-Age approx 2,500 BC. The nearest sizeable town, Challans, is 5 miles to the north-west on the D32 (Route des Sables) highway. Apparently one of the dolmen’s stones has what is considered by local people to be the footprint of the Virgin Mary!

Referred to as a Dolmen’ which means ‘table-shaped tomb’. This particular burial chamber or passage-grave is quite a huge prehistoric monument, although it has, sadly, suffered from vandalism. Three huge up-right slabs support the equally massive broken capstone. Originally it was over 2 metres high and was covered over by an earthen mound, but this has long since gone. Behind it there is a rectangular-shaped chamber approx 5 metres in length. The portal (entrance) at the eastern-side still stands to its original proportions, but the rest has collapsed and been damaged due to recent vandalism – a number of stones not now being in situ; however the sidestones of the chamber appear to be in place but again there is some damage. The monument is thought to be of the late Neolithic to early Bronze-Age periods in date – around 2,500 BC?

Click on the following link for photos:-,61521707,var,CPA-Vendee-Et-Bretagne-Pittoresques-Menhir-Du-Commequiers-Les-Pierres-Folles-S,language,E.html&docid=fzHEqWwZ63k9-M&itg=1&imgurl=,r:2,s:0,i:91


Underground City of Naours, Picardie, Somme, France

Français : La chapelle (nef centrale) - Grotte...

Chapel & Grottes de Naours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Longitude 50.034296. Latitude 2.280462. Located at the eastern-side of the town is the famous site known as the Underground City of Naours with its entrance in the side of a tree-covered plateau of land near the D60 Rue de ‘l’Abba Danucourt highway and a little way along the Rue de Carreres road. There is an admission fee to pay but guided tours are available. The underground caves, grottos, passageways and chapels that make up this ancient settlement are 33 metres 106 feet below ground and the pathways linking these run for between 1-2 miles in a westerly direction and under the streets of Naours itself. It is thought the underground settlement, also called a souterraine, dates from the 3rd century AD. The town of Naours is in the far north-east corner of France not far from the border with Belgium. Amiens is 10 miles  to the south.

The Romans were the first people to dig into the plateau back in the 3rd century and, in subsequent centuries local people continued digging out the caves and grottos. Maybe early Christians hid below the ground in order to escape their persecutors – they would certainly have had plenty of places to hide and set up little chapels. Then in the 9th century AD Viking invaders lived in these underground caves. In more recent times local peasants made their homes in the vast network of caves turning the place into a large underground settlement, complete with extensive passageways and more chapels, shelters and wells, in fact, everything to allow them to live below ground without the need to venture out into the town of Naours, something akin to being almost completely self sufficient. It is said that upto 3,000 peasants lived in the underground settlement, and even farm animals were kept underground!

Rotonde de la Sainte Vierge, Underground City of Naours, France.

There are three chapels, one of the best is called Rotonde de la Sainte Vierge (Chapel of the Virgin) where high up on a rocky ledge stands a statue of the blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. The other chapels also house similar statues. The entrance to the underground city was re-discovered by a local parish priest, Abba Danicourt, in 1887. In total there are 28 galleries and 300 chambers or rooms. During the great war (1914-18) soldiers fighting on the battlefields of the Somme are said to have lived in the caves and, later during the 2nd world war (1939-45) the German high-command apparently used the cave system for their headquarters. You can still see the graffiti that soldiers have left behind on the walls. Truly this is an interesting place to visit and although it is now a tourist site it is well worth taking a guided tour of this vast underground complex, and be amazed at what actually lies beneath the streets of the town of Naours – and yes it is an underground city!

Click on the following link


Talayot de Trepuco, Mahon, Minorca, Balearics

Deutsch: Taula in Trepucó, Menorca

Taula in Trepucó, Menorca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 39.873607. Longitude 4.265410. About 1 mile to the south of Mahon (Mao) at the far south-eastern side of the Island of Minorca (Menorca) stands the ancient settlement of Talayot de Trepuco – with the megalithic table-shaped Taula monument in the middle of the circular enclosure walls. This prehistoric village-settlement of Trepuco is located less than 1 mile to the south of Mahon town and just a little east of the ME-8r Carretera de Sant Mao highway near the Cam Verdi and Villa Carlos roads.

In the centre of the circular ancient settlement or village (Talayot) a complex of excavated houses surrounded by a defensive wall and watchtower, stands the tallest megalithic monument (Taula) on Minorca. The whole site is thought to date back to the Bronze-Age 2,000-1,200 BC although there is some uncertainty about this. The tall granite megalithic slab-stone stands at 4 metres or 13 feet high with a second huge retangular-shaped slab on top that is 3.75 metres or 12 foot 4 inches long by 1.84 metres or 6 feet wide. The monument is typically shaped like a letter “T” and what looks to many like a table – perhaps in the form of a table-tomb. More than likely it was set up as a shrine or altar to the dead or perhaps rituals to the gods took place here. The burials would have originally lain beneath or around the taula.

Deutsch: Westlicher Talayot in Trepucó, Menorca

Talayot in Trepucó, Menorca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The talayot settlement-cum-village is enclosed by low defensive, drystone walls, but originally they would have been much higher. A watchtower would have stood along the walls – this is now not easy to make out. The site consists of a number of prehistoric houses forming the settlement that have been excavated, as well as some grassy mounds, that as yet, have not been looked at. There are five houses here that are made of rough, un-mortered dry stone-walling and at intervals tall slabs which acted as roof supports indicate their original height. Each house is different in shape, layout and style. Today the rough walls of these ancient buildings only stand to a quarter of their original height. Also, two excavated rooms adjoin the houses and a smaller talayot house is built onto the defensive wall. It seems obvious that there has been much robbing-away of stonework over the centuries here. The grassy mounds have not yet been excavated archaeologically, and it is unclear what they are, but it  is likely they are houses, rather than for the burial of the dead. This will only be known when a proper excavation is done.



Talati de Dalt, Algendar, Minorca, Balearic Islands

Talati de Dalt Burial Tomb, Minorca, Balearics

Longitude 39.892946. Latitude 4.215006. The megalithic monument of Talati de Dalt or Taula Talaiot de Talati de Dalt on the south-eastern side of the island of Menorca (Minorca), is located some 300-400 metres south of the C-721 Carretera de Ciutadella Mahon highway – a little to the east of Talati de Dalt hamlet. The site is about two miles west of the town of Mahon (Mao) and half a mile east of Algendar village. It is partly surrounded on the southern side by the ruins of an ancient settlement (talaiot) and some defensive walls that would originally have had a watchtower. The taula monument (table tomb) and it’s associated village or settlement are thought to date back to the Copper-Age 3,000-1,6000 BC, which was a part of the Bronze-Age. The settlement appears to have been re-occupied “again” sometime between 400-200 BC – the Celtic period of the Iron-Age.

The prehistoric village complex of Talati comprises of a number of excavated houses with rooms, some having slab-stones that are still standing and stone-flagged floors – around which are the low ruins of defensive walls. It is conjectured that upto one hundred Celtic-Talayotic people lived here in what would have been a “covered enclosure”. Some of the buildings have not, as yet, been excavated. There are also subterranean caves in the hillside here with hypostylic, columned burial chambers or halls that are hewn out of the caves and, a connecting underground settlement. This has massive stone slabs for its roof. It can be better seen from the south-west side of the taula monument where stone steps lead on down through a large stone doorway connected to two underground chambers for burial purposes – the taula  (above ground) being connected to this underground burial complex probably as a shrine-cum-altar?

Talatí de Dalt archaeological site, Minorca, Spain

Talatí de Dalt, Minorca, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the central horseshoe-shaped sanctuary stands the taula which resembles a sort of “T” shaped table tomb. This strange looking monument has a fashioned central capital stone and an oval-shaped base that is topped by a large rectangular, overlapping stone very similar to a capstone for a burial chamber. Another carved taula (pilaster) leans against the monument but does not, in any way support the taula –  it almost certainly used to stand up-right but has now fallen sideways. Three more standing stones are located around the monument. The taula acted as a sort of shrine, altar-stone, or tomb-marker for the burial chambers that lie beneath it. Talati de Dalt is almost certainly the prettiest and best of all the archaeological sites on the Island of Minorca.


Cave of Altamira, Santillana Del Mar, Cantabria, Northern Spain

Great hall of policromes of Altamira, publishe...

Great hall of policromes of Altamira, published by M. Sanz de Sautuola in 1880. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 43.382500. Longitude 4.116200. This famous cave can be found in the countryside about 1 mile to the south-west of the Cantabrian village of Santillana del Mar close to the Barrio de Herran road. The nearest town, Torrelavega, is 5 miles to the south-east, while Santander is 19 miles to the west. The cave of Altamira, close to the northern Spanish coast, is famous the world over for its rock-art, prehistoric paintings and drawings, which date back many thousands of years to the Stone-Age.

At the present time the cave of Altamira is not accessible to visitors but a reproduction site has been built in the museum’s neo-cave section which is located close by, and a pretty good job they have done of it. But to return to the original cave: once through the entrance hall you arrive in a series of odd-shaped chambers and galleries that are 270 metres or 970 feet in total length and, between 2-6 metres in height. One of the chambers is called ‘the lateral’ at 30-60 feet and 8 feet in height, while the main chamber (known as The Sistine Chapel) with the ‘great ceiling’ is 6 metres or 19 feet high, but there are other chambers that are just equally as impresive.

English: Weird Painting of a very big bithon i...

Painting of a very big bison in the cave of Altamira (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The prehistoric cave paintings and drawings or rock-art are quite astounding in that they date back thousands of years to the Paleolithic Age (The Stone Age) around 18,000-16,000 BC. The prehistoric paintings and drawings were first initiated in the Late Magdalenean period about 12,000 BC and these were added to during the Solutrean period of the Paleolithic Age approx 12,000-5,000 BC. It is believed that the cave was occupied between 14,000-12,000 BC, but at shorter periods too between 18,000-13,000 BC when the cave’s rock paintings first began to appear.

On the ceiling of the great hall are the famous ‘polychrome bisons’ painted in vivid red ochre and outlined with black charcoal. In the other chambers there are many more paintings and, also drawings. More wild bison are to be seen as well as wild boar, bulls, horses and a deer that is 7 foot long, and also some quite remarkable hand paintings that were stenciled and, not forgetting the strange masked faces, that look human in appearence. In two of the chambes there are strange lines carved into the rock and some mysterious sign drawings.

The cave of Altamira was first discovered in 1868 and, later in 1875 archaeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola started to investigate and the paintings were identified and authenticated in 1879 after his daughter, Maria, alerted her father to them. During excavations a number of animal bones and stone axes were found. In 1985 the cave was made a World Heritage Site.