Touraine - from then until now!

This blog is an attempt to show some of the vast history of Man's prescence in the Southern Touraine.... from first footfall to the present....
especially in and around le Grand Pressigny area.... with special emphasis on life at and around le Moulin de la Forge.
There will also be occasional entries about time before man was here and when the area was at the bottom of a warm, shallow sea...

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Les Palets de Gargantua

Apologies for the lack of previous entries over the past months!

The weekend of 14th-15th September was the opportunity for organisations large and small all over France to display the nation's lesser-known heritage under the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine scheme. This is no thanks to the dreadful national website, or the Centre region booklet which contrived to omit everything in the canton of Ligueil! Having friends who live in Charnizay own up to never having visited their local dolmen (you know who you are), the excellent leaflet for Touraine du Sud brought this megalithic monument to our attention. There was to be a visite commentée - a guided tour.

Accompanied by our friend Joan, we followed the signs from Charnizay along the road to Obterre and were finally guided to an enclosure along a stretch of track where we could see other cars parked. In the midst of a rolling lawn surrounded by trees there is a massive assembly of stone, believed to date from the early Neolithic period about 5000 years ago. It is the work of people who had no iron tools, no tractor-driven diggers, just flint and antler picks. The capstone is 6 metres by 4.2 metres and weighs 50 tonnes, an almost incredible feat of the human spirit..

The guided visit under way
A dolmen is a funerary monument - a stone tomb - and there are several more in the vicinity,  and across Europe as far away as Britain. They may be a family or tribal tomb as there is often one principal burial and several lesser ones. Les Palets de Gargantua consists of three huge pieces of stone, and there is much speculation as to whether it was never finished, or if there were once more stones that were later removed for reuse. There has never been any real excavation to find out, although Time Team fans will immediately think of non-invasive methods of finding out what lies under the ground.

The Palets de Gargantua
Our guide, from the Association "Charnizay, son passé et la Nouvelle-France", described the way the stone would have been cut in a local quarry, and three possible theories as to how it was transported to the chosen spot  - on rollers, on mud, or on frozen ground. Her own house a few metres away was constructed from the same rock, which is pudding stone, known to French geologists as poudingue. It is a rather handsome stone made up of lumps of reddish flint in a grey-blue matrix, and very hard. Our Neolithic ancestors built to last!

The interpretative board... the information can be read if you click on the picture...

The name originates with the giant Gargantua, who is a character from the works of Rabelais. A palet is a quoit, a throwing toy. One legend is that Gargantua's wife carried the quoits in her apron to the Champ de l'Ormeau (ou de l'Humeau) where Les Palets de Gargantua now stands. Alternatively, Gargantua himself threw the quoits, from Charnizay or from Bossay-sur-Claise. Gargantua amused himself by hurling the quoits at his target which was the menhir (standing stone) at Draché according to some, or the dolmen at Civray-sur-Esvres according to others.

The site is beautifully presented, with a brand new interpretive board and for the day a display of the publications of the Association under a neat awning. It would make a good picnic spot - there are picnic tables for that purpose! The sheer size of the dolmen was overwhelming, but there is a sense of great peace.