Tuesday 25 July 2023

Human Transport of Megaliths - Experimental Evidence

The Bougon burial mounds are a group of five burial mounds constituting a Neolithic necropolis located in the commune of Bougon in the Deux-Sèvres department. The first monuments were built in the 5th millennium BC but the site was used until the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. A museum of prehistory, housing rich archaeological collections from excavations in the region, was built by the Departmental Council of Deux-Sèvres inside the archaeological park encompassing the site.

The archaeological park which integrates the necropolis also contains several educational spaces intended to evoke the construction of megaliths , through the experiments carried out between 1979 and 1998 in Exoudun-Bougon, and the large Neolithic collective habitat of the Fief Baudouin discovered in Airvault .

- The text and photos are translated from the French version of Wikipedia entry for the site and used under under CC BY-SA 4.0 - 

1979 experiments

These experiments were directed by Jean-Pierre Mohen. For details see Jean-Pierre Mohen and Chris Scarre (with the participation of F. Bouin, E. Cariou, P. Chambon), The tumulus of Bougon (Deux-Sèvres): Megalithic complex from the 5th to the 3rd millennium , Paris, Errance 2002 (ISBN 2-87772-240-6 and 978-2-87772-240-7 ) 

The first experiment concerned the extraction of a large megalithic slab of 3 m by 2.50m from a rocky outcrop located on the Chaumes plateau in Exoudun . The block was surrounded on three sides by large cracks. The fourth side was hollowed out by three people with chalk hammers . Wider notches were dug with these same hammers and antler picks, in the faults to drive wooden wedges into them. The wooden corners were wetted to make them swell in volume and the slab came off after an hour of work. It was then lifted with wooden levers to be able to slide wooden rolls of about 10 cm in diameter intended to move it .

The second experiment aimed to test a transport system for a monumental slab of the type found in tumulus F2. Faced with the impossibility of having a natural slab of this type, a concrete copy of the slab of tumulus F2 was made (identical weight and volume - a single slab 6 m long by 3.50 m wide and 1.30 m high whose weight is estimated at 32 tons). A removable transport path was built with unbarked wooden rollers 40 cm in diameter. The ropes were made from viburnum and ivy fibers by a craftsman according to a tradition still in force on local farms at the beginning of the 20th century . The block, covered with a braided rope net, rested on the wooden rollers arranged perpendicular to the two rails of the raceway. On July 28, 1979, 230 people pulling on ropes and 20 others pushing the block managed to move it 40 m away. Raising the block to 0.50m in height with three levers was then successfully tested.

Experimental archaeology: equipment used 

Liberliger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons - Click to enlarge

1997 experiment

In 1997, F. Collin and B. Poisonnier experimented on site with a new “proto-wheel” type traction system with the 32-tonne test block. In this system, the principle of the removable path is retained but each roller is transformed into a hub after having fitted four recesses at each end. These recesses are intended to receive levers arranged radially to drive the movement of the roller. The experiment made it possible to move the block with only about thirty people while saving most of the ropes and the pullers. However, no mechanism of this kind is attested in the Neolithic period.

1998 experiment

In 1998, B. Poisonnier and R. Joussaume experimented with the construction of a trilith at a height of 1.50 m using levers and wooden wedges.

By Jochen Jahnke, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12221012

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