If you have seen monumental Stonehenge in England or the tall and thick prehistoric menhirs that point to the sky in Brittany, the Dolmen of Gaoutabry, with its dozen of thin upright megaliths, appears modest.
However, this prehistoric burial site dates back to the early Copper Age or Chalcolothic period some 4500 years ago and provides the largest prehistoric burial site currently known in a dolmen-rich Var Department of France. Since 1988, it is a classified historic monument.
Set on private property but open for all to see (pedestrian access only), the Dolmen's megaliths encircle an area of 9 square meters or 97 square feet (6 meters long by 1.5 meter wide). It sits at the summit of a hill in the western side of the Maures mountain range, 4 kilometers north of the village of La Londe les Maures.
Re-discovered in 1876 by the baron de Bonstetten, the east-west laying Dolmen has the particularity of
being "extended" rather than single-chambered: it includes, in a row, a chamber, an anti-chamber and a hallway that opens up exactly due west. Within its megalithic walls, the cremated remains of 34 individuals were discovered along with a number of arrows and tools many of which are under display today at the Archaeological Museum of Saint-Raphael.
To some, the Dolmen's extended chamber and the orientation of the ancient burial site speak of a symbolic "reversal of birth": the dead were brought in through the hall with its two "legs", through the anti-chamber or "belly" to rest in the site's chamber or "head."
Within its open megalithic walls the Dolmen de Gaoutabry still harbors many mysteries.
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