Cambous long house

The final length of 24m may have resulted after an extension was built from its earlier length of 18m. Obviously the inhabitants had no problems with these long constructions of abutting buildings. This is the longest building of the village with doors that link to storage rooms and other long houses. Animals, grain-store and human habitation adjacent in what appears to be a ‘croft’ that seems as organic as a microscopic scene of dividing cells.

The walls are doubled and infilled with smaller stones. Periodic large stones providing internal strength. The walls have no corner stones and all stones seem to have been found and used with little percussive adjustment (other sites show stones weakened by fire and hit by tool). The site was used coherently for around 500 years, so walls were appropriated, built over and even, at times, built within.

Medieval walls are wide to compensate for a lack of foundation and to take the push from a heavy roof; here the walls are thick for low walls and light-weight roofs – which might seem to be logically misplaced. Wall widths are of at least 1.5 meters. The explanation may come from three sources: the principal of the clearance cairn can be mixed with a building, secondly, thick walls also assure cool interiors – apt for summer storage and heat-wave composure. Lastly, storm rain between meeting roofs might be taken away within the infill gravel. The area around the Pic St-Loup is notorious for flash floods, and the advantages of keeping buildings apart are lost with this coagulated design – a conception that additions the rain from adjacent long buildings, and in so doing, additions potential problems of infiltration. A long gutter of straw is not viable and terracotta tiles have yet to be invented. I cannot see gravel gutters being a stable solution for such a long period of occupation (stories of perspiring walls, damp babies and sodden storage as ceramics draw up the humidity), so would accept the first two reasons for the wide walls and look for other ways to evacuate storm waters from the ‘valley’ between long adjacent buildings.

In Cambous, the smallest interstice seems to have been appropriated and offered function – maybe a space for a hen, another for dry wood, and a third for ceramics ready to be bartered with visitors or during journeys. These interstitials are the very spaces that, uncontrolled, would drench with amplified rain water. In a medieval village, these asides between roofs become open gutters or ‘vennels’. One solution would be to find flat ‘lauze’ stones and step them on top of the walls. Unfortunately, the cob to keep them in place would wash away, and whilst the flat ‘lauze’ stones do exist on the site (taken from afar) they seem to be far too small for just such a project. Pinning old greased leathers between the adjacent roofs from under the grass, and overlapping them would provide for a generous gutter and a reason to keep the huts together and the roofs long – here, any rain water would be funneled into large appropriately placed pots – drinking and ‘working’ water on a limestone plateau being an interesting subject that needs imaginative response. The small lauze stones found on the site may have helped with the apex of the roof. The grass thatch meets at a point and may have been covered with a wide strip of greased leather, weighed down with the appropriately small flat stones slipped into sewn pouches like extended saddle bags. Here, gaps between these ridge leathers would be simple chimneys. With this scenario a storm becomes a resource and not a handicap. People would rush around replacing the filled pots, getting drenched in the process, but, all for a good cause. The site of Cambous has many deep ‘aven’ crevasses (igues) in and around its area and these would have been cool places to stock the water collection. Constructing a cistern within a crevasse being a further potential. Just such a space does exist on the Cambous site. Currently the remnants of Chalcolithique pots from the underground space were thought to have been put there to catch drips.

Leather was a product of hunting and the neolithic farmstead production. When looked after, it is a material that can last and accumulate. Here the leather may have been used as a material supplement to a dry-stone and thatch construction. Elsewhere, where the soil welcomes deep post holes and woven walls can find ‘appui’ and support, leather may also have found function aside thatch and daub. Prehistoric ‘zinc’?

AJM 13/4/17

Posted by AJ Mitchell (prehistory) on 2017-04-12 17:34:21

Tagged: , occitania , Neolithic , Chalcolithic , Prehistoric , Prehistoire , Cambous , long house , viols en laval , hérault , garrigue , village prehistorique , Ferrières , dry stone , Limestone , archaeology

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