1983-2000: the megalithic monuments at Changé (Saint-Piat, Eure-&-Loir)
Begun in 1983, the excavation campaigns on the megalithic site of Changé, Saint-Piat (Eure-&-Loir) allowed us to contribute to obtaining a new view of funerary rites and practices in the Neolithic. Notably, having two closely associated monuments on the site afforded the opportunity of reconstructing their shared yet different past, in particular by extending the excavation over a fairly wide area surrounding them.
Fouille devant le dolmen du Berceau
Excavations in front of the "dolmen du Berceau"
Progressively, the excavation revealed the monuments’ complex history—a history that was far from ended the day the last individual was laid to rest in the “Dolmen Petit”. If indeed the basic principle of the condemnation of collective burial structures is today widely accepted, the growing number of examples of this phenomenon confirms our opinion that the understanding we have of it is not definitive, and that only by developing this type of problematic can we succeed in furthering research in this domain.
Gravures sur un des piliers du dolmen du Berceau
Gravures sur un des piliers du dolmen du Berceau
Excavation of this megalithic complex has brought answers to a number of questions including: the choice of site, the building materials used, the architecture (paving, cairn), the ornamentation (symbolic engravings), the burial function of the Dolmen Petit, the ritual vocation of the Dolmen du Berceau, the condemnation of the burial chamber and the new menhir, the funerary monument (monuments to the dead or memorial), the funerary occupation (the construction of the massive mound of stones, the working of flint), the condemnation of this space, the great tumulus, the reoccupation of the site during the Gallo-roman period (the rubbish trench) and especially, during the Merovingian era (burial ground for some 100 individuals), then its ultimate desertion until it was rediscovered in 1924 by Léon Petit.
Coupes reconstituées du site (septembre 1998 - © Jean-Marc Mourain)
This synthetic overview represents a huge amount of work, which has already started with the drafting of successive reports with the collaboration of many archeologists and other specialists. Our ambition, when we decided to undertake a second excavation at Changé, was to improve the understanding we have of collective Neolithic burial sites. The development of our research allowed us to progress well beyond that simple objective, for it is indeed the history of mankind itself during that period that we understand better henceforth.
Summary of the review report (1998–2000)
Text : Dominique Jagu
More details here : Bibliography


1998 : The Berchères sump (Berchères-la-Maingot - Eure-&-Loir)
The system of sumps, or conduits, part of a revised version of a 1684 project to convey water from the Eure River between Pontgouin and the Château of Versailles has always been puzzling for those who took an interest in it. Indeed, the monuments as they appear today, built starting in 1686 and left unfinished in 1689, do not display any structure for sealing the sump nor for accommodating pipes that would have allowed the water arriving via the canal from Pontgouin to span the Larris valley and pursue its course along a second canal towards Maintenon. An exploratory campaign was accordingly undertaken with the objective of uncovering evidence of these structures and thus of understanding how these sumps were intended to function.
L'entrée du siphon
The entrance to the sump
Two test excavations were accordingly opened in the western sump:
- a first, designated Sector A, at the base of the shaft, extending over its northern half;
- a second, Sector B, over the southern half of the sump’s mouth. When Sector A was excavated, no actual layer could be distinguished. All the sediment was brown clay, apparently the result of the top of the shaft having caved in, as the canal had apparently been lined with clay. Many large clay blocks that do not make up a uniform layer were uncovered in the course of this excavation. Their presence in such large quantities would tend to cast doubt upon the hypothesis of a mere collapse, but no other explanation was found at the time.
Covering the entire area of the exploratory excavation, a pavement composed of flint nodules was exposed, atop which a generous layer of mortar had been poured. This pavement is comparable to that occurring close to the sump’s entrance, once swept, save for this noteworthy excess of mortar. A small pit about 30 cm wide was discovered at the shaft’s entrance beside the north wall, but its size and the fact it is isolated do not justify assimilating it with the structure being sought. No archeological material, aside from modern rubbish, was unearthed in this excavation.
In B Sector, a flint pavement rapidly became visible, but a layer of mortar covers it directly beneath the sump’s entrance, where it is out of the weather. The mortar apparently disintegrates easily when exposed to rain. This layer actually seems to raise this pavement to the same level as the one, somewhat higher, inside the sump. The exposed pavement was present throughout the remainder of the excavation excepting the trench along the sump’s southern wall, out of which material had been retrieved. This trench, excavated down to a depth of about 50 cm, yielded nothing save the information, due to its width, that the material retrieved had been sizeable (hewn stone blocks …).
Two bronze coins were also unearthed: a Louis the 16th, from 1791, in good condition and a severely worn Napoleon (?). Thus, none of the structures sought were identified in this excavation. But in order to determine the full extent of the pavement, this excavation was enlarged by a trench continuing on from the eastern limit.This trench, designated Sector C, enabled the pavement’s furthest limit to be attained. It reaches virtually up to the 17th century township road, which runs by about 13 meters in front of the monument’s present entrance. But this pavement does display differences. The Sector B pavement seems to continue on eastwards for about 1 meter into Sector C, after which the stone blocks, consisting here of sandstone and larger in size, form a sort of threshold. Lastly, beyond this “threshold”, the pavement is not pointed to any considerable degree, although a few traces of mortar are observed between certain flint nodules. The existence of a hewn stone block must be mentioned, set into the southern wall, which could be the remainder of a former hewn stone arch similar to the one marking the limit between the shaft and the sump, or that, now removed, seen in negative in the present entrance. The existence of the “threshold” and the presence of this stone block would tend to suggest that there had once been an aboveground portion of the gallery made of brick, which ended approximately 7 m from the present-day entrance to the underground gallery, comprising a hewn-stone arch as entrance and another at the join between the aboveground and the underground parts of the gallery. This hypothesis seems to be substantiated by the fact that the disintegration of the mortar in the pavement beyond the “threshold” shows that it had been exposed to the weather for a longer period than the Sector B pavement. This aboveground gallery would apparently have disappeared today, its material having been retrieved after the sump had been abandoned.
Thus, no sign of a closing structure for the monument was discovered. It would accordingly appear that the so-called “sump” was actually not one at all, for it was not intended to be filled with water. The mystery, then, remains intact. However, a micro-topographical survey conducted at the top of the shaft, at the close of the campaign, revealed the existence of a micro-relief that may have been a vestige of the structure we had been looking for. The beginning of the piping, then, would seem to have been situated at the end of the canal, ahead of the mouth of the shaft. The pipes would simply have run down this shaft and through the entire monument, the purpose of which would merely have been that of a monumental service and maintenance gallery, on the scale of a masterwork of courtiers destined for the château of the Sun King.
Summary of the excavation report (1998)
Text : David Tosna


2000 : the Saint Nicolas chapel (Maintenon - 28)
An exploratory campaign was carried out by a working party from the megalithic site of Changé (Saint-Piat) inside the Saint Nicolas chapel in Maintenon for the purpose of discovering the original pavement, prior to a possible restoration.
L'église Saint-Nicolas sur la place du Château de Maintenon
The Saint Nicolas chapel
on the square of the
Château of Maintenon
Two exploratory excavations were opened for the purpose of uncovering this original pavement: one in the vicinity of a step at the junction between the choir and the nave, the other near the entrance, encompassing the chapel’s lateral turret. We resolved to excavate only the southern portion of the chapel on the assumption that its floor-plan is symmetrical. Thus we opened the areas excavated from the middle axis all the way to the southern wall. The excavation of the choir and of the nave led to the discovery of a center aisle paved in sandstone. These sandstone sets are identical in size and shape to those forming the pavement of the choir, which has always been exposed. These two pavements would accordingly seem to have been laid down at the same period. This aisle has been damaged by an excavation where it joined the step to the choir. The fill of the excavation contains notably a large slab once part of another pavement currently present at the entrance. This excavation may be evidence of earlier digging conducted with a view to locating the tomb of Jean Cottereau, who had had the chapel built. The side aisle that was examined presents a limestone mortar floor surmounted here and there by a thin layer of pulverulent brick. In all probability, the flooring at this spot once consisted of bricks or tiles. The presence of a brick fragment incrusted in the limestone mortar up against the edge of the center aisle would appear to support this hypothesis. By removing this limestone mortar down to the foundation level, we were able to determine that there was no trace of any previous pavement. Only a jumbled layer of fragmented brick was uncovered, which would seem to be a layer designed to drain the foundations.
An attentive cleaning of the portion of the choir pavement included in the excavation revealed its layout. We also exposed the pavement corresponding to the position of the canon’s stalls, with a deposit of various materials that we were able to date to the 19th century thanks to objects they contained. The cleaning of the choir step also allowed us to reveal the position of a chancel bar as well as traces of a grillwork on a fragment of threshold affording access to the choir.
Dallage du choeur
Pavement of the choir
The excavation opened near the entrance did not allow us to locate the center aisle found in the previous excavation. We nevertheless did discover traces of the orange-colored mortar that made up the pointing and the top of the pavement of the center aisle. Very probably the stones were removed during the Revolution when the chapel was deconsecrated, but the mortar beneath was not completely extracted with them. The limestone mortar was not able to be located with certainty, for the whole excavation presents many disturbed areas (most important among which is the foundation of the turret).
The chapel’s current threshold is composed of large sandstone slabs which may have been added during the Revolution to compensate for the removal of the center aisle. One of these flagstones was apparently used to fill up the hole made in the center paving in the first excavation.
The turret’s earthen floor was also examined, but it yielded no significant information. About 20 cm lower, the equivalent of a step, a grey mortar floor was uncovered. We were, on the contrary, able to date this turret to the period ca. 1785-1792, because it is not shown on a blueprint from the archives dated 1785, and its erection in an anticlerical Revolutionary context seems out of the question. A walkway would appear to have been laid down to access it, for we uncovered an under-pavement, grey mortar shelf to one side of two flagstones of different origin.
Sépulture d'enfant A child’s grave
However, a certain number of graves were identified. We excavated one of these: in it lie the remains of a child aged about 18 months who apparently was buried some time after the turret was built (for the tomb was dug into the mortar of the walkway leading to the turret). Two other complete graves were left untouched, for they were only discovered at the end of the campaign. Also, four others are merely assumed, for only the edges of the pits were uncovered, the bones having disappeared. It seems obvious that these few burials represent only a small portion of the necropolis constituted by the Saint Nicolas chapel and that an anthropologist might in future excavate so as to study a population dating to the 16th through the early 19th centuries.
Summary of the excavation report (2000)
Text : David Tosna


2000 : the modern-day menhir of Mévoisins (Mévoisins - 28)
At the request of the township of Mévoisins, a small village near Maintenon, and of its mayor, Guy Dubois, a modern-day menhir was erected by its inhabitants using prehistoric methods.
The purpose of this undertaking was to commemorate the advent of the third millennium whilest at the same time honoring the first farmers of the Beauce region.
Le nouveau menhir de Mévoisins

The modern-day menhir of Mévoisins


Installed on a sledge rolling on logs, a ten-ton piece of sandstone was pulled 55 meters during the afternoon of September 2, 2000, then upended into the hole prepared to receive it.
Le basculement du menhir Upending the menhir
Two hundred fifty participants were required to achieve this ambitious project of experimental archeology.
Les participants en  action
To conserve the memory of this undertaking, it was decided that the complete list of the inhabitant of Mévoisins and of other participants, as well as miscellaneous objects typifying our era (computer, mobile phone, year 2000 coins, etc.) were to be buried at the foot of this new menhir, the first to be erected in the third millennium.
A prehistoric-style feast for 750 banqueters (with wild boar roasted on spits) brought this manifestation to a fitting close.
(september 2, 2000)
Text : Dominique Jagu