Motte de la Jacquille – Fontenille, France - Atlas Obscura

Motte de la Jacquille

Fontenille, France

This 5,000-year-old tomb once had its own hinged door. 


Climb to the top of this human-made burial mound, and you’ll find the overgrown remains of a 5,000-year-old tomb. 

From the top of this burial mound, if you look out across the horizon, you’ll spot some of the other Neolithic monuments dotting the area. Archaeologists believe the main burial mounds were built around parallel ridges in the landscape, demonstrating that their creators perhaps built them with a symbolic purpose in mind.

The Motte de la Jacquille was first documented in the early 19th century, although it wasn’t properly excavated until the 1980s. Unfortunately, it was looted and used as a quarry in the interim, resulting in the loss of its capstone and disturbance of the human remains within.

The limestone megaliths lining the burial chamber are finished to an unusually high standard, indicating a tradition and mastery of stoneworking in the area. The remains of 16 adults and eight children were found in the tomb, along with several pots and a pick made from the antler of a red deer.

Several mysterious features of the site have yet to be fully explained. This tomb is the only one of its type in Europe to have a hinged door. Although the door itself is now exhibited in the Angoulême Museum, you can still see the lower part of the hinges. It’s thought that the door was placed there not just to close off the chamber, but as a symbolic representation of the veil between the living and the dead. Also, around half of the stones seem to have been recycled from an earlier funeral chamber. But archaeologists aren’t really sure how the stones were moved here in the first place (although various theories involving rafts and sledges have been put forward).

Know Before You Go

Although it's a bit of a walk to get to the top, it's well worth it.

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