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«Legends, Megaliths And Astronomy In Corsica Island Jean-Fran¸ois Santucci, Ghjasippina Thury-Bouvet, El Hadi Khoumeri, c Antoine Ottavi To cite this ...»

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Legends, Megaliths And Astronomy In Corsica Island

Jean-Fran¸ois Santucci, Ghjasippina Thury-Bouvet, El Hadi Khoumeri,


Antoine Ottavi

To cite this version:

Jean-Fran¸ois Santucci, Ghjasippina Thury-Bouvet, El Hadi Khoumeri, Antoine Ottavi. Legc

ends, Megaliths And Astronomy In Corsica Island. EIM 2004 (Environnement Identit´s en


M´diterran´e, 2004, Corte, France. hal-00183310

e e

HAL Id: hal-00183310

https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00183310 Submitted on 30 Oct 2007 HAL is a multi-disciplinary open access L’archive ouverte pluridisciplinaire HAL, est archive for the deposit and dissemination of sci- destin´e au d´pˆt et ` la diffusion de documents e eo a entific research documents, whether they are pub- scientifiques de niveau recherche, publi´s ou non, e lished or not. The documents may come from ´manant des ´tablissements d’enseignement et de e e teaching and research institutions in France or recherche fran¸ais ou ´trangers, des laboratoires c e abroad, or from public or private research centers. publics ou priv´s.



Santucci Jean-François *, Thury-Bouvet Ghjasippina *, Ottavi Antoine **, El Hadi Khoumeri* *University of Corsica 20250 CORTE, France, **Archeaostronomy Ajaccio Club, 6 Cours Napoleon, 20000 Ajaccio, France Summary This paper presents a study performed in the framework of an interdisciplinary project developed at the University of Corsica involving information technology researchers and engineers, anthropologists and people from the field of astronomy. The goal of the project is to reveal the Mythology of the Corsica Island, which has been buried under thousand years of invasions. More than 6000 years ago, Corsica, an island of the west Mediterranean basin saw the emergence of megaliths all over the island territory. These megaliths are signs that define a sacred space linked with a very old mythology. This forgotten mythology is also highlighted through toponyms, beliefs and legends. The combination of oral culture, insularity and megaliths defines an underground sacred geography all over the territory. In the first steps of the work which has to be done we have studied the link between megaliths and astronomy. In order to achieve this goal, we integrate modern information technology like GIS, database, GPS surveying, 3D mapping, and statistical components and archeaoastronomy field survey.

An example of application is presented in detail. This example has an anthropological part with the study of a legend of the Corsican oral culture: “A fola di u Lurcu” linked with megaliths. We will present in detail how we use archeaoastronomy technologies in the framework of the study of megaliths linked with the legend of north Corsica : a fola di u Lurcu (the story of the giant) The presentation is organized as follows. After a summary of the previously introduced legend, we first present the megaliths involved in the legend ; in a following part of the presentation we present the orientations of the different surveyed structures. The fourth part deals with the astronomical analysis of the different sites of the legend. Finally the last part deals with the perspectives and draws some conclusions.

1. Introduction.

This paper presents how legends, megaliths and astronomy [6] are linked in the Nebbiu Region in the north part of Corsica. From an oral story from north Corsica we first describe the megaliths involve in this story before presenting how the orientations of the megaliths seems to have astronomical reasons.

The megalithic culture of Corsica [1,2, 8,9,10,11,14,15] flourished in the first half of the fourth millennium B.C. As regards burials, there seem in early neolithic times to have different customs in the different regions of Corsica : Nebbiu, Alta rocca, Purti Vecchju, Aiacciu, Sartè, Taravu.

In this paper we are interested in the megaliths of the Nebbiu Region [12,13,9] and linked with the legend of the Lurcu situated around the Monte Revincu. One of our task here is to report the orientations that the builders selected for the megaliths which can be found near the Monte Revincu.

We desire : (i) to show that the orientations of these megalithic sepulchres are highly nonrandom, so that the range of orientations for each group of monuments represents a burial custom characteristic of the culture that built these particular monuments ; (ii) to show that we have to consider possible astronomical motives.

Although we are dealing with only less than 10 monuments, it is most unlikely that their orientations would be so similar purely by chance, and the signature in azimuth must result from some intention (not necessarily astronomical) on the part of the builders.

The rest of the paper is organize as follows. In section 2 we briefly present the oral story issued from the Corsican culture : the legend of the Giant : u Lurcu. Section 3 describe the megaliths which involved in the previous legend. In section 4 we present some aspects of methodology concerning megaliths orientations measurements. This section is also dedicated to the results of the measurements performed on the megaliths of the legend.

Conclusion and perspectives are drawn in the last section.

2. The legend : a fola di u Lurcu This legend is belonging to the North Corsica oral culture. It is a legend from the Nebbiu country and involves people from Santu Petru di Tenda village. The place of the legend is around a set of megaliths, which can be found near the Monte Revincu hill. The story as told by the people from Santu Petru di Tenda is described above. Near the place named Casta was living the Lurcu, a Sheppard, giant, Cyclops, with long hairs. He was living there alone with his mother. We have pointed out on figure 1 the places where they were living as it is said in the legend coming from centuries and centuries by oral transmission.

–  –  –

This giant was living in a house called a Casa di u Lurcu. It is a dolmen whose picture is given in Figure 1. Another dolmen where was living his mother can be found 500m around the previous one. Figure 1 gives also a picture of this smaller one dolmen. The two dolmens are separated by a plateau named “Cima di Suarella” where a set of megaliths rectangular or circular structures can be found. In Figure 2 we present the northwest view from the plateau looking in direction of the Casa di u Lurcu. On the back of the picture one can see a sacred mountain called Monte Ghjenuva.

Figure 2 : northwest view from “Cima di Suarella” The giant was very clever. It is said that he knew everything that could be learned at the time. Furthermore he was very powerful so that the people from Santu Petru di Tenda village living near the place called Casta decided to kill him. But he was difficult to catch so that they had to draw the giant into a trap. There is a place near Bocca Pivanosa where the Lurcu was used to come to drink the water of a spring. At night they put a pair of shoes full of pitch in order to capture him. The next morning the Lurcu came to drink and tried the shoes. The people from the village took him easily because of the shoes he was not able to run away.

They were going to kill him near the place where there was the water, when the Lurcu told them a secret in order not to be killed: how to do a special cheese (called Brocciu) with sheep milk. After telling them this secret, he was going to tell another secret: what to do with the rest of the milk when the Brocciu has been done. But the mother from the plateau shouted in Corsican language: “Ùn palisà, chì tantu sì mortu” that means “Don’t tell them anything because in any case they are going to kill you”. They killed both the Lurcu and his mother. They buried the Lurcu near Bocca Pivanosa and the mother near Bocca Murellu.

People can find two early non-dolmenic tombs.

As you read above this legend coming through ages by oral transmission is closely linked with the megaliths. In the next section we describe the megaliths of the legend around Monte Revincu.

3. The Megaliths around Monte Revincu Different investigators of Corsican prehistory classify megalithic monuments according to

datation, shape and functions [12,13,9] :

• 4200-3500 BC: cists (non-dolmenic tombs), • 3500-2000 BC : dolmens We point out in figure 4 three dolmens in yellow and four non dolmenic tombs (also called cists) in green. You can see the two dolmens of the legend (called Lurcu dolmen and Orca dolmen) and a third one on the top of Monte Revincu not involved in the legend (called Monte Revincu dolmen). We have also to mention two non-dolmenic tombs near the Mamucci area western than the Monte Revincu one’s which will be measured and analysed in some future work.

Figure 3 : The megaliths near Monte Revincu The first writing about these megaliths can be found in [15].

Since 1995 the excavation are due to F. Leandri [12,13]. The following dating has been given

by F. Leandri :

• Dolmens Lurcu and Orca, by 3000 BC

• Tomb near Lurcu Dolmen and orca dolmen, 4327-4044 BC

• Tomb on Bocca Pivanosa, 4094-3823 BC The pictures of the two main dolmens of the legend are given in figure 3 (Lurcu dolmen) and figure 4 (orca dolmen).

–  –  –

4. Orientations of the megaliths In this section we present the orientations of the megaliths involved in the legend detailed in section 2. We first give in sub-section 4.1 some aspects of methodology about measuring orientation and astronomical concepts.

In sub-section 4.2 the results of the measurement as well as the analysis are detailed.

4.1. Some aspects of methodology

Our task in this paper is to report the orientations that the builders selected for the megaliths of Monte Revincu. We define this to be the azimuth of the principal axis of the rectangular chamber, in the direction from the closed end to the entrance.

Theses directions (azimuths) were measured in June 2004 with compasses whose errors had already been established. In the case of dolmens there is no doubt that the relevant direction is from the interior towards the entrance [3]. However we have to discuss about the cists because the decision about which of the two directions of the principal axis of the cist becomes important. In the course of our fieldwork we also measured a number of additional non-dolmenic early tombs and the relevant data are also listed in sub-section 4.2. In this case we choose the direction which seems to be the most obvious for us.

If and this is no more than a possibility the intention of the builders was astronomical and the megalithic sepulchres were constructed to face the setting or rising points of celestial objects, then angular altitude of the skyline must of course be taken into account when we calculate the declinations corresponding to these azimuths. The angular altitude has been measured with a hand-held clinometer.

A third datum is needed for an astronomical interpretation : the latitude of the studied site.

The use of a GPS is very useful for obtaining this last datum.

Given azimuth, angular altitude of the skyline, and latitude, the corresponding astronomical declination is easily found from a simple trigonometrical formula. In our case we used a computer program developed by C. Ruggles at the University of Leicester,England and which can be obtained using the web [17].

Our measurements of the dolmens and early non-dolmenic tombs (azimuth, angular altitude, latitude and corresponding declination) are set out in the next sub-section.

4.2. Orientations of the dolmens involved in the legend.

In our fieldwork we came across the measurements of the three dolmens and four early nondolmenic tombs (cists) listed in section 3.. Their orientations are listed in Table 1 and Table

2. We have to point out that the dolmen ‘Casa di u Lurcu’ (Lurcu dolmen) involved two orientations because it has a clear defined entrance but also a clear defined passage with a different orientation.

–  –  –

Although we are dealing only with 7 monuments and eight orientations, it is most unlikely that their orientations would be so similar purely by chance, and the signature in azimuth must result from some astronomical intention on the part of the builders.

From the two tables we can see that the azimuth are highly non random (from 68° to 130°) measures about 1/6th of a circle. Such a concentration of axes cannot have come about by chance. Furthermore the declination of the tables 1 and 2 show that all the eight orientations are in the correct range to face the rising sun or moon.

We point out in this article that the orientations of the great majority of these dolmens confirm the conclusions already described by Michael Hoskin [4,5] and concerning the south Corsican dolmens. The orientation customs observed by builders of communal tombs in Corsica have been presented in detail in [3]. Eight dolmens of southern Corsica have been measured by Michael Hoskin [3,4,5]. He showed that these dolmens faced easterly or southerly except one facing west.

The seven megalithic sepulchres of the Nebbiu region we investigated face roughly between north east and south east ; more exactly between azimuth 68° and 130°, and declination between –25 1/2° and +17°. We already point out that the builders seems to orient these monuments for reasons of astronomy. Furthermore we can deduce that the Lurcu dolmen is faced the rising sun around midwinter sunrise while the orca dolmen is facing the rising of the sun about one month before or after the midsummer sunrise.

Conclusions We have presented in this paper how a legend of the Corsican oral culture is linked with Neolithic sites. Furthermore we have pointed out how these funerary sites have orientations which are in accordance with the orientations of most of the tombs in Mediterranean area [3].

Our current and future work concerns the following points :

• Development of a software based on a GIS (Geographic Information System) and dedicated to Archeaoastronomy research. This software is based on original concepts of abstraction hierarchy developed at the university of Corsica and astronomy and geometry features which has to be added in the GIS [7].

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