Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/407

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399
PREHISTORIC TOMBS OF EASTERN ALGERIA.

feet wide. The largest dolmen observed was covered by a quite regularly oblong slab about nine and a half feet long and four or five feet wide. There were but two side stones, but several at the end. It was only about a foot above the level of the ground, and the interior was about four feet deep and three and a half feet wide. In another the lateral stones were nine feet long and over five feet high, with eight or nine stones at each end. Others had a slab at each end. These may have been modified at a later period, for the Romans had occupied this valley, this region being a portion of the Numidia of Latin authors.

The average measurements of the dolmens given by Bourguignat are from one meter to 1.25 in length, 0.50 to 0.75 in breadth, and 0.60 to 0.80 meter in height.

The dolmen-field, so far as time allowed us to observe it, was from about eight hundred to a thousand yards long, and in width about five hundred feet. The dolmens themselves were arranged irregularly in lines about fifty feet apart, and the lines extended in an easterly and westerly direction. Bourguignat states that the general orientation is southwest and northwest, the four angles of the dolmens corresponding to the four cardinal points.

The rows of dolmens extend down to near the bottom of the valley, to a point near the little hamlet of Roknia, which is built of stones, with the pitched roofs thatched, and the rough walls not whitewashed, though they often are in the well-to-do 'douars.'

The interior or floor of the dolmen consisted of a soft black loam, and I set one of the Moors, whom we will call Mahmoud, digging up the soil with his stick. He soon unearthed a human radius, some vertebræ and a portion of a human skull, besides several specimens of the common European snail (Helix aspersa), of which more anon.

It will be readily seen that the bodies of the dead in dolmens of the dimensions of those of Algeria must have been bent or doubled up in order to be buried. The dolmens of the land of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, are also said to be small. On the other hand, those of France and Holland are often twelve feet in length and in some of them a person could stand upright.

There were no traces of tunnels (allées couvertes) to be seen by us, nor any indications that earth had been heaped over the dolmens, as is frequently the case in Brittany. Bourguignat, however, states that the dolmenic chamber was covered with a tumulus. On the other hand, no tumuli are known to exist in Tunisia.

In the time at our command it was not possible to examine the whole cemetery, as the greater part of it was in ruins or overgrown with the mastic or lentisk shrubs (Pistacia lentiscus) which yield the gum-mastic.

Moreover, many of the dolmens had evidently been destroyed, as we