Le Puy d’Issolud
Puy d’Issolud is an outlier, separated from the Causse of Martel by the valley of the Tourmente and from the Causse of Gramat by that of the Dordogne. The plateau is an area of approximately 80 hectares, situated mainly in the commune of Vayrac (the western and south-western slopes are situated in the commune of Saint-Denis-lès-Martel) and its highest point at 311m is in the north east, in the place called “Lous Templés”.
It slopes down unevenly to the south-west to an altitude of 250m and, to the west, to 210m. High, sheer limestone cliffs form its borders to the north-west and south. Elsewhere, the slopes and rocky outcrops are steep and often abrupt. To the north, a saddle joins Puy-d’Issolud to Pech-de-Mont (261m), the land sloping gently away on one side towards the river Tourmente and on the other towards Vayrac.
To the north-west of the plateau, the Tourmente crosses the plain of Viane which extends to Quatre-Routes, an area of ancient marshland today occupied by meadows. Similarly, to the south of Puy d’Issolud, the valley of the river Sourdoire is frequently flooded as far as Bétaille.
There are many water sources on the slopes of the site but the only one which provides abundant water on a regular basis is the spring known as the Fontaine de Loulié, on the south-west flank at an altitude of 163.50m.
The plateau of Puy d’Issolud has been inhabited since the Middle Paleolithic. A number of vestiges of the late Bronze Age and of the end of the early Iron Age have been discovered. On the other hand, the occupation of the second Iron Age is poorly known.
E. Castagné and Armand Viré (Doctor of Sciences, historian, archeologist, potholer and water diviner) described various earthworks and sizeable dry-stone walls which enclose the plateau at various points. These have been interpreted as being the remains of a rampart of this period, but no recent study has been able to confirm this interpretation or the dating. In the middle of the 1st century AD the Gallo-Romans were installed here. Finds dating from the end of the Merovingian era have also been recorded.
The original archeological excavations at the Fontaine de Loulié had the single aim of finding the tunnels dug to capture the spring. No record of the strata was taken and the only observations at the time were made by Jean-Baptiste Cessac (Commissioner of Police in Paris), then by Viré. Many thousands of cubic metres of earth were moved by hand, using spades and pick-axes, without any sort of scientific observation taking place. These excavations brought to light finds from the area’s occupation during the late Bronze Age and the two Iron Ages. But above all it is the remarkable number of arms from the epoch of Caesar which were found during these excavations (among them more than 700 arrowheads, 75 catapult darts, six javelin tips and two lances) which makes the biggest impression. These finds confirm that this site was the theatre of a violent military encounter in the middle of the 1st century BC.
The only explanation for the tunnels is that of a military construction with the aim of intercepting the spring.
The considerable number of large, bent nails found in the midst of burned wood (traces of a fire) over a confined area, indicates the possible presence of a large structure in wood.