Megalithic monuments in Brittany
The Brittany Peninsula is the center of the ancient Dating back to the period of Neolithic, megalithic structures. Brittany can rightfully be called the country of the megaliths. It is from the words of the Breton language in the late XVII century and were written the names of the main types of megalithic monuments (dolmen:. daol – table, men – stone; menhir: men – stone, hir – long; cromlech: khomm – rounded, lec’h – space). In Brittany the megalithic era of construction began about 5 thousand years BC and ended about 2.5 thousand years BC. The megalith builders were not the indigenous population of Brittany. They came from the shores of the Mediterranean, gradually moving to the North-West from the southern and Western shores of the Iberian Peninsula, dwelt first coast of Morbihan, between the rivers Vilaine and Ethel, and then other lands in the present Brittany, up into the Peninsula along the rivers and along the coast.
The first megalithic period in the history of Brittany is the period of dolmens, collective burial structures. The dolmens usually consist of “boxes” composed of stone slabs to be joined, sometimes, a long or a short gallery. They were a collective burial chambers, as evidenced by the remains of bones and things that were supposed to need to the deceased in the afterlife (ceramics, jewelry, axes of polished stone). Dolmens could be as detached structures and enter into the composition of more complex designs. One of them was Cairn ensemble of galleries and chambers, covered with top soil. In Brittany, preserved a lot of the Cairn, but two of them being masterpieces of megalithic architecture, it is worth dwelling.
So, Cairn in Barnenez is the construction of the two Cairn. It has 72 meters in length and 20 to 25 meters in width and consists of 11 dolmens represented by separate chambers, each of which extends to the exit gallery, long from 7 to 12 meters. The first Cairn was built approximately 4.3 thousand years B. C. and the second is about 4.1 thousand years BC Necropolis in Barnenez is one of the oldest architectural structures on Earth. Older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
Another Cairn, deserves attention, is a Cairn on the island Gavrinis. This monument of ancient art, built about 4 thousand years BC, is remarkable for its interior decoration. The Cairn is constructed not difficult: trinadcatiletnie a corridor leads to the burial chamber. However, its walls are decorated with carved stone amazing abstract paintings of nature, among which are the spiral, cross and other elements.
There are various types of dolmens called by covered alleys. It is a series of dolmens, forming the gallery, which can result in Luggage not exceeding its width the gallery, or the blind end (covered alley in Fe about Roche; Roche Aux Fees).
Unlike a covered alley, a dolmen with a gallery, such as the famous Merchants Table (Table de Marchands) Locmariaquer, is a round or square burial chamber, which leads to a long corridor, which pass from the world of the living and the world of the dead. The plan of the dolmens of this type can be complemented through the side chamber (dolmen of Kereval near Plouharnel).
Variations of the Breton dolmens are very numerous, and their architecture has changed over time. The most ancient were of great size, but the burial chamber they were small, which suggests that they were intended for the leaders of the tribe. Over time, the size of the dolmens has decreased, while the dimensions of the burial chambers was increased and they became a collective burials. In the bronze age, burials became individual again. Later, during Roman rule, some of the dolmens were adapted to meet the religious needs of the conquerors, what they say they found numerous terracotta statuettes of Roman deities.
Different megalithic structures include the menhirs. Menhir is a vertically dug into the ground a stone pillar. The height of the menhirs varies from 0,80 meters to 20. Menhirs are standing separately, are generally highest. Those were Men-er-Hroech (the Stone fey) from the site of Locmariaquer, in the Morbihan, which was destroyed in 1727, which reached 20 meters. Currently, all the largest menhirs in France are in Brittany: menhirs in Carlous (finistère) – 12 meters, the menhir in Calanan (côte d’armor) – 11,20 m and a menhir in Pergal (côte d’armor) – 10,30 m.
There are menhirs lined up, sometimes in several parallel rows. The biggest ensemble of this kind is located in Carnac (Carnac, Morbihan). It is the largest megalithic ensemble of Brittany. Originally at the Karnak complex, there were about 10 thousand monuments of various sizes. Currently there are about 3 thousand. The setting of the stone refers to one of the periods of the Neolithic, probably 3300 BC, but some structures can be dated to approximately 4500 BC, This complex of megaliths includes 3 megalithic system:
Menec – Western part of the Karnak complex. Includes 1 099 menhirs in 11 lines, a length of 1200 meters.
Kermario – about 1 thousand menhirs in 10 lines with a length of 1 kilometer. In the southwestern part of the ensemble complemented by a dolmen.
Kerlescan – 555 menhirs in 13 lines with a length of 280 meters. In the West, these lines are preceded by the cromlech of 39 jewels. The most height of the largest menhir in Kerlescan, is 6.5 meters.
Another type of megalithic structures are stone circles. They called the groups of menhirs standing, often round or semicircular and United with stone slabs lying on top, however, there are menhirs, collected in a rectangle (as in Chisepo, Morbihan). On a small island air Lannik (Er Lannic), in the Gulf of Morbihan, is the cromlech in the form of two touching circles.
Brittany is very rich in megaliths, however, they exist also in large numbers in other places around the world. But in Armorica distribution of megalithic graves is very characteristic: the dolmens exclusively on the coasts, while the indoor alleys dot the country. Obviously, the presence of megaliths is directly related to the ability to process stone blocks.
Since ancient times, there were different legends about the origin of megalithic structures. In Brittany have their legends of the Arthurian cycle, in which Merlin once drew a slender stone in the ranks of the Roman Legion. According to Christian versions of the legend rocks on the pursuing soldiers of the Gentiles turned Pope Cornelius (Pope Cornelius). In modern times, during entrainment Celtic antiquities, the construction of the megaliths were attributed to the Celts. Centomani the last century used then the megaliths to celebrate the Brittany as a country possessing all the qualities of antiquity. Subsequently, however, with the development of archaeology, it became clear that the megaliths of Brittany arose long before the penetration in this area of the Celtic tribes in the 430 – 450 BC
Is still a problematic issue about the real purpose of some types of megalithic structures. This is especially true of the purpose of the menhirs that are not funerary monuments. Among scientists there are different theories on the issue. The most often-stated hypothesis relates to several large, oriented between East and West rows of stones. There is an assumption that the attributes of solar-lunar worship, together with agricultural techniques and astronomical observations, and gather near large concentrations of people, such as during the winter and summer solstices.
In every era people used megaliths in different ways. People of the bronze age graves were arranged in the dolmens and the menhirs. The Gauls, the Gallo-Roman population and the peasants of the Middle ages used the stones in the strengthening or the construction of houses. In some cases the dolmens arranged barns and chicken coops. Even Christianity, sought to eradicate the pagan cults, did not do very radical way, which consisted in the destruction of the megaliths, but instead numerous stones were “Christianshavn”, by reinventing them in the crosses, such as the menhir of Saint-UZE in Pleumeur-bodou (Pleumeur-Bodou), the Department of the côtes-d’armor.
Despite the fact that various megalithic structures are found in almost all areas of France, in Brittany more. Some experts explain many of the surviving megaliths in Armorica partly by the fact that Brittany, independent of the Carolingian power, could ignore the edict on the destruction of the standing stones, published in the year 800 by the Emperor Charlemagne.