Anyone visiting Brittany in the west of France will, sooner or later, come across prehistoric monuments. They are a visible reminder that people have lived in this area since time immemorial. These Stone Age monuments take many forms, including long rows of stones (alignments), rings of stones (cromlechs), menhirs, tumuli and constructions similar to the Dutch hunebeds. There are literally thousands of them! In a previous article I described the area of Carnac. In this article I shall talk about a number of other very interesting monuments, mainly those which can be found close to Carnac in the Departement of Morbihan.

Brittany, a great place for a holiday.

Brittany lies in the west of France and has a different character to other parts of the country. It is a peninsula made up of the departements of Côtes-d’Armor, Finistere, Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan. The coastline of this region stretches for more than 1,200 kilometres and is characterised by large boulders, inlets, rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. Inland, Brittany consists of woodland and forest, some of which is very ancient, as well as meadows and green hills. Brittany enjoys a mild coastal climate.

This article focuses on prehistoric monuments in the departement of Morbihan

Brittany has a rocky coast which consists mainly of pink granite.
Granite cliffs are common in Brittany.
.The coast is not always rocky, there are also some beautiful beaches.
There are many ancient forests inland.
A visit to Brittany is not complete without tasting a galette.

Visiting the prehistoric monuments

Locmariaquer

Our first visit is to the parkland region around Locmariaquer, which is on the coast not far from Carnac. Here there are three famous monuments – Table des Marchands, Grand Menhir and the Tumulus d’Er-Grah. We shall begin with the Table des Marchands or Merchants’ Table.

Locmariaquer, a park with prehistoric monuments
Old print of 1850, without an earthen covering

The Tables des Marchands is one of the most famous Stone Age monuments in the Morbihan and was built between 3,900 and 3,800 BC. Until 1937 it was an open monument without an earthen covering. In that year it was restored to show how it probably looked when it was built, so that is what we now see here. The most remarkable features of this monument, apart from the gigantic lintel measuring 6.5 by 4 metres, are the many markings engraved on the stones (including the roof covering). Of special interest are the many kinds of symbols on the stone at the back, which include 56 shapes resembling shepherds’ crooks in four rows. Their meaning is unknown.

Entrance to the Tables des Marchands
The famous stone, at the back of the monument, covered in symbols.
Close-up of the famous stone with images of shepherds’ crooks.  Their meaning is unknown.
Entrance to the Table des Marchands

The second monument in this area is the 170 metre long Tumulus d’Er-Grah. This is older than the Table des Merchands and was built between 4,000 and 4,500 BC.

Tumulus d’Er-Grah
Tumulus d’Er-Grah

The third monument in the area is the broken menhir, also called the Witchcraft Stone. This is the largest menhir in the world, 20 metres long and weighing 347 tons, but sadly it has broken apart into four pieces. The block of stone probably came from an old quarry which lies 4 kilometres away.

The largest menhir in the world lies broken in 4 pieces.

The Dolmen of Mane Kerioned

Not far from Carnac (3.5 km to the north) lie three other dolmens. Two do not have earthen coverings, one does, and this one has been restored because it contains a number of stone inscriptions.

The restored burial mound containing stone inscriptions

Quadrilatere

The next place on our journey is Quadrilatere, which lies in the woods to the north of Carnac. It is a rectangular area measuring 37 by 7 metres. A burial mound probably stood in the middle at one time, but now there is nothing to be seen.

Golfe du Morbihan/Gavrinis

The next location we shall visit is the Golfe du Morbihan. Our journey takes us to Gavrinis, which can only be reached by catching the boat which leaves the harbour at set times. On reaching there, you will find a number of guides ready to relate the story of this remarkable monument.

The area around the Golfe du Morbihan contains many prehistoric monuments.
Cairn de Gavrinis, 3,500 BC


The Dolmen of Crucuno

The Dolmen of Crucuno in Plouharnel is a very unusual megalithic monument. Originally it was even bigger than it is now, but many of the stones were removed and used for building work in the village.

Dolmen of Mane Croch

The dolmen of Mane Croch consists of a group of dolmens lying close together.

Dolmen of Mane Croch

A group of dolmens close together, resembling a gnomes’ village

Dolmen of Kerival

And in case we haven’t seen enough, here is one more – the Dolmen of Kerival.

The monuments described in this article give some idea of the diversity of prehistoric remains in the departement of Morbihan. Most of the monuments described here lie close to Carnac. Anybody who is interested in prehistory should seriously consider taking a holiday in this fascinating area.

You can find more information about Morbihan and its many monuments at: http://www.morbihan-tourism.co.uk/home/the-essential-of-morbihan/menhirs-and-dolmens-in-morbihan
You will see from this website that there are many more prehistoric monuments in the region than I have described here.

Author: Harrie Wolters

Translation from Dutch into English: Alun Harvey

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