Thursday, July 27, 2006

NEW KIND OF EXCAVATION OF MENHIRS IN FRANCE

I am a great fan of standing stones, usually called menhirs, so I was interested to note that about 60 menhirs dating to the Early Neolithic or about 5000 BC have been found at the site of a housing development project at Belz. This is only a few kilometers from Carnac where there are impressive rows of standing stones and other megalithic monuments.

What's different about this find is that the site has revealed a large quantity of remains: granite blocks, networks of ditches, wall foundations, pits and scatters of small stones. More than half of the stones lying on the 3000 meter site have been found intact. Forty of them are 1.5m tall, 9 are more than 1.8m tall and one is 2m tall. Also, their stone sockets, the holes in which they were placed when standing, are intact. And, 75% of them are aligned on the same direction: Northwest-Southwest. "It's an exceptional discovery, because for the first time we can make a modern excavation, working on the original environment, " said Jean-Paul Demoule of the Institut National de Recherches Archeologiques preventives (Inrap). Evidence can be documented from construction to abandonment. In contrast, at Carnac most of the Neolithic levels have disappeared.

At Belz, several menhirs were simply pushed over and now lie on the ground near the pit in which they were implanted. Others were moved from their original location and show numerous traces of debitage (working). They were found under a layer of sediments that helped to protect them. The megaliths of Belz were probably overturned as early as the Late Neolithic. During the Middle Ages, farmers clearing the land probably used the toppled blocks for walls or part of houses.

Because of the importance of the site, the Ministry of Culture and Communication has instituted the procedure of classifying this ensemble of megaliths and the surrounding parcels as a historic monument. The article did not indicate whether it can be visited, but if you are going to that area of Brittany (near Vannes and the Golfe of Morbihan), be sure and check it out with the locals.

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