Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Cairn of Barnénez - Brittany, France

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

We fell over this amazing site by complete accident.  We were driving around one afternoon on the other side of the river in Morlaix (in Brittany) and happened to see a sign to the Cairn of Barnénez .  Well I thought that it was probably just a small cairn of rock commemorating something but we thought we'd just have a look.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

And we found that this was a major historic site – in fact it is a designated National Monument.  There was an entrance fee – a relatively modest 5.50 Euros.  And it was well worth it.


Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

The Cairn of Barnénez is a huge neolithic mausoleum or burial chamber. It was built on a headland overlooking what is now the Bay of Morlaix. At the time it was built it is thought that the Bay was a fertile plain where the people lived.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

It is hard to imagine but they say that the cairn was built between 4500 and 3900 BC - that is before the pyramids. It is 75 metres long and 28 metres wide.  There are 11 burial chambers in it.  Some slabs in the cairn have been decorated with various symbols.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

This is the largest mausoleum of its period in Europe - in my mind it quite made up for not seeing the standing stones at Carnac. 

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France
 
The cairn fell into disrepair and was forgotten. In 1954 the area was bought by a civil engineering company and used as a quarry. It is amazing that it even lasted that long given people's habit of nicking stone from such things to build houses. Luckily its historical significance was finally recognised and the cairn was restored. I always wonder how much of this 'restoration' actually alters the original.  Luckily a cross section of the cairn remained exposed after the quarrying which gives you a better idea of what is inside.

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