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A pattern of evolution for the Neolithic funerary structures of the west of France.

The astonishing architectural density and diversity of megalithic monuments along the coastline of the bay of Quiberon and in the gulf of Morbihan have permitted French and foreign archaeologists to establish continually improved classifications. The paper, based on the Morbihan Neolithic data, presents a coherent and dynamic evolutionary sequence of funerary structures from between 5000 and 3000 BC.

For over half a century the 'invention' of the large megalithic structures of western France has regularly stimulated the minds and imaginations of French and foreign archeologists. This has recently been demonstrated by the reactions of some archaeologists to the current debates on the purpose and age of the passage graves of Western Europe (Giot 1991).

In the course of seminars given in 1988-89 at the University of Paris I, we presented a study on the modes of transition, in metropolitan France, from the individual to the collective tomb through their architecture and corresponding funerary practices during the 5th and 4th millennia BC. In particular, the assumption that passage graves derived from earlier funerary structures, by means of a coherent dynamic, led us to reassess archaeological associations (some of them unrecognized) and to reconsider some of the methods of construction. These lines of research appeared to supply evidence of a relative logic within the theoretical evolutionary process.

Typological classification and its foundation

The southern coast of Brittany is known to be particularly rich in megaliths, and one of the highest concentrations lies around the Gulf of Morbihan. As it has become one of the basic centres for research on 'Megalithism', it seemed logical to draw upon the documentary sources available (bibliographies as well as fieldwork) for this region to demonstrate the development of this architecture.

The history of Armorican archaeology was marked at first by Celtomania and the activity of antiquarians. Then, with the first plans drawn by Lukis and the first inventories compiled by Miln, Gaillard and Le Rouzic, it turned to more systematic forms of investigation. The density of megalithic remains and their astonishing diversity inevitably led to the formulation of increasingly sophisticated typological classifications, proposed successively by archaeologists such as Lukis, Montelius, Gaillard, du Chatellier, Le rouzic, Ford, Daniel and, latterly, L'Helgouac'h.

Because of the ruinous state of many of these structures, most of which, stripped of their mounds, are now reduced to the remnants of their internal constructions, these first classifications were naturally restricted to the morphological features so revealed. It was not until some 30 years ago, thanks to excavation campaigns such as that in Barnenez, that French research on megalithism turned its attention to the tumuli (external structures) and thus made a major advance towards a fuller understanding of the monuments. Nonetheless, and despite the fact that L'Helgouac'h takes account, wherever possible, of any data concerning the form and/or technology of construction, typological classification of megalithic architecture still concentrates on the plan of the internal structures.

The evolutionary principle, which is acknowledged by several researchers and is considered to be dependent on changes in funerary rites during the late Neolithic period with more collective tombs, was translated into an extension of the chamber to the detriment of the passage (L'Helgouac'h 1973; Bailloud 1985). Thus the essential differentiation between these two characteristic parts of the internal space of the earlier passage graves disappeared with the gallery graves; in the latter, indeed, the walls of the chamber continue those of the passage which is sometimes compared in the case of Armorican monuments with some form of 'couloir residuel evase' (L'Helgouac'h 1986: 191). The different stages of this transformation can be made out from the various architectural forms through a distinct regression of the access structure, which was gradually incorporated into the new space of the chamber.

The mechanism driving this evolution is based not only on the main components of the internal tomb, but also on those around it which make up its external envelope. Consequently, as a general rule the surface of the chamber is extended not only at the expense of the passage but also that of the mound that covers them: 'The search for a monumental aspect is given less priority, and eventually tends to disappear with location on low-lying ground, and the replacement of cairns by earth mounds just big enough to cover the tombs' (Bailloud 1985: 363).

From simple grave to passage grave: a working hypothesis

The Breton typological classification, which has been built up from a substantial amount of documents, remarkable for their quantity as well as for their quality, offers a coherent and above all dynamic evolutionary sequence. The functioning of this sequence then supplies the elements to permit the formulation of a pattern of development for these monumental structures.

If we start with a series of passage graves, some of which have chambers covered to a height of several metres by corbelled vaults, thus demanding a high mastery of building technique, this sequence appears to be lacking all the preceding stages. Our research on funerary structures, which should enable us to find the missing elements of the evolution, will therefore be based on a theoretical framework using the mechanical principle of this evolution to extrapolate backwards from passage graves with a single clearly differentiated chamber to the most elementary graves.

The choice of the simple grave as a starting point for this process is not determined by a wish to retain the traditional evolutionary pattern that seeks to demonstrate the increasing complexity of human societies by means of material structures. The intention is to follow a process of change which, starting with the most elementary type of tomb, develops through a variety of complex shapes to the simplicity and uniformity of the plans of the gallery graves (allees couvertes). This grave, as a place to deposit a deceased person, possibly enclosed in a protection (shrine, coffin, etc.) which is considered to be the most widespread funerary structure in Europe among the earliest Neolithic communities, represents a chronological landmark much earlier than the first passage graves.

In order to conform with the classification criteria established for megalithic burials, that is, the plan of their internal structures, the search for tombs that may complete our evolutionary sequence will be carried out firstly among those where the inner space is defined by a completely closed plan, such as a simple grave, leading to an open plan following a passage. Then, as the emphasis shifts from a subterranean tomb to a structure that is not only built above ground but also stands out in the landscape for its monumental cairns or tumuli, our field of investigation will be confined to the types of grave, showing different aspects of the transition from one to the other.

Simple graves, cists and coffres

Funerary constructions conforming with these conditions have frequently been attested from the Neolithic period. They are usually grouped together within a very large set of structures more or less accurately defined by a terminology limited to earth grave, cist and coffre, which only approximately describes their diversity. Whereas a single word (e.g. grave) is often used to designate realities such as the burial in the ground or in a perishable container (Mordant 1987; Duday 1985), the terms 'cist' or 'coffre' are sometimes indiscriminately used to describe the same type of interment.

In fact there are many architectural particularities and/or ways of functioning which help in the differentiation between cists and coffres. It is possible to retain, from among the many propositions made so far (Bailloud 1985; Petrequin & Piningre 1976) some relevant invariable features to arrive at one definition. Thus, by 'cist' we mean a stone or wooden construction which forms a subterranean or sub-mound grave, intended to receive only one body or several individuals at the same time before being permanently blocked up. The coffre has the same structural characteristic, but access is from above, which permits the practice of successive burials.

Morbihan tombs

These tombs of the 5th millennium, which are common to all Europe, have also been listed around the Gulf of Morbihan; they were built during the Neolithic and into the Metal Ages. The existence of those tombs is still attested on the famous Mesolithic cemeteries of Teviec and Hoedic: some burials that contained several individuals are usually plain graves, perhaps with internal structures, and so similar to cists or coffres, according to how they were used. Furthermore, because of the unusual appearance of some of them, which are covered by a structure resembling a small cairn, the tombs of Teviec and Hoedic have been considered as the only representatives of the first expressions of Megalithism.

Yet, in our opinion, two classic types of monument known as tertres tumulaires and tumulus carnaceens could also lay claim to that status (FIGURE 1). Tertres tumulaires are traditionally long and low monuments in the shape of rectangles, trapezoids or, more seldom, circles, built of earth possibly mixed with stones and bordered by a line of slabs set close together in the ground or by drystone walls. They sometimes contain nothing but hearthstones; many other 'structures', more or less well-ordered and considered by Le Rouzic to be small coffres, could as well correspond to post-holes judging by observations made on the Table des Marchand (excavations by L'Helgouac'h and Cassen; Cassen & L'Helgouac'h 1992.). True cists or coffres can also be found (FIGURE 2). Tumulus carnaceens designate a category of monuments usually of impressive size; the bestknown example is Saint-Michel in Carnac (125 m x 60 m x 10 m). Besides some classic passage-graves set there during a later phase, they conceal vaults or crypts, where extraordinary archaeological material was discovered, consisting of hundreds of axes made from rare rocks, and also ornaments and food offerings. These two types of monument contain structures whose characteristics fit them into the theoretical evolutionary process from the simple grave up to the first passage graves. Their plans are usually completely enclosed (Manio V, Mane Lud, Mane Hui, Moustoir, Castellic) and yet begin to show side openings. Evidence comes from 19th-century descriptions of the Mane-Er-Hroeck (Locmariaquer), where the excavators noticed the existence of an entrance and even of a 'cork' (Galles & Lefevre, 1863). Further evidence has been resulted more recently from clearing of a 'transitional access' to the vault inside the very long mound of Er Grah (Locmariaquer) (Le Roux et al. 1989). In elevation some of those structures are semiburied, like Mane-Er-Hroeck or cist XI in the tumulus of Crucuny, Carnac (Le Rouzic & Pequart 1923). Finally if we take as the third parameter the evolution of the external envelope, which tends to get smaller in the later monuments, it can be said of the Carnacean tomb, by virtue of the fact that the mound is disproportionately large by comparison with the inner volume, that it favours the hypothesis of their being older.


Building techniques

In order to complete this argument, observations about the building technique of the tombs inside these low mounds or Carnacean tumuli establish new links with the oldest passage graves, which are often made of dry stones and corbelled. Descriptions of the internal structures of Manio V (Le Rouzic 1920), Mane-Pochat-er-Uieu, Mane-Ty-Ec (Miln 1883) and Castellic (Fontes 1881) reveal certain building similarities in the erection of dry-stone walls in the form of a vault. In this respect, the report on Manio V is even more significant, since it states that the mound contained 'a very odd, irregular monument, made up of large corbelled rocks' (Le Rouzic 1920: 5). This information on the size of the blocks used permits direct comparison with the methods used to raise the walls of the vaults in the large Carnacean tumuli. These consisted of utilizing elements that can be defined as megalithic, owing to their size, and putting them in place not vertically, but in horizontal layers that overlap one another so as to start a form of corbelled construction. This very distinctive building technique has been reported not only at Mane Lud (Galles & Mauricet 1865), but also at Moustoir (Galles & Mauricet 1865) and Tumiac (Galles 1878; Le Rouzic 1934--5). These walls in large superimposed blocks, also to be found in the crypts of Mane-Er-Hroeck (Locmariaquer) and Saint-Michel (Carnac), are characteristic of some other examples of the earliest passage graves with circular chambers, such as that of Parc Guren (Crac'h), and so can be considered to be a transitional stage.

Comparison with material culture and traditional absolute chronology

Once the principle of the evolution of funerary structures in the mid 5th millennium BC has been established, the next question is the extent to which comparison with other data concerning the material culture confirms the internal logic of the process and the architectural transformation dynamic. Furthermore, if this argument is to be pursued, a revision of the current chronology seems to be necessary, since the existing periodical division is not adapted to this pattern. It should be recalled that previous studies on some passage graves (among the best-known ones) considered that these monuments were in use a few centuries before the construction of the Neolithic tumuli containing cists, which contradicts the present hypothesis.

Stratigraphic connections

Stratigraphic links have been described for several megalithic monuments owing to cairns having been built which sealed chronologically earlier occupation areas. The best-known example is still unquestionably that of the pottery known as 'Danubian' in La Hoguette (Calvados). However, the relative antiquity of these ceramics, contemporary with early and late Linearbandkeramik (Jeunesse 1987; Luning et al. 1989), is of no immediate help in this discussion.

On the other hand, Le Rouzic noticed early on that the layers of silt that overlie the primary cairn (with no passage grave) of Saint-Michel in Carnac continue beneath the pillars of the Eastern dolmen known as No. 2 (Le Rouzic 1932). It is also worth noting that a long, low mound, not yet excavated, was discovered in 1943 and that one of its extremities would be covered by the northeast side of the large tumulus. Similar connections have been observed in Le Petit Mont, since a part of the 40-m long earthen mound lies under the accumulations of the primary cairn A (Lecornec 1987).

In Carnac again, the coffres or cists of the Moustoir are included in the long narrow primary cairn, whereas in the western extremity a secondary quadrangular tomb with entrance is inserted into a sedimentary mound covering all the structures on the site. Moreover, the archaeological material found in the latter chamber is similar to assemblages from other regional passage graves (smooth ceramics with round bases and shoulders, circular coupes-a-socle) (Galles & Mauricet 1865).

At the Mane Lud in Locmariaquer, the passage grave on the western edge of the deposit is not integrated with the main cairn which includes the central sealed tomb (Galles & Mauricet 1864). New excavations would be necessary to check the stratigraphic position of the passage grave of Pen Hap (Ile aux Moines), which is set at the edge of an 80-m long mound; this would make it possible to confirm the assumption that the mound preceded construction of the dolmen with quadrangular chamber.

When considering the archaeological material discovered in the palaeosoils underlying some passage graves of different types, it should be noted that a Castellic/Mane-Hui assemblage has been reported in Dissignac (Loire-Atlantique) (L'Helgouac'h 1984). Under the Table des Marchand (Morbihan), coupes-a-socle are associated with the latest phase of the pottery style. In Normandy, at Ernes-Conde-sur-Ifs, vessels with impressions, repousse buttons and finger-printed rims have been found together with a square-mouthed vase ornamented with a stamped sun-like motif. This stratigraphic level where schist bracelets also occur is dated 5560 BP (San Juan & Dron 1991). Not far away, under the tumulus of the Commune Seche in Colombiers-sur-Seulles (Calvados), pottery that is also reminiscent of the Villeneuve St Germain (VSG)/Cerny backgrounds of the Middle Loire basin are also associated with schist bracelets (Chancerel et al. 1992).

Bracelets and stone rings

This type of stone object, which is relatively widespread in western France, is characteristic of the VSG/Cerny stages of the Parisian Basin, detectable as far as the boundaries of Armorica.

Despite the lack of evidence that they all date back to the Neolithic period, several individual or multiple graves located in Normandy as well as in the two Charentes contain schist or rare stone bracelets (Auxiette 1989; Gaillard et al. 1984). They are also to be found in Brittany in several sealed corbelled tombs (Giot & L'Helgouac'h 1955; Lefevre & Galles 1863; Le Pontois 1929; Le Rouzic 1923; Marsille 1928), but they have never been found in passage graves.

By analogy with the Middle Loire Basin and thanks to the obvious connections with the assemblages from the paleosoils of Norman passage graves, whenever the ceramic style can be identified, the chronocultural attributions to the Cerny Horizon (a practical provisional term designating this chronological subdivision common to several related cultural groups) become unquestionable.

Ceramic and lithic associations

One of the most reliable archaeological associations, directly connected with the funeral structures under consideration here, is undoubtedly that discovered in the cist of the long tumulus (90 m) of Mane-Hui in Carnac (Gaillard 1897; Bailloud 1975). This individual tomb built of granite slabs contained very interesting material, which is attributed to an early Castellic phase.

Two beautiful polished axes, one of which must have been about 30 cm long, are made of rare green stone (jadeite), and two other hatchets or adzes in fibrolite form an instructive collection, since it is known that no large 'ceremonial' axe has previously been found among the objects found in western France passage graves. Consequently a parallel is naturally drawn with all the other Neolithic funerary spaces without passages in which identical objects have been found (Mane-Er-Hroeck, Tumiac, Saint-Michel). In the same Mane-Hui cist a collection of sharp trapezoidal arrowheads permits the assumption that they were struck from the large light-coloured flint core discovered by Gaillard in a corner of the tomb, which must have been imported from some distance.

This closed unit of Mane-Hui provides some clues that tend to confirm our argument. The Fouaillages mound has permitted different researchers to establish a relationship between Cerny and the pottery discovered inside the monument (Kinnes 1982; Constantin 1985). This is probably a ceramic style characteristic of the Channel Islands, that of the Pinnacle, which chronologically belongs to the Cerny Horizon. Recent excavations on the Table des Marchand have confirmed that this style is relatively close to the Morbihan Castellic (Bailloud 1955; Cassen 1991a; Patton 1992). In the two geographical areas considered no evidence of the early phase of both styles has so far been found in the passage graves. Only remnants of recent Castellic (decorations in fluted semi-circles fitted into each other) have been discovered among the offerings placed in the typologically early tombs with corbelled circular chambers, such as Kerlagat in Carnac or Vierville A in Normandy (Le Rouzic 1930; Bailloud 1975; Verron 1976).

In Boisanne (Cotes d'Armor), a grave interpreted as the remains of a tomb has recently been dated to 5500 BP; it contained a vase of definitely Cerny aspect (Tinevez et al. 1990). In Ile-et-Vilaine the mound of Croix Saint Pierre is noteworthy for the presence of potsherds with repousse buttons; the same characteristics appear again not far away at the alignment of standing stones of the Gree de Cojou (5560--5500 BP). On the southern coast of Brittany, the mound beneath the Petit Mont passage graves is contemporary with the palaeosoil of dolmen 2 (5550 and 5600 BP) and with Cerny-type ceramics found nearby. Elsewhere repousse buttons always characterize pottery from the monuments of Quillien, Parc-Ar-Hastel (Finistere) (du Chatellier 1907; Giot et al. 1979) and Kerroch (Morbihan); the last-named is a rectangular architectural structure identical with those described in the region of Carnac (Le Rouzic 1965). More than a score of low mounds covering sealed tombs were identified in that Carnacean area and they always contain these same items (Le Rouzic 1938; Bailloud 1963; L'Helgouac'h 1971) (FIGURE 2).

In short, the existence of an original cultural assemblage is indisputable, despite the small number and the variability of the material elements defining it. This Cerny Horizon, which covers the Chambon, Castellic, Pinacle, Sandun etc. styles (at least in their early phases), seems to be identified or recognized with increasing certainty in some settlements in western France (Chancerel et al. 1992; Cunliffe 1984; Gallais 1987; Letterle et al. 1991).

As regards the ceramic styles defined in the 1960s in the Armorican passage graves of different types, it seems that the typological differentiations (Carn, Le Souc'h, Chasseen, Kerleven, etc.) do not correspond with the connections observed in the field (Boujot et al. 1990). As a consequence, the Carn style appears to be considerably more recent and thus does not contradict our analysis (L'Helgouac'h 1989).

Absolute chronology

The main objection that is bound to be raised against our study will be based on the existence of famous sites (the passage graves of Bougon, Barnenez, etc.) at the same period when we believe that we have detected constituent elements of the earliest monumental funerary architectures, structures which in our view should give rise to well-ordered succession of passage graves.

Apart from for a few reservations (Kinnes 1988), the hypothesis of the great antiquity of the dolmens of western France has been accepted by all researchers. We made an earlier attempt to relate our work to the isotopic analyses obtained from the French megalithic tombs (Cassen 1991b). Once again, in order to emphasize further the statistical problem of the representative nature of a series of physical measurements, and to shed light on the wide discrepancies between two dates for one or another ancient dolmen, which are summarily interpreted as reflecting different occupation phases (even though these are undetectable in the funerary offerings and personal belongings of the dead) we have selected an example from outside our own area of experience, but which should admirably illustrate our reservations.

By studying the monument of Hazleton (Gloucestershire), we shall take advantage not only of the exemplary excavation of two passage graves and distinct quadrangular chambers, but also of a series of 21 radiocarbon datings (on bones) covering the premegalithic phase (samples taken out from the palaeosoil) and megalithic phase (human bones in the chambers) (Saville 1983; 1984; Saville et al. 1987). Apart from recent work on the Petit Mont (Morbihan), which in any case supported our hypothesis, no French monument has such a radiocarbon dating sequence. In the case of Hazleton, it is only necessary to synthesize the dates to reveal the irrefutable discrepancies between the various analyses. Some results obtained in the southern chamber, for example, are a few centuries earlier than those of the pre-megalithic occupation soil. In spite of this discrepany, it is important to remember that the series of dates actually progresses in the expected chronological order, the one given by the archaeostratigraphic sequence. In the Iberian Peninsula, some bold studies have also thrown light on the methodological problems associated with sampling in the mounds of megalithic tombs (palaeosoils) as well as the complications arising from laboratory analyses using different technologies and often supplying different dates for the same sample (Monge Soares & Peixoto Cabral 1984; Domingos da Cruz 1988).

Turning now to the series of dates established for the megalithic tombs of western France, which have to be compared with those ascribed to the Cerny Horizon on the Atlantic coast, it is obvious that, allowing on the one hand for the phenomenon of distortion and on the other for the subjectivity of sampling in construction soils, the historical succession actually evolved in the sequence that we propose. In other words, the Western Cerny Horizon, centred around 5500 BP, precedes the passage graves complex for which no contemporary settlement has produced a date earlier than 5300 BP.

Synthesis: perspectives of research

Many unknown factors remain, of course, in particular relating to monuments without passage graves (in their first stage of utilization), and about which our knowledge is still sketchy, as no research has been done in this field since the beginning of the century. Nonetheless, earlier reports on the subject are sufficiently rich in information to make up for this lacuna and contribute to the formulation of a pattern (FIGURE 3) which, despite its gaps, makes it possible to tackle the question of megalithism and its origins against the more general background of the appearance of monumental funerary structures in France as well as in the whole of Europe. Megalithism in western France cannot therefore be viewed only as the product of the inventive genius of local peoples, in contrast with the farming settlers of the Paris Basin farther east.


The emergence of monumentality is one of the many archaeological manifestations of the combination of new economic and social conditions resulting from the development of agricultural societies at the end of the 5th and beginning of the 4th millennium BC. This combination has traditionally been designated by the controversial term chalcolithization (pan-European terminology; Lichardus et al. 1985; secondary products revolution for Anglo-Saxon archaeologists). The changes brought about are perceptible in all fields by means of several clues, such as new ideas in breeding practices, with the use of animals for work and the stalling of cattle, the exploitation of raw materials with the development of mining, and diversification in the field of economic production, favouring increasingly specialized activities.

These transformations are associated with many technological innovations, among which the plough constitutes an important step. Its utilization for the exploitation of less fertile soils is clear evidence of the intensification of a domestic mode of production which, according to Meillassoux, entails a particular type of social organization, here summarized briefly. This mode of production is characterized by a long-term collective working investment on the land, and so its produce will not be shared immediately: it will be redistributed later after being stored. As a result, this redistribution continued over time, for generations, according to a process of hereditary redistribution of the wealth accumulated -- a process legitimized by the institution of filial social relationship based on the control of women and the division of labour according to age and sex, and by the building-up of a genealogical memory founded on the cult of ancestors (Meillassoux 1979).

Although Testard's work (1982) questioned this social structure as a characteristic not only of agricultural domestic societies, but also of any form of society based on the stocking of resources, it seems to be suitable as a possible reference which would have favoured the social and economic conditions for the appearance of monumental tombs at the same time as an increase in social disparities, for example, resulting from the intensification of a mode of production begun in the Mesolithic period. The close correlation between this social structure and the architecture of the first passage graves appears all the more obvious if the function of these graves, as funerary structures, is to reproduce the social system through their ideological representation. In that respect, the feminization of megalithic tombs, mentioned by such writers as Flaubert (1880), as well as by prehistorians such as Cartailhac (1889), deserves reconsideration in that context. Indeed, with an internal structure symbolizing a womb inside a mound which suggests pregnancy, the architecture of the first passage graves illustrates the social pattern proposed by Meillassoux perfectly. Beyond the death/birth association common to many societies, where it is symbolized in the shape of the tomb, the structure of the passage graves thus very clearly represents this new social relationship of reproduction founded on the necessity to ensure descendants through the control of women. If the discovery of bodies in a foetal position in some of the earliest burials (e.g. La Hoguette) tends to support this point of view, the family ties between the individuals sometimes gathered together in the same chamber remain to be confirmed. Finally, the monumentality of these structures represents a further expression of this reproduction aspect of the social system by means of the durability that it imparts to them over several generations. Funerary gigantism, as a time and space landmark, thus appears to be the product of the historical evolution of a domestic mode of production rather than resulting solely from the necessity to define territories -- a necessity ascribed by Renfrew (1983--84) to the only demographic pressure exerted by the stagnation on the Atlantic coast of the agricultural colonizing movement towards the west.

The expansion to the Centre-Atlantic coast

Although the strongest analogies have proved the identical nature of Cerny funerary architecture in the valleys of Yonne and Seine and in Normandy (FIGURE 1; Duhamel et al. 1991; Mordant 1991; Desloges 1989; Sherratt 1990) and that in the west of France, there are also similarities that lead to a reconsideration of several monuments in Poitou and Aquitaine, which have been incorrectly dated and often confused with passage-grave cairns. In the same way, the tomb of the Demoiselle (Charente-Maritime) and the Motte des Justices (Deux-Sevres) belong to those very long trapezoidal tumuli mostly made out of sediments and containing cists, which would fit perfectly with our pattern (Musset 1885; Germond 1989). In Gironde and in Gers, the same Neolithic corbelled vaults, devoid of any passage, incorporated within a huge tumular volume (Le Campet) (Devignes 1989--90; Larrieu-Duler 1971), are to be found.

The apparent contemporaneity of the appearance of monumental architecture over such vast areas recalls some long-distance connections, established on the basis of prestige objects accompanying the deceased in some Carnacean tombs.

Prestige good and exotic connections

Nothing so far has contradicted the probable Alpine origin of the first large jadeite polished axes from Brittany and Normandy (Campbell Smith 1965; Schut et al. 1987; Ricq-de-Bouard et al. 1990). Among several identical objects found in Gers in the southwest of France, the famous Sepulture de Chef, a funeral deposit at Pauilhac, provides an example of a large 'ceremonial' axe made to a pattern specific to the Morbihan models (Bischoff 1865; Cartailhac 1889). These examples demonstrate that we are working towards establishing geographical relationships at a spatial level, something which seems to frighten modern archaeologists. It is, however, the study of these long-distance relationships and the underlying economic network that will help us to understand all the factors involved in the emergence of funerary gigantisism in the Europe of 5000 years ago.

The discovery of horse bones in the Gers tomb (Roussot-Laroque 1976) is puzzling. Their presence, of course, is surprising, but so also is the fact that such bones were identified in Brittany as well (obviously in a Neolithic context) in the vaults of the Moustoir and Mane Lud. In Jersey the central crypt of the huge cairn of La Teste du Fief, which exactly follows the same building pattern as that of the Mane-Er-Hroeck, also contained the remains of a horse which accompanied the deceased, found bent in a lateral position (Deyrolle & Mauger 1912). It is known that horses were very unusual and appeared quite late in the faunal diagrams of the Neolithic deposits on the French Atlantic coast, yet they became essential prestige goods among the peoples of the Pontic plains, and this at the very moment when the monumental structures mentioned above were being erected. Could that coincidence be pure chance? Particular attention should be paid to the large number of Neolithic horse bones in the Averdon region of central France (Cabard 1991), which are the only representatives of wild animals among the remains of many common domestic species.

However, these connections are not intended to revert back to the shaky ground of neo-diffusionism, even if we were to revive less than seriously the migration of symbols by drawing a comparison between the identical representations of Varna (Bulgaria) and Locmariaquer (Morbihan) (Cassen 1991b). In the same way, despite the hints that have often been dropped, critical discussion of the radiocarbon dates from the west of France does not lead to the restoration of Hulle's altere Langgrabkultur. Once again this revision upwards by four or five radiocarbon centuries does not put in question the undeniable originality of the funerary architecture of western France. It is, moreover, no coincidence that the complex alignments, testimony to their knowledge of the rhythms of sun and moon which suggest likely connections with the sphere of religion, are located in just those places where not only the widest possible variety of funerary, sacred and symbolical structures, but also the most 'luxurious' viaticum are to be found. It would seem permissible, therefore, to imagine that the personalities buried and honoured there may have been related in some way to those exceptional religious demonstrations. Future research will be directed to an understanding of the factors -- possibly in the economic sphere at the beginning of the Armorican Neolithic -- that contributed to the accumulation of so much 'wealth' in the hands of so few people, such as perhaps the collection of sea salt or the exploitation of rare stones.

Whatever may happen to the model put forward, it should be given credit for recalling those among our predecessors who had an intuitive understanding of some implications of the mechanisms developed here. For instance Le Rouzic, as early as 1934, did not hesitate to allot the tombs of Teviec to the early Neolithic. The confusion he created between the 'richest', most massive Neolithic tumuli and those, very similar in structure, covering Early Bronze individual tombs, unintentionally highlighted what may be symptomatic of the phenomena and metamorphoses of a true cycle of human history, in the sense that each of the two architectural groups emerging at the beginning of their respective periods reveals a very distinct process of social differentiation.

A few years later, Christopher Hawkes gave a resolutely evolutionary interpretation of the same deposits by emphasizing all the links between the structured graves of Teviec and the cists in the mound of Manio II (Hawkes 1940). As for Stuart Piggott, he understood the need to draw comparisons between the British and the Morbihan mounds, and, later between all similar monuments in eastern Europe (Piggott 1954). Finally, G. Bailloud turned his attention to pottery products, previously disregarded, and deduced typological and chronological correlations between Brittany, the Channel Islands and the Paris Basin, and even the south of France.

Today the dynamism of Spanish and Portuguese excavations and research on the Neolithic period and associated funerary structures seems to demonstrate on the one hand the relevance of our pattern (Tarrus i Galter 1990) and on the other the fact that we shall reach a better undestanding of the problems through international collaboration that goes beyond linguistic and regional compartmentalization.


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