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Megaliths from North and Northwest France, Britain and Ireland

Mégalithes du Nord et du Nord-Ouest de l'Europe : France, Grande-Bretagne et Irlande


The megalithic monuments of Britain and Ireland provide a case study in the cultural interactions between a continental mainland and an offshore archipelago. The narrow seas separating them from northern and northwestern France had a major impact on the timing and development of megalithic monuments in those islands. Northern and eastern France saw an early development of Neolithic monumentality in the Passy-type long mounds which appeared during the second quarter of the 5th millennium BC. The Passy type mounds are non-megalithic, however, and the earliest truly megalithic monuments were built in the Atlantic zone of northwestern France in the middle centuries of the 5th millennium BC. They include both burial chambers beneath cairns or mounds and standing stones either singly or arranged in linear or curvilinear settings, such as the famous Carnac stone rows. An initial phase of simple burial chambers, either closed or accessible via a removable side slab, was followed c.4300 BC by the development of the passage tomb.Britain and Ireland remained the preserve of Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities until the arrival of Neolithic features (pottery, domesticates, polished stone) brought probably by Neolithic colonists c.4000 BC. The first Neolithic monuments of Britain drew culturally on their north French antecedents but did not copy them exactly; the concepts and features of megalithic monumen-tality introduced from the continent were transformed to create new insular traditions. Neolithic societies of western Britain and Ire-land developed specific types of funerary monument (portal dolmens, court cairns) followed towards the end of the 4th millennium BC by a florescence of megalithic art in the passage tombs of the Boyne valley in Ireland.Late 4th millennium megalithic traditions in northern France followed a very different pattern with the appearance of gallery graves (allées sépulcrales, sépultures à entrée latérale) with elongated chamber perhaps modelled on contemporary house forms. These tomb types continued to be built into the 3rd millennium BC but have no echo or parallel in Britain or Ireland, where the pri-mary focus switched instead to stone circles and related earthen monuments such as henges. The most famous of these stone circles, although altogether exceptional in its elaboration, is Stonehenge.
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hal-02482705 , version 1 (18-02-2020)


  • HAL Id : hal-02482705 , version 1


Chris Scarre, Luc Laporte. Mégalithes du Nord et du Nord-Ouest de l'Europe : France, Grande-Bretagne et Irlande. Megaliths of the World International Conference, Historial de la Vendée (France), 9-14 sept. 2019, Sep 2019, Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne, France. ⟨hal-02482705⟩
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