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Northerner
Tuesday, August 1st, 2006, 05:34 AM
By John Lichfield
Published: 31 July 2006

A spectacular discovery of Stone Age menhirs in Brittany could unlock the code to one of the most puzzling chapters of human development, and transform our knowledge of mankind's early history

Some months ago builders were clearing a piece of wasteland in southern Brittany when they struck an enormous hunk of granite. The developer was no historian but he knew instantly what the obstacle must be: the remains of a buried "menhir" or neolithic standing stone.


He ordered a bulldozer to shove the stone underground again before any passing busybody spotted it. He did not want the work on his six seaside bungalows to be halted for a prolonged archaeological dig.


Brittany, he probably reasoned, is crammed with old stones. At Carnac - the largest neolithic site in the world, just down the road - there is a linear forest of 3,000 menhirs in the space of four kilometres. Was that not enough ancient monuments to satisfy the historians, the tourists and the Ministry of Culture in Paris? Too late. A passing busy-body had noticed the unearthed menhir. Work on the bungalows was halted. An archaeological dig was ordered.


As a result, our knowledge of early human history may be transformed - or at least deeply enriched. Preliminary exploration of the site has just been completed. One of France's foremost experts on neolithic times calls the results a "miracle". Other experts speak of a "time machine".


The Ministry of Culture is in the process of designating the whole area - 10 times larger than the 3,000 square metre preliminary dig - as a place of overwhelming historical importance. In other words, the six new bungalows at Kerdruelland, near Belz, in Morbihan, will never be built.


To neolithic experts, the name Kerdruelland may yet come to have something of the same significance as Stonehenge or Carnac or Newgrange in Co. Meath. The site may provide - like a kind of modern-day Rosetta Stone- some of the clues to unlock the code of one of the most important but puzzling chapters in human development.


The middle and late-neolithic (or Stone Age) and early Bronze Age in western Europe - roughly from 4000 BC to 1500 BC - was a period of rapid and revolutionary advance. European man made pottery and tamed animals for the first time. He turned from hunting to agriculture. He emerged from caves and built houses. He progressed from cave-painting to the building of elaborate stone and earth tombs and - many years before the Egyptian pyramids - to the construction of carefully plotted and painstakingly laboured alignments and circles of standing stones.


There are 3,000 of them in Britain, Ireland and Brittany alone. They are also scattered from Denmark to Portugal and southern Italy. Much has been discovered about the period in the past 50 years. Much remains utterly mysterious.


Archaeologists working on the Kerdruelland site over the past nine months have discovered not one but 60 "lost" menhirs. They believe that they were erected - and then destroyed - during the "middle period" of the standing stones era in western Europe, in around 2500 BC. (This was about the same time that the main ring at Stonehenge was constructed, possibly by invaders from Brittany).


Because the Kerdruelland menhirs have been preserved in mud and silt for 4,500 years, they should offer important new information on how such alignments were created and why. At the well-known sites, such as Carnac and Stonehenge, some of the stones have been moved or propped up or stolen or added over the centuries. Here the stones, up to 2m long, lie just as they did after they were felled four-and-half millennia ago.

At neolithic sites elsewhere, the soil of the period has been eroded by the ravages of time and man. At Kerdruelland, the neolithic sub-soil - the soil on which the stones were erected - has been preserved intact. This offers a cornucopia of possible new archaeological finds. Already, a brief dig has yielded a rich harvest of flint tools and shards of pottery.


Just as importantly, the preservation of the neolithic sub-soil will help the experts to discover traces of the original earthworks and study the methods of assembling and positioning the menhirs.


The fact that the stones were erected, and then deliberately toppled, at roughly the same time, is also an important discovery. It offers new evidence that the neolithic was a period of social and religious upheavals, revolutions and wars. In other words, the neolithic may have been "megalithic" - obsessed with whacking great stones - but it was not socially or culturally monolithic. Ancient man was as fractious and destructive as modern man.


Professor Jean-Paul Demoule is president of the French agency which undertakes urgent archaeological digs on threatened sites - L'Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap) - which undertook the preliminary dig at Kerdruelland. He is also one of France's, and the world's, leading experts on the neolithic era: "This site is, historically and archaeologically speaking, a miracle," he told The Independent. "It is a great paradox. Precisely because it was destroyed, it has been preserved: like the wreck of an ancient ship beneath the ocean."

"The great neolithic sites like Stonehenge, such as Carnac, have come down to us, still standing, through the millennia and we can look at them as we imagine that they always were. But we cannot be sure that they were exactly that way and - most importantly - the soil in which they were planted has gone. If you dig at Stonehenge or Carnac today, you are mostly digging into the soil of previous ages, before the stones were placed there. Here, we are digging into the neolithic soil itself, the soil on which the erectors, and destroyers, of the stones once stood and lived."


Stephan Hinguant, 43, the chief archaeologist on the site, said: "This is as a truly astonishing find, a time machine. We have only explored a small part of it, and very rapidly, but we have found enough to know that there is a treasury of information here which will take several years to uncover fully.


READ ENTIRE ARTICLE (http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article1205976.ece)

Dropkick
Tuesday, August 1st, 2006, 11:50 PM
Thank god for the "busy bodies"!

You'd have to wonder though whats been lost because of builders greed.

Dr. Solar Wolff
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006, 06:31 AM
This has to potential to be a huge, huge find. This is because it was buried during Megalithic times and serves as a time capsule. It is possible that the Megalithics had an influence into later periods, especially in religion. New religions usually overlay old ones such as our Easter and Christmas and their pagan origins. Likewise, Megalithic religion may sill be with us in terms of legends (mythology) and may have influenced later European thought. For this reason, I think it would be to our benefit to include a sub-forum on the Megalithic Period in Europe. Certainly, this period was echoed in the thoughts of Blavatsky and the Thulists. Some associate the Megalithic monuments and the Atlanto-Med. race. It occurs to me that the Rokker religion of the moon and the night, a part of the Norse tradition, might date all the way back to the Megalithic. For these reasons, a convenient sub-forum for the Megalithic period is to our benefit. Feedback??

Sciz
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006, 04:40 PM
Wow, I never thought I'd see H.P. Blavatsky's name emerge in a thread like this. Kudos to you Dr. :thumbup

Very nice find, considering that it is something of a time capsule.

As for a Megalithic sub-forum, I agree it would be to our benefit. However, I would suggest a primarily Neolithic forum with a Megalithic sub-forum. Breaking them down into a Paleo/Meso/Neolithic structure just seems more organised to me.

Youenn
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006, 05:17 PM
Thanks a lot for this article but Brittany is not French. ;)
Concerning Carnac, I live near, I can tell you that the Menhirs are in a worst shape than in Stonehenge.

Arthur-Robin
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006, 08:02 PM
"deliberately toppled"????, "upheveals, revolutions, wars"?, "Ancient man was as fractious and destructive as modern man"?
since the stonhenge was also damaged (from sth west if I remember correctly) I'd suggest a natural catastrophe rather than human destruction.

I have read both GS Hawkins and I Velikovsky and they both have convincing cases. Who do you think is more right (if you have read them)?

Don't forget mystery hill in America!