Monday, July 27, 2015

A load of stones

At Menez Dregan today, doing a leisurely circular walk for the new book to take in the magnificent prehistoric site on top of the Pointe du Souc'h. I mention the point because a two-handled rounded pottery vase discovered here in the late 19th century gave the name vase du souc'h to that style of find. The various tombs discovered are the result of nine phases of development of the site during the Neolithic period. Recent reconstruction work has given an indication of the original cairn covering which enclosed the dolmens.
Just down the road is the enormous allée couverte of Pors Poulhan, a remarkable revival after the Germans blew it up in 1942 as an obstruction to their view of the coast. It was still possible to excavate in the mid 1980s and turn up weapons, tools and jewellery showing usage as a burial site from 6000BC onwards.
As if this wasn't enough, below the Pointe du Souc'h a paleolithic cave-dwelling from 465,000BC is today carefully protected by a coating of metal plates, its roof having long since collapsed. Here evidence of created hearths, the oldest in Europe, has been found. I was fortunate to be there today at the moment when a team of helmeted workers began uncovering the site, perhaps in preparation for events taking place this week as part of Rencontres Prehistoriques de Bretagne.
I first visited Menez Dregan many years ago alone, and again in 2007 with the departmental archaeologist Michel Le Goffic explaining the excavations in great detail. Since those times much has changed, from reconstruction work to a smart new visitor centre, large information panels and landscape gardening. There's not much left to the imagination these days and no room at all for any sense of awe. I certainly had that when it was just a load of stones on a headland. Maybe a question of can't see the stones for the words.

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