About the Age of the Oldest Passage-Graves in Western Brittany

By Giot, Pierre-Roland; Marguerie, Dominique et al. | Antiquity, September 1994 | Go to article overview

About the Age of the Oldest Passage-Graves in Western Brittany


Giot, Pierre-Roland, Marguerie, Dominique, Morzadec, Herve, Antiquity


The acid rocks and soils of northwest France are not kind to preservation of organic material. Radiocarbon dating has mostly depended on charcoal, for want of a better dating medium that survives. In Brittany, Finistere can sometimes contribute to the dating of early passage-graves from human bones.

Already some Breton monuments (Barnenez G, D, B; Guennoc IIIB; Ile d'Yoc'h) have given fragments of scorched or charred human bones; and both tombs of the cairn of Ty-Floc'h have plenty, assembled in 'bundles' (Giot, in Le Roux & Lecerf 1980). Only, unhappily, these burnt bones have lost all their carbon content. There are elsewhere a few instances of intact bones in a non-acid matrix such as shelly dune-sand or loess.

La Torche

This is the case of the passage-grave set in a dominant position on the top of the La Torche peninsula, near Penmarc'h, but in the Plomeur commune. It is a sort of prototype of monuments with lateral compartments in the chamber. During a rescue dig in 1946 (Giot 1947), in sectors of the filling happily not destroyed by the 18th-century guard-house, nor by the 19th-century excavation of P. Du Chatellier, nor by the 1943 small concrete bunker immediately next to it, we found dissociated bones from at least 5 persons in the north compartment and in a fraction of the passage, well preserved in sand (pH 8[center dot]4). An intact metacarpal has given the accelerator determination 5490[+ or -]90 b.p. (GIF-A92372), corresponding to the 95% probability interval 4499-4090 BC. There is no indication, either from the typology of the tomb architecture or from the associated grave goods, that the monument would be of the very oldest, and this result fits in well with what could be expected.

Roc'h-Avel

The cairn on the edge of the islet of Roc'h-Avel (landwards to Guennoc island, both in the commune of Landeda) contains what is left of the dry-stone walled chambers of two passages-graves more and more ruined by the high tides which have cut them through. This very low-lying site was discovered by Commander E. Motel in 1925. A rescue-dig (Giot et al. 1979; Giot & Morzadec 1992), before the interior of the chambers was totally washed away as now, gave us material at the ground level of the wall of the northern chamber, built on the granite with residual pockets of loessic loam. There were plenty of sherds and flints, an accumulation of burnt stones, including a fragment of a granite quern, associated with plenty of charcoal from large-diameter oak trunks (not very curved rings; advice of D. Marguerie). On the top of this floor, there were dissociated bones from at least 3 persons, some well preserved (pH of the loam 9.0). An accelerator determination on an intact patella, 5260[+ or -]90 b.p. (GIF-A92374), corresponds to the 95% probability interval 4328-3817 BC. A sample of the large charcoal fragments had given by the conventional radiocarbon method 5800[+ or -]100 b.p. (GIF-5510), corresponding to the 95% probability interval 4905-4407 BC. If one takes in account the age of the wood, 80 years' difference is reasonable.

Discussion

Indeed if one considers all the charcoal radio-carbon dates available for the first utilizations of these types of passage-graves -- about 15 instances in Finistere for example -- after calibration in the 95% probability interval, one finds that they all have in common at least part of a 300-year zone around 4500-4200 BC.

TABULAR DATA OMITTED

As to the only two dates which appear to have part of their range notably earlier, we have never attached undue importance to them. They had in the 1960s the interest, in popular pamphlets, of being arguments of propaganda for the respect of megalithic monuments, an argument of the type 'oldest European architecture', perhaps perceptible by the Breton peasants' violent movements, at a dramatic moment when more of these monuments were destroyed per year than ever before, because of the 'productive modernization' of the countryside, by the 'travaux connexes du remembrement' and the 'elimination des obstacles a l'utilisation rationnelle des sols' state subsidized (one has had to live through that to understand! …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

About the Age of the Oldest Passage-Graves in Western Brittany
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.