Art & Architecture

article | Reading time4 min

Monumental architecture

cairn de Barnenez

The Barnenez Cairn is one of the most imposing megalithic structures of the Neolithic period on Europe's Atlantic coast.

A complex structure

A millefeuille of history

Dating from 5000 BC to 2000 BC, this mausoleum is 72 m long, 13 m to 28 m wide and 6 m high, although it must originally have been around 8 m to 9 m high, as estimated by P.R. Giot and his team on the basis of the volume of scree near the faces.

This necropolis comprises 11 corridor dolmens, the oldest of which were built around 4,500 BC and made of dolerite which came from the Kernéléhen peninsula, where the building was located, and at least 4 types of granite from 3 quarries identified by Mr Chauris, the geologist who helped with the excavations.

The latter material came from the islet of Stérec, which was not an island in Neolithic times, 1.2 km from the site, for 2 types of granite. The 2 other granite sources are Kériou, a small valley 1.5 km away, and Saint-Samson, around 2.5 km away.

Such architecture required a structured and hierarchical social organisation as well as mastery of cutting, transport and the various dry stone masonry techniques used to build these tombs. It should be noted that several of the so-called false-domed tombs were intact when they were discovered.

la carrière creusée dans le cairn secondaire
la carrière creusée dans le cairn secondaire

Philippe Berthé, Centre des monuments nationaux