Megalithism of Morbihan in its Atlantic surroundings (Standing stones and burial structures) : Architectural and spatial analysis

Philippe Gouézin : philippe.gouezin(at)orange.fr

Archaeological researches on the genesis and development of the megalithism made ​​from the 19th century until today, have significantly changed the knowledge of this Atlantic phenomenon, sometimes monumental. They have greatly contributed to the understanding of Neolithic societies who built these monuments.

 

Megalithism is the monumental architectural expression of a set of societies who have built funerary structures and standing stones with a spiritual force whose components are difficult to interpret. The houses of the dead placed at the same level as the living will disrupt burial practices; affect the everyday life and format the visual and space environment.

 

The architectural history of the various megalithic monuments seems to draw its origins in some small burial structures and mounds. The origins seem to arise from different cultural substrates from Mesolithic Cardium pottery culture and LBK influences. The architectonic ensemble of this particular phenomenon has been updated by recent regional inventories conducted in Brittany which show an exceptional diversity and transformations derived from various identities. The dynamic typology gradually built, first on the analysis of the internal structures, is still a sensitive subject which has two streams of thoughts emerging. One is part of a logic linear evolution and an other related to a megalithic polymorphism coming from various neolithic trends of the Atlantic seaboard. The main issues linked to megalithism are based on its origins and its architecture.

 

This architectural analysis will attempt to highlight the many initiatives of the builders, the fashion’s phenomena, local identity developments and external influences. This discussion will provide a better typo-chronological definition and show considerable diversity Far beyond the used plans without, however, falling into a typological mania which has its limits. It will be coupled with a reading of the spatial distribution of different types of architecture to perhaps highlight the different, local or regional, influences

 

Some viewpoints with different architectural components of the large western France will feature a homogeneous megalithic set. The result of these initial observations is large enough to bring some innovative visions on a megalithic more complex than it seems.

The first Neolithic of Britain and Ireland through its pottery wares manufacturing techniques.

Hélène Pioffet : helenepioffet(at)yahoo.fr

This PhD thesis deals with the first Neolithic of Britain and Ireland. The situation on the archipelago is rather peculiar as a millennium (5000-4000 BC) separates the first evidence of Neolithic on the very West of Europe continent and the first ones on British Isles. A great deal of investigations have been lead since the beginning of the 20e century to understand the process of this social, economical and cultural transition. Many media have been interrogated, amongst which megalithic monuments, material culture or else palaeo-environments, in order to provide transition models. However, most of these interrogations rely on the exclusive or almost exclusive investigations on the islands, unable to give any accurate vision of what is going on the Near Continent.

On the contrary, this thesis aims to understand the process leading to the Neolithic transition, using constant interaction between Continental and Islands data. This pattern is investigated through an identification of cultural identities and comprehension of evolution within these cultural identities. This thesis comprises a time span that goes from 4000 BC to 3500 BC and a geographical area spreading on the British archipelago and the Near Continent (from Brittany in the West) to Netherlands (to the East). This time and spatial scale being rather large, it enables the study of numerous collections on the isles and Continent.

On the same basis of what could be done on monumental constructions to understand cultural identities, namely studies of shapes, volumes, choice of raw material, etc., and studies of techniques applied, this work means to tackle the process at the basis of the design and achievement of an impliment. A same population can indeed potentially produce pottery and megalithic monuments inasmuch as the same pattern is reproduced. Noneless, the first distribution maps made on the British and Irish archipelago, based on different parameters such as monuments and pottery, shed light on variable areas with overlapping parameters, but with no real palimpsest effect.

 

Thesis co-directed by Chris Scarre with the University of Durham


Megalithic building archaeology in the north-western part of France.

Florian Cousseau : florian.cousseau(at)gmail.com

 

The thesis aims to bring a new view on the megalithism and more particularly on its complex architectures. From the sight of the great possibilities offered by the building archaeology methodology for the historical periods, the idea of using this methodology on a megalithic monument was born during the excavation of the tumulus C of Péré at Prissé-la-Charrière (79) managed by Luc Laporte. The following thesis is continuous of this idea, with the aim of applying it to the Breton monuments as Carn (Ploudalmezeau-29), Barnenez (Plouezoc’h-29), and le Petit-Mont (Arzon-56). The corbellings present in the two first previous monuments get a special focus.

First, building archaeology extends the scope of megalithism’s research and, to do so, a new vocabulary and technology have to be studied, based at the same time on the architectural terms and those borrowed from the dry stone walling.

The methodology consists of a fine reading of walls/facings of the monument, to detect structures which fit the stratigraphic units of the ground’s excavation. It allows us to understand the architecture of the monument as well as its “life”, through the phases of construction, and some events as falling rocks, old restorations, etc.

It also allows us to gather information about construction’s techniques, to evaluate the importance of the recent restorations, often badly informed by the literature. This way, we are more able to perceive the impact of those unfortunate restorations on the image those monuments send us back today.

Through this, the management of the building site, reflection, in part, of the Neolithic society, becomes accessible. Regarding the well conserved elevated architectures, the 3D data constitute a real work tool while they are too often only used as a presentation tool. The principal aim of these researches is to gain a general view of the monument, to know its architectural history, to understand its insertion in the landscape during the different phases, to know the privileged accesses to the monument, etc.