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28 June 2011
Knocked down menhirs discovered in France

Archaeologists working at the site of 'Basses Coutures', Champagne-sur-Oise (north of Paris), France, have uncovered a Iron Age settlement and two menhirs pushed over into a pit, probably dating to the Neolithic period.
     These menhirs are the first discovered in the Ile-de-France in a preventative archaeology context. The first is made of an ochre-coloured Stampien sandstone. It is 2m long and 70cm wide, and has traces of pecking and 'roughening' on the visible surface, and stigmata of cutting on its edge. The second block, with similar dimensions, is made from a light grey limestone. Small blocks of limestone could represent the fragments of a third orthostat. The probable anchoring pit of a menhir is found in the centre. These menhirs were clearly knocked down.
     The pottery fragments found in the main pit have a Protohistoric appearance but no clear diagnostic characteristics, and thus give no information on the period when the blocks were knocked down. However, at Belz, near Carnac, an INRAP (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques) team recently excavated several menhirs that were knocked down and moved, or that display numerous traces of cutting. These megaliths, erected between the 5th and 6th millennia BCE, were knocked down in the Late Neolithic.
     This is not the first such dismantling of megaliths in the Neolithic. The large menhirs of Locmariaquer in Brittany, dated to the 5th millennium BCE, were broken and reused in dolmens, such as that of Gavrinis.

Edited from INRAP (19 May 2011), Past Horizons (25 June 2011)

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