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26 September 2014
Neolithic necropolis unearthed in Northern France

A team of archaeologists is currently conducting excavation work on 20 hectares of land in Fleury-sur-Orne (northwestern France), which is earmarked for residential development. This site has revealed an important Middle Neolithic (4500 BCE) necropolis containing twenty monuments and some intact burials.
     During the Middle Neolithic new types of monuments appear: constructions of earth and wood, varying in length from a few dozen to several hundred metres. These monumental tombs, the first of their kind are called 'Passy' - named after the eponymous site found in Yonne (Burgundy). These large, elongated structures are bounded by ditches which may be associated with fences, and a mound entombs the deceased. In a break with past traditions, these large monuments suggest that a type of hierarchy has been introduced into society.
     At Fleury-sur-Orne, twenty of these monumental tombs have been identified by archaeologists. Their size and morphology are varied from 12 m to 300 m in length, enclosed by ditches from 20 cm to more than 15 m wide. One of the tombs at Fleury was exceptionally well preserved and features the original constructional walls of stacked grass turves which would have been built up to at least 2 m in height.
     Each construction was designed to house a few burials, but often there is only one. The most characteristic burial mounds are very large - 3.50 to 4 metres long - and contain a male individual along with a number of arrow tips. Whole sheep were also interred; a good example being Monument 19 which had seven accompanying the deceased.
     Contemporaneous with the large dolmens appearing on the shores of the Atlantic, the monumental tombs of Fleury mobilised considerable energy to benefit the few and therefore appears to signal the emergence of a social hierarchy.

Edited from Past Horizons (12 September 2014)

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