Friday, 19 July 2013

Mystical, magical moments

It was late in the day, the sun intense, bright, high in the sky, no light filtered through the dense forest canopy of the sweet chestnut leaves. Suddenly, upon reaching a clearing, dappled sunlight danced playfully across our path, beckoning, beguiling, enticing us down a narrow, green country lane. The smell of the baked earth mingled with the sweet scent from the pea fields, filling the warm early evening air with their aromas. Up and over a grassy bank, through a flower strewn meadow, and there in the middle stood a solitary, remote mound, surrounded by ancient oak trees as if standing sentinel.
Momentarily our eyes could not adjust to the shadowy scene, there was a quiet, peaceful solitude, a profound connection with the past. May be it was the spirits of the civilisation that had flourished 5000 years ago in this hidden corner of Brittany. 
Dolmen de la Maison Trouvée - is an Angevin type dolmen with a massive rectangular chamber still mostly buried within its mound. The chamber is roughly 4.5 metres by 2.5 metres and topped by a massive 6 metre by 3 metre capstone.  The side slabs are shaped so that they fit together creating a chamber that is straight sided and regular. The portal doorway faced towards the west which is more unusual. Invariably they are orientated east-west, with the opening facing east, suggesting a preference for equinoctial orientation. It is difficult to tell how high the chamber is as it is half buried. It is often assumed that dolmens were constructed for a funerary purpose. However, the lack of human remains in several prominent dolmens, combined with certain construction features suggest that this can no longer be considered a definitive theory.
To show our respect we reverentially gathered elderflower blossom and feathers, and wondered at the lives of those who had lived here in 3000 BC.
Earlier on this same day we had travelled to Carnac arriving via Locmariaquer, a small town based around its traditional fishing harbour and famous for oysters. The harbour is a popular starting point for trips around the Gulf of Morbihan and its islands.
There are more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones in Carnac hewn from local rock and erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany - the largest collection in the world. They consist of alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs. On first appearance the stones seem to be randomly placed, but when wandering around their alignment can suddenly become more apparent. This megalithic site is even older than the dolmen I showed at the beginning of the post pre-dating it by 1500 years.
The stones at Carnac were surveyed comprehensively by Prof Alexander Thom, assisted by his son Archie Thom from 1970 to 1974. Their extensive survey produced a series of papers on the astronomical alignments of the stones as well as statistical analysis supporting Prof. Thom's concept of the megalithic yard.  H was a colleague of Archie's at Glasgow University when they were both lecturers, and he heard many tales regarding their work on archaeological sites both in France, Scotland and England.

64 comments:

  1. How lovely to have the link with Archie Thom. The dolmens are stunning, but it is the standing stones that I find really beautiful, and mystical. A great, informative and visually beautiful post. Jx

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    1. For me, it was the the remote solitary dolmen, hidden away, that held me in its thrall. Glad that you enjoyed the post Janice.

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  2. Great post, Rosemary. Interesting and magical. As usual, your photos are terrific. Have a nice weekend.

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    1. Thanks Marie I always appreciate your kind comments.

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  3. Rosemary, can't really help to be mystical with those standing rock formations. What a beautiful landscape. Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. If only the stones could speak - 5000 years of history.

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  4. Wow, interesting. Those stones and their placement are just so interesting. Is this site in a remote location?

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    1. The first dolmen I showed is hidden in the countryside of Brittany quite near to where our friends live. You need to know the little lanes around that area to find it.
      The stones at Carnac are situated on a peninsular near to the coastal bay of Quiberon which is itself in the Bay of Biscay. There is nothing much in the area apart from little hamlets and the small town of Carnac.

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  5. You know how to capture our interest Rosemary with what you are showing us and what you are saying us.
    Thank you for your wonderful posts and have a nice week end!

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    1. I appreciate your very generous comment Olympia - thank you. The places were so special that it was very easy to share this experience with you.

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  6. Nie wiedziałam nic o tym co opisujesz, ale teraz już wiem. Dziękuje za to i piękne zdjęcia. Pozdrawiam.
    I did not know anything about what you are describing, but now I know. Thank you for this, beautiful photos. Yours.

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    1. Szanowny Giga - Jestem bardzo zadowolony, że znalazłeś ten post ciekawe, a także, że nauczyłeś się czegoś nowego. Dziękujemy za bardzo komentarza rodzaju.

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  7. Very beautiful pictures and your commentary does them justice. I have to go back to Brittany; last time I was there, my daughter was a toddler and I didn't really have the opportunity to fully capture the magic of the place.

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    1. If you do return to Brittany then I would also really recommend that you try and visit Dolmen de la Maison Trouvée, on a warm sunny day for a very special experience.

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  8. What an interesting adventure! I especially like the images of the shaded dolmen. When I'm in such a place, I'm always accutely aware that it is but one dimension that separates us from unusual events.

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    1. Dear Mark - I feel the same, and often wish how wonderful if one could be a time traveller. We do try and imagine what it must have been like for those early peoples.

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  9. A mini version of Stonehenge. The menhirs make make think of the Asterix cartoons. To your questions, we saw the grave of Princess Grace.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. You are right - menhirs and Asterix will be forever a pairing in our minds.

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  10. Truly awesome! Fills one with wonder at the ancient world!

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    1. I wonder if anything we build today will still be standing in 5000 years time?

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  11. Hello Rosemary, These remains of earlier civilizations are indeed fascinating, and their seemingly impossible creations invoke awe, reverence and a sense of mystery. I am still in Ohio, where in some parts of the state huge burial mounds can be discerned in the landscape, while on a smaller scale, if you are lucky you might discover an old arrowhead or spear-point.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - it must be wonderful to discover an artefact from ancient times.
      My granddaughter is doing archaeology at Oxford and last summer she was on a dig at the site of a Roman city in Menorca. She was excavating a Roman basilica and found a perfect quartz bead with a metal lined hole through the centre where it would have been strung. Needless to say she was thrilled and very excited at her find.

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  12. It must have been magical and profound to visit such ancient sites. Though it looks like no one else was around, did you feel the presence of others? Sometimes when I am handling antiques, I try to imagine past owners and provenance. Wonderful photos, Rosemary.
    Have a great weekend,
    Loi

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    1. There were other people at Carnac which is a site of national importance, but at the dolmen I featured at the beginning of the post we had it all to ourselves. We felt as if we were standing in a very private place almost like being in a chapel.
      I know exactly what you mean Loi about handling antiques. When I hold our antiques I often wonder about their origin, who their owners were, and whether they love the item as much as I do.

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  13. Just fascinating, I love visiting sites like these and trying to imagine the past and its people.... they always seem to want to talk to me
    Thank you for sharing
    Thea x

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    1. Dear Thea - I remember visiting Stonehenge on a chilly February day with the sun trying to pierce through a mist. There was a very strong feeling of our ancestors on that occasion too. Thank you for your visit and kind comment.

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  14. Hello Rosemary

    This had me spellbound, just scrolling and looking at the patina on the rocks and their placement. A brilliant post

    Helen xx

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    1. Dear Helen - we enjoyed a special and memorable day, and I am happy that you enjoyed seeing these ancient rocks placed there by our forefathers.

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  15. What a special place, I've never visited Brittany and now want to go even more!

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    1. We are so fortunate in Europe that we have so many interesting and diverse places that we can visit easily.

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  16. what an extraordinary site you been too!
    ancient trees and ancient stones
    indeed mystical magical moments

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    1. It certainly caste its spell over me Demie.

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  17. I loved reading this, Rosemary. These ancient sites are fascinating and your photos of them are beautiful. I've never been to Brittany, but first of all I associate it with sites like this and legends. I visit Cornwall every year and I know the ancient links between the two were very strong. I've visited all the main standing stone sites in Cornwall, now, so I'd love to visit the sites here for the first time.

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    1. My favourite one Wendy was the first dolmen which was hidden away in the countryside, resting all alone - it certainly had a presence. At some stage I would like to visit the most northern Neolithic henge - The Ring of Brodgar standing on a small isthmus in the Orkneys. I am sure that it must feel really atmospheric being sited in such a remote spot.

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  18. Beautiful photos! Sites like this (and I think of the iron-age burial mounds in Jutland) bring out a feeling that is somewhere between reverence and awe - and perhaps a little bit of a prickle on the back of the neck. One is aware of the lives that went before and of our connection to them. I can't imagine that much of what we've built in the 20th and 21st centuries will endure.

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    1. It is 6500 years ago that the stones in Carnac were erected. One wonders how they moved these boulders. At least two thirds of each stone is still below ground, and presumably that is why they have endured. We visited Stonehenge last year which I was in awe of - the size of the stones on the top of the large standing stones were so enormous. I would think that we would have difficulty moving them today even with our large cranes and mechanical devices.

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  19. I was with you all the way as you described your walk to find the dolmen. The massive ancient stones placed there combined with old oaks planted in that spot must indeed have created a feeling of mystery and awe. I went on a history field trip to Normandy many years ago, but it's Brittany, its connection with Cornwall and its legends, that fascinates me.

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    1. Glad to have your company on the journey Linda. The Celtic links between Cornwall and Brittany are very interesting - and as you mention the shared legends, in particular the Arthurian ones.

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  20. Such an interesting post. Its fascinating to behold this intriguing arrangement of megalithic boulders. What purpose does it serve and who are the people who make use of the site - so many unanswered questions.

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    1. I suppose the answer is that we are very unlikely ever to really know even though technology has advanced so much. It is thought that the stone circles were for ancient religious ceremonies. The stones alignments are usually northeast - southwest, suggesting a particular significance being placed on the solstice and equinox points. It is interesting to remember that the stones at Carnac pre date the Pyramids by 750 years.

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  21. We have dolomites single standing ones here not far from me.
    I wonder if there will ever be an answer to what these dolmens were for.
    The ones in Brittany that you took photos of, with the top on them...they look like they could have been a resting place before burial .. they are mystifying .. Like the big stone carved heads on Pascoa islands..
    The large trees ..indeed what stories could they tell us.
    Another interesting post Rosemary.

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    1. Dear Val - it is really interesting that these dolmens, henges, menhirs etc are over much of Europe, and of very similar construction. There must have been some sort of travel and communications going on. Europe itself is understandable as regards travel, but we have lots of stones here from Cornwall in the south up to the very north of Scotland. This is less understandable to me as it would have been much more difficult to travel across the sea to our island. It seems hard to imagine that they would have been able to navigate the oceans then.

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  22. Such an impressive part of Brittany Rosemary. We visited several years ago and liked it very much! Our daughters were still young at that time and couldn't believe we wanted to see a couple of rocks :-)

    Have a good Sunday!

    Madelief

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    1. If you return with your girls sometime Madelief, I am sure that they would appreciate them more now.

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  23. Such beautiful pictures, Rosemary! The blue sky, grey stones, green grass. Looks great! Happy weekend!

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    1. Thank you Satu - glad that you enjoyed seeing these ancient stones.

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  24. I love that shivery feeling you get when you feel connected to the history of a site. Your photos made me feel just that. I love the flowers you placed on the stone, what a thoughtful gesture.

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    1. When you see tangible evidence from our pre-history ancestors it does have a profound effect, I am so pleased that you enjoyed the photos and that they conveyed a little of that feeling.

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  25. Your mystical and magical moments surrounded by the aged oak trees is wonderful. I like to be embraced to be both soothed and recharged by their mighty arms with foliage and supported by the massive roots underground. It is the time when we connected with the things and people of the past when we think of them. I’m sure some ageless spirits have done something magical on you, rosemary. I got inspired by this post.

    Yoko

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    1. What a lovely comment Yoko - I am pleased that the magical atmosphere the four of us felt in that quiet shady spot was conveyed to you too.
      We know so little about our ancestors from pre-history, but to see tangible evidence of their existence was a special experience which we all felt.

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  26. I love the flowers and the small little cave.
    From: Bea Cupcake

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    1. To your eyes it must look like a cave Bea - however, when you are living in France your Mum and Dad must take you there, we will tell them how to find it, and they will explain all about it to you.

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  27. Walking amongst the work of people form so long ago is hard for me to fully appreciate, it must be quite a moving experience.

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    1. You are right Karen - to get a profound sense of our pre history ancestors you need to walk among the tangible evidence that they have left behind for us.

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  28. What stories those stones could tell after so many years.
    Devine trees, and lovely flowers in bloom.

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    1. Ah yes, if only stones could speak.

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  29. Great post Rosemary!
    I learned so much i did'nt know!
    I knew about UK and Irelands ancient stones!
    Wonderful pictures!!!Thank you for sharing!
    Have a lovely evening!
    Dimi...

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    1. Thanks Dimi - the largest collection of stones are, as I mentioned, in Carnac, France. The biggest stones are those at Stonehenge and also some of the standing stones in the Orkneys in Scotland. They are an ever present reminder of our pre-history ancestors.

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  30. Dear Rosemary,
    A great and interesting post with beautiful photos.
    Looks like a great place to visit.
    I'll soon be ready to blog again, I'll just have one more treatment at the hospital and I'm ready to go for walks and photograph again.
    Hope you're having a great summer.
    Mette

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    1. My Dear Mette - it is so lovely to hear from you, I have been thinking about you often. I am really sorry as I had no idea that you have been receiving hospital treatment. Please take care, and do not rush back to blogging until you feel strong enough. I am delighted to have heard from you again♥

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  31. A wonderful post to ancient sites the first post looks so hidden and magical.
    Sarah x

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    1. Thanks Sarah - the first dolmen was really special and far from any habitation or passers by - a secret place known to the locals. However, as I have included the name it should be trackable to anyone who has persistence.

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  32. I've heard much about the standing stones of Carnac, Rosemary, but have never seen them better illustrated. Nevertheless, like you, is's the hidden and mysterious dolmen in its circle of oak trees that really captures my imagination.

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    1. Dear Perpetua - I don't think that I shall ever forget the lasting impression of our visit to the first dolmen. It was such a special place, hidden away down country lanes and fields, with nobody around but ourselves.

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