Carnac – The roof

Previous: The sea


Death and the sea have always formed a unity for those who populate the shores of the Atlantic. The sea gives life and takes it back. The sea takes its toll on the man it feeds. The sea demands its price from man, if he makes the sea his own and wants to gain more from it than inedible salty water. Whoever ventures out to sea unprotected will be swallowed up by it. The people of yesteryear, 6000 years ago, when they sat on the shore and looked out into the sea to the unreachable horizon and thought and pondered – did the people of that time already think? In any case, they distinguished something.

For back in those days today’s man is only able to look at things rudimentarily.

With a view of the Bay of Quiberon, a second question immediately follows: What was first – the dolmen or the menhir? Stupid question, one thinks today. The question may surprise and it will never be answered with certainty. For back in those days, when the first dolmens and menhirs were created, today’s man – despite all his technology and logic – is only able to look at things rudimentarily, if at all. No written evidence goes back that far. Thus remains unanswered what the first consideration was when man created dolmens and menhirs at the edge of the sea.

Dolmens and menhirs stand for different positions in human thinking. What the dolmens were used for may be more or less clear in view of the results presented by research. They were probably used as graves. It can also be assumed that these artificial stone chambers served as weatherproof meeting places for the people of that time. If the dead were also buried there, then these meetings took place at the same time under the protection of the ancestors.

Dolmen as protection @ Georges Scherrer

If the man of today crawls into such stone formations, he must retract his head properly, otherwise he will inevitably hit it against the artificially erected rock roof. This did not apply to the people of that time. They were smaller than we are today and therefore better suited for walking in these stone places.

To fixate on the two mentioned interpretations would mean to take a thankless position in the field of argumentation.

Yet another attempt to interpret stone-age constructions! The objection shall apply. It would be presumptuous to reduce the significance of the dolmens to the functions mentioned. To fixate on the two mentioned interpretations would mean to take a thankless position in the field of argumentation and also to fight in a defensive strategy on a lost position while trying to explain what these dolmens were really good for.

But what did the menhirs stand for? In answering this question, opinions differ considerably.

Today it rests on the ground, fallen over for some reason.

Whoever approached the present-day town of Carnac by sea from the south in the prehistoric age, now known as the Mesolithic Age, i.e. during the Mesolithic period, suddenly saw an extremely powerful white menhir on his journey to his right on the shore. For that time and also for today’s dimensions, the menhir rose impressively high above the ground. About twenty meters it stretched towards the sky. Today it rests on the ground, fallen over for some reason and broken into four pieces. The place where it reminds us of the past is not only inscribed in the agenda of historical cultural assets because of the stone colossus.

The fallen giant menhir from Locmariaquer @ Georges Scherrer

Together with the Grand Menhir, as it is now called, two other notable elements make up this Stone Age site and give the place considerable importance. In the immediate vicinity of the fallen, there is a cairn containing the dolmen „Tables des Marchand’s“ and the tumulus „Er Grah“. According to proven masses, a burial site belonged to the site, testified by the dolmen still existing today.

The site formed a unit. Those who stand in the midst of the elements that shape and form the site inevitably ask themselves: What stood first in this place? The cairn, the dolmen or the erected stone, the menhir?

The coldness of death @ Georges Scherrer

From today’s point of view, it is remarkable that the tomb, the dolmen, and the elongated cairn together with the menhir form a geometric composition. A composition as it can be observed again and again in European art and which is peculiar to human perception in a certain way. This composition can be described in a very simple way: A vertical line and a horizontal line stand in clear contrast to each other in one picture.

The dead man in his grave also occupies this position.

The fish and shells that nourished the people at the Bay of Quiberon and ensured their survival – at that time there were no supermarkets, big stores or shopping centers that made quick and spontaneous shopping possible – and death, which puts an end to this survival, find their correspondence and agreement in the horizontal. The fish does not stand in water, it swims horizontally through its element. The dead man in his grave also occupies this position. In this way, death find a surprising correspondence in the geometric form of the horizontal.

Orderly grave with bones @ Georges Scherrer

But what about the vertical, in which the Grand Menhir stood in contrast to dolmens and tumuli, when this place still had its clear meaning for people? The beings of that time had a relationship to this place. Only which one? What was the menhir to the people of yore? How was the menhir used? What was it used for? Another set of questions arises: How far had human thinking and the ability to combine been developed at that time? In order to lift such a thing into the vertical, a considerable amount of know-how was required. Could the builders of the Grand Menhir already fall back on powerful, social or – as suggested in literature and travel guides – religious structures, which enabled them to create such colossal buildings long before the pyramids were built in Egypt? 

Egyptian pyramids @ Georges Scherrer

An explanation is boldly daring here: Carnac provides a remarkable answer. It can be contradicted. There is no reliable information, only interpretations – as was usually the case in early human history. But perhaps the following interpretation of Carnac, his stone rows, is more than one interpretation.

Therefore, back to the Menhir of Men-en-Hroeg, as the Breton name of the Grand Menhir is called. Because of its size, it was the first to be seen when people approached the site of Carnac from the south over the sea 6000 years ago.

It is possible that other menhirs as the landmark of Carnac formed an even more significant eye-catcher than Men-en-Hroeg, menhirs that have disappeared today because they were worn away or disappeared into the sea because of land subsidence and there, covered with algae and all kinds of sea creatures, have vanished from human perception.

Look into the water @ Georges Scherrer

The seabed off Carnac is likely to hold some surprises, such as a dugout canoe used to transport goods, including building material for dolmens. Or was man, in terms of his intellectual capacity, capable of more than building a dugout canoe? For example, a raft that was better suited for transporting massive, heavy lumps of stone than a simple bowl boat? Today, one should not overestimate the abilities of mankind at that time, even if the people of that lost time already achieved monstrous things. Or are their abilities underestimated?

What man achieved in those days is more than an animal can do.

The menhir of Men-en-Hroeg stood for something. Its first meaning might have been – and this packed into simple words: Here, people have erected a gigantic boulder and overcome the flatness of fish and death by their own efforts. Did prehistoric man proudly erect a monument to himself and his own achievement? To stand upright as a being that raised itself into the vertical? So, the menhir is a sign of first creative power, a work of art that does not lie dead above the ground like a flat stone, but rises boldly from the ground and arouses admiration?

If this consideration is taken further, it may be concluded – such as a bold, unprovable thought of today – that prehistoric man erected the first menhir in order to parry the sign of the lying stone, i.e. death and also the fish, the simplest survival food of that time in this area. The first menhir will not have been of special size. It will have been a simple, elongated stone, slightly oversized in its length and lateral dimensions, but it was striking in its form and encouraged to put it on its feet. To erect the huge menhir, now called Men-en-Hroeg, was more of a feat than covering a grave with a stone. What man achieved in those days by erecting this column is more than an animal can do.

A gigantic loner @ Georges Scherrer

Moreover, no animal covered its own kind, that was dead, with a stone or erected a stone in its honor. We do not know today to what extent man thought 6000 years ago in today’s sense, to what scope his abilities of logical reasoning and combining were developed, to what extent he had an understanding of art, made calculations.

Next: The start

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