Gavrinis - Brittany, France.
The Isle of Goats just off the coast of Brittany in France is home to the
wonderful Gavrinis megalithic cairn. The cairn is about 5500 years old,
it is 60 metres in diameter and covers a passage and chamber which is lined with
elaborately engraved stones. The 12 metre passage
leads to a 2.7 x 2.3 metre chamber which is covered by a large granite
capstone. Gavrinis is remarkably similar to Newgrange
which was built about 300 years later. There must have been close contact between the Neolithic people of Ireland
and Brittany which are 400km apart.
Gavrinis (Gavr'inis) is a 10 minute boat trip from the
harbour at Larmor Baden, the round trip including the guided tour lasts
about 1 hour and 20 minutes. In order to protect the monument and avoid
scratching the stones, cameras are not allowing inside the cairn.
In the passage and chamber 23 of the
29 upright stones are elaborately engraved with zig-zags, concentric circles, herring bones, axes,
bows and arrows.
Julian Cope in his book The Megalithic European comments "A
pavement lined the floor of this passage and chamber, the
entrance to the latter being defined by a carved sillstone
reminiscent of those beautiful carved lintels seen at Ireland's Fourknocks
and at the Bend in the Boyne"
Aubrey Burl in his book Megalithic
Brittany comments "It is for its art that Gavrinis is famous. No
fewer than twenty-three of it's twenty-nine upright stones have been
carved, not in single or isolated motifs but in a profuse series of
compositions so that stone flows into stone or is mirrored by another
in patterns engraved in low relief. The art is balanced in panels
horizontally and vertically in symbols of which the main elements
are concentric arcs and axes. These latter implements have splayed
cutting edges like the big, prestige axes from the Carnac
Upright stone no.18 (not shown here)
has 3 horizontal hand sized holes about 10 cm deep similar to
52 at Newgrange.
The passage and chamber at Newgrange are clearly aligned to the
rising sun at the Winter
Solstice, Gavrinis is aligned in the same direction but the
chamber is not illuminated like Newgrange at the Winter Solstice.
Perhaps the ancient Irish were better engineers than the ancient Bretons.
Aubrey Burl comments "Looking from Stone 19, at the left-hand
entrance to the chamber, towards Stone 1, the bearing is 128°,
almost perfectly in line with the midwinter sunrise. The main axis
of the passage is 134° towards the low-lying Arzon peninsula and
the orientation is close to that of the major southern moonrise. It
has been calculated that the two alignments, one solar, the other
lunar, intersect halfway down the passage level with Stone 7, the
white quartz slab whose undecorated surface may have been
illuminated by the light of the rising sun and moon."