Allee Couverte

The Allee Couverte Du Mouhau Bihan sits on private property in Finisterre Dept., Brittany, France. It wasn’t put up by Celts (or Gauls), but by the Neolithic people that preceded them.

It’s about 5,000 years old, and you get a sense of its size by the children climbing on the far end. The entrance is lined up with the north.

Some of the stones are carved inside with what could be spearheads, or shepherd’s crooks…or may mean something else entirely.

These structures are neither ignored or famous, but it’s not easy to find anything in English about them. Here’s a blog site in French with a picture of the same Allee Couverte–or passage grave, the usual English term.

Brittany is full of megalithic structures–from the rows of stones at Carnac to single menhirs, with burial mounds (the Tables des Merchands is spectacular), and with corridor dolmens and allees couvertes like this. Legend says it was once the grave of a giant–but that legend probably took thousands of years to develop.

Very few guidebooks tell much about these archaeological wonders and I can’t understand why. What could be more fascinating than to touch and enter a structure raised and carved 5,000 years ago? I found a priceless, thoroughly researched guide, though–not on the travel shelves, but something to request from academic libraries:

The Archaeology of Brittany, Normandy and the Channel Islands: An Introduction and Guide by Barbara Bender. Only problem is that it’s now almost thirty years old.

In Death Speaker, I hint at some of these. Emyn travels to Carnac, of course (Chapter 18), which is probably in better shape today than it was when she saw it. In modern times, fallen stones have been raised and put back into their original positions.

gavrinisAnd in Chapter 27, just before Emyn runs into Rialos–who refuses to invite her into his house–she looks out over the huge Morbihan Gulf while Aruca tells her of an island where the bodies of kings are taken when they die. I had Gavrinis in mind when I wrote that–a small island near the opening of the Gulf, where a large burial mound is found. Intricate carvings line the interior. At least one of the carvings was removed and used at a monument built later. Besides Wikipedia, you can read about Gavrinis here. And if you scroll down on that site, you’ll find a map of the area showing the dozens and dozens of other megalithic sites.

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