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Report 1982: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 3 Northern Finistère

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 21 of 32: Cairn de Barnenez

photo by MAW

Cairn de Barnenez

Cairn De Barnenez is one of the ‘must sees’ in the area and ranks equal with the megalithic remains around Carnac. It has been carefully restored.

It is a massive stone structure built on the highest point of the peninsula overlooking the sea. There is plenty of parking along the road and the cairn is hidden by trees. The Visitor Centre is carefully built into the hillside and is unobtrusive. It has basic toilets and sells a small selection of books and tee-shirts. Some of the finds from the cairn are displayed in the centre.

It is a short walk to the cairn which is on a grassy site, although surrounding tree and shrubs restrict views.

This is the largest and oldest cairn in Europe and was built in two stages. The eastern part of the cairn is the oldest and was built about 4500BC from green dolerite. It contained five chambers. The cairn was extended to the west between 4200-3900BC using granite which is slightly paler in colour. Six more chambers were added. The cairn is made up of steps of stone, which gives it greater stability. It was in continuous use for over 2500 years.

In 1955, part of the north western part of the cairn was removed when quarrying for road stone. This exposed several chambers. Quarrying was stopped and the cairn excavated, plant growth removed and stonework restored.

Most of the eleven chamber entrances are blocked and there is no entry to those which are not. The quarry at the back reveals the structure of the chambers with the use of large upright stones and carefully packed smaller stones. Some chambers have flat stone slabs. Others have corbelled roofs made up of smaller stones (and a bit like the beehive cells of the Irish Monks).

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