Statue-menhirs of Neolithic date are comparatively rare on the northern French mainland with none known in Jersey or the other Channel Islands. Kinnes noted that it was surprising Guernsey had ‘three remarkable examples of Neolithic human representations’ (1980, 9), namely the carving on the capstone of Le Dehus, and the menhirs at Le Catel and St Martin’s. Both the Guernsey statue-menhirs relate closely to two statue-menhirs from southern Brittany, one at Le Trevoux Laniscat, Finistere, and another at Kermene, Guidel, Morbi- han. The iconography is characterized by paired breasts and necklaces, as with the Guernsey examples, suggesting contact between the two regions (Figure 7.2). Comparable representations also occur on the walls of megalithic tombs in Brittany and the Paris Basin, suggesting the iconography may relate to burial deities. At Crec’h Quille a further stone was found (L’Helgouach 1967), which was incorporated into a lateral entrance grave and displayed similar iconography and shape, suggestive of a statue-menhir (Kinnes 1980, 15; Scarre 2011).

Other examples are found in the Marne group, in France, where detailed human representations are cut into the soft chalk of the rock- cut tombs or hypogees, which were easy to carve (Kinnes 1980, 15; Villes 1998, 33). The Guernsey figures were hewn out of extremely hard granite, which may explain the reduction of motifs in the Paris basin and Breton figures to pairs of breasts in relief, sometimes with necklaces. Kinnes in a later summary (1995) considered the two Guernsey and the two Breton menhirs in greater detail, pointing out that the known menhirs are all relatively recent and

Line drawings of the statue-menhirs of Guernsey and southern Brittany

Figure 7.2. Line drawings of the statue-menhirs of Guernsey and southern Brittany: 1. Catel, Guernsey; 2. Statue-menhir of La Gran’mere, St Martin’s, Guernsey; 3. Statue-menhir of Kermene, Guidel, Morbihan; 4. Statue-menhir de La Trevoux, Laniscar, Finistere. After Kinnes 1995, fig. 2.

fortuitous finds, suggesting that more may eventually come to light (Kinnes 1995,133). The Kermene fragments, for example, were found within a round barrow with domestic debris. Kinnes remarked ‘on this evidence close contacts, and a shared conceptual symbolism, must have existed between the two areas in the later third millennium’ (1988, 35).

Evidence from France also shows that menhirs were reused and incorporated into tombs after they had been broken up (Cassen 2000a; Scarre 2011). One megalithic tomb in Guernsey, Le Dehus, has a human figure carved on the underside of the capstone so may pre-date the building of the tomb, whose initial use is dated to c. 4100-3900 bc (Schulting etal. 2010). This was first discovered in 1919 (Guerin 1919), long after it had been first excavated by the Lukis family over several years from 1832. The capstone has on its underside a stylized carving featuring a bearded face, arms and hands, what appears to be a strung bow with arrows, and a series of symbolic designs. This unique carved figure, known locally as Le Gardien du Tombeau, has some affinities with Later Neolithic carvings in northern France, but judging by the new dates from the site, it should belong to a rather earlier period, since it is likely to have been incorporated into the tomb. A new survey of the carving is in preparation, which may give more information about its stylistic features (Serge Cassen, pers. comm.).

The two statue-menhirs known in Guernsey are, however, difficult to date, not least due to their lack of provenance. The decoration on the Catel menhir has a necklace above the breasts, which may suggest stylistically a date from the Middle to Late Neolithic (for a fuller discussion of the context within the Neolithic of neighbouring France see Scarre 2011a). In the same churchyard at Catel another large block of granite is now used as a gravestone and may be a fallen menhir. There are also several large megalithic blocks of granite in the lower walls of the church, which may have belonged to a destroyed megalithic tomb on the hill long before a Roman camp and then the parish church were built on the same site.

Other anthropomorphic stones in Guernsey

During excavations at Les Fouaillages in the north of the island of Guernsey in the 1980s, a shouldered marker slab was found to stand at the east end of the cairn, which was part of this complex megalithic tomb and perhaps chosen for its resemblance to a human figure (Kinnes 1982). There is no carving on this stone and so it falls more into the category of representational stones (Scarre 2008, 78).

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >