The two statue-menhirs, which are the subject of this chapter, are among those difficult to date, as their primary archaeological context is lost, but there are stylistic features that may give a good indication of when they were carved and first erected. Their subsequent life histories can then be examined.

Le Catel menhir

The statue-menhir of Le Catel on Guernsey, which now stands in the grounds of the parish church (Figure 7.3), was first recorded by Sir Edgar MacCulloch, who was Bailiff of Guernsey in 1878. MacCulloch sent a communication to the Society of Antiquaries of London, describing works that had been carried out at the parish church of St Mary de Castro (MacCulloch 1879, 29-34). Two discoveries were recorded at the time. A furnace was described, which MacCulloch interpreted as a possible bell-casting pit, and which was proved to be the case in excavations in the later 1990s. More relevant to the subject in hand was his recording of ‘a large granite boulder buried in the chancel, and which has been evidently fashioned into a rude resemblance of a female figure’ (MacCulloch 1879, 29). He goes on to give more detail:

Just within the chancel, at about an equal distance from the north and south walls , about a foot below the surface, was found a mass of granite lying east west, and turned over on its left side.

It had all the appearance of a natural boulder somewhat fashioned by art and cannot be described better than by saying that it is in shape like a mummy case, the back being rounded and slightly curved and the front nearly flat with the exception of two protruding breasts which seemed to indicate that it was intended to represent a female. (MacCulloch 1879, 32)

He then describes two ridges raised a little above the surface of the stone which may have been intended to represent either a veil or tresses of hair and the face:

There are no traces of any features remaining, but what should be the face bears evident marks of having been subjected to the hammer or the chisel, as does also the right breast. (MacCulloch 1879, 32)

This is significant as it implies that the right breast had been damaged before it was buried (MacCulloch 1879, 32), possibly during the earliest phase of the parish church in the latter half of the eleventh century ad. After its discovery the stone was taken outside the church and erected where it now stands at the west end of the churchyard. It has been shaped from a local granite block into a human figure of 1.95 metres in height. It now stands with 1.65 metres visible above the ground, with the width at the shoulder of 0.7 metres. The body is

The Catel menhir in the grounds of the parish church. Photograph by Joshua Sebire

Figure 7.3. The Catel menhir in the grounds of the parish church. Photograph by Joshua Sebire.

plano-convex in plan (as noted by MacCulloch), giving a flatter ventral surface and rounded dorsal plane. The head and shoulders have been fashioned into a rounded form with a dome-shaped top, around which suggests a crown or circlet in relief. The flattened ventral face does not have any distinct facial features and this emphasizes the relief sculpture of the breasts which are formed of hemispherical domes, one of which has been deliberately hammered off at some point before its discovery in the nineteenth century ad. It is possible that the facial features may have originally been painted (Mohen 1998,18; Scarre 2008, 83). Below the head is a long U-shaped band forming a necklace in relief and on the back there is the trace of a belt or girdle also in relief.

The shoulders and head are distinct creating a female figure that may represent a ‘mother goddess’ in the distinctive format of crowned head, lack of facial features, breasts in high relief, and low girdle (Kinnes, 1980). Serge Cassen (2000a) has suggested, however, that there is masculinity to such figures in themselves and in this specific case the ‘crown’ may emphasize the phallic nature of the statue.

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