Brittany: 5,000 years of occupation discovered in Merdrignac

Survey of a stratigraphic section in progress. (© Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap)

Archaeological excavations have been carried out since october 2019, as part of the work to build 2 × 2 lanes of the RN 164 co-financed by the State and by the region Brittany. “They are led by theNational Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap). They constitute, for scientists an unprecedented opportunity to explore the subsoils of this sector and to enrich knowledge of the past of Central Brittany ”, summarizes Yoann Escats, head of archaeological research at theInrap. It is a public establishment placed under the supervision of the Ministries of Culture and Research. “Its intervention constitutes a full step in a development which, by fitting into the present of the inhabitants, also makes it possible to restore an important part of their past history”, specifies the archaeologist.

Excavations until August in Merdrignac

Surveys, followed by diagnostics, made it possible to positively assess the archaeological potential in the municipalities of Merdrignac and Glomel. The State therefore prescribed archaeological excavations. “These operations are carried out in close collaboration with the DREAL (Regional Directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing) within a determined scope and schedule. They will take place until the end of August on the eastern section of Merdrignac, and until the end of the month of November 2021 at Glomel ”, announces Yoann Escats.

First evidence of the presence of humans

Already, many remains have already been found by researchers : “This shows an occupation of the territory over more than 5,000 years, from the end of Prehistory, from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. For the first time, scientists have been able to identify a succession of occupations in this sector of Central Brittany over an area of ​​7.8 hectares. The main witnesses to the presence of these newly sedentary men are materialized here by several heated stone structures. »These could date from around 4 000 years before our era. Circular in shape, their functions could have been culinary or artisanal. “Carbon-14 analyzes will help refine this dating. The ages of metals are also represented ”, indicates the person in charge of the excavations.

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Excavation of heated stone structures, dating from the Neolithic (dating in progress).
Excavation of heated stone structures, dating from the Neolithic (dating in progress). (© Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap)

Bronze Age funerary monuments

Three funerary monuments have been unearthed: two circular enclosures dating from the Late Bronze Age (around -1400 to -800 BC) and a square enclosure from the end of the First Iron Age or the beginning of the Second Iron Age. (around -450 BC). “The latter included cremation graves. The urns have all been carefully sampled and will be finely excavated in the laboratory by an archaeo-anthropologist ”, underlines Yoann Escats.

Aerial view of a square-shaped funeral enclosure dating from the Iron Age (-800 BC - end of the 1st century AD).  This monument yielded about fifteen burials for cremation.
Aerial view of a square-shaped funeral enclosure dating from the Iron Age (-800 BC – end of the 1st century AD). This monument yielded about fifteen burials for cremation. (© Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap)
Overhead view of a circular burial enclosure from the Bronze Age (-2500 to -800 BC).
Overhead view of a circular burial enclosure from the Bronze Age (-2500 to -800 BC). (© Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap)

The presence of buildings identified

Thanks to the traces left in the ground by old post anchor pits, the presence of buildings has been identified. “Usually made up of wooden frames and mud and plant walls, these buildings do indeed disappear over time. But the sediment retains the imprint of their implantation, ”explains Yoann Escats.

Gallo-Roman development?

A geomorphologist is also carrying out a study to try to understand the architecture and organization of these funerary monuments through the study of sediments. “The first observations made it possible to identify a network of parcel ditches which reveal a real development of the territory during the Gallic (between -450 before JC and -52 before JC) and Roman periods (between -52 before JC and 496 after JC) . These remains are probably to be put in relation with two large ditched enclosures, already known from aerial surveys, which could correspond to farms, ”specifies the specialist. These two habitats will be studied in the coming weeks.

Habitats from several periods have been recorded, ranging from the Neolithic (around 4000 BC) to the Bronze Age (between -2200 and -800 BC). Others could be linked to two Gallic and ancient farms located north of the right-of-way. A medieval occupation of the sector is envisaged thanks to the identification of ditches delimiting old plots.

“The rest of the excavation and the studies carried out by various specialists will clarify the nature of these discoveries and the lifestyles of the inhabitants of this sector, over more than 5,000 years. “

Yoann EscatsResponsible for archaeological research at Inrap

The section between Gomes and Merdrignac, to the west, will also be the subject of an archaeological diagnosis June 2021. This analysis time should last three months.

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