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Sketch showing the evolution of Armorican dolmenic tombs.

The entrance passage to the chamber of Mané-Lud at Locmariaquer.

The Kerlescan lateral entrance tomb at Carnac at the beginning of the 20th century: the very long chamber is already broken, showing an elongated mound bordered by a series of standing slabs.

Easy access to the chamber shows that it was used as a multiple tomb.

Many types of tombs belong to this group, especially in the Morbihan.

This classification is based on the shape of the chamber, but full interpretation would require an assessment of their external structures as well.

Passage tombs

They are the oldest and most varied.

Single chamber tombs

The first appeared by the middle of the 5th millennium B.C. The chambers are circular, polygonal or quadrangular (the latter appear to be slightly more recent). The narrow entrance passage with low ceilings, can be either short (less than 2m) or very long (more than 13m at Gavrinis), with a whole range of possible lengths in between.

Subdivided chamber tombs

They illustrate the division of the funeral area, which appeared as early as the end of the 5th millennium. There are many variants, often linked to limited geographic areas, with different sub-types:

  • double chamber (i.e. with an antechamber),
  • chamber with side cell(s), grafted on the main chamber,
  • partitioned chamber (subdivided by internal walls),
  • transepted tomb (with complementary cells leading to the passage).

Elongated chamber tombs

They appear later (end of the 4th or beginning of the 3rd millennium) and indicate a desire to enlarge the funeral area. Two distinct architectural families can be distinguished:

  • the small group consisting of "elbow" or "angled " graves, which can only be found on the Morbihan coast, is the result of the sideways lengthening of the chamber;
  • tombs with a trapezoidal chamber are characterised by axial lengthening which tends to blur the difference between passage and chamber. If the process is carried further, it results in "V-shaped" graves (which in fact already belong to the next category).

Funeral galleries

In this more recent group (3rd millennium), elongated chambers are combined with a smaller access structure, reduced to a small vestibule.

Some of them had a cella, thus allowing the dead to be worshipped without anyone entering the funeral room. Contrary to other tombs, these are widely located in the hinterland.

They belong to three distinct architectural families:

  • "V-shaped" tombs, which result from the evolution of trapezoidal chamber tombs,
  • lateral entrance tombs, with a forecourt grafted onto one of the largest side walls of the chamber and which share a number of features with Dutch monuments (the 'Hunebetten'),
  • gallery graves, almost regular in width, as in lateral entrance tombs, but with an axial entrance as in "V-shaped" tombs. They are the most common in this group. They can be found everywhere in Brittany and are related to the gallery graves around Paris.