Tourists heave menhirs to solve ancient mystery

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In the Asterix comic books you only had to drink a magic potion to be able to lift a menhir. But in reality you need vast quantities of muscle power and lots of patience.

That is what a group of 30 holiday-makers found out when they heaved on a rope to move a 4.2-tonne stone block as part of an experiment probing the mysterious history of megaliths in France's northwestern Brittany region.

"It's experimental archeology," explained Cyril Chaigneau, an architect who runs a programme on the megalithic sites of Petit Mont and Gavrinis in the Gulf of Morbihan.
"We're trying to find out how men from the neolithic period moved enormous blocks across distances of 10 kilometres (six miles) or more," he said.

In the Asterix series, the eponymous Gaul's sidekick Obelix was a menhir delivery man in the Roman era of the first century BC, but in reality the region's megaliths were carved much further back in prehistory.

No-one today knows how or why the sedentary tribes that settled 7,000 years ago on this stretch of the Atlantic coast transported and then erected the menhirs, dolmens and other huge stone steles that dot the Breton landscape....

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