Statues-Menhirs  – The first-life size sculptures of human beings

Statues-Menhirs are sandstone standing stones (menhirs) that were carved about 5000 years ago.

Statues-Menhirs - Aveyron - Pousthomy

They are also known as slabs or anthropomorphic steles.

They are the earliest life-size representation of human beings known to date!

Nearly 100 of these megaliths were found in the Monts de Lacaune in Southern Aveyron.

We know nothing of the tribes who lived in this region between 3000BC and 2000BC.

All we know is that they erected the first megaliths.

The most famous of these statues is the Lady of Saint-Sernin, discovered in 1888.

It is exhibited in the Fenaille Museum in Rodez along with 17 other statues-menhirs.

This collection is the largest and oldest of its kind in France.

Statues-Menhirs’ characteristics

These statues-menhirs are engraved or carved in low-relief on both sides.

Statues-Menhirs - Aveyron
Statues-Menhirs in situ

They represent the bodies of women and men wearing clothes, jewellery and weapons.

It appears that the monolithic blocks were selected for their elongated form.

They are indeed always rounded or oval at the level of the head.

The size of the megaliths found in Aveyron varies from 1m to 2m in height.

However, those found in the department of Tarn are often taller.

The tallest of the statues-menhirs is indeed 4.50m.

They are also the first known life-size representation of men and women.

Faces are always carved with eyes and nose, however, most don’t have a mouth or ears.

Most have tattoo or scarification marks.

Their hair is represented at the back of the megalith.

Fenaille Museum - Lady of Saint-Sernin statue-menhir
Lady of Saint-Sernin statue-menhir

Women generally have ponytails, however, men wear their hair loose.

The arms end with hands and fingers which are in proportion with the statues.

However, the legs, feet and toes are always shortened.

The design of the clothes is basic, but the folds of the fabric is often represented with simple lines.

Characters always wear belts with buckles, necklaces and weapons.

Bows, arrows and axes are also represented over the clothes.

The female representations have well marked breasts and wear necklaces.

They could therefore be easily associated with the cult of the Mother Goddess.

All wear an unidentifiable object in the form of a Y around the neck, perhaps a necklace of amulets…

The male statues-menhirs always carry weapons and an unidentifiable object worn with a shoulder strap across the chest.

This object may be a flint dagger placed in a long case.

Meaning and purpose of the statues-menhirs?

Statues-Menhirs - Aveyron - Statues-Menhirs - Aveyron - in situ
Statues-Menhirs – Aveyron – in situ

The megaliths were all erected at specific locations, generally isolated.

They could therefore be linked to religious or funeral rites or perhaps to the worship of ancestors.

However, no oral tradition has survived the centuries as to their meaning or use, so their mystery remains unsolved.

They are, however, an integral part of the landscape and heritage of Aveyron.

Aveyron department

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