This article explores the use of axe motifs within a form of carved schematic art unique to the megalithic monuments near Carnac, southern Brittany, France.

Hafted AxeA diagram found on the underside of the capstone of a chambered dolmen called Kercado (see figure 1) appears to hold metrological and astronomical meanings. Classified as a type of AXE, local axe motifs are said to have three distinct forms (a) triangular blades, (b) hafted axes and (c) the Mane Ruthual type [Twohig, 1981[1]]. 

Types b and c are often found in the singular on the undersides to roof slabs and in the case of form (b), the hafted axe, I have attributed its display below the roof slab of Table des Marchands at Locmariaquer (inset right) as being used to represent the north pole between 5000 and 4000 BC, at a time when there was no star near to the pole itself. The abstract point of the north pole, the rotational axis of the earth, is shown as a loop attached to the base of the axe haft, whilst the axe head then represented a chosen circumpolar star, as this rotates counter-clockwise in the northern sky, at the fixed distance of the haft from the pole itself. Note how compatible this idea of an axe ploughing the northern skies is to our own circumpolar constellation, The Plough. Note also that the eastern horizon moves through the equatorial stars at the same angular rate as the marker star moves around the north pole.

Kercado plain

Figure 1 The Kercado Axe Diagram (E.S. Twohig, 1981)

The Saros cycle is made up of 19 eclipse years of 364.62 days whilst the Metonic cycle is made up of 19 solar years of 365.2422 days. This unusually small number of years, NINETEEN, arises because of a close coupling of most of the major parameters of the Earth-Sun-Moon system which acts as a discrete system, a system also commensurate with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Venus. It is this type of coherent cyclicity which lies at the centre of what the megalithic were able to achieve through day-inch or similar counting of visible time periods and comparing of counts using geometric means. [see my books, especially Sacred Number and the Lords of Time, for a fuller discussion].

It would have been relatively easy for megaithic astronomy to notice that eclipses occur in slots separated by eclipse seasons of 173.3 days and also to see that the difference between lunar and solar years resolves over the 19 year of the Metonic so that lunar orbits, lunar months, the starry sky and the rotation of the earth provide a close repetition of alignments over 19 solar years which equal 235 lunar months and 254 lunar orbits. The Saros period is 223 lunar months long and is therefore one lunar year of 12 months short of the Metonic of 235 lunar months.

The situation in the last year of the Metonic is therefore identical but (symmetrically) in-reverse to the first year, on a continuous but discrete basis [that is, providing you start counting on an eclipse]. The Saros then ends12 months before the Metonic so that the Saros is 18 solar years long plus, quite closely, the 10.8 day difference between the lunar and solar years. This phenomenon is clearly presented on Gavrinis' stone R8, in the middle "register", such engraved art at Gavrinis dividing their stone pallettes into different elements of a related summary of astronomical phenomena seen through the tools of a megalithic science involving counting, alignment, geometry, and metrology.

NodalPeriod R8

A section of Gavrinis Stone R8 clearly shows the Saros and Metonic Cycles
as ending between 18 and 19 years less the difference between the lunar and solar years

One test of validity for any interpretation of a megalithic monument, as an astronomically inspired work, is whether the act of interpretation has revealed something true but unknown about astronomical time periods. The Gavrinis stone L9, now digitally scanned, indicates a way of counting the 18 year Saros period (within which almost identical eclipses re-occur) using triangular counters  founded on the three solar year relationship of just over 37 lunar months, a major subject (around 4000 BC) of the Le Manio Quadrilateral, 4 Km west of Gavrinis. The Saros period is a whole number, 223, of lunar months because the moon must be in the same phase (full or new) as the earlier eclipse for an eclipse to be possible. 

Stone L9 fromWeb


I recently came across Rock Art and Ritual by Brian Smith and Alan Walker, (subtitled Interpreting the Prehistoric landscapes of the North York Moors. Stroud: History Press 2008. 38.). It tells the story: Following a wildfire,  thought ecologically devastating, of many square miles of the North Yorkshire Moors, those interested in its few decorated stones headed out to see how these antiquities had fared.


Fire had revealed many more stones carrying rock art or in organised groups. An urgent archaeological effort would be required before the inevitable regrowth of vegetation.

BrowMoor decorated 1 Negative

Figure 1 Neolithic stone from Fylingdales Moor | Credit: Graham Lee, North York Moors National Park Authority. From <this site>