Two very different interpretations of the Filitosa Menhirs of Corsica

Corsica, located in the Mediterranean Sea, is an attractive island with beautiful beaches where you can hear natives speaking Corsuan and of course, it is famous as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. There is also a lot of history and Filitosa is the archaeological site with the highest number of megalithic statues on the island. While Filitosa is famous for its standing stones, the site also contains archaeological remains from other eras, including the Neolithic and Roman periods.

The discovery of the marvelous Menhirs
Filitosa is located not far from Sollacaro, in the south of Corsica. The site is a relatively recent archaeological discovery, only identified in 1946. Charles-Antoine Cesari, who owned the land, discovered five menhirs (monolithic standing stones) in an area with named Petra zuccata. The menhirs lie on the ground covered with bushes and vegetation. At a nearby mound called Turrichju, Cesari discovered other strange relics. However, just three years later, an official, Pierre Lamotte, then Director of the Corsica Archives, visited the site. Lamotte was informed of his discoveries by Cesari and made a trip to Filitosa. No further investigation of the site was carried out in the years following Lamotte’s visit.

Filitosa Historical Monument, Corsica (Pascal Ledard/Adobe Stock)

The first archaeological work at Filitosa, directed by Roger Grosjean, was carried out in 1954. Grosjean continued this work until his death at the age of 55 in 1975. At that time, many impressive discoveries were made. Statues were made at this location and Filitosa’s reputation suffered. spread. In 1980, Filitosa was declared a ‘historic monument’. Several structures, including bars and craft centers, were built to attract tourists. The site continued to be developed over the decades, and a new archaeological museum was built in 2016.

Mysterious origin of megaliths
Archaeological evidence shows that the site of Filitosa was occupied by humans as early as the 6th millennium BC, the Early Neolithic period. People who lived in Filitosa at this time left behind artifacts such as stone tools and pottery. However, the menhir for which this site is most famous was not built at that time. In fact, these standing stones were only erected during the Bronze Age, around 1500 BC. Although megaliths can be divided into many different types, the megaliths at Filitosa are all menhirs.

The menhirs are made of granite and range in height from 2.1 m (7 ft) to 2.4 m (8 ft). In general, they can be divided into two groups – simple menhirs that are roughly shaped into a rectangular shape without additional decoration and menhirs that have human features engraved on them. One of the best examples of the latter is Menhir V, a bear that not only has a human face but also a long sword and dagger. Additionally, anatomical and clothing details can be seen on the back of this menhir.

Menhir has a face in Filitosa on the island of Corsica (Eberhard/Adobe Stock)

Unfortunately, little is known about these menhirs at Filitosa and the identity of their creators remains a mystery. We also don’t know their purpose. Archaeologists have speculated that menhirs were phallic symbols and that they were used to ritually ensure the fertility of the land. Grosjean, on the other hand, had other ideas. While these archaeologists believe that menhirs served a ceremonial purpose, he argues that it had nothing to do with fertility, but that the objects were carved in the likeness of a group of people called Torreans to magically banish these aggressive invaders.

If Grosjean’s interpretation is correct, then the menhirs failed to perform the function for which they were created. The Torreans eventually conquered Filitosa, destroyed several menhirs, and used the debris to build two towers at the site that served as their temple. These towers, with fragments of broken menhirs, can still be seen at the site today.

Visit Menhirs at Filitosa
Visitors must pay a fee to enter the archaeological site which is open from April to October. It should be noted that the menhirs are no longer in place as they have been arranged in a way that makes it more convenient for tourists to view them . According to Lonely Planet’s website, “Access is strictly controlled, so there’s nothing to see if you’re out of season.” The website also estimates that one hour is enough for visitors to explore the entire area, including the new museum.

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