Megalithic art is a well-known feature of the Neolithic chambered tombs of Atlantic Europe. The surviving evidence consists largely of carved motifs, and, until recently, painted megalithic art was thought to be restricted to western Iberia. Recent discoveries have expanded that distribution, assisted by new methods of detection, recording and analysis. The discovery of painted motifs at Barnenez in Brittany, reported here, marks a breakthrough and raises the possibility that many megalithic tombs in north-west Europe were once coloured as well as carved. Similarities in motifs and techniques also point to the likelihood of direct connections with Iberia.