In the NW of France. Carnacs monuments date back to prehistoric times and are a popular tourist attractions. They provide insight into the ancient history, the neolithic age, and culture of the region.
These monuments are among the most famous and extensive megalithic sites in the world and are estimated to date back to the Neolithic period, and around 6500 to 4000 years ago.
Breton: ‘Steudadoù Karnag’ are the Carnac stones
From local granite. Ancient ancestors, the neolithic people erected more than 3000 stones. Forming the greatest known collection in the world. Probably around 4500 to 3300 BC.
Different people have different stories
Some associate the stones with 1st century AD roman, and later Christian occupations. Including that soldiers were turned to stone. In pursuit of the pope. More commonly, local tradition claims. A legion was turned to stone by the popular wizard Merlin. From King Arthur legend. We don’t know. It could have been ice age or mesolithic hunters that moved and built some of the stones. Even a combination of all 3. The questions of the carnac stones are still being debated.
Currently, at, and around the main site. The 3 major groups of stone rows are: Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan
Ménec alignments have eleven rows of menhirs. 1,165 by 100 metres; or 3,822 by 328 feet
Some considered stone circles made at either end. Especially in the west. The largest stones are 13 feet or 4 meters. It lowers a bit in the middle and rises again in the extreme eastern end.
Kermario alignment is 10 columns. Spread about 1300 meters or 4300 feet long
More of a fan like layout. 1029 stones are found in 10 columns. It is also believed a stone circle was here. In the east. Revealed by satellite photography.
Kerlescan alignments is 13 lines. With total length around 800 meters (or, 2600 ft)
A smaller group of 555 stones. Exists further to the east of the other two
sites. The stones here also vary in size from about 80cm (or 2 foot 7 inches) to 4 meters, or 13 feet.
Petit-Ménec alignments are much smaller and covered in the woods
Tumuli are mounds of earth built up over a grave or passage. Often with neolithic artifacts.
Three are known ‘Carnacéen tumuli’: Saint-Michel, Tumiac and Mané-er-Hroëk. from the Carnac and Morbihan area. From around maybe 7000 years ago. Containing a burial chamber, usually one individual, callaïs jewelry, stone arm rings and polished stone axe heads from the Italian alps. Because jade is a hard stone. The axe heads 46 cm in length. Would have taken over one thousand hours to produce.
Did you know? Grave 43 of the Varna necropolis, also contained an Alpine jade axe head.
Saint-Michel is a tumulus constructed between around 7000 and 5400 years ago
At its base 125 by 60 m or 410 by 197 ft; and, is 12 m (39 ft) high. To produce. It required 35,000 cubic metres (46,000 cu yd) of stones and earth. Large jade axes, pottery, callaïs jewlery were found here. Much of which is held at the museum prehistory of Carnac. It was excavated down almost 30 feet.
With its known neolithic and prehistoric significance. A chapel was built on top of the Tumulus in 1663. 150 years later. It was rebuilt. But destroyed again in 1923. The current building is an identical reconstruction of the 1663 chapel, built in 1926.
Tumiac is known as Caesars mound because of its location as a observation tower during the Veneti war in 2079 years ago
In the Rhuys peninsula, Arzon. South of the Gulf of Morbihan. In 1853 archaeologists excavated the site. Carbon 14 dated to 4790 or 3530 BC. The tumulus, elliptical and circular in shape. Is made u of layers of clay. It is 50 meters wide and 15 meters in height. It contained several rectangular burial chambers. With monolithic supports and quartz slabs. It also had jadeite axes. Firbolite azes and callaïs beads. A great number of them.
Mané-er-Hroëk is a rectangular burial vault of about 5m by 3m. Covered with two slabs. On a 100x60mx8m mound.
Many stone axes, and jewelry including callaïs were found here. Its modern entrance is an addition.
Dolmens are Er-Roc’h-Feutet, La madeleine, Kercado, Mané Brizil, Kerlescan, Mané-Kerioned, Crucuno and Crucuno stone rectangle
An enormous cover stone covers the chamber, and the passageway still has its capstones. Near La Madeleine.
La Madeleine is 12x5m with a broken capstone
Kercado is almost 100 feet wide. It was previously surrounded by stone circle
Down its 21 foot main passageway. Neophite gems, beads, human and animal teeth and numerous artifacts were found. Believed to be constructed around 4600 BC.
A roughly rectangular mound, with a capstone remaining, and entry from the south.
On a small hill, has two separate chambers.
Mané-Kerioned is a unique group of 3 dolmens. Once covered by a tumulus.
Crucuno is a classic dolmen. 1.8 meter pillars supporting a 40 ton tablestone
Crucuno stone rectangle has 21 menhirs. From about 3 to 8 feet height
Other menhirs, and formations that do not fit into categories
Manio quadrilateral, Is 121 feet long and 23-33 feet wide
Believed to have a central mound. Or, originally be a “tertre tumulus”.
Manio giant is near the quadrilateral. A single massive menhir
Over 6.5 m or 21 feet tall. It overlooks the Kerlescan alignment
In 1796, La Tour d’Auvergne attributed the stones to druidic gatherings.
Others said they were stars or planetary formations. And, some that they were used for workout, and team building exercises.
In 1834 Englishmen Francis Ronalds and Alexander Blair drew them. In Sketches at Carnac (Brittany). A popular book for the time.
Miln and Le Rouzic. The Musée de Préhistoire
In the 1860s, extensive excavation was performed. James Miln (1819–1881), a Scottish archaeologist and historian. Was reporting that by then fewer than 700 of the 3,000 stones were still standing, and that the sites should be further investigated. Eventually he engaged Zacharie Le Rouzic (1864–1939), a local boy. As his assistant. The Musée de Préhistoire is now named in boths honour. Displaying the ‘largest collection of prehistoric exhibits’. Will over 6600 displays, from 136 sites.
The exact purpose and cultural significance of Carnacs megalithic monuments remain topics of scholarly study and debate. They’re a testament to the skills and beliefs of the prehistoric people who constructed them. It continues to attract tourists, and historians from around the world. Interested in understanding our historical and cultural significance.
Bibliography: “Megaliths of Carnac: Introduction” (http://menhirs.tripod.com/intro.html)
“Carnac Stones, Brittany” (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/carnac-stones.htm). Sacred Destinations Travel Guide.
Laporte, Luc; Roux, Charles-Tanguy Le (2005). Bâtisseurs du Néolithique (https://halshs.archives-
ouvertes.fr/halshs-00279992) (in French). Maison des Roches.
Mens, Emmanuel (2015). “Refitting megaliths in western France”. Antiquity. 82 (315): 25–36.
S2CID 163056484 (https://api.semanticscholar.org/CorpusID:163056484). ProQuest 217542367
“Le Musée de Préhistoire à Carnac” (https://web.archive.org/web/20060517075032/http://www.mu
“Office de Tourisme de Carnac” (https://web.archive.org/web/20060703063525/http://www.ot-carnac.fr/version_anglaise/histoire_alignement.php)