The Neolithic standing stones of Carnac

The Neolithic standing stones of Carnac

In Carnac you'll find one of the most incredible collections of standing stones in Europe.

The Carnac Stones form a protected site of megalithic monuments just outside the lovely little village of Carnac, towards the south of Brittany. It is the largest collection of its kind in the world and was erected between 5000 and 2500 BCE, when more than 3000 standing stones were hewn from local rock and positioned by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany.

This extensive site is an incredible one to see – it comprises both dolmens (multistone clusters) and menhirs (single standing stones) positioned in various arrangements.

There is a fan-like cluster called the Kermario alignment and a stone circle that forms part of the Kerlescan alignments. But the most dramatic of the group is the Le Ménec alignments. These are 11 straight rows that stretch outwards for the length of two fields. Fencing keeps visitors from getting too close to the stones, for conservation reasons, but you'll be close enough to enjoy a good view of everything.

What are they doing here?

While it was once thought that the stones may have been placed for some form of Druidic or Celtic worship, evidence has since concluded that they have been around for far longer than this. It is possible, however, that the Celts used the stones for their own purposes and rituals when their time came. In the 20th century Alexander Thom produced a number of papers on the alignments and their astronomical significance, exploring the idea that they were placed according to the movements of the sun.

Such a strange and interesting site is bound to have its fair share of stories, and many myths are associated with the alignments and their purpose.

A local legend has it that the reason the menhirs of Le Ménec stand in such perfectly straight lines is that they are all that remain of a Roman legion. The legion was said to have been in pursuit of Saint Cornelius, who had fled from Rome, and were turned to stone by Merlin. Here they all still stand in formation.

Some of the structures seem also to have funerary purposes, such as that of the huge monument of Saint-Michel, which is a tumulus that stands just to the east of the village of Carnac and acted as a tomb. Today you can see the chapel that stands atop the mound of earth; it is a replica of the original that had been built in the 17th century but later got destroyed.

What else is there to see?

Close to the site of the stones you will find the Museum of Prehistory of Carnac. There is a great collection in here of interesting discoveries from the site. The museum is located on the D119 in Carnac and is open most days during the high season, but closes for the winter. Tickets are €6 and you can find out more on the website.

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