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Carnac stones

carnac stones, carnac stones from space
The Carnac stones Breton: Steudadoù Karnag are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites around the village of Carnac in Brittany, consisting of alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs More than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre/proto-Celtic people of Brittany, and form the largest such collection in the world1 Most of the stones are within the Breton village of Carnac, but some to the east are within La Trinité-sur-Mer The stones were erected at some stage during the Neolithic period, probably around 3300 BCE, but some may date to as early as 4500 BCE2

Although the stones date from 4500 BCE, modern myths were formed which resulted from 1st century AD Roman and later Christian occupations, such as Saint Cornelius a Christian myth associated with the stones held that they were pagan soldiers in pursuit of Pope Cornelius when he turned them to stone345 Brittany has its own local versions of the Arthurian cycle Local tradition claims that the reason they stand in such perfectly straight lines is that they are a Roman legion turned to stone by Merlin

In recent centuries, many of the sites have been neglected, with reports of dolmens being used as sheep shelters, chicken sheds or even ovens6 Even more commonly, stones have been removed to make way for roads, or as building materials The continuing management of the sites remains a controversial topic17


  • 1 Alignments
    • 11 Ménec alignments
      • 111 Kermario alignment
      • 112 Kerlescan alignments
      • 113 Petit-Ménec alignments
    • 12 Tumuli
    • 13 Dolmens
    • 14 Other formations
  • 2 Excavation and analysis
    • 21 Miln and Le Rouzic
    • 22 Other theories
  • 3 Management
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
    • 51 Bibliography
    • 52 Notes
  • 6 External links
    • 61 Online maps


There are three major groups of stone rows — Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan — which may have once formed a single group, but have been split up as stones were removed for other purposes

Model of the Ménec alignment

Ménec alignmentsedit

Stones in the Ménec alignment

Eleven converging rows of menhirs stretching for 1,165 by 100 metres 3,822 by 328 feet There are what Alexander Thom considered to be the remains of stone circles at either end According to the tourist office there is a "cromlech containing 71 stone blocks" at the western end and a very ruined cromlech at the eastern end The largest stones, around 4 metres 13 feet high, are at the wider, western end; the stones then become as small as 06 metres 2 feet 0 inches high along the length of the alignment before growing in height again toward the extreme eastern end

Kermario alignmentedit

Model of the Kermario alignment Stones in the Kermario alignment

This fan-like layout recurs a little further along to the east in the Kermario House of the Dead8 alignment It consists of 1029 stones9 in ten columns, about 1,300 m 4,300 ft in lengthcitation needed A stone circle to the east end, where the stones are shorter, was revealed by aerial photography10

Kerlescan alignmentsedit

Model of the Kerlescan alignment

A smaller group of 555 stones, further to the east of the other two sites It is composed of 13 lines with a total length of about 800 metres 2,600 ft, ranging in height from 80 cm 2 ft 7 in to 4 m 13 ft11 At the extreme west, where the stones are tallest, there is a stone circle which has 39 stones There may also be another stone circle to the northcitation needed

Petit-Ménec alignmentsedit

A much smaller group, further east again of Kerlescan, falling within the commune of La Trinité-sur-Mer These are now set in woods, and most are covered with moss and ivy12


There are several tumuli, mounds of earth built up over a grave In this area, they generally feature a passage leading to a central chamber which once held neolithic artefacts

Tumulus of Saint-Michel Saint-Michel Main article: Saint-Michel tumulus The tumulus of Saint-Michel was constructed between 5000 BC and 3400 BC At its base it is 125 by 60 m 410 by 197 ft, and is 12 m 39 ft high It required 35,000 cubic metres 46,000 cu yd of stone and earth Its function was the same as that of the pyramids of Egypt: a tomb for the members of the ruling class It contained various funerary objects, such as 15 stone chests, pottery, jewellery, most of which are currently held by the Museum of Prehistory of Carnac13 It was excavated in 1862 by René Galles with a series of vertical pits, digging down 8 m 26 ft Le Rouzic also excavated it between 1900 and 1907 discovering the tomb and the stone chests14 A chapel was built on top in 1663 but was rebuilt in 1813, before being destroyed in 1923 The current building is an identical reconstruction of the 1663 chapel, built in 1926 Moustoir 47°36′43″N 3°03′39″W / 476119°N 30608°W / 476119; -30608 15

Also known as Er Mané, it is a chamber tomb 85 m 279 ft long, 35 m 115 ft wide, and 5 m 16 ft high It has a dolmen at the west end, and two tombs at the east end13 A small menhir, approximately 3 m 10 ft high, is nearby


The dolmen Er-Roc'h-Feutet An inscription next to every standing stone formation proclaims ownership by the state of France

There are several dolmens scattered around the area These dolmens are generally considered to have been tombs; however, the acidic soil of Brittany has eroded away the bones They were constructed with several large stones supporting a capstone, then buried under a mound of earth In many cases, the mound is no longer present, sometimes due to archeological excavation, and only the large stones remain, in various states of ruin

Er-Roc'h-Feutet North, near the Chapelle de La Madeleine Has a completely covered roof La Madeleine 47°37′15″N 3°02′54″W / 476208°N 30482°W / 476208; -30482 16 A large dolmen measuring 12 by 5 m 39 by 16 ft, with a 5 m 16 ft long broken capstone6 It is named after the nearby Chapelle de La Madeleine, which is still used Dolmen of Kercado Though smaller than St Michel, older by many centuries before 4800 BC Kercado A rare dolmen still covered by its original cairn South of the Kermario alignments, it is 25 to 30 metres 82–98 ft wide, 5 m 16 ft high, and has a small menhir on top Previously surrounded by a circle of small menhirs 4 m 13 ft out,14 the main passage is 65 m 21 ft long and leads to a large chamber where numerous artifacts were found, including axes, arrowheads, some animal and human teeth, some pearls and sherds, and 26 beads of a unique bluish Nephrite gem It has some Megalithic art carved on its inner surfaces in the form of serpentines and a human-sized double-axe symbol carved in the underside of its main roof slab In ancient cultures, the axe and more precisely the bi-pennis used to represent the lightning powers of divinity It was constructed around 4600 BC and used for approximately 3,000 years14 Mané Brizil Kerlescan A roughly rectangular mound, with only one capstone remaining It is aligned east-to-west, with a passage entrance to the south17 Kermarquer On a small hill, has two separate chambers Mané-Kerioned Pixies' mound or Grotte de Grionnec14 A group of three dolmens with layout unique in Brittany,14 once covered by a tumulus Whereas most groups of dolmens are parallel, these are arranged in a horseshoe The largest of the three is at the east, 11 metres 36 ft13 The Crucuno dolmen Crucuno A "classic" dolmen, with a 40-tonne 44-short-ton, 76-metre 24 ft 11 in tablestone resting on pillars roughly 18 m 5 ft 11 in high Prior to 1900, it was connected by a passage making it 24 m 79 ft long14 Crucuno stone rectangle 47°37′30″N 3°07′18″W / 47625°N 3121667°W / 47625; -3121667 A classic 3, 4, 5 rectangle of 21 menhirs varying in height from 091 metres 30 ft to 24 metres 79 ft that is aligned along its diagonal to the midsummer sunrise Alexander Thom suggested it measured forty by thirty of his megalithic yards18

Other formationsedit

The Manio quadrilateral arrangement The Manio "Giant"

There are some individual menhirs and at least one other formation which do not fit into the above categories

Manio quadrilateral An arrangement of stones to form the perimeter of a large rectangle Originally a "tertre tumulus" with a central mound, it is 37 m 121 ft long, and aligned to east of northeast The quadrilateral is 10 m 33 ft wide to the east, but only 7 m 23 ft wide at the west19 Manio giant 47°36′12″N 3°03′22″W / 476034°N 3056°W / 476034; -3056 20

Near the quadrilateral is a single massive menhir, now known as the "Giant" Over 65 m 21 ft tall, it was re-erected around 1900 by Zacharie Le Rouzic,14 and overlooks the nearby Kerlescan alignment21

Excavation and analysisedit

Large upright in the Ménec alignment

From the 1720s increasing interest was shown in these features22 In 1796, for example, La Tour d'Auvergne attributed them to druidic gatherings14 In 1805, A Maudet de Penhoët claimed they represented stars in the sky14

Englishmen Francis Ronalds and Alexander Blair made a detailed survey of the stones in 183423 Ronalds created the first accurate drawings of many of them with his patented perspective tracing instrument, which were printed in a book Sketches at Carnac Brittany in 183424

Miln and Le Rouzicedit

The first extensive excavation was performed in the 1860s by Scottish antiquary James Miln 1819–1881, who reported that by then fewer than 700 of the 3,000 stones were still standing25 Towards 1875, Miln engaged a local boy, Zacharie Le Rouzic fr 1864–1939, as his assistant, and Zacharie learnt archaeology on the job After Miln's death, he left the results of his excavations to the town of Carnac, and the James Miln Museum was established there by his brother Robert to house the artefacts Zacharie became the director of the Museum and, although self-taught, became an internationally recognised expert on megaliths in the region He too left the results of his work to the town, and the museum is now named Le Musée de Préhistoire James Miln – Zacharie le Rouzic2627

Other theoriesedit

The Ménec alignments of some 1,100 stones in 11 columns

In 1887, H de Cleuziou argued for a connection between the rows of stones and the directions of sunsets at the solstices14

Among more recent studies, Alexander Thom worked with his son Archie from 1970 to 1974 to carry out a detailed survey of the Carnac alignments, and produced a series of papers on the astronomical alignments of the stones as well as statistical analysis supporting his concept of the megalithic yard2628 Thom's megalithic yard has been challenged2930

There are also general theories on the use of the stones as astronomical observatories, as has been claimed for Stonehenge According to one such theory, the massive menhir at nearby Locmariaquer was linked to the alignments for such a purpose11


Sheep grazing around the Kerlescan alignment, part of a new management strategy

The Musée de Préhistoire James Miln – Zacharie le Rouzic is at the centre of conserving and displaying the artefacts from the area27 It also contains the "world's largest collection of prehistorical exhibits"13 with over 6,600 prehistoric objects from 136 different sites

The monuments themselves were listed and purchased by the State at the start of the 20th century to protect them against quarrymen, and while this was successful at the time, in the mid century redevelopment, changes to agricultural practices and increasing tourism bringing visitors to the stones led to rapid deterioration The Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication Heritage Ministry re-examined the issue from 1984, and subsequently set up the ‘Mission Carnac’ 1991 with the aim of rehabilitating and developing the alignments This involved restricting public access, launching a series of scientific and technical studies, and producing a plan for conservation and development in the area31

As with the megalithic structure of Stonehenge in England, management of the stones can be controversial Since 1991, the main groups of stone rows have been protected from the public by fences "to help vegetation growth",13 preventing visits except by organised tours They are open during Winter, however32 When James Miln studied the stones in the 1860s, he reported that fewer than 700 of the 3,000 stones were still standing, and subsequent work during the 1930s and 1980s using bulldozers rearranged the stones, re-erecting some, to make way for roads or other structures In 2002, protesters invaded the site, opening the padlocks and allowing tourists free entry25 In particular, the group Collectif Holl a gevred French and Breton for "the everyone-together collective" occupied the visitor centre for the Kermario alignment, demanding an immediate stop to current management plans and local input into further plans33

In recent years, management of the site has also experimented with allowing sheep to graze among the stones, in order to keep gorse and other weeds under control34

See alsoedit

  • Prehistory of Brittany
  • Standing stones
  • Dolmen
  • Tumulus
  • Passage grave
  • Stone row
  • European Megalithic Culture
  • List of megalithic sites



  • A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany Aubrey Burl, Yale University Press 1995, ISBN 0-300-06331-8
  • Carnac: Guide pratique 2006 provided by Carnac tourist office
  • "The megaliths of Brittany" by Jacques Briard, translated by Juan-Paolo Perre, © 1997-2007, Éditions Gisserot
  • From Carnac to Callanish: the prehistoric stone rows and avenues of Britain, Ireland and Brittany Aubrey Burl, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-05575-7, 1993
  • "Standing Stones - M E g A L i T h i A - Books about megalithic sites UK version" M E g A L i T h i A 2005-07-17 Retrieved 2009-07-25 
  • Mason, Paul 15 March 2008 The Mystery of Stone Circles Heinemann-Raintree ISBN 978-1-4329-1023-5 Retrieved 25 February 2010 


  1. ^ a b "Megaliths of Carnac: Introduction" menhirstripodcom Retrieved 2010-01-07 
  2. ^ "Carnac Stones, Brittany" Sacred Destinations Travel Guide Retrieved 2006-05-17 
  3. ^ "TheRecordcom - Travel - Marvelling at Carnac's stones" Newstherecordcom 2008-03-08 Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  4. ^ "France Holidays, Brittany" Franceholidayscouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  5. ^ "Why are Carnac Stones Called Megaliths" Big Site of Amazing Facts Retrieved 2010-01-07 
  6. ^ a b TheCaptain 3 January 2005 "La Madeleine dolmen Burial Chamber Dolmen" The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map Retrieved 2006-05-17 
  7. ^ "Megaliths of Carnac: Standing Stones / Menhirs" megalithssherwoodonlinede Retrieved 2010-01-07 
  8. ^ "Mané Kermario" Retrieved 2006-05-17 
  9. ^ Holidays in Brittany Archived October 27, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Kermario" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  11. ^ a b in French http://wwwdinosoriacom/dolmen_menhirhtm
  12. ^ "Petit Ménec" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Office de Tourisme de Carnac" Webarchiveorg 2006-07-03 Archived from the original on 2006-07-03 Retrieved 2009-07-25 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Annick Jacq "Carnac" Bretagne-celticcom Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  15. ^ "The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map: Moustoir tumulus Moustoir Er Mané Chambered Tomb" Megalithiccouk Retrieved 2009-06-23 
  16. ^ "The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map: La Madeleine Carnac Burial Chamber Dolmen" Megalithiccouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  17. ^ "Kerlescan" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  18. ^ Alexander Thom; Archibald Stevenson Thom 1978 Megalithic remains in Britain and Brittany Oxford University Press US ISBN 978-0-19-858156-7 Retrieved 30 April 2011 
  19. ^ "Manio Quadrilateral" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  20. ^ "The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map: Geant du Manio Le Manio Standing Stone Menhir" Megalithiccouk Retrieved 2009-06-23 
  21. ^ "Géant de Manio" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  22. ^ Astonishing Heaps of Stones
  23. ^ Ronalds, BF 2016 Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph London: Imperial College Press ISBN 978-1-78326-917-4 
  24. ^ Blair and Ronalds 1836 "Sketches at Carnac Brittany in 1834" Google Books Retrieved 22 June 2016 
  25. ^ a b The Independent: Bretons fight for Carnac to stay in the Stone Age
  26. ^ a b Carnac — Megalithic alignments of standing stones
  27. ^ a b Musée de Préhistoire James Miln – Zacharie le Rouzic
  28. ^ Wood, John Edwin 1978 Sun, Moon and Standing Stones paperback 1980 ed Oxford: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-285089-X 
  29. ^ Heggie, Douglas C 1981 Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in North-west Europe Thames and Hudson p 58 ISBN 0-500-05036-8 
  30. ^ Ruggles, Clive 1999 Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland Yale University Press p 83 ISBN 978-0-300-07814-5 
  31. ^ The Carnac Project
  32. ^ "Carnac" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 
  33. ^ in French http://nopasaransamizdatnet/articlephp3id_article=662
  34. ^ "Menec West" Mywebtiscalicouk Retrieved 2009-05-05 

External linksedit

  • in French Carnac official website
  • in French Official website of Prehistory Museum of Carnac
  • Carnac at france-for-visitorscom includes map
  • Online photo exhibition of the Carnac region's megaliths includes the giant menhir of Loqmariaquer, and marked and inscribed stones
  • An amateur's guide to visiting the Carnac stones by car
  • The megaliths of Carnac: Dolmen / passage graves — comprehensive list of dolmens in area with photos
  • The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map — GPS coordinates of megalithic sites
  • menhirslibresorg — website for a protest group

Online mapsedit

  • http://memberstripodcom/Menhirs/dolmenhtml  — main sites in the Morbihan area
  • http://wwwbretagne-celticcom/carte_carnachtm  — historical map
  • http://wwwmegalithiacom/brittany/carnac/  — basic arrangement of the main alignments

Coordinates: 47°35′47″N 3°03′58″W / 475965°N 30660°W / 475965; -30660

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