Near the little and charming seaside town of Carnac in Brittany, stands the World largest collection of megalithic stones. More than 3,000 stones have been erected in Carnac. There are so many that you can barely distinguish them in the distance, when standing at the edge of the sites.
It is impressive and intriguing to see and it becomes quite fascinating when you dig into the theories and legends surrounding such stones.
The Kermalio alignment
The Carnac stones are very old but how old is that?
The stones were erected sometimes between 4500BC to 3300 BC.
At first these dates probably means very little to you. they surely meant very little to me. By this I imply that it’s so old, it’s hard to relate. And if your brain has put into a little locked box everything that you were taught in history classes, then it’s probably even harder to grasp such a concept of time.
The Kermalio Dolmen (4 on the map below)
So let’s first go back in time, shall we?
4500 BC to 3300 BC is a time considered to be toward the end of the Neolithic period and more precisely the end of the stone age. People at that time weren’t Neanderthals, they were Homo Sapiens who looked like you and I. Neolithic isn’t that old!
However, they lived differently and I’m not talking about wifi and selfies. The Stone age period preceded the Bronze/Iron age period and as the name indicate it, metal had not yet been discovered. Tools were therefore still limited to stone tools.
Want to dive into the Bronze age? Check out the Rock Carving of Tanum
People of the Neolithic period were already socially organized, usually by household or small tribes. Depending on the region and farming development, they might have had permanent or seasonal settlements and they lived in mud brick houses. The creation and use of pottery was very common.
On identifying characteristic of the Neolithic and what remains to date of such a period is the construction of elaborated tombs and stone monuments. Such monuments range from impressive alignments to dolmens and single menhirs.
Another view of the Kermalio Dolmen (4 on the map below)
What is so impressive about these stones monuments?
Apart from being very very old? Probably the lack of tools to create them. The wheel had barely been invented and wasn’t used to carry things around. Tools were only made of stone… So how did they move those stones which weighted tones? How did they raise the ones to create dolmens? How did they make the correct calculations? How did they plan those alignments?
Well to be fair, we probably do have a good idea on the how they did all this and that’s precisely why it is so impressive. So little means and yet such great achievements.
The Kermalio alignment view from the tower
Let’s put things into perspective…
In case you are not yet convinced of how extraordinary sites like Carnac are, I think that putting things into perspective in a time line might be useful.
Here is a list of great man made constructions and their approximate time of construction:
Carnac: between 4500BC to 3300 BC
Stonehenge, UK: between 3000 BC to 2000 BC
First know pyramid: 2600 BC
The Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt: 2500 BC
The Parthenon in Greece: circa 450 BC
Petra’s Treasury in Jordan: 1st century AD
Pantheon in Rome, Italy: 1st century AD
Mesa Verde in the US: from 600 AD to 1300 AD
Chichen Itza in Mexico: between 750 and 900 AD
Bagan‘s temples & pagodas in Myanmar: mostly between 11th to 13th century
Machu Picchu, Peru: 15th century
Versailles in France: 17th century
I’m not saying Carnac is the oldest man made structure in the World. The Cairn of Barnenez (4800BC) actually is, at least for now. But Carnac is surely amongst the oldest.
So what is all about?
They are numerous theories and the latest suggest that “it was a site of “passage”, a threshold, marking the gateway between two spaces, two worlds.” as you can read on the official website: www.menhirs-carnac.fr
From ancient temple, to druidic gathering site, from astronomical observatories to earthquake detector, from the hidden place of a treasure man must not see to the punishment of God, Carnac has been studied since the 18th century, theories have been forged but it’s mystery seems to remain intact.
The most probable explanation is the local legend that a Roman legion was on the march and Merlin, the great wizard, turned the soldiers into stone! Or maybe Saint Cornelius did… In any case, that is clearly my favorite and I will believe it until proven otherwise!!
If you are travelling in France and are considering a little trip to Brittany, do not miss the Carnac Stones. What ever the weather is, you will find walking around the stones quite eerie and maybe, if you are very lucky, you will see a fairy, a goblin or another mystical creature?!
The Giant of Le Ménec
Le Ménec alignment
The Technical bits:
The official website: www.menhirs-carnac.fr
Start your visit at the Maison des Mégalithes to get a map of the sites.
Guided tours are organized in the Kermario alignments. All other alignments are freely accessible.
Next head to the town of Carnac for a crepe and continue your journey to Quiberon and the wild coast…
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