Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Prehistoric Carnac

Around Brittany you come across standing stones quite frequently. They were erected in the Neolithic era which in this area dates from 5000 to 2000 BC. The Carnac alignments are probably the most famous and most impressive, with about 4000 stones spread over a four kilometre site.

scattered megaliths

The word for megalith in Breton is menhir- "men" = stone, "hir" = long or tall. In some places the stones are scattered and incomplete. In the past they were often removed for building materials or to make way for roads.

large megaliths

The stones vary in size and are roughly arranged according to size and volume.

dolmen or tomb

A dolmen - "dol" = table, "men" = stone. The structure of stones protecting the burial chamber would have been covered by earth.

As you continue along the site, the lines of stones become more obvious, though of course it does rather depend on where you start!

People are no longer allowed direct access to the stones during the summer months, hence the fences seen in the photos above. The ground was deteriorating rapidly, the plants trampled and the earth becoming bare. the stability of the menhirs was threatened. Sheep are allowed graze the enclosures and contribute to the ecological maintenance of the plant life.

As you can see, in the past, houses, even villages, were built within the alignments, and roads cross here and there.

Nevertheless, they remain an amazing sight, especially in the places where you can get a glimpse that gives you an idea of what the original extent must have been.


  1. They're fascinating things, aren't they? All the more so because of the man power it must have taken to erect them. They must have been pretty important things for people to expend so much time and energy on them.

  2. Very nice pics, and narrative. Wonderful indeed...

  3. @Solomon, yes fascinating is right. The effort involved must have been incredible, and sustained effort over a very long time.
    @Guy, many thanks!

  4. I knew of the dolmen, but had no idea there were so many menhirs. Amazing.

    Beautiful photographs

  5. I didn't realise they were closed off to the public these days - I have photos of me sitting astride a couple of the stones shown in your very photos, from around 17-20 years ago!

    One of my favourite things to do when we stayed in that region was to look out for unexpected menhirs by the side of the road - or in the middle of our campsite!

  6. This is really a marvelous site! A testimony of the past societies. would like to return in the past to know the life of people at this time! You did beautiful pictures, a.

  7. These are incredible photos... One often wonders what was really the purpose of erecting them. At least the rice terraces (in Banaue, Philippines ) which is a wonder too - because of the crudeness of equipment used in erecting them (clay and stones), have a definite purpose - to grow rice.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. @Elaine, when I first saw them years ago I had no idea either. The ones I saw were quite impressive enough but they were only a fraction of what is actually there.
    @Catherine, it's a bit of a shame really. I'd have like to have been able to get closer. But as you say, they are everywhere! Spot the menhir!
    @Claudie, thanks. So much still to learn about those people.
    @Jenaisle, I imagine we'll never really know the full story.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin