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The Carnac Stones
The Carnac stones are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites around the French village of Carnac, in Brittany, consisting of alignments, dolmens, tumuluses and single menhirs. The more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany, and are the largest such collection in the world.
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 - Brittany has its own local versions of the Arthurian cycle. Most of the stones are within the French commune 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 BC, but some may date to as old as 4500 BC.
In recent centuries, many of the sites have been neglected, with reports of dolmens being used as sheep shelters, chicken sheds or even ovens. 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 topic.
There are three major groups of stone rows - Menec, Kermario and Kerlescan - which may have once formed a single group, but have been split up as stones were removed for other purposes.
Eleven converging rows of menhirs stretching for 1,165 metres, by 100 metres wide. There is 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 four metres high, are at the wider, western end; the stones then become as small as 0.6 metres high along the length of the alignment before growing in height again toward the extreme eastern end.
Kermario ("house of the dead") alignment
This fan-like layout recurs a little further along to the east in the Kermario alignment. It consists of 1029 stones in ten columns, about 1,300 metres in length. A stone circle to the east end, where the stones are shorter, was revealed by aerial photography.
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, ranging in height from 80 cm to 4 metres. 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 north.
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 ivy.
There are several tumuluses, 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.
The tumulus of Saint-Michel was constructed between 5000 BC and 3400 BC. At its base it is 125 m by 60 m, and is 12 m high. It required 35,000 m„ 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 Carnac. It was excavated in 1862 by Rene Galles with a series of vertical pits, digging down 8 metres. Le Rouzic also excavated it between 1900 and 1907 discovering the tomb and the stone chests.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.
Near the quadrilateral is a single massive menhir, now known as the "Giant". Over 6.5 metres tall, it was re-erected around 1900 by Zacharie Le Rouzic, and overlooks the nearby Kerlescan alignment.
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey
Sep/18/2007, 1:11 am
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