Do you know about Astérix and Obélix? Famous long-running series of hard-bound comic books? It’s all about a merry, clever band of Gauls (Celtic peoples of northwest modern-day France) who always out-maneuver the hapless Romans. Obélix is a large fellow with superhuman strength (thanks to a magic potion). He’s a menhir sculptor and deliveryman. That’s how I first heard about these menhir things.
Menhirs are standing stones, typically from the Bronze Age; menhir is Breton for long stones). They can be found all over Europe, but especially in Ireland, the UK, and Brittany. The stones that make up Stonehenge in England are menhirs. The area around the Breton town of Carnac is famous for fields of mehnirs.
We expected a few lines or clumps of standing stones. But we found fields full of many parallel long rows (alignements in French) of standing stones.
7000 years old, the megalithic alignments of Carnac are world famous and are one of the most important centres of European prehistory in existence. The singularity of the Carnac megaliths is their extrordinary alignments and their sheer numbers, this is the largest gathering of standing stones of this type in the world. The two main sites (Ménec and Kermario) alone account for nearly 3,000 menhirs, and the alignments extend over almost four miles!
The stones are placed in descending order and each alignment ends on a megalithic stone circle, some more visible than others. (source)
The fields of menhirs at Carnac run across the landscape, separated by woods and farmers’ fields.
The stones aren’t carved in any discernible way. They range from taller than a human to knee-height. Why should a bunch of rocks in a field be captivating? They’re a portal into yet another facet of the mysterious past. You look down the lines of standing stones, following the gentle curves of the land, and try to imagine what moved these people to put them here. Think of the effort. For a moment, they seem prosaic and a little silly. And then, mysterious and moving. Think of the devotion, of the saturating belief systems.
Archeologists and historians can’t agree on what the motivations and purposes were for these fields of stones. But they have lots of ideas:
There have been numerous theories about the purpose of the stones with popular suggestions that they were burial sites, religious gatherings or used for astronomical purposes. Researchers believe that the stones were arranged in this manner to align with the sunrise on a solstice or equinox, but others strongly disagree.
With all the stones not aligned the same and many scattered along the countryside, it’s believed that the builders of the Carnac Stones did not set them up for just one purpose. There are numerous stone circles, rows of stones that go on for over a mile and even mausoleums with roofs made from stone.
There are myths about the stones and how they came to be with including a local myth that states a Roman legion was marching on the grounds when the wizard Merlin turned them into stone. One researcher believed the stones were erected as an earthquake detector while another interpretation is that they were put there by ancient people to honor their ancestors.
According to Ancient-Origins, if the stones were used as an astronomical observatory, it is possible that they acted as calendars so that farmers knew the perfect time to plant crops and priests could foretell an eclipse. Researchers also suggest that the prehistoric site’s stone markings served as sites for astronomy or alignment with the sun and moon in some way.
With no real explanation for the stones or their true purpose, there are numerous theories about them. As mentioned before, there are theories that it is just a huge lunar observatory and theories that this site was a religious gathering place. But, because there is absolutely no evidence for any of these theories, people tend to believe what they want. (source)
So, the mysteries are left for us to feel.
One Reply to “The Menhirs of Carnac”
Loved the history! Amazing that these heavy stones were placed by humans.
Thank you for sharing.