10 Interesting Facts about the Carnac Standing Stones

Most people have pondered the mysterious stones of Stonehenge, but the Carnac standing stones in Brittany, France, may be even more fascinating. This UNESCO World Heritage site is comprised of thousands of granite stones perfectly aligned over several kilometres, making it the largest megalithic site in the world. If you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, you should be adding this site to your bucket list and taking advantage of the online virtual tour.

As you plan your trip to Carnac, here are 10 weird and interesting facts about the Brittany standing stones:

1 || 3,000 Stones

The Carnac site is comprised of more than 3,000 standing stones spread out across four kilometres. Some of the stones are lined up in near perfect rows, while other locations are more scattered.

2 ||  Older than Stonehenge

The Carnac stones are more than 6,000 years old with some dating as far back as 4,500BC. Stonehenge, on the other hand, was built about 5,000 years ago. 

3 || 6.5 metres high

The stones vary in height with some of the taller menhirs reaching 6.5 metres high. That’s as tall as 10 baguettes stacked one on top of the other.

4 || 20 tonnes

Some of the larger menhirs weigh 20 tonnes, which is roughly the equivalent of ten cars. The Grand Menhir Brisé de Locmariaquer is estimated to weigh closer to 300 tonnes.

5 || Fragile

Despite their impressive size, these granite stones are fragile! Erosion by heavy rains and coastal winds, paired with plants who make their home in surface fissures, are causing the stones to break. But it’s not all bad news. Studying the erosion will allow scientists to learn more about the rocks and the site. 

6 || Recycled and Moved

Over the decades, prior to official protections being put into place, the site has been used as a quarry by locals. Some of the stones have been used to build houses and even a nearby lighthouse. In the past, the City has relocated stones to make way for roads. Farmers have also moved stones off their fields to clear space and avoid archeological excavations. Not every move has been a success. Due to their massive size and weight they have often proved difficult to move. Upon close inspection some stones bear the marks of failed attempts at relocation. 

7 || Campground

While the stones are now mostly fenced off to tourists, at one point people were free to roam and even camp out among the granite giants. Ground erosion eventually started causing the stones to topple. To allow for regrowth of the surrounding vegetation, fences were erected in 1991. You can now only gain access up close via guided tours. 

8 || Red Squares

If you look very closely, there are small red squares located at the bottom of some of the stones. These markers were placed there by an archeologist in the 20th century. Known as the protector of Carnac, Zacharie Le Rouzic played an integral role in obtaining historic monument classification for the stones.

9 || Legend

While there are many legends surrounding the Carnac stones, one of the most well-known stories is about a pope on the run who turned a legion of Roman soldiers to stone. There is also a similar rendition of the story in which Merlin the wizard transforms the invading Roman army to stone. 

10 || Mystery  

Were the stones a druid gathering place? A representation of the stars? A burial site? An earthquake detector? There are many contested theories, but the reason behind the alignments remains a mystery. 


Which of these facts surprised you? What do you believe their purpose to be?


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