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This is photograph of the rows and rows of standing stones, Menhirs, in Carnac.
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Courtesy of Corel Photography

The Stones of Carnac

The stones of Carnac, France, are probably the most famous stones markings outside of those found at Stonehenge in England. There are many, many stones at Carnac. And these stones are very old too, the earliest stones are from around 4,500 B.C.

The Carnac region contains many, many Menhir or upright stones. The Menhir stones are sometimes found in a line and sometimes in a circle. They can be anywhere from 0.8 meters high to 6.5 meters high. Rows of these stones can extend for distances of over a kilometer.

Some think these standing stones were signposts, others think they marked burial plots, still others think they were astronomical in nature. Research is going on now to try to find out if these stone markings served as sites for astronomy or whether they were aligned with the Sun or Moon in a special way.

The area is also home to Dolmens, burial places formed out of big stones. Dolmens would have a funeral chamber where people were buried and an access to that chamber. They basically look like a stone fort. There is another type of burial ground that was created by these Neolithic people (Neolithic people lived from ~4,500 B.C. to ~2,000 B.C.), the Tumulus. A Tumulus is a huge mound of earth and stones that covers a burial place. It looks like a well-formed hill of dirt, covered with grass and such. There was no way to get into a Tumulus burial ground.

Last modified September 20, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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