THE STONES OF CARNAC

Located on the Gulf of Morbihan on the South Coast of Brittany

By R. Cedric Leonard



The phenomenon known to European archeologists as the Megalithic Culture covers all of Western Europe, the British Isles, North Africa, and the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Sardinia, and Corsica. This is basically the same area as occupied during the Upper Paleolithic by Cro-Magnon Man. While consisting of several different kinds of monuments, which will be outlined shortly, at this point our discussion will center on the alignments and stone circles near Carnac, a small village on the French peninsula of Brittany, and on nearby islands.

"Any visitor to Brittany, Wales, or Salisbury Plain is sure to have seen these menhirs, large single pillars of stone, and the circles of such stones, which are called cromlechs. Stone slabs or blocks, with other slabs serving as a roof, making a kind of chamber of stones, are not uncommon; these are known as dolmens. At Carnac there are long avenues of stones, often stretching for several hundreds of yards." (Easton, 1960) These avenues of menhirs are usually referred to as alignments.

While I was fortunate to be able to visit many such sites in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, I have never seen the megalithic monuments of Brittany; therefore I will have to rely on the discriptions of others who have studied them. The alignments at Le Menec, Kermario, and Kercado may have at one time been connected. If so, they would extend for well over two miles in an ENE general direction. Many theories exist as to the meaning of the stones, the purpose of their orientation, as well as the manner in which they were transported and erected.

Map of Carnac

The Stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre-Keltic people of Brittany, some of them brought from miles away. Most European authorities on the subject believe the megaliths were erected during the Neolithic period which lasted from 4500 BC until 2000 BC. The precise date of the stones is difficult to ascertain as little dateable material has been found beneath them. About 3300 BC is the date most commonly estimated for the site's main phase of activity, but surely many of these megaliths date back to the Mesolithic, even possibly to the Upper Paleolithic (i.e., Atlantean times).


    Map showing only a few stone circles and alignments

Many of the stones trail off into the ocean waters, due to the rising of sea levels as the ice began to melt toward the end of the Ice Age. It is possible that the first stones were erected by Atlanteans or their descendants. One authority states: "Many imaginative theories have been put forward to provide an overall explanation for the megaliths of western Europe. Some see them as the fringe of a great civilization called Atlantis, now disappeared under the ocean." (Service & Bradbery, 1979)

A Swedish geographer, Ulf Erlingsson, believes Plato utilized elements from different times and places as background for his description of the empire of Atlantis. According to Erlingsson, the area encompassed by the Atlantean empire seems to match the area covered by the megaliths in Western Europe and North Africa. (Lovgren, 2004)

Sea Level Chart

Sea level chart* showing why a submerged 20-ft. menhir must have been erected at least 7,500 years ago. Just as a simple experiment, I drew a horizontal line from the -20 ft. level on the right (sea level on the chart is in metres.), to the "sea level" line plotted on the chart: it crossed exactly at the date of 7,500 years ago. (For a graphic depiction click Here.)

Several nearby islands exhibit stone circles (cromlechs) which are partially or completely submerged. Pierre Mereaux, a French engineer in thermodynamics who has made a study of the stones, comments:

"On the Island south of Gavr'Inis in the Gulf of Morbihan there are 2 tangential circles; 28 stones in the north circle, 32 in the south circle; the stones are 2-5 meters high. Half of the north circle and all of the south circle are submerged—evidence that the sea level has risen and the Gulf flooded since the circles were built." (Mereaux, 1992)

Carnac megalithic alignments

The most remarkable of these megaliths consist of long avenues of menhirs or standing stones. About a half-mile NW of the village is the Menec system, which consists of eleven lines and extends a distance of 3,376 feet. Toward the ENE there is another system at Kermario, which consists of ten lines about 4,000 feet in length. Still further in the same direction is a third system at Kerlescan, composed of thirteen lines, about a half-mile in length. These three systems seem to have once formed a continuous series; but over the millenia several thousand of the menhirs have disappeared, being commandeered for modern construction purposes.

One of the most famous of the stones—Er Grah or Le Grand Menhir Brise ("The Great Broken Menhir")—lies broken into four pieces in a meadow outside Locmariaquer a few miles east of Carnac. Originally it was more than 60 ft. tall. Another known as the Menhir du Champ Dolent at Dol, on the border between Normandy and Brittany, is over 30 feet in height. (Service & Bradbery, 1979) Many of the fallen stones are 20-40 feet in length.

As to who may have begun construction of these enigmatic megaliths, allow me to offer some suggestions. It has already been said that they were "pre-Keltic"; so who was around in this area in post-glacial times? Bretons, certainly. But who were the Bretons really? Were they Kelts, as is usually assumed by historians and ethnologists? From what we have long believed about the British and Kelts, this seems a most natural assumption. But is it the correct one? (For a possible answer see my Atlanteans in Britain page.)

Although I have not seen specific site reports on excavations of associated gravesites, the general consensus of anthropological opinion is given in the "Carnac" article of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which states:

"The evidence demonstrates that the monuments were built by a mixed population trading with the megalithic centres of Grand-Pressigny (Touraine), the Iberian peninsula, northwest Britain and Ireland . . ." (1961 edition)

The article further describes this "mixed population" as a native maritime people, "slightly built, and very long-headed" on the one hand, and "members of a taller race," conspicuous for its "large bones" on the other. This dichotomy of physical types is most familiar, as it corresponds to our "eastern" and "western" types of Modern Man—the taller, large-boned type matches our Cro-Magnoid Azilians.

Moreover, we have learned from European scholars that the suffix tani has been used historically by Cro-Magnon peoples occupying North Africa, Western Europe, and the British Isles, from which we get Britani (the Bretons), Brittany, and the adjective Britannica. Not only do we have thousands of megalithic monuments all over Western Europe and Brittania; there are also many standing stones of unknown age in North Africa. (Service & Bradbery, 1979)

One must ask: were there Cro-Magnon-type people living in Brittany and the British Isles during the Mesolithic period? Archeologist and anthropologist Dr. Frank C. Hibben answers our question:

"In the Mesolithic period the British Isles received three streams of migration. . . In the north, the Maglemoseans . . . From the east the Tardenoisians . . . In the southeast, the Azilians also crossed to British shores from southern France. The Azilian apparently scattered from southwestern England to Scotland." (Hibben, 1958) So! We actually have Cro-Magnons from southwestern France spreading northward all the way to Scotland. This strengthens my Atlantean hypothesis immensely!

We know the Azilian "invasion" of southwestern France coincided with the sinking of Atlantis circa 10,000 BC. The Azilians were a Cro-Magnon people (archeologists named them after their discovery at Mas d'Azil: we don't know what they called themselves); and their culture was Upper Paleolithic in character, even though they lived in the Mesolithic period. If they arrived in the southeast corner of Britain, they must have came through northern France to Brittany, and then crossed the channel into Britain.

Hibben states that there is little trace of the Azilians in the area between the Dordogne Valley and northwestern Britain; but adds that much of the strand upon which they once lived is now underwater. In fact, many of their remains have been lost due to submergence of coastal regions since the end of the Ice Age. Azilian sites in Great Britain are preserved mostly on the higher ground of southwestern Scotland.

We also know from linguistic studies (see my page on Linguistics) that a language related to Basque had been spoken in prehistoric times by the earliest Bretons. Since that language was peculiar to Cro-Magnon people, it appears the language was most likely brought to Britain by the Azilians. It is equally probable that the knowledge necessary for the creation of the Carnac mesolithic complex may have originated with the Azilian peoples. Whoever created it must have been familiar with the sciences of astronomy and geophysics—and possessed techniques for manipulating very large stones.

Enter a gentleman from Scotland named Alexander Thom, a surveyer and engineer who has a "formidable command of astronomy and mathematics," and who spent years surveying "with the very highest standards of accuracy" almost every standing stone on the island of Great Britain.

"When Thom had completed surveying the monuments of Britain, he transferred his attention to France, and it was while working with the welter of megaliths around Carnac that he generated his most controversial idea . . . The army of stones was, as at certain other sites, a neolithic substitute for graph paper." (Thorndike, 1977)

Thom was shocked by the precision with which these people were able to work out the various risings and settings of major astronomical bodies, and finds good evidence that they were able to predict eclipses (an extremely complicated process). While there is much reason to doubt that such complex knowledge is exhibited at Stonehenge, here in Brittany there is no such doubt.

"Here we come to a bombshell dropped by a Scot professor of engineering that makes Hawkins' [Stonehenge theories] seem like a firecracker. . . the menhirs and cromlechs of Britain and Brittany, in addition to whatever religious purposes they served, were instruments for determining certain risings and settings not only of the sun and moon but of first-magnitude stars. Indeed, so astronomically accomplished were the neolithic priests that they had a knowledge of the moon's motions that was not to be improved upon for three thousand years." (Ibid.)

The father-son team of Alexander and Archie Thom worked from 1970 to 1974, drafting highly detailed 1:1000 plans of the Carnac alignments. These showed that what looks to the casual eye like parallel rows stretching into the distance actually have random fluctuations in the lines—an attempt, perhaps, to "readjust" the alignments due to the precession of the equinoxes over thousands of years. (Might I suggest that the "neolithic priests" mentioned above might turn out to be mesolithic?)

But our French thermodynamic engineer, Pierre Mereaux, has yet another idea. He expresses amazement that people who lived in simple dwellings would exert such a huge effort in their stonework continuing for thousands of years. Roger Joussaume had just published his Dolmens pour les Morts ("Dolmens for the Dead") in 1985. But Mereaux could not accept the cult of death as the primary reason for these constructions. (Pierre-Roland Giot, a Breton archaeologist with an international reputation, agreed with Mereaux.)

Mereaux asks: Could there have been purposes for the stones other than a death cult or astronomical alignments? He mentions a large number of major earthquake faults in the area, including the existence of an enormous, deep, transversal fault running 52.4 degrees E on average. This seems, Mereaux notes, to line up with the long-stone covers of a number of dolmens in the area. Since these could be highly sensitive to seismic disturbances, to line them up "lengthwise" to the seimic waves would make good sense. Mereaux concludes that: "The astronomical orientation is but one element in the chambers' function." (Mereaux, 1992)

Most of these sites were sacred, and religion obviously played a prominent role in their use. Many are obvious settings for the dance, which was one of mankind's earliest ways of expressing the rhythms of life, and of melding one's psyche into harmony with nature. The earth is often worn around certain standing stones, suggestive of a constant pounding by human feet. A Mesolithic rock-drawing in Spain shows nine women in skirts dancing around a man; in Scandanavia a rock-drawing shows men and women circling around a maypole; a carving in Sardinia depicts three women in an ecstatic dance around a standing stone. (Burl, 1976) Such depictions strongly indicate that fertility cult activity dates back at least to the Mesolithic.

In conclusion, a civilization which had spent thousand of years in an earthquake-prone Atlantis would indeed be sensitive to any potential for seismic catastrophe; and as a consequence, would be familiar with the techniques needed to contend with such disturbances. (That some of the stone avenues were markers for troublesome underground faultlines is equally possible.)

There are other aspects concerning natural Ley-lines of magnetic earth-currents, which would make this article too long. My main thrust in this presentation is to suggest (by the numerous submerged portions) that some parts of these megalithic ruins were constructed much earlier than has been suggested by most authorities; and that the architects must have originated in a society highly developed in the astro- and geo-sciences—and, most importantly, that Atlantis was the likely source of such sophisticated knowledge.

Other questions have never been answered, such as: Why quarry the stones at a distance when there were plenty nearby? Was the type of stone for a specific location important (such as a particular type of granite)? Amazingly, the weight of the stones and the distances involved seem to be no obstacle for these people.


NOTES

* Chart by Wikipedia. The graph is totally unaltered—only the before and after "demise of Atlantis" notes have been added.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

    Burl, Aubrey, "The Stone Circles of the British Isles," New Haven & London, 1976.
    Easton, Steward C., "The Heritage of the Ancient World," Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., New York, 1970.
    Encyclopedia Britannica, "Carnac" article, Wm. Benton Publ., London, Toronto & Chicago, 1961 edition.
    Hibben, Frank C., "Prehistoric Man in Europe," University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1958.
    Lovgren, Stefan, for National Geographic News (web site), August 19, 2004.
    Mereaux, Pierre, Carnac: Des Pierres Pour Les Vivants, Bretagne, Nature & Bretagne, 1992.
    Service, Alastair & Bradbery, Jean, "Megaliths and their Mysteries," Macmillan Publ. Co., New York, 1979.
    Thom, Alexander, "Megalithic Remains in Britain and Brittany," Oxford Press, 1979.
    Thorndike, Joseph J. Jr., "Mysteries of the Past," American Heritage Publishing Co., New York, 1977.
    Wikipedia, "Free encyclopedia," Sea Level Rise article, courtesy of the internet, Mar 2006.


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by R. Cedric Leonard.