The Mystery of the Carnac Stones
The Carnac stones are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites around the French village of Carnac, in Brittany, consisting of more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones and erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany. They are the largest such collection in the world, however their purpose has never been discovered.
The Carnac Stones consist of both single standing stones (menhirs) and multistone clusters (dolmens). The main group of stone alignments involves 12 converging rows of standing stones stretching more than a kilometre with the remains of a stone circle at either end. The largest stones, around 4m high, are at the western end and they become smaller along the length of the alignment reaching around 0.6m in height.
It is thought that the stones were erected during the Neolithic period which lasted from 4500 BC until 2000 BC, but in reality archaeologists have had great difficulty in establishing accurate dates as little material was found beneath them that could be used for radiocarbon dating.
Local myth states that a Roman legion was on the march when the wizard Merlin turned them into stone. Since then, a wide variety of theories have been put forward to explain the purpose of these mysterious stones. One researcher who studied the stones purported that they may have been an elaborate earthquake detector. Another interpretation is that the stones were erected by ancient people to honour their ancestors, still others think they were astronomical in nature.
If the stones were in fact tied in with astronomy, it is possible that they acted as calendars and observatories, so that ancient farmers knew the seasons and when to plant and harvest their crops and the priests could foretell phenomena such as eclipses of the sun and moon. Alexander Thom, who has surveyed many megaliths in Britain and France, believes that Carnac was a huge lunar observatory.
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. But for now, their true purpose remains elusive.