Carnac Stones - History and Facts | History Hit

Carnac Stones

Brittany, France

Image Credit: diegomori80 / Shutterstock

About Carnac Stones

The Carnac Stones in Brittany, France, are a collection of over 3000 standing stones erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany. They are the largest collection of such stones in the world.

History of the Carnac Stones

It’s unclear precisely when the stones arrived here: they date back to 4500 BC, but some believe they were moved here over a thousand years after this, around 3300BC. The stones themselves are hewn from local(ish) granite, but some are thought to have been moved here from as far away as 50km – a huge feat in such an era.

No-one knows exactly what these stones were used for, although a variety of theories have been pushed forward, including that they have some form of astronomical alignment or were used in religious or cultural practices of the time. There is little evidence for that, and any astronomical alignment is not clear enough for historians and archaeologists to have reach a consensus on.

Rumours about the stones’ origins date back to around the 1st century AD, when Brittany was occupied by the Romans. One story says the stones were once pagan soldiers, turned to stone by Pope Cornelius, whilst others say the stones were Roman soldiers, turned to stone by Merlin.

Over the years, the stones have been used for all sorts of things, including as chicken sheds, sheep shelters and building materials for local farmers. Today they are managed in a more controlled manner, although they remain deeply mysterious

The Carnac Stones today

The stones are free to access between October and March, but in the summer months you’ll need to pay to join a guided tour. Get there early or late in the day as the site can get extremely busy in peak season as it remains one of Brittany’s most popular tourist attractions. Much of the area is roped off to protect the stones from erosion and the perils of overtourism – certain areas are available to walk through.

Carnac is far from the only megalithic site in the area. Explore the history of the area at the nearby Maison des Mégalithes, drive the Route des Alignements to experience the landscape and climb the Moulin de Kermaux to get the best view of the landscape. If you have the time, walk or cycle around the area, and particularly between the Ménec and Kerlescan groups, to understand exactly how vast the area is.

Getting to the Carnac Stones

The stones are located just off the D196, a kilometre north of Carnac-Ville. Carnac itself is about 30 minutes from the city of Vannes. Public transport is scarce – you’re best off walking up there from Carnac-Ville. There’s ample parking on site.