Mysteries of the menhirs in Bretagne

Trip Start Jul 1981
Trip End Aug 1981

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Tuesday, July 14, 1981

The summer after the Ardeche, we headed for the south of Bretagne, the gulf of Morbihan, and camped with our caravan right at a camp site beside the menhir fields of Kermario. The fields were just across the sandy road that took you to Carnac beach. When I wasn't at the playground, I was walking amidst them, or climbing them.

Le Menec and Kermario are fields of standing stones aligned in parallel lines from east to west. The fields stretch some four kilometers, not more than three kilometers away from the beach. The smallest stones stand east, the largest at the other end at the west, where there is also a dolmen (burial chambers) altar. They might be standing there for almost 7000 years. Originally there were up to 11,000 menhirs, but now less than 3000 are left standing. Alas, the days of freely running through the fields and climbing the menhirs are over. Vandals left their grafiti marks on the stones over the past decades on the stones, and now a wire separates the stones from the viewers who can only enter in a guided tour. Other than that, the area has several passage tombs and dolmens.

While the stones were mysterious (who built them and why), and I automatically associated the stones with the dead, I did not fear them. The mystery still remains in many ways to this day.

So, who put them there? The answer is the pre-Celts. In other words the people who lived in the Brittanic area prior to the Celts, which doesn't tell us much really. Apart from them building sites of standing stones either in rows or circles from around 4500 BC until 2000 BC and that they were early farmers, little is known about them. But Carnac must have been an important hubbub at the dawn of European agriculture, piquing around 3300 BC.

No, I was wrong as a child by associating the menhirs automatically with the dead. Little or no dateable material  has been found beneath the megaliths, which means hardly any human remains, apart from the passage tombs.
However, the alignment suggests a connection with the traveling path of the sun and moon in the sky. And with farming comes the need for helpful weather. Surely, at some point of its existence, rituals were performed
here that begged the gods or the elements for a good harvest or to divert disaster. And even after the builders were gone, the Celts would have regarded them as superb ritualistic centers thousands of years later.

The stones didn't travel hundreds or thousands of miles, but were cut from a local quarry, and nowadays archeologists think the Carnac alignments formed with the passage of time, with each generation setting up new stones.

But back to the fantasy of a child and mystery. The Bretoens have their own Arthurian legend, and one of the folk tales of regarding Carnac was that the Merlin turned an army of Roman soldiers into stone.

Here is a site with several artful pictures

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House31Lakisha on

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feel yourself free

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