Out of hundreds of megalithic sites across Europe, only a few has achieved popularity, such as the Stonehenge. But other sites are no less intriguing. One that you might have never heard of is located in the village of Carnac, in Brittany, on the north-west coast of France. Here, set in the open fields are more than 3,000 standing stones arranged in long rows of parallel lines, called “alignments”, some of which stretch for several hundred meters. Believed to have erected during the Neolithic period, probably around 3300 BC, it is the largest megalithic site in the world.
Photo credit: barclakj/Flickr
There are three major groups of stone alignments in Carnac. In ancient times, they may have belonged to the same group, but as stones were removed by later generations three distinct groups of stones emerged. The largest of these group, the so called “Kermario alignment”, consist of 1,029 stones arranged in ten rows and run for over a kilometer. The “Ménec alignment” also runs over a kilometer, has twelve rows and contains approximately 1,100 standing stones. The “Kerlescan alignment” is about 800 meters, has thirteen rows and contains about 555 stones.
The significance of these construction, especially the alignments, have been debated for centuries. Some suggest that the alignments were used for ceremonial or religious purposes. Others believe they served more practical purposes such as making celestial predictions, or determining the optimal time for planting and harvesting to assist ancient farmers. They might also have served as territorial markers. Nobody really knows.
Originally, the land around the alignments were used for pasture and grazing. Some of the dolmens were used as sheep shelters, chicken sheds or even ovens. Stones were also commonly removed to make way for roads or as building materials. A large number of the alignments are now protected, and surrounded by fencing.
A model of the Kerlescan alignment. Photo credit: Marek.69/Wikimedia
A model of the Kermario alignment. Photo credit: Marek.69/Wikimedia
A model of the Ménec alignment. Photo credit: Marek.69/Wikimedia
Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond/Flickr
Photo credit: Jeremy Atkinson/Flickr
Photo credit: Brian Smithson/Flickr
Photo credit: Andy Hay/Flickr
Photo credit: Marina & Enrique/Flickr
Photo credit: Alberto Segovia/Panoramio
Photo credit: ashtronort.wordpress.com
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