There’s something about the “Standing Stones” that seems to fascinate everyone. Seeing them, such as the Dolmens of Carnac, is quite remarkable. I understand now that people are often disappointed in Stonehenge because of the over-tourism and limited access. It was different for me the first time I saw them as a younger child. But one doesn’t have to venture far to visit the more isolated stones of Avebury.
In 2008, we were living in Geneva and looking for a holiday. France is always attractive, but driving can be somewhat of a nightmare with traffic jams no matter the season. At that time, one could put the car on a train overnight in Geneva and pick it up the next day and not.
We thought the experience of two boys sleeping in bunks on an overnight train would be a worthwhile adventure. So that’s what we did. Arriving in the morning, we picked up the car waiting for us and drove off to see the many wondrous sights of the area.
We had many adventures, but that is a story for another time.
The Dolmens of Carnac are impressive. And it was at that point that I became fascinated with the standing stones. While there are quite a few in Europe, it is in Asia that the Dolmens are renowned.
If you can see any of these in your travels, even if you have to go out of your way a little, I strongly recommend you do so.
The Dolmens of Carnac: Mystical Alignments in Brittany
From County Antrim, we venture to the picturesque region of Brittany in France, where the Dolmens of Carnac await our exploration. This expansive collection of dolmens, estimated to be over 5,000 years old, is a testament to the spiritual beliefs and cultural practices of the ancient people who once inhabited this land.
What sets the Dolmens of Carnac apart is their remarkable alignment. These megalithic structures, consisting of upright stones supporting a massive capstone, are arranged in rows that stretch for miles. The precision with which these dolmens were constructed, aligning with celestial bodies and natural landmarks, suggests a deep understanding of astronomical phenomena and a profound connection to the cosmos.
Megaliths are large stones used to construct a structure or monument alone or with other stones. They can be found worldwide and are typically associated with prehistoric cultures. Their purposes vary, ranging from religious to astronomical or even burial functions. Some famous megalithic structures include Stonehenge in England and the Carnac stones in France. The word “megalith” comes from the Ancient Greek words “megas,” meaning big, and “lithos,” meaning stone. While the exact reasons for their construction remain a topic of debate and speculation, their grandeur and mystery continue to captivate people’s imagination today.
The main types of ‘megaliths’ are dolmens (flat stones resting on two stone pillars), menhirs (erect stones), stone seats, stepped stone pyramids, various types of stone tombs, and sarcophagi.
Comparison of Prehistoric Monuments: Dolmens, Menhirs, Standing Stones, Cromlechs, Cairns, and Sarcophagi
|Basic Structure||Two or more vertical stones supporting a horizontal capstone||Single, tall, upright stone||Single, upright stones||Circular arrangement of stones||Piles of stones or rocks, often conical in shape||Stone coffins typically used to hold a body|
|Common Locations||Europe, Asia||Europe, mainly France and the UK||UK, Europe||UK, specifically Wales||Worldwide, particularly in mountainous regions||Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome|
|Historical Period||Neolithic||Neolithic, Bronze Age||Neolithic, Bronze Age||Neolithic||Varies, often ancient||Antiquity|
|Size||Medium to large size||Taller, up to 20 feet high||Varies, usually not as tall as menhirs||Varies, can be extensive||Varies||Varies|
|Purpose||Thought to be ancient burial tombs||Uncertain; possibly religious or territorial||Uncertain; possibly ceremonial or territorial markers||Uncertain; possibly ceremonial or religious||Often burial or memorial structures||Typically used for burial|
|Material||Local stone||Local stone||Often local stone||Local stone||Stone or rock||Often stone or marble|
|Famous Examples||Poulnabrone, Gochang Dolmens||Menhir de Champ-Dolent, Carnac stones||Avebury, Callanish Stones||Stonehenge, Ring of Brodgar||Cairn of Barnenez, North American trail markers||Tutankhamun’s Sarcophagus, Alexander Sarcophagus|