Carnac (Breton: Karnag) is a commune beside the Gulf of Morbihan on the south coast of Brittany in north-western France. Its inhabitants are called Carnacois. Carnac is renowned for the Carnac stones – one of the most extensive Neolithic menhir collections in the world – as well as its beaches, which are popular with tourists. Located on a narrow peninsula halfway between the medieval town Vannes and the seaside resort Quiberon, Carnac is split into two centres – Carnac-Ville and Carnac-Plage (the beachfront). In total there are five beaches, including la Grande Plage, and further to the east, Plage Men Dû and Beaumer
The Carnac stones are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites consisting of alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs. More than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre/proto-Celtic people of Brittany, and are the largest such collection in the world. Most of the stones are within the Breton village of Carnac, but some to the east are within La Trinité-sur-Mer. The stones were erected at some stage during the Neolithic period, probably around 3300 BC, but some may date to as old as 4500 BC. Although the stones date from 4500 BC, modern myths were formed which resulted from 1st century AD Roman and later Christian occupations, such as Saint Cornelius – a Christian myth associated with the stones held that they were pagan soldiers in pursuit of Pope Cornelius when he turned them to stone. Brittany has its own local versions of the Arthurian cycle. Local tradition claims that the reason they stand in such perfectly straight lines is that they are a Roman legion turned to stone by Merlin.
In recent centuries, many of the sites have been neglected, with reports of dolmens being used as sheep shelters, chicken sheds or even ovens. Even more commonly, stones have been removed to make way for roads, or as building materials.
There are several dolmens scattered around the area. These dolmens are generally considered to have been tombs, however the acidic soil of Brittany has eroded away the bones. They were constructed with several large stones supporting a capstone, then buried under a mound of earth. In many cases, the mound is no longer present, sometimes due to archeological excavation, and only the large stones remain, in various states of ruin
Ménec alignment: eleven converging rows of menhirs stretching for 1,165 by 100 metres (3,822 by 328 feet). There is what Alexander Thom considered to be the remains of stone circles at either end. According to the tourist office there is a “cromlech containing 71 stone blocks” at the western end and a very ruined cromlech at the eastern end. The largest stones, around 4 metres (13 feet) high, are at the wider, western end; the stones then become as small as 0.6 metres (2 feet 0 inches) high along the length of the alignment before growing in height again toward the extreme eastern end.
Kermario alignment: this fan-like layout recurs a little further along to the east in the Kermario (House of the Dead) alignment. It consists of 1029 stones in ten columns, about 1,300 m (4,300 ft) in length. A stone circle to the east end, where the stones are shorter, was revealed by aerial photography
Kerlescan alignment: A smaller group of 555 stones, further to the east of the other two sites. It is composed of 13 lines with a total length of about 800 metres (2,600 ft), ranging in height from 80 cm (2 ft 7 in) to 4 m (13 ft).At the extreme west, where the stones are tallest, there is a stone circle which has 39 stones. There may also be another stone circle to the North
The tumulus of Saint-Michel was constructed between 5000 BC and 3400 BC. At its base it is 125 by 60 m (410 by 197 ft), and is 12 m (39 ft) high. It required 35,000 cubic metres (46,000 cu yd) of stone and earth. Its function was the same as that of the pyramids of Egypt: a tomb for the members of the ruling class. It contained various funerary objects, such as 15 stone chests, pottery, jewellery, most of which are currently held by the Museum of Prehistory of Carnac. It was excavated in 1862 by René Galles with a series of vertical pits, digging down 8 m (26 ft). Le Rouzic also excavated it between 1900 and 1907 discovering the tomb and the stone chests. A chapel was built on top in 1663 but was rebuilt in 1813, before being destroyed in 1923. The current building is an identical reconstruction of the 1663 chapel, built in 1926