A very rich collection of Prehistory. Retraces the evolution of man in the Brittany region since Paleolithic times (450,000 BC) up to the middle ages.
Thousands of items on display from Brittany archaeological digs/excavations (fouilles)
Be aware though that the information accompanying each item and the stories the museum tells, are for the most part only in French, and there's a huge amount of reading to be done - hours worth really (that even with my 15 years French was exhausting and quite beyond me)
And without being able to read all the text, there's a lot of historical significance that is just missed entirely.
Opens 10 am – 6 pm with 1 hour closed for lunch, 12.30 – 1.30. Entry: 5E
A cairn is a hill of stones covering a grave site (if further completely covered with dirt with or without stones, it is called a tumulus). This cairn is 8m(25 ft) high and 100m (328 ft) round and sits on a hillock. It once overlooked a fertile valley where there were probably settlements. This was about 3000 BC when it was built, but rising seas (global warming started before 10,000BC) produced the Bay of Morbihan) making a high promontory into an island . Undersea archeology in this area has not been yet attempted. The “burial chamber” (dolmen) is reached via a gallery (passage) 43 ft long whose walls consist of 23 large rather flat surfaced stones standing upright side to side and more or less of even height. The passage is covered by bridging flat stones. The passage has floor stones as well. The deeply sited chamber is larger and covered by a single capstone (12x 9 ft). Outside you can climb onto the tumulus for a fine view. The cairn appears to have been sealed in ancient times (like the pyramids). Still another marvel! According to recent studies, the capstone is a part of a giant menhir that stood north of Locmariaquer (see our Tips on that area) . There were two of these that were thrown down , broken in pieces and ultimately reutilized. It matches other capstones near that site and this one was transported what was then overland some 4 km distant.
The Great Menhir and the Merchant’s Table Dolmen are together as a single visit. The menhir was overthrown and broken into 4 pieces in prehistoric times (not struck by lightning) during an iconoclastic period. Assembled, it is the biggest menhir known. Apparently it stood here on a raised area and there was a similar one (also broken but its parts dispersed) here as well. Probably they were originally associated with equinox rites. There must have been an iconoclastic period and some of these pieces were too big to move and reutilize. One part of the second stone forms the capstone of the Merchant’s Table nearby where it may have stood, another is the capstone at Gavrinis (See our Tips) and the third piece is part of the Tumulus Er Grah near here (we did not go there). A small part of this one is missing (and as yet has not been found). We have seen a very large standing menhir near Dol de Bretagne (See Tip). Next to the giant fragments there are other archeological digs in progress.
The Merchants’ Table is the name given to the large dolmen 200 m away from the Great Menhir. It was buried in a tumulus, part of which remains, about 36 m long. Like Gavrinis it is also a passage grave, but the capstone of the chamber is so large that part of it covers some of the passage (gallery). On the underside of the Table (the capstone) in the chamber, is engraved an axe-like plough with traces of a harness which leads to an ox . Its two hind legs are seen. The rest of the animal is on the buried side of the capstone at Gavrinis (which we did not see when we were there). These were pieces of another great menhir that originally stood on this spot and was thrown down and broken.The back wall of the chamber has a large stone which has been given an ogival contour.. Its flat surface is covered with rows of crooks in a symetrical pattern (believed to represent a divinity). Many other stones have a variety of decorations
There are 2 burial mounts in the Carnac area. One is the Saint-Michel tumulus and the other the Moustoir tumulus.
Apart from those tumulus there are also dolmens.
If my memory serves me well, we visited the Kercado dolmen. Next to this dolmen there is a burial chamber that can be visited. And i must say it gives quite an eerie feeling to walk into such a burial mount and think about how long ago people used it as a way to honour their dead.
This dolmen and the burial chamber are on private property. But both can be visited.
Numerous interpretations have been placed on these megalithic monuments - sometimes fanciful and not very credible. Nowadays most experts are inclined to believe, on the basis of the disposition of large stones, that they had a close relationship with studies of the stars and the Sun, possibly related to the best times for agricultural work. Several scholars have interpreted the megalithic complex of Carnac as a giant astronomical observatory, others prefer the idea of an ancient worship centre.
Besides the menhirs, another well-known monument is the 'Dolmen'. The term means "stone table" (from the Breton 'dol' (table) and 'men' (stone). In practice this is a series of menhirs on top of which large stones are placed, forming a sort of room or tunnel.
The main alignement extends eastward from the cluster of houses (called the village of Menec). This is the most famous group of alignments and the largest. It covers an area in a filed tha measures 1167m long and 100m wide. The stones (menhirs) are in long rows (about 11 in number) which are hard to enumerate. The stones are roughly shaped to a rectangular form. They range from 0.5 to 12m in height (the tallest one). Most are standing upright (some perhaps replaced); they are 1099 in number. At te village end the lines bend and merge to form an incomplete circle (cromlech). A little beyond half of the length to the east, the lines bend slightly toward the south and there numbers and sizes become less.
Initially viewing these monuments is not impressive but slowly one realizes that each stone required a tremendous communal effort by numerous different groups: shaping, transporting, positioning, erecting, all done by intelligent humans with no metals or wheels. There are only fascinating conjectures about why they are here (see my General Tips), but the period of their creation went on for about 2000 years (until about 2000BC) . There are several other alignments nearby, the next two being named Kermario and Kerlescan.
Whole fields filled with these giant stones and for what purpos? All i could do was stand next to the low fence (you´re not allowed to come onto the fileds) and watch in awe.. Even after all this time you can´t help but think that they must have had a very good reason to place all those stones in a field like that.. And we´re not talking about small stones either..
All those megaliths were errected between 4500 bc and 2000 bc. Carnac has 3 of these large fields with stones lined up. And in total around 3000 stones can be found throughout the area
The Kermario Alignment is 250 m from the Menec ones. There are also passage graves nearby to see but you need local maps and directons. These ,\may not be as interesting as some cairns and tumuli further off. It depends upon your time and interests. This one did no t add much to the Menec show.
If you spend time in the Carnac area, you should definitely not miss the cairn on Gavrinis Island. It takes planning and time to visit the island as it is only reachable by boat from the little port of Lamor-Baden. The trip is 15 min. each way and the visit to the cairn takes 1/2 to 1 hr. Enroute we passed another adjacent island Er Lannic , on which we could discern two abutting cromlechs, parts of which have become submerged by the continually rising sea levels over the centuries.
The most remarkable aspects of our visit were the stone surfaces of the passage. Each of the 23 stones is decorated with a mysterious array of designs. The patterns are graceful, somewhat like whorls of a fingerprint. A predominant patter is a lateral or inverted “U”, with numerous curved grooves running parallel to each other (breasts?). One or two have snakelike curving strands or arrowhead forms but no diagram representations. The displays are in segmented arrangement, on each stone and there is a feeling of rhythm. The grooves that make the patterns are believed to have been gouged by using quartz pebbles or even picks (there were no metal instruments then). They probably were done prior to erecting the stones. Can you question the intelligence and commitment of such Abstract Expressionists? (we are all brothers).
There are several other lesser sites near Locmariaquer not usually visited, each with different objects of interest. The nearest were the dolmen of Mane Lud and the tumulus of Er Grab (Vingle). We chose the former .The Dolmen of Mane Lude is in the area of the Merchants’ Table and the Great Menhir. It has a very heavy capstone over its deepest chamber (it is a passage grave) and the backstone has two sets of inverted “U”s which take advantage of the curve of the stone face. These are thought to be a female deity.There are many other crude carvings.
Up the D781 toward Auray, about 0.5 km from the area of the Great Menhir, on the right (east) side is the dolmen of Kercadoret(?). It is not visible from the road but is up the path about 50 yd. behind the backs of some houses in a clump of trees. There is a sort of mound and it is “below” it. It stands there deserted like some large stone child’s playhouse. The inside is not illuminated. There are supposed to be some carving but it looked like just wear to us. This is really off the beaten path and only takes a few minutes (about 15) but it is your own experience. There are other unexploited dolmens like this elsewhere (we even saw one once at Bauge in the Pays de la Loire-See our Tips), so enjoy it for yourself.
Quiberon is the name of a small town (pop 5K) and also the peninsula on which it sits. Alonng the west it fronts on the Atlantic Ocean and it is there that we went to see the Cote Sauvage. Both it and the whole Morbihan area reminded us of the coast of Maine. There were no surfers or wind-surfers out, but we surprised one nude sunbather on the rocks.(We quickly walked away and he did not move).