CARNAC, a village of north-western France, in the department of Morbihan and arrondissement of Lorient, 9 m. S.S.W. of Auray by road. Pop. (1906) 667, Carnac has a handsome church in the Renaissance style of Brittany, but it owes its celebrity to the stone monuments in its vicinity, which are among the most extensive and interesting of their kind (see Stone Monuments). The most remarkable consist of long avenues of menhirs or standing stones; but there is also a profusion of other erections, such as dolmens and barrows, throughout the whole district. About half a mile to the north-west of the village is the Menec system, which consists of eleven lines, numbers 874 menhirs, and extends a distance of 3376 ft. The terminal circle, whose longest diameter is 300 ft., is somewhat difficult to make out, as it is broken by the houses and gardens of a little hamlet. To the east-north-east there is another system at Kermario (Place of the Dead), which consists of 855 stones, many of them of great size - some, for example, 18 ft. in height - arranged in ten lines and extending about 4000 ft. in length. Still further in the same direction is a third system at Kerlescan (Place of Burning), composed of 262 stones, which are distributed into thirteen lines, terminated by an irregular circle, and altogether extend over a distance of 1000 ft. or more. These three systems seem once to have formed a continuous series; the menhirs, many of which have been broken up for road-mending and other purposes, have diminished in number by some thousands in modern times. The alignment of Kermario points to the dolmen of Kercado (Place of St Cado), where there is also a barrow, explored in 1863; and to the south-east of Menec stands the great tumulus of Mont St Michel, which measures 377 ft. in length, and has a height of 65 ft. The tumulus, which is crowned with a chapel, was excavated by René Galles in 1862; and the contents of the sepulchral chamber, which include several jade and fibrolite axes, are preserved in the museum at Vannes. About a mile east of the village is a small piece of moorland called the Bossenno, from the bocenieu or mounds with which it is covered; and here, in 1874, the explorations of James Miln, a Scottish antiquary, brought to light the remains of a Gallo-Roman town. The tradition of Carnac is that there was once a convent of the Templars or Red Cross Knights on the spot; but this, it seems, is not supported by history. Similar traces were also discovered at Mane Bras, a height about 3 m. to the east. The rocks of which these various monuments are composed is the ordinary granite of the district, and most of them present a strange appearance from their coating of white lichens. Carnac has an interesting museum of antiquities.
See W.C. Lukis, Guide to the Principal Chambered Barrows and other Prehistoric Monuments in the Islands of the Morbihan, etc. (Ripon, 1875); René Galles, Fouilles du Mont Saint Michel en Carnac (Vannes, 1864); A. Fouquet, Des monuments celtiques et des ruines romaines dans le Morbihan (Vannes, 1853); James Miln, Archaeological Researches at Carnac in Brittany: Kermario (Edinburgh, 1881); and Excavations at Carnac: The Bossenno and the Mont St Michel (Edinburgh, 1877).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)