French Archaeologists Decry the Loss of 7,000-Year-Old Standing Stones on a Site That Was ‘Destroyed’ to Make Way for a DIY Store

Local officials argue that the site has 'low archaeological value.'

Megalithic alignments in Carnac, Brittany, in north western France. Photo: Galivel F/Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Dozens of prehistoric standing stones in Carnac, a town in Brittany, northwest France, have been removed to make way for a retail store. Debate is raging among historians, politicians, and cultural authorities as to whether this constitutes damage to a site of archaeological value.

“The site has been destroyed,” local archaeologist Christian Obeltz told AFP on June 7.

According to Obelitz, some 39 menhirs, the term for such standing stones, standing up to 40 inches-high, were lost. They are estimated to date back some 7,000 years, based on carbon dating conducted in 2010.

The local mayor’s office granted a building permit in August 2022 for a store to be put up by the chain Mr. Bricolage, which sells home improvement and do-it-yourself goods, and has a store under construction there, per AFP.

Isabelle Chardonnier, director of the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs for Brittany, attempted to “clarify the reality,” telling News in France that only four of the 39 stones potentially had archaeological value. As for 39 valuable objects being destroyed, she said, “the reality is absolutely not that.” The office said that some of the menhirs had previously been moved, meaning it was not a historical arrangement.

Mayor Olivier Lepick told AFP that he adhered to the law, and that inspections had found items of “low archaeological value.” The land in question is not a protected archaeological site, though it is near one. 

For his part, Obeltz thinks local authorities did not do their due diligence. “There weren’t archaeological excavations in order to know if the stones were menhirs or not,” he told AFP.

French far-right politician Éric Zemmour tweeted on Thursday that ancient stones had been “massacred.”

Carnac, in the Brittany region, is known for grand fields of megaliths, some 3,000 of them standing in two protected areas that stretch over about four miles. The exact purpose of the standing stones is unknown. Some theories suggest sacred or funereal purposes. 

In any case, according to the regional directorate: “The damage to a site of archaeological value has not been established.”

The Mr. Bricolage group told AFP that it “sincerely regretted the situation.”


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