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16 December 1999
Carnac's megalithic alignments reopen

In 1990 the pressure of visitor numbers threatened to destabilize some of the megalithic monuments at Carnac (Southern Brittany, France), which include thousands of menhirs, dolmens, and tumuli dating from the Middle Neolithic period, around 3000 BCE The French Ministry of Culture decided to close the site during conservation work to all but small, specialized, and escorted groups.
      Now, with the stabilization of many standing stones complete, visitors have been allowed to wander freely around 40 percent of this important Neolithic site. Work, however, continues on the rest of the area with further efforts to solidify the bases of other menhirs which, on average, are set just 16 inches into the ground, Neolithic builders giving little thought to solid foundations.
      As well as financing urgent conservation measures, the $16-million program includes a new visitor center and the purchase of land and houses on the periphery of the main site. Archaeologists argue that the expropriation of about ten houses in the archaeologically sensitive area is important to reunify the scattered monuments. Several residents, however, are resisting the move.
      Others, including the pressure group Menhir Libre (Free Menhir), argue that the current scheme is too restrictive. Next year, from April until the fall, visitor numbers will be limited again, with a maximum of 180 people a day. Another part of the site is planned to reopen in three years.

Source: Archaeological Institute of America (1 December, 1999)

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