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Prehistoric Sites in

ENGLAND

by Martin J Powell

Page 5 of 5

 

Click on a picture to see a larger image (all pictures will open in a new window).

 

 

Arbor Low recumbent stone circle & henge monument, Derbyshire (Photo: June 1988)

 

 

A close-up of the Southern sector of the recumbent circle at Arbor Low, Derbyshire

Arbor Low

Recumbent Stone Circle & Henge

 

County: Derbyshire

Ordnance Survey Grid Ref: SK 160 636

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

This is a stone circle which perhaps looks more impressive from the air than from the ground!

Indeed, the aerial view of the recumbent stones has been likened to that of a clockface.

 

One of the most unusual stones circles in the British Isles, Arbor Low (from the Old English 'eordburgh-hlaw' meaning 'the earthwork mound') has been nicknamed 'the Stonehenge of the North' because of its sheer scale, appearance and setting. There are tremendous views across the Peak District from here, the surrounding landscape largely unaffected by modern development, the site retaining an evocative atmosphere of times and events long past.

 

The Old English name for the site reflects its most visible feature - the mound, or more accurately the henge - enclosing the circle, which appears dramatically against the skyline when the site is approached from a distance. It comprises a bank and ditch, measuring 272 ft (83 m) by 246 ft (75 m). The bank survives to a height of over 6 ft (2 m) and the ditch is nearly the same depth. The bank has two opposing breaks (entrances) through it - at the NNW and SSE, with a causeway across the ditch allowing easy access to the circle. Some 50,000 cubic feet (1475 cubic metres) of solid limestone was dug out of the ditch and piled up to form the bank; it has been estimated that it would have taken 50 people some 6 months to complete the project.

 

Inside the ditch is an earthen platform upon which lie 42 weather-beaten limestone blocks in a roughly egg-shaped plan. The circle measures 121 ft (37 m) across its major axis and 136 ft (41.5 m) across its minor axis. At the centre of the circle are the collapsed remnants of a chamber-like structure known as a cove, whose entrance would originally have faced towards the henge entrance at the SSE. It has been suggested that coves might be Bronze Age symbolic representations of the earlier Neolithic chambered tombs. It is likely that the henge at Arbor Low was constructed in the late Neolithic period (ca. 2500 BC) and the stone circle was added in the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2000 BC).

 

When the site was excavated in 1901-2 a male burial was found beside the cove, together with fragments of a human ulna bone. At the henge's SSE entrance, an antler pick and thirteen ox-teeth were found at the foot of the ditch. At the NNW entrance were found flint flakes, scrapers and arrowheads.

 

There has been much debate on whether the stones originally stood upright or whether they were intentionally recumbent. The excavation failed to find any stone sockets, giving rise to the theory that they were prostrate and slightly propped up with smaller stones. However, one of the stones is rather pitched upwards, suggesting it was once upright, and there are stumps of formerly upright stones at the North of the circle. One explanation is that the stones were toppled in more recent times, perhaps in an attempt to 'de-sanctify' the site and rid it of its pagan associations. Or perhaps the stone sockets were too shallow to hold the stones upright and they eventually fell of their own accord.

 

Adjoining the bank on its South-eastern side is a round cairn of Bronze Age date, i.e. it was added several centuries after the henge's construction. Excavation in 1845 revealed a stone cist or kistvaen (a small, box-like chamber) which contained cremations, a bone pin and pottery food vessels. Material from the henge bank was removed in order to build the cairn, the bank appearing significantly denuded in the vicinity as a result.

 

Leading away from the henge's Southernmost edge is a low bank, of uncertain age, which takes a curved path towards the SSW along a distance of about 1050 ft (320 m). The bank passes near a large flat-topped round barrow from the Bronze Age by the name of Gib Hill (SK 158 633), which stands 16 ft (5 m) high. Excavation in 1848 found a small cist containing a cremation burial and a food vessel.

 

The plan and structure of Arbor Low has been likened to that of Cairnpapple in the West Lothian district of Scotland (NS 987 717).

Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle, Cumbria (Photo: July 1989)

 

 Long Meg standing stone. Note the carvings on the lower half the stone (Photo: July 1989)

Long Meg and Her Daughters

Stone Circle

 

County: Cumbria

O.S. Grid Ref: NY 571 372

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

Long Meg was a witch, and Her Daughters were members of Her Coven. According to folklore, they were all turned to stone by an 'indignant saint'. In the thirteenth century, Scottish wizard Michael Scott of Kelso is said to have cast a spell on the stones, such that they could not be counted; if anyone should count them twice and arrive at the same total, his spell will be broken.

 

This is a large and well-known stone circle, 0.7 miles (1.1 kms) North-east of the village of Little Salkeld. A minor road passes through its Eastern half. The circle was probably constructed during the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age period in Britain (ca. 2900 to 2200 BC).

 

The circle is oval in plan, measuring 359 ft (109 m) by 305 ft (93 m) with an entrance at the South-west defined by two pairs of portal stones. There were originally about 66 stones in the ring but today there are 59, only 27 of which are still standing. Many of the stones are large, standing up to 9 ft 10 in (3 m) tall; one of portal stones at the SSW of the circle is estimated to weigh 28 tons!

 

Since the circle is constructed on sloping ground, it was thought that the oval shape of the ring was intended to counteract the slope's foreshortening effect and consequently make the circle appear circular when seen from a distance. However, during the 1980s aerial photography showed that the circle was built against a large, egg-shaped earthen enclosure situated to the North of the site. The circle had apparently been flattened on its Northern side in order to accommodate it. If this enclosure is Neolithic in date then it suggests that the circle may indeed have been constructed during the Bronze Age.

 

Aerial photography also revealed a cursus monument 1970 ft (600 m) long and 150 ft (45 m) wide, running due West from the South-western section of the circle across to a cliff which overlooks the River Eden.

 

Long Meg is a red sandstone outlier, 12ft (3.7 m) tall and tapering to a point, positioned 59 ft (18 m) to the South-west of the circle's entrance. Carved into her North-eastern face - and facing towards the circle - are three rock carvings: a cup-and-ring mark, a spiral and some incomplete concentric circles with a sloping tangential line. When seen from the circle's centre, Long Meg marks the position of the setting midwinter Sun, so perhaps the carving is a pictorial representation of this prehistorically-important solar event. A local legend says that if Long Meg is ever broken, she will drip blood; some might argue that this hints at human or animal sacrifice taking place here at the winter solstice. Two tall stones positioned at the East and West of the ring are also placed in astronomically significant positions; when seen from the circle's centre, they are in line with the equinoctial sunrise and sunset.

 

A resistivity survey carried out by a local university student in 2007 suggested that Long Meg - much like the Heel Stone at Stonehenge (see Page 4) - may once have had a twin, the pair having flanked the circle's South-western entrance. The survey also suggested that a large bank may once have encircled the stones.

 

According to a written accounts by three independent antiquarians, two cairns once stood near the circle's centre. In 1586 William Camden reported the existence of  'two heaps of stones, under which they say are dead bodies bur'd'.  In the seventeenth-century John Aubrey said the cairns were 'some nine or ten foot high' (2.7 m - 3 m). When William Stukeley visited the site in 1725 they were still visible, but there is no trace of them today.

 

In 2015 the site was excavated for the first time, concentrated on the Northern section of the circle. A long-suspected enclosure ditch was found in very close proximity to the circle. Several monoliths had fallen in this region, probably because they had been intentionally inserted into the ditch. One of the fallen stones was found to have a cupmark on opposite sides.

 

On the North-western side of the circle, the socket of a missing portal stone was found, together with a large post hole. Other finds included a hearth area, a piece of Neolithic flint and a hammer stone.

Uffington white horse hill figure, Oxfordshire (Photo: August 1990)

 

 

Looking North-west across the Uffington white horse' head towards The Manger (Photo: August 1990)

Uffington White Horse

Chalk Carving (Hill Figure)

 

County: Oxfordshire

O.S. Grid Ref: SU 301 866

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

"Before the gods that made the gods

Had seen their sunrise pass,

The White Horse of the White Horse Vale

Was cut out of the grass."

 

English writer and poet G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was clearly aware of the great mystery and conjecture surrounding what is arguably the most beautiful hill figure in Britain - and very probably the oldest.

 

Located on Whitehorse Hill, 0.6 miles (1 km) South of Woolstone, the Uffington White Horse is 360 ft (110 m) long and 130 ft (40 m) high. The body of the stylised horse is defined by a single curved line from head to tail, its head having ears and its muzzle having a beak-like appearance. Only one of the fore legs and one of the hind legs are attached to the body, the other two being depicted as simple curves, detached from the body. The resulting appearance is very artistic and strangely timeless.

 

The animal is best viewed from the B4508 road about 3 miles (5 kms) to the NNW, between the villages of Longcot and Fernham. The horse is regularly scoured by its custodian, English Heritage, to ensure that it does not become overgrown and disappear into the landscape.

 

There are around thirty hill figures in Britain, the majority of them in the style of horses. Most were cut in the 18th and 19th centuries, although a couple have been claimed to be much older (see for example the Westbury White Horse on Page 2). The Uffington Horse, however, is the only hill figure in Britain which has been confirmed to be of prehistoric date.

 

In 1994 archaeologists dated the original turf layer using a process called optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) which estimates the date at which the original soil layer was last exposed to sunlight. The date of the horse cutting was established to be from 400-800 BC, placing it in the Late Bronze Age period in Britain. This came as something of a surprise to many researchers, who had suspected a much later date for the cutting of the horse. Prior to the OSL dating, the horse had been broadly placed in the Iron Age period (ca. 800 BC to 0 BC/AD) primarily because of its stylistic similarities to horse images which appeared on coins and other metalwork of the period (see for example a selection of coins from the 1st century BC/AD in the Hallaton Treasure Gallery in Harborough Museum, Leicestershire).

 

The 1994 study also established that the horse was originally wider than we see it today. The figure had not simply been scoured into the hillside, but trenches had first been cut delineating the horse shape, after which they were filled with chalk quarried from the hill above.

 

What was the significance of the horse? In the Late Bronze Age, horses were often associated with death and resurrection; indeed, there is a Bronze Age burial ground not far from the horse. This period also saw the emergence of warring tribes across Britain, with warrior chiefs riding on horseback. The nearby hillfort of Uffington Castle (SU 299 863) was probably occupied by the people who cut the horse and perhaps it was an emblem of their tribe.

 

The flat-topped Dragon Hill, in the valley just below the horse, appears at first to be a man-made construction but it is in fact a natural formation. According to tradition, it is here that St George slew the dragon. For this and other reasons, some have argued that the Uffington Horse may not in fact be a horse, but a dragon! In 2010, retired veterinary surgeon Olaf Swarbrick noted that the horse carving is not anatomically correct; it has canine features, rather like 'a large hunting hound at full stretch.' He suggested that it should be re-named 'the wolf hound of Uffington'!

 

The figure is positioned about 0.2 miles (0.3 kms) North of the ancient trackway called the Ridgeway Path. Some 1 miles (2.4 kms) further West along the Ridgeway is the much older chambered long cairn of Wayland's Smithy (see Page 1).

 

 Kingstone Russell stone circle, Dorset (Photo: May 1990)

Kingstone Russell

a.k.a. Kingston Russell

Stone Circle

 

County: Dorset

O.S. Grid Ref: SY 578 878

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

This rather overlooked stone circle can be found on Tenants Hill, some 1 miles (2.5 kms) North of Abbotsbury. All of the stones in the circle have fallen and they can be difficult to see when the grass is tall.

 

There are 18 stones in a roughly circular plan with dimensions 90 ft 10 in (27.7 m) by 67 ft 6 in (20.6 m). The noted archaeoastronomer Alexander Thom classed it as a Flattened Circle Type B under his stone circle plan classification scheme. The longest stones occupy the Northern section of the circle.

 

Further along the nearby trackway which crosses the hilltop, about 0.6 miles (0.95 kms) to the South-west of the circle, are the remains of a Neolithic chambered long barrow called the Grey Mare and Her Colts (SY 584 871). There are two large portal stones at the barrow's Eastern end, behind which is a simple terminal chamber with a dislodged capstone. A crescentic forecourt can be discerned from the apparent jumble of stones. The barrow is 79 ft (24 m) long and 46 ft (14 m) wide and survives to a height of about 3 ft 3 in (1 m). Human bones and some pottery were found here during excavations in the early nineteenth century.

 

Trethevy Quoit burial chamber, Cornwall, seen from the South (Video frame capture, November 1998)

 

View of the Eastern end of Trethevy Quoit burial chamber, Cornwall (Video frame capture, November 1998)

Trethevy Quoit

Dolmen (Burial Chamber)

 

County: Cornwall

O.S. Grid Ref: SX 259 688

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

On the South-eastern edge of Bodmin Moor, beside a minor road leading from Tremar to Darite, this tomb occupies the corner of a field close to a group of cottages. Also known as The Giant's House, it is a large and imposing portal dolmen dating from the Early Neolithic Age. It is arguably the most impressive and best preserved portal dolmen in Cornwall, standing 15 ft (4.6 m) high. The monument is built of granite, the stones most likely having been quarried from a site about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) distant.

 

The giant capstone is about 12 ft (3.7 m) long and is intentionally pitched upwards towards the portals in order to exaggerate the apparent height of the tomb when seen from the Eastern end. There is also a curious hole through the capstone at this end (visible in the lower picture), though it is not known whether it is a natural or a man-made feature.

 

The chamber is wedge-shaped, orientated ESE-WNW and measures 6 ft (2 m) long by 5 ft (1.5 m) wide; its internal height is 10 ft 4 in (3.1 m). The tomb originally had two portal stones restricting entry at the Eastern end, but only one of them survives; just behind it is a feature which archaeologists refer to as an antechamber. The backstone of the chamber fell inwards at some time before 1850. This left the capstone resting on two side slabs and raised the height of the capstone at the Eastern end.

 

The tallest stone of the tomb holds up the capstone at the Eastern end; its outward face is remarkably smooth and a section of its lower South-eastern corner is missing; this may have been cut through deliberately by the tomb's builders in order to provide access to the chamber, however since no other Cornish tomb shows any signs of stone-cutting in such a fashion, this feature is just as likely to have been a more recent attempt to access the tomb by force. Access to many of the Cornish tombs was probably via gaps between the side stones and not necessarily through the front end.

 

There are slight traces of an oval-shaped mound surrounding the chamber, though it probably never fully covered the tomb. The portals would very probably have been left visible due to their monumentality, the mound being heaped up to such a height that it just covered the side slabs. The mound would then have been retained by a kerb of stones around its perimeter.

 

The tomb is similar in form and size to that of Zennor Quoit, some 53 miles (85 kms) to the WSW (see Page 1). At Zennor, however, the two massive portal slabs are set transversely to the tomb's axis.

 

The Hoar Stone burial chamber, near Enstone, Oxfordshire (Photo: May 1989)

The Hoar Stone

a.k.a. The Hoare Stone

Burial Chamber

 

County: Oxfordshire

O.S. Grid Ref: SP 378 237

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Some 0.2 miles (0.3 kms) along the B4022 leading out of Enstone village, contained within a wooded area known as Enstone Firs, is a Neolithic burial chamber which archaeologists refer to as a portal dolmen.

 

At first glance the monument appears as a jumble of stones, each of very differing heights, however closer inspection reveals the three uprights to have formed the sides of a U-shaped chamber, orientated East-West, with the possible remnant of a capstone leaning against the end slab. The tallest stone on the Southern side is known as 'The Old Soldier' and stands 8 ft 10 in (2.7 m) high. The chamber would originally have been covered by a mound of earth and/or stones, which in 1824 was still standing to a height of 3 ft 3 in (1 m), but there is no trace of it today.

 

A local legend says that on Midsummer's Eve, when Lidstone's church clock strikes midnight. 'The Old Soldier' heads down to the village for a drink. There must be at least a hint of a joke in this, since Lidstone church has never had a striking clock! Another says that if anyone attempts to remove the stones, they will return by themselves.

 

Similar in form to the portal dolmens of West Wales (see for example Llech y Dribedd and Carreg Coetan Arthur on Page 4 of the 'Prehistoric Sites in Wales'), small groups of such monuments are found in clusters in the Northern Cotswold region, perhaps the most famous being the Whispering Knights (see Page 1). Archaeologist Timothy Darvill refers to the fact that one such group of sites in Oxfordshire also share similar names: the Hoar Stone at Langley (SP 305 166), the Hawkestone at Spelsbury (SP 339 235) and the Hoar Stone at Steeple Barton (SP 458 241).

 

Scorhill stone circle, Dartmoor, Devon (Photo: August 1987)

 

A view of the South-western section of the Scorhill stone circle, looking North (Photo: August 1987)

Scorhill

Stone Circle

 

County: Devon

O.S. Grid Ref: SX 654 874

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

Situated on the wild and open moorland of Gidleigh Common in the Northern region of Dartmoor National Park, this is one of the most impressive stone circles in South-western England.

 

It is a near-perfect circle, 88 ft (26.8 m) across, now comprising about twenty-nine stones but the number was originally around seventy. Most of the stones are pointed or jagged in appearance. Some of the stones in the circle were apparently removed in order to repair a tin-miner's leat a short distance away.

 

The tallest stone at the North-west of the circle stands around 6 ft (2 m) high. It has a handful of what appear to be cupmarks (man-made circular depressions) on its inner face; however at Scorhill they are not man-made depressions but natural geological formations. It is possible however that the stone was selected by the circle builders because these markings were thought to give the stone special properties.

 

It is said that equestrians cannot ride through the circle because their horses are disturbed by it. Some say that this is because horses are sensitive to the smell of blood, stone circles long having been considered places where human and animal sacrifices took place (although there is no evidence to support this).

 

Another legend tells that 'faithless wives and fickle maidens' were once compelled to run around the circle three times before having to pass through a holed-stone in the nearby River Teign. They then walked three miles (4.8 kms) across the moor to the two Grey Wethers stone circles (SX 639 831), where they were expected to fall on their knees and pray for forgiveness. If they were guilty of their sins one of the stones in the circle would fall and crush them!

 

The name Scorhill derives from the Old English 'scaur hill' meaning 'wooded hill', however there are no trees in the vicinity today.

 

The Badger Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire (Photo: July 1988)

The Badger Stone

Rock Carving

 

County: West Yorkshire

O.S. Grid Ref: SE 110 460

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Located on the upper North-facing slope of Ilkley Moor beside Grainings Head, the Badger Stone is one of over 200 rocks scattered across Rombalds Moor having cups, grooves and various designs etched into them. The carvings are believed to date from the Bronze Age period in Britain.

 

The Badger Stone is a large coarse grit rock measuring 12 ft 4 in (3.7 m) across by 7 ft 8 in (2.3 m) deep, standing about 4 ft (1.2 m) above the moorland surface. It has a complicated set of cups, cups-and-rings and connecting grooves on its South-western face. A handful of cup-marks and rings appear on its Eastern face; there are about 95 cups in total, although there are also a number of recent shot marks.

 

The stone includes what appears to be an unfinished swastika design on the Eastern side of its South-western face (indicated by the arrow in the photograph). A complete swastika appears on The Swastika Stone, some 1.75 kms (1.1 miles) to the North-west (see Page 3).

 

Nympsfield chambered long barrow, Gloucestershire (Photo: May 1988)

 

Looking towards the forecourt at the Nympsfield chambered long barrow, Gloucestershire (Photo: May 1988)

Nympsfield

Chambered Long Barrow

 

County: Gloucestershire

O.S. Grid Ref: SO 793 013

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

This Neolithic chambered tomb of the 'Severn-Cotswold' tradition is located within the Coaley Peak Picnic Site beside the B4066 road between Uley and Woodchester. At 770 ft (235 m) above mean sea level, the tomb is positioned at the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Vale of Berkeley to the West.

 

The tomb is now open to the sky although it would originally have been covered by a mound; all of the chamber capstones have gone. The mound today is ovoid in plan, orientated East-West, and measures 88 ft (27 m) long by 59 ft (18 m) wide. The tomb is entered through a horned forecourt and consists of a passage 19 ft (5.8 m) long with three chambers leading from it; two side chambers and one end chamber. Tombs of this design are referred to by archaeologists as terminal transepted tombs.

 

Before reaching the transepted chambers, one passes through an antechamber roughly 9 ft (2.7 m) square, whose entrance is defined by two projecting jambs. The jamb on the right (on the Northern side) is thin and pointed in shape whilst that on the left (South) is squat with a flat top. Archaeologist Timothy Darvill has suggested that this may be an example of sexual dimorphism incorporated into the tomb's design, as is evidenced at other chambered tombs such as Lanhill in Wiltshire (see Page 3) and Hazleton North, also in Gloucestershire (SP 072 189).

 

The site was excavated on three occasions; in 1862, 1937 and 1974 and the tomb was partly restored in 1974. The remains of 23 individuals were found during the course of the excavations, together with pig bones, Neolithic pottery and a leaf-shaped flint arrowhead (some finds from the excavations are on display at the Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery). The 1937 excavation revealed evidence of burning (probably due to ritual activity) and a small pit was found in the forecourt. As at many long barrows, the forecourt area at Nympsfield had been blocked with rubble and soil at the end of the tomb's use, thus preventing further access.

 

About 0.8 miles (1.3 kms) further South along the road from the Nympsfield barrow, a short distance along a trackway leading from the road, is another restored chambered tomb known as Hetty Pegler's Tump or Uley Long Barrow (SO 789 000). Covered with an extensive earthen mound and a giant capstone, a torch is needed to inspect inside the tomb.

 

Nine Stones stone circle, near Altarnun, Cornwall, seen from the North (Video frame capture, November 1998)

Nine Stones

a.k.a. Altarnun

Stone Circle

 

County: Cornwall

O.S. Grid Ref: SX 236 781

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

"The lovely little ring of Altarnun on Bodmin .. stand(s) in a perpetuated

silence that the most careful inspection does not change."

The stone circle so described by archaeologist and stone circle expert Aubrey Burl can be found on East Moor, some 1.6 miles (2.7 kms) SSE of Fivelanes/Altarnun village. It is situated in a wonderful moorland setting, the circle looking very dramatic when approached from a distance.

 

The circle was restored by the local land-owner F. R. Rodd in 1889, before which only two of the nine stones were standing. Unfortunately the original appearance of the ring was not recorded and the accuracy of the restoration is therefore questionable. The ring is roughly circular with dimensions of 49 ft 10 in (15.2 m) by 45 ft (13.7 m), making it the smallest stone circle on Bodmin Moor. The stone heights range from 3 ft 3 in (1 m) to 4 ft 3 in (1.3 m). There is a large gap in the ring on its Northern side, presumably where other stones would have stood. At the time of the circle's restoration, two of the stones were already missing; there were probably between ten and twelve stones originally.

 

The stone at the circle's centre is set inside a pit (which is often filled with water!). Rodd apparently created this pit, having positioned it a short distance from its original location. Owing to the stone's somewhat differing appearance from the others in the ring, it is likely to have been a latter-day boundary stone which Rodd collected from the surrounding moor.

Archaeoastronomer Alexander Thom claimed an astronomical alignment from this circle towards the setting Moon along an adjacent 'row' of small stones. However, this row is likely to have delineated the local parish boundary and is unlikely to be prehistoric; hence Thom's claim should be considered with some caution.

 

The flat-topped Clitters Cairn (SX 241 782) appears prominent on the skyline to the East of the circle.

 

Drizzlecombe South stone row, Dartmoor, Devon (Video frame capture, April 2003)

 

 

 Two of the menhirs at Drizzlecombe, Dartmoor, Devon (Video frame capture, April 2003)

Drizzlecombe

Stone Row & Cairn Complex

 

County: Devon

O.S. Grid Ref: SX 592 670

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

An impressive complex of three perplexing stone rows and several burial cairns, located in a secluded natural bowl surrounded by mountains. The rows are located on the South-western slope of Higher Hartor Tor, the rows leading uphill from their tall terminal stones. All three stone rows are orientated approximately North-east/South-west. A large round cairn known as the Giant's Basin is situated a short distance to the South of the rows, and is very likely to be associated with them. It is 69 ft (21 m) in diameter and 9 ft 10 in (3 m) high with a hollowed out centre and a cist with a displaced capstone.

 

Once known as 'thrushel-combe' or 'throstle-combe', the greatly contrasting sizes of the giant granite terminal stones compared with the small stones forming the rows is one of the more remarkable aspects of this particular site.

 

The tallest menhir of the group stands at the Southern end of the North-eastern row; it is 14 ft (4.3 m) tall - the tallest standing stone on Dartmoor. The stone had fallen at some time in antiquity, and before its re-erection in 1893 its total length was measured as 17 ft 10 in (5.4 m) long by 4 ft (1.2 m) wide. The stone is estimated to weigh around seven tons. The row leading from it is 296 ft (90 m) in length, the shortest of the three rows. Orientated on a bearing of 44 from True North, this row has been suggested to align on the Moon's most Northerly rising position.

 

The Southernmost stone row (Drizzlecombe South) is perhaps the most impressive of the group, its spine-like row extending some 488 ft (149 m) across the moorland; its terminal stone is 10 ft (3.2 m) tall and is triangular in shape. This row is comprised mostly of a single line of stones but it is double in places. The North-western row is 491 ft (150 m) long and is comprised of a single line of stones; its terminal stone is 7 ft 10 in (2.4 m) high and is leaning. All three stone rows have a burial cairn at their North-eastern ends, which would seem to support the theory that these rows were processional routeways to the cairns, or a non-functional symbolic representation of such.

 

It has been conjectured that a fourth row was planned to the West of the other three, leading from the third burial cairn. There is a stone positioned about 960 ft (292 m) to the South-west of the cairn, hidden in the bracken, which archaeologist Aubrey Burl suggests may have been a 'marker-stone' for an intended row which would have stretched the entire distance from the cairn. If this was planned by the site builders, it seems the project was never carried out. Burl and others have also suggested that many of the monuments in the complex were deliberately placed in the form of a trapezoid, perhaps mimicking the trapezoidal plans of the much earlier long barrows.

 

Situated to the North-west of the rows, along a line extended through the three burial cairns, is a small cist with a capstone which has slid off and is resting on its Northern side-slab. The cist is orientated North-west/South-east; a short row of stones leads Eastwards from it. Some 440 ft (135 m) to the East of the cist, positioned on the sloping hillside are the remnants of two pounds (walled settlements); they each contain the foundations of hut-circles, perhaps once occupied by the builders of the complex.

 

Concluding this selection of prehistoric sites in England, the Drizzlecombe complex perhaps best encapsulates the very nature of these many ancient wonders: remote, mysterious and evocative.

 

Copyright  Martin J Powell  2010-2017

<< Prehistoric Sites in England (Page 4)

 

Pagan

Britain

Ronald Hutton

Ancient Music &

Instruments of

Ireland & Britain

The Story of  a

 Distinctive Musical Culture..

Simon O'Dwyer

et al

Megalithism

Sacred and Pagan

Architecture in

Prehistory

Alberto Pozzi

Prehistoric

Cumbria

David Barrowclough

The Making of

Prehistoric

Wiltshire

Life, Ceremony & Death

from  the Earliest Times

to the Roman Invasion

David Field &

Dave McOmish

The Field

Archaeology of

Dartmoor

(English Heritage)

Phil Newman

Ancient

Wonderings

A Tale of

Obsession with

Prehistoric Britain

(Kindle Edition)

James Canton

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Martin J Powell is a participant in the Amazon Europe S. r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de and Amazon.fr

 

Prehistoric Sites in Britain - Photo Galleries

Sites in 3D Stereo

Some stereo photos of prehistoric sites in South Dartmoor

Wales

Scotland

South Dartmoor

 

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