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The ‘entrance’ stones to the west circle
©
Roy Goutté
 
Earlier this year the TimeSeekers volunteer clearance group highlighted three or four stone circles on Bodmin Moor that could benefit from a vegetation clearance and general tidy up. The twin circles on Emblance Downs were two such circles, so, after gaining the necessary approval from the Landowner, Natural England and Historic England, we were set to commence our work on the 21st August.
 
Having twin circles to work on is not an everyday event and as little appeared to be known about them we felt privileged to be given the chance to at least tidy them up and bring them back into the public gaze. As all members of TimeSeekers are furiously enthusiastic amateur archaeologists, it also gave us the opportunity to study the circles and general area to a much greater extent than just paying them a casual visit.
 
The enigmatic King Arthur’s Hall is but a stone’s throw away from the circles and walkers visiting the Hall often then carry on to Garrow Tor. In doing so they have to pass within sight of the circles, but unless they know that they are there, don’t spot them due to the reed and other vegetation coverage. Couple that with the fact that the eastern circle was very devoid of ring stones anyway and they have become almost forgotten. 
 
Within the TimeSeekers group we have some very enthusiastic dowsers and they found the twin circles to be of great interest. Regular followers will recall that when I submitted the article King Arthur’s Hall: The Dowsers’ Perspective to The Heritage Trust two years ago, a group of dowsers from the far west of Cornwall had paid the site a visit themselves and then submitted their own findings to me. It was of great interest to many readers so I will be featuring the findings of our own group of dowsers who took part in the Emblance Downs clearance as a follow-on to this article at a later date.
 
Roy Goutté
 
Full report here.

The Red Lion (centre with white car parked in front of it) at Avebury in 1947
Aerofilms Ltd © Historic England Archive

Historic England reports –
 
Situated in the heart of one of the world’s greatest Neolithic monuments, Avebury’s Red Lion is supposedly home to at least five different ghosts. Built as a farmhouse in the late 16th or early 17 century, it became a coaching inn in the early 19th century. One of its more spectacular ghostly apparitions is a phantom carriage that clatters through its yard. Inside, the ghost of Florrie haunts the pub. Florrie took a lover while her husband was away fighting during the Civil War. He returned to find the couple, shot his wife’s lover and stabbed Florrie, throwing her body down the well. The glass-topped well now serves as a table in the bar.
 
More here.

A guest feature by Littlestone.

The Rudston Monolith
©
Littlestone

To quote Wikipedia, “The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

So, to mark this year’s St Valentine’s Day, Moss and I decided to make the 30 mile drive over from where we live in North Yorkshire to Rudston village to see for ourselves the ‘real thing’. Nothing quite prepares you for this ‘real thing’. Photos of the monolith we’d seen before but first sight, and first touch, of this towering Neolithic edifice left us both speechless. If there’s ever a stone that puts its neighbouring church into a shadow this is it. And the fact that it’s stood there for some 4,000 years makes it even more awe-inspiring. As ever, the similarity with other subsumed (Christianised) sites in Britain, seems the same. The Rudson Monolith stands close to a water source. A Roman villa once stood close by and there are Roman tiles in the church walls. There are also the remains of a Roman sarcophagus in the graveyard.

Outlier stone and the remains of a Roman sarcophagus behind it
©
Littlestone

Googling ‘Rudston Monolith’ will throw up all sorts of info but what intrigued me most, being actually there on site, was the smaller outlier stone in one corner of the graveyard. The stone is of the same composition as the monolith itself and evidently was once situated close to it. Could it be the missing top of the Rudsone Monolith? Did it fall away naturally or was it cut off because it offended past norms of acceptability? Who knows, but here’s an interesting comparison from Brittany in France.

The Plonéour-Lanvern megalith in Brittany, France circa 1900
Collection Abbaey de la Source, Paris
 
 
The 5,000 year-old holed stone recently discovered in Sicily. It is thought that the sun would shine through the man-made hole and mark the winter solstice
Image credit Giuseppe La Spina
 
Writing for Live Science,  Rossella Lorenzi reports that –
 
Italian archaeologists have found an intriguing Stonehenge-like “calendar rock” in Sicily. Featuring a 3.2-foot diameter hole, the rock formation marked the beginning of winter some 5,000 years ago.
 
“It appeared clear to me that we were dealing with a deliberate, man-made hole,” archaeologist Giuseppe La Spina told Seeker. “However, we needed the necessary empirical evidence to prove the stone was used as a prehistoric calendar to measure the seasons.”
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
 
The Bridge of Brodgar, Orkney in 1875 by Walter Hugh Patton (1828-1895)
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
For those interested in archaeology, and ancient Britain, tonight’s program on BBC TWO from 9.00pm to 10.00pm should make fascinating viewing –
 
Orkney – seven miles off the coast of Scotland and cut off by the tumultuous Pentland Firth, the fastest flowing tidal race in Europe – is often viewed as being remote. Yet it is one of the treasure troves of archaeology in Britain. Recent discoveries there are turning the stone age map of Britain upside down. Rather than an outpost at the edge of the world, recent finds suggest an extraordinary theory… that Orkney was the cultural capital of our ancient world and the origin of the stone circle cult which culminated in Stonehenge.
 
More here.

Standing stone on the North York Moors
©
Littlestone

A Dream of Solstice

Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.

Seamus Heaney

 

  dp00203318
The Stone of Ballater by James Drummond (1852)
©
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)
 

Nine Stones Altarnun
Image credit and © Roy Goutté
 
In a new series, Roy Goutté delves into the archives to search out some interesting old Cornish archaeological articles, stories, tales and chapters in books now in the public domain that were published way back in the 19th and 20th centuries.
 

Part 2… Hero to Zero!

Archaeology is a serious subject as we well know, but now and again things do happen that make you smile.

This (as written) from The Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 1886 – 1889.

The Hero…

Re-erection of the Nine-Stones.

“On April 8th, Mr. F. R. Rodd, accompanied by Mrs. Rodd, took some men to the old circle of this name, which lies about three quarters of a mile S.E. of Fox Tor, and the diameter of which coincides with the boundary-line between Altarnon and North Hill. The stones (which happen to be nine in number), were all fallen except two: this was not to be wondered at considering none of them are more than 6 or 7 feet high, and they are not large of their kind; besides, the cattle constantly trampling round and rubbing against them hasten the effects of winds and rains. Two stones of the circle were missing; but the one in the centre, though fallen, was in place; for which a fresh pit was excavated, without, however, bringing to light any indications of there having been an interment there.

“This is but a small circle, and so not particularly valuable as a relic of antiquity yet the restoration of it none the less serves a good purpose, as tending to shew the moor-men, especially those on the look-out for gate-posts, that labour (i.e. money) is expended on their preservation: and therefore Mr.Rodd deserves the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. For this is the only practical way of carrying out the spirit of Sir John Lubbock’s Act, on these moors, where people are so scarce, and knowledge travels so slowly, that prehistoric remains may be destroyed and removed, without the discovery of such destruction, until too late to prevent it.”

The nine-stones in question are in fact the Nine Stones of Altarnun stone circle of course on East Moor just up the lane from where I live and my favourite circle. Its southern boundary is Ridge Hill.

Ridge Hill cairn as seen today © Roy Goutté

This follow-on piece in the same Journal is what made me smile… not the wanton destruction and desecration of a sacred and beautiful stone cairn of course, you understand, but the possibility that it may have been carried out by our former hero who gained such respect with his work done at the stone circle on East Moor a few hundred yards below. What an embarrassment!

The Villain?

Opening of a Cairn on Ridge Hill.

“On May 22nd, 1889, I received the following from Mr. Rodd, of Trebartha Hall:

“We have been raising a wall round the old plantation below Ridge Hill lately, and have driven an adit (a horizontal passage) through the cairn on the top, in order to get stone for the purpose. This morning I see that the men have arrived at a central rock, around which the cairn appears to have been built. The top of the cairn appears to have been disturbed at some former time, and to have been composed of a number (7 or 8) of irregularly shaped cells, or chambers, very roughly built: I cannot conceive for what purpose; we hope to go up there again with two carts and clear away stone to the centre of the ground-line: I should much like you to see what we have done.

“Accordingly on July 3rd, I accompanied Mr.Rodd and some friends, and found that a passage had been made from the circumference at the north side to the centre, and beyond the centre of the cairn, by removal of loose stones, and that the original ground-level of this portion of it was exposed to view. In the centre (or thereabouts) of the area on which the cairn had been constructed was a large slab of granite, about 5 feet long, 2 to 3 feet square, partially embedded, and apparently as laid there by nature. This block certainly seemed to have been the nucleus round which the cairn was formed, for it seemed to be the centre of some concentric circles of stones, on edge, which, at some little distance, circumscribed the block. The surface of the ground, and the faces of the loose stones all around in the “crater” of the cairn were so coloured and scarred with tar and tire from the bonfires, or beacon-tires of various generations, including the jubilee bonfire, and the molten tar had penetrated between the interstices of the stones, and permeated the soil to such an extent, that it was most difficult to determine whether the burnt earth immediately above the subsoil was due to this cause only, or was indicative of a funeral pyre. However, on excavating round the granite-slab previously divided into two parts for the more easy removal, it distinctly appeared by the depth of such darkened earth, the absence of any tar, and the homogeneity of the soil, that the ashes of the primal interment had been laid against, but not under the N.W. side of the granite block. There was no paving, fragment of pottery, or anything whatever of interest, just here, and the earth was turned over down to the “country 5″ apparently there had never been any kist-vean under the cairn; but it is possible there may have been another interment without kist-vean elsewhere below the ground level, in other parts of the cairn, where the ground has not yet been excavated.”

I wonder if Mr.Rodd (assuming it was the same person that is) was expecting the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for that little lot as well?

Note:

My thoughts every time I visit both the cairn and the circle focus on the centre stones of both and wonder is there is a direct connection. In their mindset, did whatever took place below on the moor in the living world, get replicated at the cairn in the next i.e. the Afterlife?

 

 
 
The Cove, Avebury
©
Moss
 
This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986. A number of events are taking place throughout this year.
 
The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.
 
On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes [England], a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney(University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.
 
More here.
 
Nine Stones Altarnun at Dawn
Image credit and © Roy Goutté
 

Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members. (Part 3 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Leskernick Stone Row
SX 18707986 to SX19017991
Field workers:
Roy Goutté
Colin Green
Jacqui Rukin
Stuart Dow
Elizabeth Dale
 
And so we came to the third and final stage of our Leskernick clearance project – the Stone Row. Little did we know at the time but we were in for quite a surprise when we made what could turn out to be potentially an exciting find and if confirmed, one that could have a profound effect on our current understanding of the stone row and possibly the whole Complex itself.
 
We’ve carried out quite a few stone circle clearances now amongst other things, but for me none of them match up to what Leskernick has to offer. The rain and wind it can keep, but the surrounding landscape and the feeling of wonder it offers I’ll take all day long. I felt that ‘something’ made us welcome there and that feeling has only happened to me at one other place on Bodmin Moor even though I love all of it! Even the moor ponies that frequent the area were at ease when in our presence and to see them with their foals wandering about the Settlement like it was now their home very touching.
 
There are other parts of the moor where Rough Tor dominates the skyline and many of our stone circles lie within its gaze, but in this case there is no shadow of a doubt that it is Brown Willy that calls the tune here. Even more so is the draw that if offers when walking the stone row. I’ve never been a ‘for ceremonial and ritual purposes’ man because the term I feel over-used, but I am here, no question as it simply oozes it. As I said in Part 1 of these reports – from the very moment we arrived at Leskernick we felt we were in a special place – a place of wonder and great importance and felt we would find things not recorded here before. By the conclusion of this report you will see that there is a very good chance that we were correct in our assumptions.
 
For the full report click here (PDF).
 

 

Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members (Part 2 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.

 
A view south-east through the North Circle prior to its clearance
Just two of the three earth-fast ring stones and the centre stone visible above ground
 
Leskernick North Stone Circle
SX 18587992
 
First recorded in 1983 by Peter Herring, Leskernick North Stone Circle lies at the southern base of Leskernick Hill on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall on what is generally considered as being the end of the hills clitter line – although in reality it seems to spread out far and wide – and the start of open moorland to the south and east. Along with the South circle about 350 metres to the south-east it is the second of two known circles in this area and both within the dominant gaze of the impressive Brown Willy the highest hill on Bodmin Moor and Cornwall at 420m above sea level.
 
If not for the presence of the 3.9m long ‘whaleback’ recumbent centre stone and two prominent earth-fast ring stones, you would never know the circle existed such is the amount of partly covered clitter it is hidden amongst. Once found however, a third, but not so obvious earth-fast ring stone can then be observed, but after that, precious little. That was the situation when we arrived.
 
The Intent and Methodology of clearing the circle remained the same as at the South Stone Circle and can be seen in Part 1 of these Reports.
 
Commencement date: June 20th 2016.
 
 
TimeSeekers Field workers:
 
Roy Goutté
Colin Green
Jacqui Rukin
Stuart Dow
Elizabeth Dale
 
For the full report click here (PDF).
 
 
Standing stones in the south-west quadrant of the Avebury stone circle
©
Littlestone
 
What has long been suspected, that the earliest stone monuments in Britain were built with astronomy in mind, has now been proven. Writing in the NewHistorian, Daryl Worthington reports that –
 
Through innovative use of 2D and 3D technology, researchers from the University of Adelaide have statistically proven that spectacular stone circles constructed up to 500 years before Stonehenge, were deliberately built in line with the movement of the Sun and Moon.
 
The findings, published last week in the Journal of Archaeological Science, give fresh insight into the relationships ancient Britons held with the sky; connecting the earth to astronomical phenomena through spectacular monuments.
 
“Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind – it was all supposition,” said project leader and University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow Dr Gail Higginbottom, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.
 
Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney; are the oldest stone circles in Scotland, built during the late Neolithic over 5000 years ago. It has long been thought that the megaliths were laid out to reflect the cosmos, but the quantitative tests carried out by the team on the patterns of alignment of the standing stones have finally provided convincing evidence that this was indeed the case.
 
More here.
 

Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members (Part 1 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Leskernick South Stone Circle
SX 18817969
 
Discovered in 1973 by M Fletcher of the O.S. Archaeology Division, Leskernick South Stone Circle lies on slightly rising open moorland within a landscape of outstanding natural beauty some 400 metres to the south-east of the base of Leskernick Hill on the eastern perimeter of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It is one of two known circles within this area and both within the dominant gaze of the impressive Brown Willy the highest hill on Bodmin Moor and Cornwall at 420m above sea level. The hill has a variable appearance that depends on the vantage point from which it is seen, rather like its close neighbour, Rough Tor.
 
From the very moment we arrived at Leskernick we felt we were in a special place – a place of wonder and great importance. It is enclosed by a series of hills, ridges and tors in all directions and just shouts out that importance. The landscape is breathtaking. To stand on the top of Leskernick Hill you can’t help but feel that you are in the centre of a world that was once a Kingdom – an enclosed world – with only a hint or speculation of a possible world beyond. The Beacon, Tolborough Tor, Catshole Tor, Brown Willy, Rough Tor, Showery Tor, High Moor, Buttern Hill, Bray Down, and Carne Down all lock you in – and beyond in the distance, Brown Gelly.
 
Before we even commenced our work there we had a feeling that whatever we were to find during our excavations, there would be far, far, more lying hidden than what was already known about or still present – which even then is surly just part of a much greater story! Of great surprise to us was to discover that Leskernick Hill with its Bronze-Age settlement, combined with the two stone circles, the stone row, the nearby large cairn, or in fact anything connected with the whole complex, were not scheduled. To be honest it was more shock than surprise, so before we even commenced our work, I had decided to apply for scheduling on its completion. We all felt it was the least we could do to help protect and preserve our heritage.
 
For the full report click here (PDF).
 
 
The Ring of Brodgar: Unesco World Heritage Site
Image credit Alamy Stock Photo
 
Kevin McKenna, writing in The Observer, reports that, “British archaeologists have never had it so good. The Orkney Ness of Brodgar site is changing perceptions of neolithic man. More than 600 miles south, a bronze-age find is being hailed as ‘Britain’s Pompeii’. But funds are tight.”
 
The story started, one anointed day in March 2003, with a curious stone slab on a finger of Orkney hemmed in by seas. Nick Card, of the University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, remembers that it was a typically cold and wet day. He was accompanied by his departmental colleague, Professor Jane Downes, and Julie Gibson, the county archaeologist. What they encountered that day has changed their lives and changed Orkney. Ness of Brodgar was a sacred place that defined the passage of time.
 
What lay beneath their feet, as they discovered bit by bit over the next 12 years, was the world’s greatest neolithic find in the modern era: a complex settlement of buildings and structures made 4,500 years ago which is turning on its head our understanding and perception of this era and its people.
 
The Council for British Archaeology has designated the last two weeks in July as Britain’s Festival of Archaeology, with hundreds of digs and visits being arranged all over Britain. The organisers couldn’t have picked a better time for their festival. Some 650 miles south of Orkney, at Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, archaeologists are still in the first stages of wonder at an extraordinary bronze age site that they have begun to describe as “Britain’s Pompeii”.
 
More here.
 

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