Megalithic Mysteries

rynner2

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#1
There seem to be many Stonehenge (etc) threads, but no thread for the lesser known sites, so I'm starting this as a catch-all thread for the rest, and any related theories!

Bodmin Moor Hurlers mystery solved
By Daily Telegraph reporter
Last Updated: 3:06am GMT 19/12/2007

The mystery of the Hurlers on Bodmin Moor may have been solved.

An amateur astronomer claims that the ancient stone monuments were built to mirror the stars in Orion's Belt and indicate the date of mid-winter.

The theory was proposed by Brian Sheen, a retired research chemist who runs the Roseland Observatory in St Stephen, Cornwall.

He claims that the three stone circles, erected about 1,500 BC, mirror the three stars of Orion's Belt. At midnight on the winter solstice, their north-south orientation aligns with Orion's position - due south in the sky.

Mr Sheen said the stones served as a calendar, also telling the tribesmen the summer solstice.

"This was important because they were starting to grow things and look after animals," he said. "They were becoming farmers instead of hunter-gatherers."

Legend has it that the stones were men, turned to rock for playing hurling on the Sabbath.

http://tinyurl.com/yr3ejd

I've met Brian Sheen a few times. An experienced astronomer.
 

rynner2

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#2
Well, this thread soon petered out! Let's add this story:

Work begins on Giant's Quoit ancient monument
11 September 2012 Last updated at 07:34
[video]

A year-long project to restore an ancient monument that could be 6,000 years old has begun in Cornwall.
Carwynnen Quoit, near Camborne, sometimes known as the Giant's Quoit, collapsed in the 1960s.

English Heritage said it was extremely rare for scheduled monuments to be restored.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-19554301

This is accessible to me and my wonky knees, being not far from a bus route, so I won't have to yomp for miles over bleak, rocky moorland! I hope to visit soon... (I need a new project, now that the new Hayle bridge is largely finished and taking traffic.)
 

rynner2

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#3
I went to Carwynnen today, and took several photos. Here's one:


(Stones visible the in background.)

Another:



Nothing spectacular to see there at present, but the Big Dig starts next week - 17th September - 3rd October

For now, there's a website with news and pics:
http://www.giantsquoit.org/
 
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#5
rynner2 said:
Tools and weapons found at Giant's Quoit ancient monument
2 October 2012 Last updated at 21:43
[Video]

Archaeologists have found tools, weapons and a paved terrace at the site of an ancient monument in Cornwall.

Carwynnen Quoit, near Camborne, sometimes known as the Giant's Quoit, collapsed in the 1960s.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-19808130
Interesting short vid. Great to see community involvement in the project.
 

rynner2

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#6
There was an Open Day at Carwynnen Quoit on Sunday, but I couldn't get there because of a lack of public transport.

(Mind you, I was knackered anyway from my expedition to see the Mine detonation off the Helford the day before - I still haven't recovered! But I bet parachute mines never crossed the minds of Bronze Age people! )
 

Zilch5

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#7
Ancient tomb found at 'Sweden's Stonehenge'

Swedish archaeologists have unearthed what is presumed to be a dolmen, or a portal tomb, that is believed to be over 5,000 years old near the megalithic monument Ale’s stones in southern Sweden.
Swedish archaeologists have unearthed what is presumed to be a dolmen, or a portal tomb, that is believed to be over 5,000 years old near the megalithic monument Ale’s stones in southern Sweden.

”The findings confirm what we have believed; that this has been a special place for a very long time,” said archaeologist Bengt Söderberg to news agency TT.

On Saturday, the first day of the dig, the scientists already had a hunch that they would find something on the site, expecting a Stone Age grave and a Bronze Age monument.

And since, the hunch has become stronger.

“Let me put it like this: it looks bloody good,” said archaeologist Björn Wallebom of the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) to local paper Skånskan. etc etc etc
http://www.thelocal.se/43820/20121015/
 

rynner2

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#8
rynner2 said:
Tools and weapons found at Giant's Quoit ancient monument
2 October 2012 Last updated at 21:43
[Video]

Archaeologists have found tools, weapons and a paved terrace at the site of an ancient monument in Cornwall.

Carwynnen Quoit, near Camborne, sometimes known as the Giant's Quoit, collapsed in the 1960s.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-19808130
Ancient monument Carwynnen Quoit to be rebuilt

Work to rebuild a collapsed ancient Cornish monument is due to start later.
Carwynnen Quoit, or Giant's Quoit, a 5,000-year-old burial chamber near Troon, collapsed in 1966.
The first stones are due to be re-erected by owners the Sustainable Trust which bought the site in 2009. The cap stone will be replaced on 21 June.

Restoration follows a series of archaeological digs to establish how the scheduled ancient monument should be reassembled.
According to the trust, Carwynnen Quoit is among 12 similar monuments in Cornwall.
The burial chambers, also known as dolmens, are thought to have been covered in earth which has eroded over the years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-27248223

Sadly, now I can't walk very far, I won't be able to see the reconstruction unless I take a taxi. But I did visit the archaeological dig and get some photos a couple of years ago. (See above.)
 

rynner2

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#9
Carwynnen Quoit was on the local TV news today. It seems they have already got the uprights in place - what the ancient folk would have done for the use of a mechanical digger!

I'm surprised they didn't replace the capstone as well. Presumably the summer solstice is seen as a more 'propitious' time.

Ancient monument Carwynnen Quoit rebuilding starts

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-27248223
 

rynner2

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#10
Ancient monument Carwynnen Quoit rebuild completed

Work to rebuild a collapsed ancient Cornish monument has been completed on the day of the summer solstice.
Carwynnen Quoit, or Giant's Quoit, a 5,000-year-old burial chamber near Troon, collapsed in 1966.
The burial chamber had fallen apart but, with help from archaeologists, it is standing proud once again.
Replacing the capstone was the last piece of work carried out by owners the Sustainable Trust, which bought the site in 2009.

Leading architect on the project, Jacky Nowakowski said: "It's a magical moment to get to this stage in the project.
"I feel exhilarated to bring the capstone home and make the monument complete again.
"A lot of people have come together to bring an ancient monument back to life, so today's a real celebration of that amazing achievement."

The ancient granite monument is believed to date as far back as the Neolithic period.
The Cornwall Sustainable Trust and Cornwall Heritage Trust employed professional archaeologists to help research and rebuild it.

Initial work saw two support stones replaced in their original Neolithic footings but the third stone had to be adjusted to comply with health and safety regulations. :roll:
The main capstone measuring 3.3m (11ft) long, 2.5m (8ft) wide and 30cm (1ft) thick was dropped into position by a large crane.

According to the trust, Carwynnen Quoit is among 12 similar monuments around the county.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-27945128

It was a fine day today, and I had hoped to go and see the capstone replaced, but for various reasons I was unable to go.
 

Fluttermoth

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#11
(I haven't been there, I'm only going by the photos on the BBC page in Ryn's post)

I think it looks awful; the whole thing is far too square.

The article says; Initial work saw two support stones replaced in their original Neolithic footings but the third stone had to be adjusted to comply with health and safety regulations.2

Then what's the point? It's not how it was, so they might just have left it alone, IMHO.
 

rynner2

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#12
Fluttermoth said:
(I haven't been there, I'm only going by the photos on the BBC page in Ryn's post)

I think it looks awful; the whole thing is far too square.
So are you an expert on how these things should look? ;)

The fact is, these things have been around for thousands of years. For much of this time, the stones were probably covered in a earth mound. Only after the earth eroded away would the footings of the stones start to loosen up, a process that resulted in the final collapse of the monument in the 60s.

Although I mock the intervention of H&S, without knowing the full archaeological findings, and the exact H&S concerns, we can't really comment on how the thing should have looked.

'Far too square'? In prehistoric times, as well as in our H&S times, a 'square' construction might well have seemed the best and safest solution. They weren't building things to look quaint by 21st century standards!
 

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#13
rynner2 said:
'Far too square'? In prehistoric times, as well as in our H&S times, a 'square' construction might well have seemed the best and safest solution. They weren't building things to look quaint by 21st century standards!
I agree! Yes, we are so used to seeing these things looking crooked that when we see one that is constructed properly, it may seem 'wrong'. The megalithic builders probably built it nice and square, it seems safe to assume.
 

FrKadash

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#15
''Stone circle recently discovered on Dartmoor''
Posted by Past Horizons, on May 12, 2015
The stone circle was discovered after undergrowth was removed in a controlled burn of the area. It is situated 525m above sea level, making it the highest stone circle in southern England, with panoramic views in all directions. With a diameter of 34m, it is the second largest circle on Dartmoor. The first stones were identified by Alan Endacott a few years ago.
http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.../stone-circle-recently-discovered-on-dartmoor
 

rynner2

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#16
A bit late, but more pics of the completion of the restoration of Carwynnen Quoit:
Sun shines on final phase of project to restore Carwynnen Quoit
By West Briton | Posted: June 26, 2014

BEAMING sunshine greeted the gathering crowds on Saturday who came to watch the final phase of a historic restoration project.
At about 3pm cranes lowered the final capstone onto the structure to mark the completion of the resurrection of Carwynnen Quoit.

The site at Pendarves Estate, near Camborne, had previously lain as a neglected pile of stones for almost 50 years until Pip Richards and the Sustainable Trust began proceedings to restore it to its former glory.
She said: "There was a fantastic atmosphere and three times as many people came to watch than what I originally thought.
"The whole event went splendidly and the capstone went on effortlessly. A special moment that will stick with me forever was when the security tape was removed after the placing and the crowds surged forwards to touch the monument.
"There are too many people for me to thank who have helped with this project."

The crowd was kept thoroughly entertained throughout the day by the likes of the Bagas Crowd and the Red River Singers, as well as readings from a selection of poets.
The afternoon was then crowned with an emotional rendition of the Ballad Of Carwynnen.

The historic monument was used as a funerary and ceremonial gathering point as far back as 3500BC and features on the emblem of both Camborne Rugby Club and Troon Cricket Club.

http://www.westbriton.co.uk/Sun-shi...re-Carwynnen/story-21293965-detail/story.html
 

rynner2

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#17
Tributes ahead of celebration to mark inspirational legacy of Pip Richards
By wbchris | Posted: June 07, 2016

A CROWD of hundreds is expected to attend the celebration of the life of an inspirational woman who masterminded the five-year re-erection of a 5,000-year-old chamber tomb.

Pip Richards recently died after a long illness and was buried in a private ceremony at a plot in view of her beloved Carwynnen Quoit, the ancient monument she worked tirelessly to have reinstated after it lay in ruins for half a century.



The Neolithic structure had been an abandoned and forlorn pile of stones since the 1960s, before members of Sustrust, led by Pip, began the campaign to rebuild it.
Watched by several hundred supporters, its 10-tonne capstone was finally hoisted back into place on Midsummer's Day 2014. Measuring 11ft by 8ft by 1ft, the great granite slab was dropped into position by crane.
As a result of the achievement, Pip was presented with a number of awards for her work.

Colin Higgs, who became friends with Pip during the many years of struggle to gain permission to reinstate the quoit, added: "The amount of red tape that she had to go through never daunted her and in the end the support she got was amazing. I am so glad she is buried there."

Brought up in London, Pip Richards studied textile design at Leeds University and worked for Yorkshire Television for several years, including a long stint on Emmerdale.
She was married to Joe Fenn, who described his wife's many achievements as "unbelievable – she was always doing something for others".

The couple, who have two children and three grandchildren, and were together for 36 years, lived at Keeper's Cottage, in the heart of the old Clowance Estate at Praze-an-Beeble. Pip originally bought what was then a derelict property back in the 1970s, and she and Joe set about completely renovating the house and garden.
Shortly after moving in, she fought to save 75 acres of nearby woodland – Crenver Grove and Fox Grove – from development. And it was that success which led to the formation of the Sustainable Trust (Sustrust), a self-funded charity with the stated aim "to advance the education of the public in the principles and practice of sustainable development".

Numerous groups were involved in the reconstruction project, including several schools which took part in outdoor lessons at the site. Children from Troon, Crowan, Kehelland, Penponds and Archbishop Benson schools chose items for a time capsule, which was buried deep beneath the ancient monument. Pip also produced a book and app to record the project.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Sita Cornwall, the excavation revealed 2,300 objects – many of them Neolithic – in the surrounding area. Also known as The Giant's Frying Pan and Pendarves Quoit, it was probably once covered by a large mound of earth, similar in construction to Trethevy Quoit, Lanyon Quoit and Chun Quoit.

Before she died, Pip began work on The Lost Landscapes of Pendarves, a huge historical investigation of a largely unexcavated area of West Cornwall.
A decision on whether the project will be funded by the Heritage Lottery will be made next month.

A public celebration of her life will take place, again in view of Carwynnen Quoit, on land that is to be renamed Pip's Field, on Saturday July 2.
Mr Fenn has asked people to car share when possible or park in Treslothan to avoid congestion around the site.
The celebration will get underway at midday and picnics and musicians are welcome. The Red River Singers will be performing at 5pm and any donations are to be made to Mount Edgcumbe Hospice where Pip was cared for during her illness.

http://www.westbriton.co.uk/wishers...l-legacy-Pip/story-29370738-detail/story.html

RIP, Pip.
 
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#18
A hillwalker in west Kerry has made a stunning discovery which connects a 4,000-year-old tomb with the equinox.

The megalithic tomb, known as the Giant’s Grave, is situated in the valley of Loch an Dúin on the eastern side of the Conor Pass.

Ancient rock art can be found within the tomb, including a cup and circle near the head of the tomb.

For the past 14 years Daithí Ó Conaill, a retired school principal, has visited the site during the winter and summer solstice hoping to make a connection between the tomb and the sun.

He has now discovered that the wedge tomb is actually aligned to the setting sun of the equinox, which last occurred on Friday 22 September.

https://www.rte.ie/news/munster/2017/0925/907390-megalithic/
 

EnolaGaia

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#19
Question:

'Megalith' means 'great stone'.

Is there an approximate minimum size for stones within a prehistoric site to qualify the site as 'megaliths' or 'megalithic'?

I'm curious about this because I've seen (e.g.) stone circles comprised of relatively small stones (small enough that 1 strong person could lift and carry them). Some such small-stone sites are described as 'megalithic' and some aren't.
 

Frideswide

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#20
It can be related to the general size and type of stones in the locality. So that the more likely a stone is to be foreign and/or brought by human agency, the more appropriate the label is.

And megaliths need human agency. General glacial erratics don't get the label!
 

EnolaGaia

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#21
Would it then be fair to say a site that is extensive (i.e., relatively 'mega') and clearly the product of deliberate human agency in collecting and arranging stones qualifies for being called 'megalithic' even if the stones comprising it aren't all that large?
 

maximus otter

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#22
Question:

'Megalith' means 'great stone'.

Is there an approximate minimum size for stones within a prehistoric site to qualify the site as 'megaliths' or 'megalithic'?
The cut-off point is “Is there an English Heritage pay & display car park at the site?

If Yes, e.g. Stonehenge, then they’re megaliths; if No, e.g. Castlerigg, then they’re just “some rocks and stuff”.

maximus otter
 

Mikefule

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#23
The term, "megalith" or "megalithic" is applied to a range of structures, some of which consist of very large stones, and some of which consist of lots of fairly large stones piled together in drystone structures. Megalithic structures come from a range of periods and cultures, and the label was applied retrospectively from 1849 onwards.

There are three ways we could approach defining megalithic:
  • By comparison with other terms from the same field.
  • By comparing the size of the stones with those in modern structures such as drystone walls and nearby stone cottages.
  • By the duck test.
Microlith: a very small worked piece of stone. Typically they were used as a tool or the point of a weapon. Often they were a small component of a compound tool or weapon.

Megalith: an artificial stone structure made of very large stones (e.g. Stonehenge or Avebury) or of large stones piled on each other to make a large structure, such as a chambered tomb. I think that a site becomes "megalithic" when it is big enough to be considered a "structure", but even that is vague. Is a ring of standing stones with no capstones or roof a structure in the usual sense of the word? Is a ring of reclining stones a structure in the usual sense of the word?

In most cases, it's obvious. Stonehenge, Avebury, or the Ring of Brodgar are all made up of stones so big that it would take several people working together to transport and erect just one. They easily pass the duck test.

However, what about a very small stone circle like the 9 ladies on Stanton Moor? The stones there are small enough that you can easily sit down on one. My guess is that two or three strong men could carry one stone a short distance without equipment. One man could probably erect a stone that size working alone. Are those stones big enough to be "megaliths"?

Well, certainly, given a binary choice between microliths and megaliths, they are megaliths. Compared to the average size of a stone in a nearby drystone wall, the stones of the circle are huge. Compared to the average size of a stone used in a stone cottage, they are very big. Compared to the stones of nearby Arbor Low stone circle, they are diminutive.

I'd be tempted to suggest an intermediate category of mesolith, except that this would cause confusion with "mesolithic" which refers to a period rather than a size.

I note that sources often refer to sites such as 9 Ladies as "... age stone circles" avoiding the need to say whether or not they qualify as "mega".
 

Frideswide

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#24
Would it then be fair to say a site that is extensive (i.e., relatively 'mega') and clearly the product of deliberate human agency in collecting and arranging stones qualifies for being called 'megalithic' even if the stones comprising it aren't all that large?
totally :)
 

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#25
I visited Achmore Stone Circle on Lewis (Outer Hebrides) in Oct 2005 - or rather I didn't, as it wasn't a stone circle. The peat hadn't been cut away (like at Callanish a few miles away), the stones hadn't been uprighted and re-positioned (like at Stonehenge), no-one was selling tickets to see it. I took a picture of the sign showing me the probable lay-out as envisaged by the archaeologists, but I've no idea how big the (~22) stones identified as 'megaliths') are. I do however understand why the stones were where they were. As the Stones at Callanish can be framed against the profile of the 'Sleeping Beauty' Hills, the Stones at Achmore are at the only place where the hill profile shows a pregnant 'Sleeping Beauty'. I've included a stock photo of the site as it was too uninspiring for me (even at 40 metres across and 5,000 years old) to tramp around and take one.

Achmore_1455.jpg Achmore_Stone_Circle.jpg
 

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#26
This new survey of European megalithic sites and evidence suggests these structures originated in France and spread via multiple waves of migration.
Europe’s Megalithic Monuments Originated in France and Spread by Sea Routes, New Study Suggests

The stones have stood silently for thousands of years, arranged in rows and circles or balanced atop one another, often oriented to face the rising sun. Some 35,000 symbolic arrangements with similar architectural features have kept watch over ancient graves and sites across coastal Europe, from a snow-swept Swedish hilltop at Haväng, high above the Baltic Sea, to the sun-drenched shores of the Mediterranean.

Because their Neolithic and Copper Age creators—and their motivations—are lost to the mists of prehistory, the stones have invited speculation for centuries. Who built them? Is some single group of people responsible for launching this type of striking stone architecture? Or did multiple cultures separated by hundreds or thousands of miles develop the practice independently?

A sweeping new study of megalithic monuments across Europe suggests that such burials originated in northwest France, and the practice of building them spread along the continent’s coastlines in several migratory waves.

Bettina Schulz Paulsson, an archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg, reexamined some 2,410 radiocarbon dating results that have been assigned to Europe’s megaliths and put them through a Bayesian statistical analysis. Based on the picture the data present, Schulz Paulsson believes that the megaliths were first constructed by dwellers of northwest France during the second half of the fifth millennium BC. From this single origin, her analysis suggests, the practice of constructing standing stone monuments spread during three major periods via what may have been surprisingly robust maritime travel routes. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arti...ts-france-sea-routes-mediterranean-180971467/
 

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#27
This new survey of European megalithic sites and evidence suggests these structures originated in France and spread via multiple waves of migration.


FULL STORY: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arti...ts-france-sea-routes-mediterranean-180971467/
Interesting article that left me a little crest-fallen. I'd seen the documentaries with Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver on new finds on the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney - from the sophistication and preservation of the neolithic sites, I was lead to believe that the Orcadians were exporting ideas to Europe (by-passing mainland Britain who were 500 years behind the times) via the sea trade routes. Seems that France was the innovator (Carnac is on my to-do list) - although I wouldn't put Skarra Brae in the same basket as a ring of Megaliths.
 
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