The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Coldrum Stones (Long Barrow), Near Trottiscliffe, Kent

Coldrum Long Barrow, Kent. Photo: pam fray (Creative Commons).

NGR:-TQ 65438 60726. About a ¼ of a mile to the east of St Peter’s & St Paul’s Church, Trottis-cliffe, Kent, stands the megalithic monument known as ‘Coldrum Stones’ or ‘Coldrum Long Barrow’, which dates from the late Neolithic. In the ownership of the National Trust this ancient burial chamber lies at the side of a field, ½ a mile to the south of The Pilgrim’s Way, and over-looking the Medway Gap. The little village of Trottiscliffe which one must go through is known ‘very fondly’ to local people as “Trosley”. The four very large and impressive stones are all that remains of the burial chamber, which would have had a mound over it. In 1910 the structure was excavated and more than 20 individuals were found along with the bones of many animals from around 2,000 BC. At the east side of Trottiscliffe village: drive or walk along Church Lane for ¼ of a mile past the church, then soon turn north on narrow lane to the carpark. Or from the church continue east along Coldrum Lane, then north to the monument. From carpark take footpath east, then south, for a short while to reach Coldrum Stones Ancient Monument, which lies in front of you – more or less.

Christopher John Wright (1981) tells in great detail about: “The Coldrum Stones, or more properly the Coldrum Long Barrow, are the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber. They are today the property of the National Trust, given in 1926 as a memo-rial to the Kentish archaeologist and antiquary Benjamin Harrison (1837-1921), and a bronze plaque mounted on one of the stones near the path records this presentation.

“Once the circle with the dolmen stood complete upon its raised knoll overlooking the Medway Gap—a circle of towering columns 160ft/80m in circumference. Now the eastern half of the knoll is gone, probably when chalk was being excavated or cut away when the road, now no more than a bridlepath, was made. Half the circle has fallen down as a result, but four massive sarsens about 12ft x 10ft/3.6m x 3m stand poised on the brink. The remainder of the circle lie prone in a more or less regular arrangement on top of the knoll—fallen giants of almost equal size strewn across the slope. Even now in its ruined state the monument is impressive and its site, facing the wide river valley, striking.”

Wright goes on to say that: “The remains of 22 Neolithic people, together with some bones of the ox, deer, rabbit, and fox ascribed to the period about 2000 BC were discovered here in 1910, and they were displayed in Trottiscliffe church.

“The Coldrum Stones is a complex megalithic tomb and one of a remarkable group of dolmens found in this part of the Medway valley, between Wrotham and Boxley, described as the ‘Kentish Stonehenge’. These structures were all of Neolithic origin and were, without exception, burial places. The great stones are all sarsens, and are comprised of sand hardened into masses by silica infiltration, the presence of iron often resulting in a yellow-brown staining. The stones are not of any composition quarried locally, and it is possible that they were strewn about during the ice age and collected together to be erected for this purpose.” 

Timothy Darvill (1988) says of the site, that: “Starting west of the River Medway the first site to see is the Coldrum Long Barrow……, probably the best preserved of all the Medway sites. It sits on a low ridge in the shadow of the North Downs and faces east towards the Medway. The mound is slightly wedge shaped, about 20m long, and edged with a ring of rounded sarsen boulders known as peristalith. The chamber at the east end, partly restored, survives as four upright stones forming three sides of a simple box-like structure. Excavations revealed that at least 20 individuals had been buried in it. As visible today, however, the east end of the site has been truncated; originally the ground would have sloped away from the tomb more gently than it does now.”

Darvill (1988) tells of some more nearby megaliths, saying that: “Just over a mile south of Coldrum are a pair of long barrows at Addington. The larger of the two, the Addington Long Barrow [NGR: TQ 654592], lies west of the village and is crossed by the minor road leading to Wrotham Heath. The mound is 60.3m long by 14m wide. Traces of a peristalith and the re-mains of a collapsed chamber at the eastern end can still be seen. About 100m north-west of the Addington Long Barrow is the Chestnuts Long Barrow [NGR: TQ 652592], accessible by asking permission at the house in whose grounds it stands.”

Two examples of Neolithic Long Barrows.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1973) says of the site: “This is a good monument to visit first, for it at once makes clear the general character of all the rest. Coldrum plainly consists of a closed burial-chamber towards the eastern end of a rectangular setting of stones which once enclosed a long mound, now much reduced in size. Unfortunately the huge capstone which should roof the chamber has been lost—but at Kit’s Coty we shall be able to see another example still in position. This chamber was re-excavated in 1910, and the bones found in it were for a time almost the only surviving relics from any of these Kentish graves; in 1940 the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in which most of them lay was completely destroyed by a bomb. The remains of many individuals, including babies, were identified; one skull, belonging either to the most important or the most recently buried corpse, was found resting on a stone shelf supported by two blocks of ironstone. The skeletons were recognized as belonging to a small, long-haired people of the kind which in the past it was permissible to call Mediterranean. Nowadays one has to be more cautious.”   

Janet & Colin Bord (1994) say: “A ley 4½ miles length was surveyed in Kent by Paul Devereux, editor of The Ley Hunter magazine, and he found that there was a legend of a tunnel connecting Coldrum barrow with Trottiscliffe church, following the line of the ley. The legend also said that there was hidden treasure in the tunnel, a feature also found in other similar tales, which could refer to the power or energy flowing along the ley.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Airne, C. W, M.A. (Cantab.), The Story Of Prehistoric & Roman Britain — Told In Pictures, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd., Manchester,

Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, Birkenhead, 1994.

Darvill, Timothy, GloveBox Guide — Ancient Britain, The Automobile Association (Publishing Division), Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd.,) London, 1975. 

Wright, Christopher John, A guide to The Pilgrims’ Way and North Downs Way, Constable & Company Ltd., London, 1981.

Photo (top) by pam fray:   https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4956966

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coldrum_Long_Barrow

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/09/13/kits-coty-walderslade-kent/

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coldrum-long-barrow

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=359

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/coldrum-long-barrow

https://www.cantab.net/users/michael.behrend/repubs/j_geomancy/v1n3/pages/bullion_kent.html

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


Tinkinswood Burial Chamber, St Nicholas, South Glamorgan, Wales

Tinkinswood Burial Chamber, Wales. Photo: FruitMonkey, Wikipedia Commons.

OS Grid Reference: ST 0922 7331. In a clearing at the edge of a partly wooded field, just south of the village of St Nicholas, in South Glamorgan, Wales, there is a megalithic monument known as Tinkinswood Burial Chamber or Tinkinswood Chambered Cairn. This ancient monument which dates from the Neolithic Age has a long and quite enormous capstone weighing 40 tons or more, and also an unusually low entrance (portal). It is known by several other names including: Tinkinswood Long Barrow, Tinkinswood Cromlech and, also Castell Careg, Llech-y-Filliast, Maes-y-Filiast and Gwal-y-Filiast, to name but a few. It is sometimes also called a dolmen. The stones that lie scattered around close to the monument are, according to legend, some local women who had danced around the burial chamber on the Sabbath day and were turned to stone! You can reach the monument on a footpath running south towards Duffryn House for about ¾ of a mile from Duffryn Lane in St Nicholas (Sain Nicolas).

Christopher Houlder (1978) tells us that: “John Ward’s excavations here in 1914 were outstanding for their time, and the careful restoration does justice to the importance of the monument. The enormous capstone, estimated to weigh 40 tons, was locally quarried along with its supporting slabs, to form a simple end chamber in a dry-walled cairn of the typical Severn–Cotswold wedge-shaped form. The back of the funnel-shaped forecourt was walled to the chamber roof, leaving only a low entrance gap at one corner. At least 50 individuals were represented by the mass of bones recovered, along with several fragments of plain pottery and Beaker ware. A slab-lined pit in the body of the mound was not part of the original layout, but internal lines of upright stones are either ritual in purpose, or a practical demarcation of family shares in the building of a communal tomb.

“Settlements of the Neolithic period are usually found only by chance, as happened when a Bronze Age cairn was com-pletely excavated at Sant-y-nyll in 1958. An oval ring of post holes 4.6 m by 3.7 m across represented a hut succeeding two smaller ones, amid domestic refuse which indicated a sheep-farming economy. Pottery was of late Neolithic type distinct from that of the long-cairns, and probably represented a phase of peasant life transitional to the Bronze Age proper.”

Barber & Williams (1989) write that: “It is marked as Cromlech on the one inch Ordnance Survey maps of 1833 and as Long Barrow on maps of 1947 and 1956. This dolmen is sometimes confused by writers with the dolmen at Duffryn in the adjoining parish of St. Lythans. The capstone itself is 22 feet by 3 feet and weighs over 40 tons.” The authors go on to say that R. E. M. Wheeler (1925) mentions that the old belief that anyone who slept within the dolmen on a spirit nightwould suffer one of the following calamities — he would either die, go raving mad or become a poet. Marie Trevelyan (1905) relates several stories about the dolmen.” Chris Barber (1982) has a photograph and mentions various legends including one which says that around the cromlech are stones said to be women who had danced on a Sunday and were turned into stone.”

Tinkinswood Burial Chamber at St Nicholas, South Glamorgan.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) tells us more of the site and its surrounds. She says: “About five miles out of Cardiff on the south side of the Cowbridge road there is a remarkable concentration of long barrows and other megalithic tombs. The doubtful Coed y Cwm barrow lies closest to the road, but of far greater interest is the well-known chambered long barrow in Tinkinswood just to the south of it. This St Nicholas is obviously of the Cotswold family—that is at once shown by the long wedge-shaped mound with its containing drystone walls and horned forecourt. The chamber, reached through the forecourt, is a large but plain box-like chamber covered by one colossal rectangular capstone measuring as much as twenty-two by fifteen feet. The entrance is at the side, and not in the centre, of the front wall and therefore lacks the usual architectural formality of jamb-stones; the whole of the front wall is screened by drystone walling of considerable thickness, but with a slab-lined opening leading to the entrance.

“About a mile to the south-west is the St. Lythans long barrow; the mound (or rather cairn, for as in the Cotswolds these Welsh examples are of piled stones) has almost disappeared leaving the megalithic chamber with its cover-stone standing naked; there is no question, however, that it was originally very similar to that of St. Nicholas.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) gives some in-depth info on this site, saying: “This partly restored Neolithic long barrow lies about 1 mile north of the St Lythans barrow. It is approached from the east across fields by way of a footpath (signposted). The mound, roughly rectangular in plan and now a little overgrown in places, is about 40m long and 17.8m wide. It is composed of limestone rubble, and is neatly revetted on all sides by a drystone wall. At the eastern end is a shallow funnel-shaped forecourt flanked by two slightly flattened horns. The wall of the forecourt is rather unusual in that the stones are set at an angle in what is known as herringbone style.

“The chamber, which is roomy and can still be entered, opens almost directly out of the rear of the forecourt. The walls are of large orthostats with dry-stone walling filling the gaps between the main uprights. The massive capstone measures 7.1m long, 4.5m wide, and is up to 0.9m thick. Its weight is estimated at 40 tons. Excavations in 1914 uncovered the remains of at least 50 individuals in a jumbled state in the main chamber, 21 were adult females, and 16 were adult males. Some pottery was also found in the chamber.

“About half-way down the mound on the north-side is a polygonal cist. At the time of the excavation this was thought to be a later addition to the barrow, but an alternative theory is that it is the remains of a small early Neolithic tomb that preceded the construction of the long barrow. CADW—WELSH HISTORIC MONUMENTS.”

The CADW site page tells that: “Parts of the site were reconstructed following its excavation in 1914. A supporting pillar was inserted in the chamber and the external walls were re-clad using a distinctive herringbone pattern.” See Link, below.

Sources and related websites:-

Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey, The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.  

Darvill, Timothy, AA (Glovebox Guide), Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988. 

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal, London, 1975.

Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber And Faber Limited, London, 1978.

Photo (top) by FruitMonkey:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinkinswood#/media/File:Tinkinswood_Interior

https://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/tinkinswoodburialchamber/?lang=en

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinkinswood

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/tinkinswood.htm

https://www.stonepages.com/wales/tinkinswood.html

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1471

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


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Bedd Branwen, Glanalaw, Treffynon, Anglesey

The site of Bedd Branwen by Eric Jones (Geograph).

The site of Bedd Branwen by Eric Jones (Geograph).

Os grid reference: SH 3611 8498. In a farmer’s field close to the west bank of Afan Alaw (river Alaw) near the hamlet of Glanalaw, Treffynon, Anglesey, stands the Bronze-Age ring-cairn known as Bedd Branwen, which is said to date back 4,000 years. It is named after the legendary princess Branwen or Bronwen, the daughter of King Llyr, and sister of Bran the Blessed (Bendigeidfran) from the Mabinogian. She was related to King Arthur. The cairn site is located on private farmland to the south-west of Bod Deiniol farm, close to the west bank of Afon Alaw – roughly half a mile south of Glanalaw, although a track/footpath runs past Hafan to Glanalaw hamlet and reasonable viewing looking south across the fields can be had from [here] with good zoom photography. However, you can probably walk across the fields to the cairn as long as the farmer doesn’t mind! The village of Treffynon is 1 mile to the east of Bedd Branwen, while Llanbabo and its ancient church are about one-and-a-half miles to the north-east.

Described as a ring-cairn or round barrow approx 24 metres by 28 metres – the kerb of which is still visible at the outer limit of the circle with a large, chunky standing stone (cist grave) at the centre which is now, sadly, cracked down the middle. The monument was apparently damaged back in 1813 by a local farmer who needed some stones for his house; at this time an urn was also dug up which was ‘said’ to have contained the ashes of a female – could these ashes have been those belonging to Branwen, the fairest and most beautiful woman in all Wales, if not the whole of Britain. Or, according to another account: she is one of the three most beautiful women in Wales!

But in reality the cairn pre-dates the legendary princess Branwen by a few thousand years or more, and other urns with grave-goods have been excavated here in more recent times – the early 1960s in fact. These urns almost certainly date from the Bronze-Age at around 2,000 BC. So, perhaps the discovery of the ashes of a female purporting to be those of the princess were ‘just a coincidence’. Today nothing is left of the earthern mound that once covered the cist grave, only the outline of this being still visible and some stones around the edge, though there are a few other curious stones in this field which ‘might’ well be associated with the monument. In the early 1960s excavation some more cremation urns were dug up along with pottery, grave-goods, and also a necklace made of jet. These antiquities are housed in Bangor Museum in north Wales. In the work ‘The Ancient Stones of Wales’, author Chris Barber describes the monument as a “dolmen” and also referrs to it by another name: Bod-Deiniol.

Branwen is a legendary and mythical character who figures strongly in the Mabinogian along with her father King Llyr (Lear) and her brother Bran the Blessed, who is known as Bendigeidfran in Wales, but it is a very sad tale. Princess Branwen is given in marriage by her brother to the Irish king, Matholwch, but after an insult to the Irishman by her half-brother, Efnisien, they soon begin to quarel and then fall out, and poor Branwen is treated badly by being put to work as his cook. Bran then makes war on Matholwch but is killed in the battle (MacKillop, 1998). Later, she manages to escape back to the Isle of Anglesey where ‘she dies of a broken heart’, and is allegedly buried beneath the mound and cairn that now bears her name (Bedd Branwen).

According to The Mabinogian (second branch) Bran the Blessed is credited as going on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, but life ends badly for him; his severed head is buried on Tower Hill in London which then acts as a sort of talisman for the city against foreign invasion on the grounds that Britain should not rely on magic, according to the author Geoffrey Ashe in his work ‘The Quest for Arthur’s Britain’. Traditionally Bran is recorded as being the son of Belinus (Gruffudd, 1980). If that is the case, then he and his sister Branwen are descended through Manogan, King of Britain, with the Blessed Virgin Mary? And Belinus or Beli has sometimes been identified with the Celtic sun god of that name. But as we know the Mabinogian gives the father of Branwen and Bran as King Llyr, who has sometimes been identified with the legendary King Lear of Shakespearean fame.

Sources:

Ashe, Geoffrey., The Quest for Arthur’s Britain,  Paladin, St Albans, Herts, 1976.

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London W1X, 1987.

Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey., The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.

Gruffudd, H., Enwau Cymraeg I Blant – Welsh Names For Children, Y Lolfa, Talybont, Dyfed, 1980. 

MacKillop, James., Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

Photo Credit: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1358949  © Copyright Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Dolmen du Couperon, Rozel, Jersey, Channel Isles

Dolmen du Couperon (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Dolmen du Couperon (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude: 49.234347. Longitude: 2.035263. On the headland at the north side of Jersey, in St Martin’s parish, stands the ancient monument Dolmen du Couperon, a late Neolithic gallery-grave that was partially restored in the early part of last century. Also known as Le Couperon and Le Couperon Dolmen. The monument stands 50 metres across the field to the west of Rue de Scez and the 17th century brick-building known as the guardhouse. Just to the north of the monument is the beautiful Jersey coastline of Rozel Bay, and a few miles further west the little village of Rozel. Dolmen du Couperon stands at the side of a field overlooking the seashore of the north Jersey coastline, a haven for holiday-makers; the nearest town being St Helier several miles to the south-west. Although the monument has been partly restored a couple of times it is still in a reasonably good state of preservation.

The gallery of this ancient tomb is roughly 8 metres long, while the whole monument across is 4 metres wide. It is formed from two parallel rows of upright stones and, above them large slabs laid rather ‘haphazardly’ across make up the roof. And 18 smaller upright stones or peristaliths surround the grave (at each side) and indicate the width of the original low, covering mound, which was made of stones, although the kerb may originally have continued in a straight line, instead of curving round like it does today. When it was being partially restored back in 1868 and 1919 some of the outer kerb-stones seem not to have been put back into their former positions, in particular the stone at the east side is not in situ – the thinking being that it should perhaps have been halfway along the gallery, acting as a sort of ‘dividing stone’? And the portal stone has been positioned so as to block the gallery’s entrance at the east-side, but again this ‘may’ not be in its original position. The tomb is thought to date from the late Neolithic period (3,250-2,850 BC).

No significant artefacts were excavated from the gallery-grave, apart that is from fragments of flint and pottery. Could the tomb have earlier been robbed by treasure-seekers?; and of the few finds here no knowledge exists as to where these were taken to! But all in all this is a very nice ancient monument.

Sources:

Dillon, Paddy., Channel Island Walks, Cicerone Press Ltd., Milnthorpe, Cumbria, 1999.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_dolmens#

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Couperon_dolmen_and_guardhouse

http://www.prehistoricjersey.net/Le_Couperon.shtml

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=10561


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Druid’s Altar, Clooncoe, Co. Leitrim, Southern Ireland

Druid's Altar at Clooncoe, Co. Leitrim, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Druid’s Altar at Clooncoe, Co. Leitrim, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Irish grid reference approx N1046 9305. In the wooded grounds of Lough Rynn Castle, a 19th century building that is now a luxury hotel in 10,000 acres of land, stands a prehistoric monument. At the place called Druid’s Hill in the far south of the castle grounds between Lough Errew and Lough Rynn, south County Leitrim, there is a curious prehistoric antiquity shaped like a chair or a table, locally called the Druid’s Altar (Cloch an Draoi) or Clooncoe Cist. Unfortunately, this megalithic monument, sometimes referred to as a cist-grave, cromlech or dolmen, has been hidden away and perhaps rather forgotten due to it’s location on private land. It is situated beside a pathway beneath trees not far from the south-western shore of the small round-shaped Lough Errew (Erril) and close to the eastern shoreline of the much larger Lough Rynn and, the elongated Lough Clooncoe is just to the south, while the village of Mohill is two and a half miles to the north on the R202 road.

This solitary megalithic tomb known as The Druid’s Altar or Clooncoe Cist is an odd-shaped antiquity, dating from the Bronze-Age, roughly 2,000 to 3,000 BC; and certainly it does resemble a ‘table and chair’. The very large ‘recumbant’ capstone, if that is what it is, is 1.8 metres (5 feet 9 inches) in width and may originally have stood upright, although we don’t know this for certain. Beneath this horizontal slab there are some smaller, low stones which support the structure and, beneath these there is a small stone chamber (cist) also spelt as ‘kist’, which would have perhaps held the remains of a tribal chieftain from prehistory. At the east side another massive slab stands almost up-right though it leans slightly outwards. This stone measures 2.2 metres (7 foot 2 inches) high, 1.3 metres (3 feet 8 inches) across and about 0.30 metres (nearly 1 foot) in depth; the top of the stone is curved or rounded and could well be a “grave marker”, according to author Paul Swift in his work The Lakes of Ireland, now being published in the famous Ireland’s Own magazine. Or could the standing stone be the doorway to the tomb?

There is no real evidence to say that the druids ever used this megalithic structure as an altar for their religious rituals – that is merely myth and legend that has no substance in reality. Or does it? The Celtic term for this monument is “cromlech” meaning “crooked stone” usually a single chambered megalithic structure, whereas Dolmen (Dolmain) is the term for a portal tomb, grave or quoit – also a single chambered tomb; this name tends to be more prevelent in France, Spain and in other countries, even as far away as India. The term “dolmen” could be the same as “tolmen”, a hole stone or holed-entrance stone.

Sources:

Swift, Paul., The Lakes of Ireland, Ireland’s Own no. 5,421 November 29th, 2013, Ireland’s Own, Rowe Street, Wexford, Ireland.

http://www.megalithomania.com/show/site/754/clooncoe_kist.htm

http://www.irishmegaliths.org.uk/leitrim.htm


Chun Quoit, Morvah, Cornwall

Chun Quoit, Cornwall

Chun Quoit, Cornwall

Os grid reference 4021 3395. On the windswept moorland of south Cornwall at the northern edge of Woon Gumpus Common stands the famous and well-preserved mushroom-shaped Neolithic burial chamber or portal dolmen, Chun Quoit, which is also sometimes called a cromlech (cromlech being a Welsh term). It’s not an easy monument to get to but it is probably best reached from footpaths coming off the B3318 (north road) to the west and walking in a north-easterly direction. The author John Hillaby in his book ‘Journey through Britain’ sums up the approach to the ancient burial chamber like this: “It loomed up over the horizon like a huge stone mushroom”. A quoit is the Cornish term for a burial chamber, of which there are several in this part of the country. The little village of Morvah lies about 1 mile to the north on the B3306 road, while the Cornish town of Penzance is 4 miles east on the Lanyon-Madron road.

In myth and legend giants used these megalithic monuments for games practise and, according to author Sally Jones in her work ‘Legends of Cornwall’, she says “It is easy to see why it was said to be the plaything of the local giants in their games of bob-button and why a group of Saxon kings are thought to have used it for a dining table” though “here” she is referrering to another megalithic tomb, Lanyon Quoit, a mile to the south-east. They are though just like giant tables with supporting legs and, so down the centuries have come to be called prehistoric ‘table tombs’. We can still see table tombs in old graveyards in Britain today

Chun Quoit - Morvah - Cornwall - UK

Chun Quoit, Cornwall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chun Quoit sits within a low, round-shaped mound 35 feet in diameter, all that now remains of the original soil mound (round barrow) that covered the burial chamber before erosion took over. A number of small outer boulders stand in this kerbed mound that was probably the forecourt. The quoit stands proudly over 7 feet in height with a huge boat-shaped granite capstone that sits quite comfortably on it’s 3 upright granite stones all roughly 5 feet high; but at one end it overhangs – looking precariously like it could slide off at any time – this is because a fourth upright stone has itself slipped to one side and does not “now” support the monument. The rounded (convex) capstone measures 10 feet by 9 feet and is over 2 foot thick; and is said to have a single cup-mark. Almost certainly it weighs several tonnes. It’s inner chamber is closed or blocked off by the 3 large upright stones thus stopping any would-be intruder from entering the grave and so allowing the body and soul of the dead chieftain to ‘rest in peace’. It obviously worked too because anyone would have great difficulty squeezing through to the chamber’s inner sanctum. Chun Quoit is thought to date back between 4,000-6,000 years to the Neolithic Age. The name ‘Chun’ means ‘House on the Downs’.

Some 300 yards (100 metres) to the east of Chun Quoit are the round-shaped earthworks of an Iron-Age hillfort, Chun Castle, which is more recent in date, roughly 2,000 years or so. But all around this area there are other prehistoric sites:- Lanyon Quoit, the sacred Men-an-Tol holed fertility stone with its adjacent phallic stone, and the Men Screfys standing stone, being just three other local antiquities within a couple of miles. This particular part of Cornwall appears to have been a Neolithic trading route to and from the coast of Brittany and probably northern Spain as well.

Sources:

Sykes, Homer., Mysterious Britain, Cassell Paperbacks (Cassell & Co), London, 2001

Hillaby, John., Journey through Britain, Paladin Books (Granada Publishing Ltd)., London, 1983.

Jones, Sally., Legends of Cornwall, Bossiney Books, St Teath, Bodmin, Cornwall, 1980.

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/chun.htm

http://www.cornishancientsites.com/Chun%20Quoit%20&%20Castle.pdf


Sweyne’s Howes, Rhossili, Gower Peninsula, Wales

OS grid reference SS 4209 8982. About one and half miles north-east of Rhossili village at the far western-side of the Gower Peninsula – and at the bottom of the eastern scarp of Rhossili Downs – are two ‘former’ portal burial chambers (dolmens), standing around 100 metres (330 feet) apart, and called Sweyne’s Howes or ‘Sweyne’s How’, ‘Swain Houses’ and also ‘Sweye’s Houses’. The place-name Howes or How means or refers to burial mounds or tumuli.

Sweyne was the name of a Scandinavian warlord who lived and died in this area in the 11th century, but the megalithic monuments pre-date him by three thousand years or more. However the chambers (north and south) are now in a poor condition, the northern chamber being the best preserved of the two. Both burial chambers can be reached on footpaths heading north from Rhossili, close to the often windswept Gower coastline. The village of Llangennith lies 3 miles to the north-east, while the city of Swansea is 17 miles to the east on the A4418.

The northern burial chamber or dolmen stands upon an oval-shaped mound which is a cairn measuring roughly 60 feet by 42 feet though it is now in a ruinous condition – as is the chamber. However it’s condition is resonable. Two upright slabs support a capstone that has slipped down on it’s side and, in the middle, there is a fallen upright stone and a smaller recumbant stone. It’s portal has gone. There are slight traces of a kerb and also a few outer stones still (in situ) stand close by. The south burial chamber of Sweyne’s Howes at Os grid reference SS4205 8976 has been largerly robbed away. It’s alomost circular burial mound with a very damaged and jumbled arrangement of stones that make up the cairn measures 70 feet by 50 feet. Nothing much remains of the burial chamber, sadly. The large capstone now lies flat though two of the uprights ‘still’ stand on their own beside it. Both monuments date back at least 5,000 years to the Neolithic period of prehistory 2,000-3,000 years BC.

Sweyne or Swain, was according to legend, a Scandinavian warlord of the early 11th century AD. He was probably the founder of Swansea (Sweyn’s-ey) but he came to live on the western side of the Gower Peninsula and died there. Whether he was buried in one if the mounds that make up Sweyne’s Howes we do not know. It seems most unlikely because these two monuments pre-date him by several thousand years. But there was apparently a king of that name who died in south Wales about c 1014 AD, so there could be some truth in the story. There are other numerous prehistoric monuments in the vicinty of Rhossili Downs, dating from the Bronze-Age to the Iron-Age, that are worth exploring, including cairns, round barrows and a ring-fort.

Sources:-

The Gower Society,  A Guide To Gower, Gower Society Publications, 1989.

Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber And Faber Limited, London, 1978.

The National Trust, The Gower Peninsula (An illustrated souvenir), 1991.

Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey., The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.

Click on the link for a photo of Sweyne’s Howes north http://www.aenigmatis.com/prehistoric-sites/wales/sweynes-howes-north.jpg

 


Trethevy Quoit, Tremar, Cornwall

Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall.

Trethevy Quoit,

OS grid reference SX2593 6881. Some 2 miles to the west of the B3254 road between Liskeard and Launceston and 1 mile east of Tremar Coombe, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, stands the prehistoric burial chamber or portal tomb called Trethevy Quoit. The monument stands in a field along a short footpath at the west-side of Tremar village, not far from Trethevy Cottage. The town of Liskeard is 5 miles to the south and the village of St Cleer is 2 miles to the south-west. Trethevy Quoit or ‘Dolmen’, to give it it’s other monument name, dates back at least 5,700 years. Locally it is called ‘The Giant’s House.

Trethevy Quoit is still quite an impressive prehistoric monument standing at 9-10 foot high with it’s huge sloping capstone that looks as if it is poised to slide down to the ground at any moment! It is the largest and most impressive in Cornwall. The massive capstone is 12 foot long and is said to weigh 10 tonnes. It is supported by five upright stone slabs all roughly nine feet high and one other slab that does not connect with the capstone; originally there were seven uprights. Near the top of the capstone there is a large round hole, but what this was for is uncertain, maybe for astronomical purposes or to catch the sun’s rays at cerain times of the year (soltices), or perhaps it was made in more recent times?

Trethevy Quoit - Liskeard - Cornwall - UK

Trethevy Quoit  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is also some uncertainty about the age of the monument; some historians say that it is from the middle to late Neolithic Age around 3,700-3,500 BC (the middle Stone-Age), while others think that it dates from the Bronze Age (about 1,800-1,200 BC). The back of the burial chamber has now fallen inwards, while at the front there is a large portal stone and a flanking stone that stands clear of the monument. But it seems that the funery entrance was not at the front but at the side where there is a square-shaped opening at the bottom corner to enable bodies to be placed inside. Originally a huge oval-shaped mound of earth would have ‘probably’ covered the stone chamber and was thought to have been over 6 metres in circumference – there is still a slight raised bank around the sides and evidence of the mound is still visible today. This was almost certainly the burial place of a chieftain or some high-ranking individual from a prehistoric tribe that inhabited the area thousands of years ago back in the mists of time.

About 1 mile to the north-west stand ‘The Hurlers’, three early Bronze-Age stone circles.

Sources:-

Darvill, Timothy, Glovebox Guide – Ancient Britain, AA Publishing, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Hogg, Garry, Odd Aspects of England, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1968.

Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd), 1994.


Dolmen De Weris, Wallonia, Belgium

WERIS Dolmen de Wéris (5)

Dolmen de Wéris 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 50.333648. Longitude 5.523543. The Neolithic dolmen or burial chamber called Dolmen de Weris no 1 is located near the northern end of the Rue des Dolmens highway in the area called Durbury – close to the Morville and Tour country roads, about a mile to the north-west of the little village of Weris, in the Wallonian province of Luxembourg, Ardennes, eastern Belgium. The megalithic structure stands beside the road partly hidden by trees and is easily missed. This burial chamber is called the Northern Dolmen, Allee Couverte Norde, or Dolmen de Nord. Running in a straight line to the south there is an avenue or double row of menhirs (standing stones) – the monument more or less forms the northern junction of the megalithic avenue itself.

This ancient monument is an impressive structure standing at 5 feet high made from pudding-stone with a massive capstone, sadly now broken, weighing 30 tonnes. It is supported by four huge rectangular-shaped stone blocks or orthostats, two of which weigh up to 20 tonnes. There is an equally impressive gallery (corridor), although quite short, and a rectangular-shaped ante-chamber 33 feet long, which has suffered some damage.  At the eastern end there is a blocking stone, while at the western end a wide portal (entrance) where, on the ground lies a recumbant stone, which originally blocked-off the entrance? Just inside the entrance is a strange curved stone (half-moon shaped) that is broken down the middle. This is called a ‘spirit hole’ or ‘kennel hole’. Near the eastern side there is a single standing stone or, what is perhaps a ‘mark stone’. Originally a mound of earth lay on top of the dolmen but this has now gone. There are a total of 16 stones at this site, which is said to date from 3,000 years BC.

At the south side of the dolmen are two stone rows or an anvenue of 30 menhirs that form an alignment with this – the northern dolmen – and with a curious stone to the north-east called ‘the Stone of the Ancients’ or ‘White Stone’ that is often referred to as a standing stone but, in fact, it is a naturally-formed stone some 3 metres high that leans at a 45 degree angle and stands on a hillside. At the bottom of the hill another stone ‘the Devil’s Stone’ or ‘Devil’s Bed’ is a flatish stone that is 0.6 metres high by 2.45 metres long.

About 2 miles to the south-west near the Route de Erezee (N841) north-east of Wenin we have the Weris (Southern) Dolmen no 2 which is, sadly, now collapsed although the entrance is still quite noticeable. This dolmen is a collection of 20 stones 23 feet long and in a very ruinous state, but similar to the northern dolmen in that it is also a gallery-tomb.

In 1906 the northern Weris dolmen was excavated. Parts of three skeletons were discovered along with other artefacts. However, its stones were not put back into their original positions (in situ) and other damage was caused to the monument. Though, by the looks of things, the archaeologists haven’t done such a bad job! The huge capstone was probably broken at this time as was the spirit-hole?

 


La Ciste Des Cous, Bazoges-En-Pareds, Pays De La Loire, Vendee, France

Longitude 46.658523. Latitude 0.943036. La Ciste Des Cous is said to be the oldest megalithic monument in the Vendee – this prehistoric site is located half a mile south-west of Bazoges-en-Pareds village and just off the D43 (Le Petit Miteau) highway close to the hamlet of Miteau-les-Champs. The village of La Joudonnere is 1 mile further along the highway. The site is signposted from the D43 road and is in open countryside beside a clump of trees. It is, at first glance, a rather strange structure with its almost defensive-like circular walls surrounding a stone-flagged central burial chamber and, beside that almost hidden by trees, is a cist grave that has some large stones set into the ground. Both monuments date from the Neolithic period of prehistory.

Circular dry-stone walls form this Neolithic monument that dates from 4,000 BC and there is a longish tunnel-like entrance with a large lintel stone above it. The low-level tunnel leads into a circular central enclosure (chamber) that has stone flags on its floor, most of which are now rather broken up due to vandalism. Its central chamber was originally a burial chamber, and it would have had a domed roof made of more dry-stone walling all fitting closely together, and maybe it was covered over with an earthen, grassy mound? It is quite a strong looking structure that is almost defensive in appearence and is somewhat similar to the Newgrange passage-tomb, in County Meath, Southern Ireland, although on a much smaller scale.

Next to this stands the rectangular-shaped cist monument which is now surrounded by a fence. This Neolithic grave-site has three large standing stones set into the ground at the head of the grave with another four large recumbant stones at the sides, one of which is a huge boulder, and some other smaller stones scattered around. The roof of the cist has gone. Both sites were discovered in 1910 and excavated in 1913 when upto 100 skeletons were dug up along with many other antiquities such as grave-goods.

Source:-

Joussaume, Roger., Bulletin de la Societe Prehistorique Francaise, Paris, 1978.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciste_des_Cous

Click on the links for photos:-   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Ciste_des_Cous..JPG

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:France_85_-_Bazoges_en_Pareds_-_la_ciste_des_cous_01a.jpg

 


Dolmen De La Frebouchere, Le Bernard, Pays De Loire, Vendee, France

Dolmen de la Frébouchère

Dolmen de la Frébouchère (Photo credit: Wladyslaw Disk – Wikipedia).

Latitude 46.448429. Longitude 1.469464. About one mile north of the village of Le Bernard, Pays de la Loire, Vendee, in western france, stands the megalithic monument called Dolmen de la Frebouchere also known as ‘Dolmen De La Bernard’ and ‘Pierre Couverte a la Frebouchere’. It stands beside a wooded area to the east of the D91B highway at the northern end of the Rue de la Frebouchere road. A lane leads up to this huge prehistoric burial chamber where there is a carpark and picnic area. It probably dates back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze-Age periods – between 3,000-2,000 BC. The nearest large town is Les Sables-d’Olonne 12 miles to the west and, Avrille another smaller town is 3 miles to the north-east.

The huge granite monument is said to be the largest prehistoric burial chamber in Vendee – it certainly is an impressive structure at a height of 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches) and approx 7 metres (23 feet) long and 3.5 metres (11 feet 5 inches) wide. It is in a resonably intact state with a mighty capstone that is, sadly, broken in the middle. This is said to weigh between 80-100 tonnes! Three massive up-rights help to support the capstone at the eastern side, while one long stone supports it at the opposite side (western end). Also at the eastern-most end two blocking stones approx 1 metre (3 feet 3 inches) high – though these do not completely close or block the entrance; also two more entrance stones support the other end of the capstone. Just inside the chamber a nicely shaped, tapering standing stone almost touches the roof but has been cut away at the very top.

Originally the whole chamber was covered over by a mound of earth with only the two outer blocking stones on view. Over the centuries the structure had fallen into a bad state after being used as a sheep enclosure, but in 1887 it was restored. You will notice that the ground around the monument is often covered by pink gravel in order to decorate and add to the beauty of the ancient site. All in all, a very nice site. There are a number of ancient monuments in this area, including two standing stones (menhirs) to the north and, just to the east is Dolmen de la Savatole.

Sources:-

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolmen_de_la_Fr%C3%A9bouch%C3%A8re

 


Pierres-Folles, Commequiers, Payes de la Loire, Vendee, France

Latitude 46.753287. Longitude 1.849797. The ancient monument known as Pierres-Folles or ‘Alle Couverte de la Pierre-Folles’ and also ‘Dolmen de la Pierres Folle’ is to be found near the tannery and along a footpath to a woodland clearing about half a mile south-west of Commequiers village, in Vendee, western France, at the north-east end of Pierre Folle road and to the south of the D754 St Gilles highway. It is a dolmen (table-tomb) or burial chamber that dates from the early Bronze-Age approx 2,500 BC. The nearest sizeable town, Challans, is 5 miles to the north-west on the D32 (Route des Sables) highway. Apparently one of the dolmen’s stones has what is considered by local people to be the footprint of the Virgin Mary!

Referred to as a Dolmen’ which means ‘table-shaped tomb’. This particular burial chamber or passage-grave is quite a huge prehistoric monument, although it has, sadly, suffered from vandalism. Three huge up-right slabs support the equally massive broken capstone. Originally it was over 2 metres high and was covered over by an earthen mound, but this has long since gone. Behind it there is a rectangular-shaped chamber approx 5 metres in length. The portal (entrance) at the eastern-side still stands to its original proportions, but the rest has collapsed and been damaged due to recent vandalism – a number of stones not now being in situ; however the sidestones of the chamber appear to be in place but again there is some damage. The monument is thought to be of the late Neolithic to early Bronze-Age periods in date – around 2,500 BC?

Click on the following link for photos:-

http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1093&bih=478&tbm=isch&tbnid=8SvYPL3zCxae8M:&imgrefurl=http://postcards.delcampe.net/page/item/id,61521707,var,CPA-Vendee-Et-Bretagne-Pittoresques-Menhir-Du-Commequiers-Les-Pierres-Folles-S,language,E.html&docid=fzHEqWwZ63k9-M&itg=1&imgurl=http://images-00.delcampe-static.net/img_large/auction/000/061/521/707_001.jpg%253Fv%253D1&w=956&h=632&ei=-ZSyUJC7IMew0AWGloCIAw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=361&vpy=156&dur=9409&hovh=182&hovw=276&tx=157&ty=90&sig=109103337843298308464&page=1&tbnh=142&tbnw=202&start=0&ndsp=11&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0,i:91

 


Talayot de Trepuco, Mahon, Minorca, Balearics

Deutsch: Taula in Trepucó, Menorca

Taula in Trepucó, Menorca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 39.873607. Longitude 4.265410. About 1 mile to the south of Mahon (Mao) at the far south-eastern side of the Island of Minorca (Menorca) stands the ancient settlement of Talayot de Trepuco – with the megalithic table-shaped Taula monument in the middle of the circular enclosure walls. This prehistoric village-settlement of Trepuco is located less than 1 mile to the south of Mahon town and just a little east of the ME-8r Carretera de Sant Mao highway near the Cam Verdi and Villa Carlos roads.

In the centre of the circular ancient settlement or village (Talayot) a complex of excavated houses surrounded by a defensive wall and watchtower, stands the tallest megalithic monument (Taula) on Minorca. The whole site is thought to date back to the Bronze-Age 2,000-1,200 BC although there is some uncertainty about this. The tall granite megalithic slab-stone stands at 4 metres or 13 feet high with a second huge retangular-shaped slab on top that is 3.75 metres or 12 foot 4 inches long by 1.84 metres or 6 feet wide. The monument is typically shaped like a letter “T” and what looks to many like a table – perhaps in the form of a table-tomb. More than likely it was set up as a shrine or altar to the dead or perhaps rituals to the gods took place here. The burials would have originally lain beneath or around the taula.

Deutsch: Westlicher Talayot in Trepucó, Menorca

Talayot in Trepucó, Menorca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The talayot settlement-cum-village is enclosed by low defensive, drystone walls, but originally they would have been much higher. A watchtower would have stood along the walls – this is now not easy to make out. The site consists of a number of prehistoric houses forming the settlement that have been excavated, as well as some grassy mounds, that as yet, have not been looked at. There are five houses here that are made of rough, un-mortered dry stone-walling and at intervals tall slabs which acted as roof supports indicate their original height. Each house is different in shape, layout and style. Today the rough walls of these ancient buildings only stand to a quarter of their original height. Also, two excavated rooms adjoin the houses and a smaller talayot house is built onto the defensive wall. It seems obvious that there has been much robbing-away of stonework over the centuries here. The grassy mounds have not yet been excavated archaeologically, and it is unclear what they are, but it  is likely they are houses, rather than for the burial of the dead. This will only be known when a proper excavation is done.

Sources:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trepuc%C3%B3

 


The Fairies Rock, La-Roche, Illet-et-Vilaine, Brittany

Longitude 47.936515 Latiude 1.404866. The Fairies Rock or ‘Rock of the Fairies’ (Roche-aux-Fees) prehistoric monument is located in a wooded area with oak trees and a small lake about half a mile north-east of La Roche village, Illet-et-Vilaine Dept, central Brittany, near the D341 La Motte road. There is a small car park. The site is two-and-half miles south of Esse and some 3 miles north-west of Retiers. This famous passage-grave is said to be the largest dolmen in France and, it is quite probably the best preserved of any of the dolmens in Europe. In the Breton language the word “dolmen” means table of stones or simply ‘a stone table’.

Fairies Rocks, Brittany (After P.Mesney).

There are 40 huge stone slabs here, some reckon on there being 42, but it is difficult to reach a proper total. The dolmen or passage-grave dates from the late Neolithic period sometime between 3,000-5,000 years BC, and was said to have been built by fairies, but in reality this sacred long tomb was constructed by ancient tribesmen for the burial of chieftains, but because it forms an alignment it was probably also used by them to view the Winter solstice on 21st December. The huge slabs of stone have a slight purple colour, but in fact, the stones are made of a reddish basaltic schist that was quarried some 3 miles from here.

The passage grave or corridor tomb is 20 metres (65 feet) long, 4 metres (13 feet) wide and 2 metres (6-7 feet) high. Some of the larger slabs and boulders weight up to 40 tonnes, while the smaller ones weigh several tonnes, rather to heavy for the fairies to attempt to lift but hundreds of tribesmen would no doubt have ways of dealing with them. The entrance to the dolmen or passage grave is 3 metres long and is in the form of a porchway (portico) with two uprights and a huge top lintel stone that fits exactley into position. This capstone has some markings at its edges, possibly caused by ropes or something ritualistic. Further inside the monument there is a low roofed passageway or corridor and then a large chamber divided into four compartments with uprights around the sides supporting the rest of the monument and more huge top stones forming the roof. In the central chamber a lump of stone has fallen to the ground. Originally this wonderful grave (tumulus) aligned south to east would have been covered over with earth to a length of 20 metres, but the earth has gone leaving the massive supporting stones.

According to legend, young couples would come here to consult with the fairy folk. They were then informed by the little people to do as instructed. The man would have to walk around the stones in a clockwise direction, while the woman went in an anti-clockwise direction, and by the time that both had returned to their starting position each would have to have counted the same number of stones – all would then go well for them in their marriage, but if one had counted a couple of extra or lesser stones they might not find things went their way; and if they each counted by more than two stones then the marriage would not go ahead and they must go their own seperate ways. Well its a good story, and if you believe in the fairy folk, and many people do, then you will almost certainly be captivated by the little tale.

Please click on the following link to see a photo of the site  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cris_gmp/498506060/


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Kit’s Coty, Walderslade, Kent

OS grid reference: TQ 7451 6083. The prehistoric burial chamber called Kit’s Coty or Kit’s Coty House stands in a field to the west of the Chatham road in the Medway Valley and the A229, 1 mile south-west of Walderslade. The famous Pilgrims Way is just to the south as is the Rochester road. The nearest town, Chatham, is 2 miles to the north. The ancient monument can be reached by a trackway running alongside the site from the south at Blue Bell Hill. At first glance the monument looks like a large stone shelter or a tiny house, but it soon takes on the form of a burial chamber, which is also referred to in other terms as being a cromlech, dolmen or quoit. Although it dates back to the Neolithic age, it apparently takes it’s name from a 5th century Welsh prince called Catigern – hence we get “the house of Cati”.

Kit’s Coty Burial Chamber, Kent.

Originally the burial chamber was at the eastern end of a long barrow that was completely covered over by a mound that has now gone, while at the western end there used to be a large standing stone and another stone (a peristalith) that was known locally as “the General’s Tombstone”. Sadly this large stone was blown up in 1867 because it got in the way of ploughing the field. The burial chamber consists of three huge up-right slabs or sarsens 2.5 metres high with an equally large, overlapping capstone 4 metres long standing upon a small mound 1 metre high; originally this mound was 15 metres wide. The whole site of burial chamber and long barrow are roughly 70 metres in length. Today the monument is surrounded by ugly railings for security reasons.

Although the monument dates back more than 4,000 years to the Neolithic age, the name is derived from a Dark Age prince called Catigern, son of Vortigern who, according to legend, died in a battle against the Saxons, under Hengest and Horsa, at or near Aylesford in 455 AD. 400 metres to the south, beside the Aylesford road, can be found another ancient monument called Little Kit’s Coty or “the Countless Stones” where there are a number of recumbant stones, which once formed a second burial chamber. No burials have been found at either of these sites.