The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Inveryne Standing Stones, Argyll And Bute, Western Isles, Scotland

Os grid reference: NR9156 7496. In a field some 200 metres from the shoreline of Auchalick Bay in the west Cowal region and the parish of Kilfinan, Argyll and Bute, are three prehistoric standing stones known as the Inveryne Standing Stones or Auchalick Standing Stones, which are in fact a stone row, an alignment of shaped and jagged stones placed here 4,000 years ago. To reach these stones you need to come off the B8000 road about halfway between Kilfinan and Portavadie and ‘trek’ up a steep track passing Corr Mheall and then towards Inveryne farm – there are a number of other footpaths that lead in the same westerly direction but, be prepared for a long, arduous walk. The standing stones are approx 800 metres south-west of the farm, just to the north of Tigna Cladaich house. You can also reach the site from Melldalloch further to the east. Lochgilphead, the nearest town, is 8 miles to the north-west across Loch Fyne.

In the corner of a field near the footpath and a wooded area are three standing stones in a row looking rather forgotten and lonely in this rugged windswept landscape overlooking Loch Fyne and, in the distance the town of Tarbert. According to Canmore RCAHMS site no 39914 (1988) the three slabs vary in height and shape. The first stone at the north-east side stands at 0.75m (2ft 5) high and is straight-sided with a rounded top; the central stone is 0.95m (3ft 1) high, mainly rounded in shape with a natural depression, and the third south-westerly most stone is 1.05m (3ft 6) high and has a jagged top with slanting sides. A fourth stone, which is rarely mentioned lies abandoned on the ground close-by. There may have been other stones forming this alignment and, if that’s the case these must have been robbed away?

I do not know why these ancient stones are standing in this windswept location, unless they are in some way connected to a cup-marked rock to the north-east at Os grid reference NR9217 7578, which can be found beside the footpath to Inveryne farm, south-west of Corr Mheall and the B5000 road. There are other standing stones and ancient burial sites in the Cowal region and, also over on the Isle of Bute.

Sources: Canmore RCAHMS  http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/39914/details/inveryne/

Cowal and Bute Essential guide 2012, E & R Inglis Ltd., Dunnon, Argyll and Bute, 2012.

The Megalithic Portal  http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1984&m_distance=0.0


St Patrick’s Chair, Marown, Isle Of Man

St Patrick's Chair, Marown.

St Patrick’s Chair, Marown.

OS grid reference SC 3050 7650. In a field called Magher-y-Chairn just west of the B35 road between Braaid and Crosby, in the parish of Marown, Isle of Man, and north of Garth farm are three standing stones stood together that are known locally as St Patrick’s Chair or Chairn-y-Pherick. Two of the slabs have early Christian crosses carved on them. In the same field is a holy well. Local legend has it that St Patrick came to preach here in the mid 5th century AD, but actually there is no hard evidence to support this. However, three Irish bishops – namely St Runius (Ronan), St Lonan and St Connachan (Onchan) are said to have lived and possibly died here. Indeed, they may lie in St Runius’ churchyard at Kirk Marown, about half a mile to the north-east. Also in that churchyard at the east end of the old church are the remains of a keeill, a primitive chapel dating from the early Christian period. The parish of Marown (Ma-Ronan) takes it’s name from the saint; and the town of Douglas is 4 miles to the east.

Originally there were five granite standing stones here but two have now fallen over and they lie amongst a jumble of other stones that may have once formed a burial site. Two of the slabs have simple but intricately carved thin crosses on their front faces from the early Christian period. It would appear that early missionaries have christianised these stones at some point between the 7th-9th centuries AD, as the standing stones themselves almost certainly pre-date Christianity by a few thousand years, making them prehistoric in age. Was this the meeting place for early Christians, or was it the burial place for an ancient chieftain? who knows! At the south-eastern side of the very same field is a holy well called Chibber y Chairn (Well of the Chair), also known as St Ronan’s Well.

Local legends say that St Patrick himself came here and used the stones as a seat to preach from in the 5th century AD; however this cannot be substantiated and is thought highly unlikely, but it is likely that Irish bishops preached in front of the stones – one bishop in particular could well have been St Ronan, known locally as St Runius or Runy (Ma-Ronan) who founded a tiny chapel (keeill) a short distance to the north-east in the 7th or 8th century? and has given his name to Marown parish. His feast-day is still celebrated in the Isle of Man on 7th February. He was apparently third bishop of Man following St Maughold (d 498) who “was” a convert of St Patrick. Whether this St Ronan is one and the same as St Ronan, bishop of Kilmaronen in Lennox, Innerleithen, Scotland, is uncertain, but ‘he’ is credited with attending the famous Synod of Whitby in 664 AD, according to the Venerable Bede.

The remains of the saint’s humble little chapel, built from wattle and daub with earthen walls stone-faced on the inside and roughly measuring 16 feet by 10 feet, can be seen at the east-side of St Runius’ old church. The little building dates from c1200 AD, but was enlarged and then rebuilt in the mid 18th century. It eventually fell in to decay only to be restored and re-opened again in 1959 by local people. Housed within are some crude Manx-style crosses, one of which was found beneath the porch. Could it be that these crosses once marked the resting places of the three Irish saints? This is certainly a very holy site.

Sources:-

The Manx Museum And National Trust, The Ancient And Historic Monuments of The Isle Of Man, Fourth (Revised) Edition, Douglas, 1973.

Farmer, David., Oxford Dictionary Of Saints, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.

Click on the link http://www.iomguide.com/historical-sites/st-patricks-chair.php

 


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

 


Kerloas Menhir, Plouarzel, Finistere, Brittany

Français : Le menhir Kerloas à Plouarzel en Br...

Kerloas Menhir (Photo credit: China_Crisis Wikipedia)

Longitude 48.426638 Latitude 4.679393. The Kerloas Menhir or Menhir de Kerloas stands on a low mound in open countryside 2 miles east of the village of Plouarzel in northern Finistere. The nearest town is Ploudalmezeau 7 miles to the north. A footpath takes you 200 metres south from the D5 Kerloas road to the giant standing stone that dates from the Bronze-Age around 3,000-4,000 BC and, to a prehistoric monument that can be seen for many, many miles around – although today it is missing it’s top section after lightning apparently struck it at some point in the distant past. The menhir stands at the southern edge of the Bois de Kervealouz forest. This is probably the tallest “standing” stone in Europe.

At 9.5 metres or 31 feet high this smooth granite standing stone which was quarried at L’Aber Ildut a couple of miles to the north-west is quite a remarkable sight. But originally it was approx 40 feet high before it lost the top 2 metres or so during a severe thunderstorm 200 years ago. The top part was blasted away by a lightning strike, some of the large pieces being sent over a large area landing in the nearby forest and on a farmhouse. It has a huge girth with a “quadrangular” tapering base; the shaft also gradually tapering away near the top where the breakage has occured. It’s estimated weight is 150 tonnes. Beneath the small round-shaped mound on which it stands there are said to be a several more metres of stone. About three feet up from ground-level on two sides there are two strange feminine-like humps or protuberances in the menhir – giving it the appearance of a hunchback person, but nobody seems to know why, or what, they are for. They are, however, probably associated with fertility? The mound beneath the stone is probably the remains of a tumulus where there was a burial of a chieftain, or maybe more than one chieftain – indeed the area around the site is called Kerglass ‘field of grief’.

Kerloas Menhir, Finistere, Brittany.

According to local legend, upto 100 years ago young, newly married couples would visit the Kerloas menhir on their wedding night in order to improve their family prospects. The woman would rub her naked body against one of the humps in the stone, while her husband would do the same to the other hump. These strange occurrences were performed in order that the man would receive a male child, while the woman would become the dominant one in the house. It also seems probable that the woman would help her childbearing on by climbing the menhir to the top naked and then sliding back down it again, but whether all this clambering all over the stone helped we don’t know, it probably would have caused the woman much bruising and friction burn in the meantime! Other legends claim there was buried treasure beneath the stone (grave-goods), while a very far-fetched legend claims the big stone wanders off every night to take a drink from a river, or even the sea! Now that is indeed far-fetched.

Source:-

Briard, Jacques., The Megaliths of Brittany (Giseserot Edition), Rennes, 2001.

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

 


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La Grand Menhir Brise, Locmariquer, Morbihan, Brittany

the Great Menhir of Er Grah, the largest known...

The Grand Menhir (Photo credit: S.Moller Wikipedia)

Latitude 47.571647 Longitude 2.949593. The site of the massive monolith or menhir is at the northern side of the village of Locmariquer, Morbihan region, and just west of the cemetery on the D781 (Route d’Auray). The nearest town, Auray, is 10 miles to the north. It’s name means ‘great broken standing stone’ because that it what it is today. But a more romantic name for the broken standing stone is ‘the fairy stone’ (Menhir Hroeg or Er Grah) because it was thought to have been erected by the little people, or the fairy folk lived there and, maybe still do. But in actual fact it was set up by Neolithic tribesmen in 4,500 BC – the huge stone being brought here from an outcrop of rocks near the estuary of the river Auray, some 7 miles to the north of Locmariquer.

Today, sadly the grand menhir lies on the ground having been broken into four sections by a lightning strike, or some think by an earthquake, but originally there were five sections – probably a small fragment has been lost. It is now thought that the menhir was broken by human involvement in two distinct stages. When it stood upright, if it ever did, then it would have been over 20 metres or between 64-66 feet high and it’s weight calculated to be around 300 tonnes or more, perhaps making it the largest monolith in Europe – or one of the largest in western Europe? However, the menhir would have been placed several feet into a round-shaped pit which has now been partially filled in. The girth of the stone at it’s base being approx 4 metres. The four remaining lumps of stone are carved and shaped smoothly around their narrower edges and also on the broad faces, and there is a carving of what is perhaps an axe in it’s wooden haft on one of the stones.

Near the top of the menhir the stone narrowes to form a roughly pointed shape, something that might cause it to be seen as phallic in appearence, but more than likely the stone was, or would have been used, for astronomical purposes. There were probably other standing stones here because a number of socket holes have been excavated running in a straight northerly direction for 180 feet, but of these only small stones remain. The grand menhir and it’s accompanying stone row were no doubt aligned with the winter and summer solstices and, quite probably a lunar happening such as an eclipse at the time of construction.

The 'Table des Marchand' dolmen in Locmariaque...

Table-de-Marchand (Photo credit: Myrabella Wikimedia Commons)

Behind the grand menhir is another prehistoric site that is linked. This is La Table des Marchand also known as The Merchants’ Table, a Neolithic passage-grave that has now been reconstructed. Actually, it is a dolmen that stands within the remains of a burial mound (tumulus) that measures over 36 metres or nearly 120 feet across. As the name suggests the monument is very like a stone table albeit three tables or capstones that are supported by 17 curved and slightly pointed upright stones. Below the largest stone table there is a gallery with stone-built walls around the chamber; the large stone table resting at one end on one of these curved supports, this one in particular has carvings of sun-ripened wheat ears. And the underside of the large table or capstone has an interesting carving depicting what is thought to be a plough in the form of an axe that connects up by a shaft that has slight traces of a harness and oxen (long-horned cattle), the back legs of one of these animals can be just made out, although it is rather faint now.

There are two more dolmens in the village. At the northern side stands The Dolmen of Mane Lud and in the centre The Dolmen of Mane Rethual – both of which are worth looking at if time is not too tight.

Sources:-

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

Michelin, Brittany Tourist Guide, Michelin Tyre Limited, London, 1983.

Scarre, Chris (edited)., The Seventy Wonders Of The Ancient World – The Great Monuments And How They Were Built, Thames & Hudson, London, 1999.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2012.


Carnac Stone Rows, Morbihan, Brittany

Latitude 47.595977 Longitude 3.066988. The countryside around Carnac in the Morbihan region of southern Brittany abounds with standing stones that stride across the fields like ancient warriors – forming alignments or stone rows – perhaps the most famous being ‘Alignments de Kermario’ about 1 mile north-east of the village of Carnac beside the D196 road (Route de Kerlescan). The nearest town is Auray 10 miles to the north-east. You can’t really miss these rows or avenues of prehistoric menhirs as they can be seen from three other country lanes running off the D196, or you can walk beside the stones if you wish. The stone rows start just a little to the north of the village of Kermario and fan out in the form of geometric patterns in a north-easterly direction for over half a mile (1,300 metres) standing like ageless sentinels in the landscape, often oblivious to the lanes that cut through the sides of them, and even then the stones have not lost out.

English: Image taken by me on 2005/10/9 in the...

The Kermario Stone Rows (Photo credit: Odedr – Wikipedia)

There are 10 stone rows or avenues at Kermario and upto 1,030 standing stones, seven of the rows being very well preserved. They are thought to date back to the Neolithic age between 3,300-4,500 BC and to have probably been placed here for astronomical purposes, perhaps in relation to the stars, but also to align with the summer and winter solstices, and also being used to predict lunar eclipses. One local legend says the stones are actually Roman soldiers turned to stone by St Cornely (Cornelius), the local healing saint of Carnac, who is patron saint of cattle and whose (pardon) is still held on the second sunday of September – the nearest sunday to his feast-day 16th September. St Cornelius should probably be identified with the pope and martyr of that name who died in 253 AD?

The stones were locally quarried and rolled along on shaped timbers by thousands of workers always ensuring a straight line was kept to. Some of the menhirs are now recumbant, while others tilt at various odd angles, but most of them remain in a relatively up-right position considering how long it is since they were placed there. The stones vary in size, but some are 20 foot high. At the north-eastern end of the alignment, near the Kerloquet road, a stone circle has been identified, and here the smaller scale Alignment de Kerlescan made up of over 500 stones takes over.

Source:-

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

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

Thom, A & Thom, A.S., ‘The Carnac Alignmenents’, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 1972.


La Gran’ Mere Du Chimquiere, St Martin, Guernsey, Channel Islands

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, Statue menhir, St ...

La Gran’mère du Chimquière, St Martin, Guernsey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 49.437841 Longitude 2.554598. Located about 2 miles south-west of St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey is the parish of St Martin with it’s medieval church. The church stands beside Le Grande Rue, a site that was originally a pagan one but was Christianised in the 6th century AD by Celtic missionaries from Wales and the west of England. In the churchyard there is a large granite standing stone menhir that was carved into a female form some four thousand years ago and is said to represent an earth goddess or earth mother figure, hence the name La Gran’ Mere – the grand-mother.

The granite statue menhir stands guarding the entrance to the churchyard of St Martin’s parish church and is between 5-6 feet high. Dating from around 2,000 BC when it was probably a square-shaped standing stone or “long stone”, it was fashioned into a female figure with head and shoulders in either the Celtic or Roman period. The carvings are of a typical female figure, an earth mother form that depicts a pagan fertility goddess which, rather strangely, guards and protects a Christian church. Perhaps the old pagan goddesses still have their uses!

Newly married couples would, and still do, place coins or flowers on the statue’s head and shoulders to bring them luck, seeing it as a fertility symbol perhaps. In the 16th century a disgruntled churchwarden decided to split the stone in two, regarding it as a pagan relic, but the local people rallied round and restored the statue. The split in the stone can still be seen today. There is another similar standing stone figure in St Marie’s churchyard at Castel on the west coast of the island, although that one is much more defaced.