Of Men Turned To Stone And A Cup Of Gold


We were spending a few days in south-east Cornwall last week and, in between downpours, we managed a trip up to Bodmin Moor to visit The Hurlers. This unique prehistoric site comprises three stone circles set out in a row, and dating from the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. This would make them around 4,000 years old. It is impossible to capture the full complex without aid of  hot air balloon or hang glider, so here are some piecemeal shots. Also the light, as you can see, was pretty poor.

The local explanation for the origin of these stones is that they are petrified men – turned to stone in punishment for playing hurling on a Sunday. (Cornish hurling is an ancient team game played with a silver ball. See the link for more details. And no, I don’t think that is an ancient hurler on the skyline).



The circles are 33, 42 and 35 metres in diameter (108, 138  and 115 feet respectively), and none have all their stones intact. The central circle is the best preserved with 14 standing stones and 14 marker stones. This circle and the one to the north of it align with the huge Bronze Age Rillaton Barrow, visible on the skyline to the north-east. It was here that one of the British Museum’s most precious treasures, the Rillaton Gold Cup was discovered during excavations in 1837. At that time it was passed as treasure trove to King William IV and so remained in the royal household. It was only a hundred years later, after the death of George V in 1936 that its full historical significance was recognised. HRH had apparently been using it as a receptacle for his shirt and collar studs.


Photo: Creative Commons      Rillaton Gold Cup circa 1700 BC


Thursdays’ Special: Traces of the Past – Please visit Paula to see her dramatic view of San Geremia church in Venice, plus other bloggers’ posts of relics of times past.

34 thoughts on “Of Men Turned To Stone And A Cup Of Gold

  1. I am very glad you took that trip now just in time for the traces of the past theme. The site is impressive, Tish. Hubby and I already visited Stonehenge, megalithic temples on Malta, stone circles in Portugal, and now I want to visit these. I have checked out the photos on the EH site, and they are nothing compared to yours. I really like them. I showed them to hubby and he says you’ve got talent 🙂 Thank you for the Hurlers.

      1. Very weedy back in Shropshire, plus April showers in May. Have been trying ro rein in the allotment. It’s been on the rampage while I’ve not been looking 🙂

      2. Well, the May April showers won’t have helped! It’s quite sunny here at present, but as I’m trying to shake off this cold and prevent it getting worse, I’m staying in for the most part.

  2. I love this sort of thing, Tish, so thanks for giving me my history fix for the day. I, am, however devastated that you didn’t care enough to take glider or balloon for even better shots and overall feel. 😦


    1. That’s an interesting notion, Marilyn – high-flying in the Neolithic; but then it’s wise never to set limitations on human ingenuity – even and especially 4,000 years ago.

  3. Nice photos, nice spot on the earth. We used to frequently visit Avebury in Wilts but this is the first time I have seen The Hurlers.
    Thanks for this post, I believe it is my new favourite of yours.

    1. Hello, Thom. Lovely you could drop by my Cornish circles. Avebury is one very amazing place. It’s ages since I was there, and now you’ve mentioned it, I want to go 🙂

  4. I think it important to visit antiquities during the present obsession with modern politics… The Hurlers standing stones reminded me of Anthony Gormley’s standing figures at Crosby, Merseyside. An echo of our past.

  5. I think your photos far exceed mine – taken one very wet day in spring a few years ago! We were lucky not to fall into one of the boggy mires. Bodmin always seems so bleak.

    1. And blooming freezing. Was also perished in June when we visited a few years ago. Those little bogs look pretty treacherous too. And thank you for kind words re photos 🙂

    1. I think I probably agree with you, Gilly, though it could be a slippery slope artefact-wise – much emptying of the British Museum…Elgin Marbles, Benin bronzes…

  6. Thank you for this wonderful glimpse into the past. I really love all things historical, and what fascinating information about the Hurlers! Paula’s Thursdays’ Special challenge is inspiring, I hope I get to participate in the near future. Keep well, Tish!

  7. Thanks for the visit to The Hurlers, Tish. That is a place I’d like to visit in person too. I always ‘feel’ the timelessness in such places.

    1. Glad you could join me Cornwall, Helen. These stone circles are such mysterious, but momentous places, and only a small part of what appears to have been a very busy prehistoric landscape.

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