A Mysterious Four-Thousand-Year-Old Circle

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This is Cornwall’s smallest stone circle, captured here on a dreary December afternoon in the village of Duloe. It dates from around 2,000 B.C.  a relic of the British Bronze Age.

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In fact the 8 large stones that comprise the monument are set out in more of an ovoid than a circle, the diameter varying between 10 and 11 metres. But they are also roughly aligned with the compass points, which instantly has everyone thinking all sorts of things about the possible purpose of the structure.

The first historical, if indirect, reference to the circle, occurred in 1329 A.D. in a record that mentions the farm of Stonetown on whose land the stones stand. Its official antiquarian discovery, however, was in 1801, at which time the stones were prone, and the circle bisected by a hedge.

During restoration work in 1861, and the removal of the hedge, workmen stumbled on a Bronze Age funerary urn in the centre of the circle. Unfortunately the urn and the cremated human contents have since been lost, but it thus seems likely, given its small size, that the monument was intended only as an elaborate grave, rather than constructed for any other ritual purposes.

All the same, the enterprise involved some considerable labour. It’s been estimated that thirty or more people would have been needed to move stones up to 12 tons in weight. They are quartzite-rich with elements of ankerite, and the nearest source of such rock is at least a mile from the site.

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And so there it stands, a domestic-scale stone circle complete with neighbouring cottages, sheep and power lines. Families out with dogs and infants wander briefly round the stones before continuing their walk. They look bemused, as if expecting more. But the stones give nothing away. They have no stories to impart. They simply are.

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copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

 

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