The Nine Stones of Cut Hill

15 Apr 2010

At www.newscientist.com 2756 April 14th ... the story of the Nine recumbent stones found on Cut Hill in a remote area of Dartmoor, as mentioned a few days ago, is worth revisiting. They point out that Cut Hill is the most spectacular promontory in the area and when the stones were laid down it was open heath surrounded by woodland - quite unlike the modern wet and miserable climate. It rains an awful lot on Darmoor - and is famed for it's quickly descending mist and fog. However, in the 4th millennium, the climate of Britain and Ireland was quite different - much warmer and drier.

The report was first made in Antiquity 84 page 55, and it is apparently uncertain if the stones stood upright at any stage - although packing stones were found near the edge of one of them which implies that at least one stone was perpendicular. The stones lie flat on the ground, parallel to each other like sleepers on a railway track. The stones are also said to align with the summer and winter solstices.

The same story pops up in the 'News' section of Current Archaeology 242 (April/May, 2010) and it adds some other details. Previous dating of stone rows on Dartmoor has relied on the assumption they mimic stellar alignments whose position in prehistory can then be calculated - or by spatial association with other dateable archaeological features such as nearby cairns and field boundaries. In the case of the Nine Stones palaeo-environmental samples were taken from undisturbed peat layers both below and above two of the stones - that had completely  been buried over the years. This has revealed they would have been in place since 3700BC - much earlier than anticipated.