Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Cornwall has an extraordinary number of ancient stone structures scattered across the countryside. The one shown above is Lanyon Quoit, it is thought to date from the Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). In its original form it was supported by four huge uprights rather than the present three and was also, apparently, considerably taller. Some reports say it was possible to stand under it on horseback! The flat stone on the top weighs in at approximately thirteen and a half tons. Unfortunately, in the early eighteen hundreds the structure was damaged during a violent storm (One can only imagine the ferocity of a storm capable of damaging such a robust structure!) One of the uprights had been broken in the storm so when the structure was repaired it was a mere shadow of its former self, being considerably shorter and minus one of the uprights. In spite of this it is still an imposing sight when you first see it silhouetted against the sky, on the Cornish moorland. Its original use is open to debate, the common theory being that it is part of a burial site that would have originally been covered in earth. Some think that because it is so much larger than other burial sites of the time that it had greater religious significance. To me this just adds to the mystery of this extraordinary place. Another, better preserved quoit, is the nearby Chun Quoit, seen above. This quoit still shows remnants of the earthen mound that would have been built up over the stones. There are still four uprights supporting the top stone and it is much more of a standard size than the Lanyon Quoit. It is possible to see into the chamber which is paved with more granite pieces. Nearby are a Carn and an Iron Age castle and all three of these ancient sites line up perfectly on an east west alignment. Chun Quoit derives from the Cornish which means the 'House on the Downs.' Men-an-Tol, seen above, is perhaps one of the most unusual of the stone structures in this area. Apparently you have to pass three times through the round stone against the sun in order to prevent rickets! Needless to say we have all done this, and we have posted the family dog through to, and, so far no rickets!!
This structure is something of an enigma, there is no other example like it in the entire British Isles. Again because it is so ancient no one can say for certain what its original intended use was. Of course there are numerous theories. Some think it is part of a burial chamber, with the round stone being the entrance. Another thought is that the upright stones were originaly part of a circle of standing stones and that they were of religous significance. Still further theories suggest that this site was an astronomical observatory. Again, for me the mystery just adds to the appeal of this ancient site.

Photo Credits - Dominick V

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