Numbers can provide a helpful insight and allow easy comparisons between different criteria. Newspapers are full of them – often used to create dramatic headlines. When it comes to looking at the stone rows, numbers can help us understand the resource and be used to express similarities and differences. As the stone row project continues, various numbers are being constantly updated and therefore what follows is inevitably a snap shot in time. However, I hope you agree that they provide a helpful insight and at least provide an overview of this enigmatic monument type.
The length of the rows varies considerable. According to available data the shortest row is at Askham Fell Cairn (3m) whilst the longest is the Upper Erme Row (3,320m). The average length is 145m and the combined total is 44.37km though this figure significantly understates the situation because it records only a single length for alignments consisting of more than one row. So the true total length is probably nearer 80km.
Number of stones
Baliscate. Row consisting of three stones, one of which is now recumbent.
Stone alignments include at least three stones. Remarkably there are 72 sites consisting of three stones only and whilst some may have originally had more, the large number of rows with three stones implies that this was a popular form. The row with the largest number of stones will come as no surprise. The Upper Erme Row with 922 stones has by far the greatest number with its nearest rival with 557 being the Butterdon Hill Row, also on Dartmoor. The average number of stones in each row is 30 and the total number of stones in all the rows is 9,592. So the Upper Erme Row has nearly 10% of all the stones in the British stone rows. The considerable variety in the stone rows is apparent from these figures alone.
Size of Stones
Spectacular row at Ballymeanoch consisting only of large slabs. Whilst undoubtedly impressive, rows such as this are uncommon and sites like this inevitably distort perceptions.
There is a perception in certain quarters that stone rows consist mainly of large slabs set in lines. Some sites do indeed conform to this stereotype, but the figures illustrate that the situation is much more complicated than this. The size of stones in rows is broadly similar with 53% of all rows including small stones, 51% including medium sized stones and 49% including large stones. However, if you dig a bit deeper into the figures you discover that 30% of the rows consist only of large stones, with 14% consisting only of small stones and 6% consisting only of medium sized stones. So where only one size of stone is present most are of the large variety. Where stones of different sizes are present though the picture is very different and the most common are rows with small and medium sized stones (27%), whilst 10% consist of medium and large stones, 8% include stones of all sizes and only 2% have small and large stones only.
That is enough numbers for now, but hopefully they help illustrate the very varied nature of the stone rows in Britain.