Cut Hill

Cut Hill

Copyright: Bill Radcliffe.

Location

England     Devon     Dartmoor     SX 59851 82739     Lat 50.627460   Long -3.9828440

 

Plan of Cut Hill stone row. Source: Google Earth and Fyfe, R. & Greeves, T, 2010, 59.

Characteristics

Type: Single Length: 215m
No. of stones: 9 Size of stones: Only large
Orientation: 52° Altitude: 600m
Upper end: – Lower end: –
Straight (Yes or No)  : Yes Sea View: Yes
Context:  Barrow
Notes:

Other Information

Public Access:  Yes
Land Status: National Park and MOD Firing Range. Access only when firing not taking place.
Scheduled Ancient Monument: No

Dating

This is the only row in Great Britain with a recognised date.  Work by Ralph Fyfe indicated that peat started accumulating at this spot in around 5580 BC, with one of the stones coming to rest on a surface in around 3620 BC, before being sealed by further peat accumulation in around 2360 BC. This suggested chronology would mean that the row was of Early to Middle Neolithic, which is rather earlier than had been previously assumed. This conclusion however relies on the assumption “that no peat was removed or disturbed” prior to the stone being placed on the ground (Fyfe and Greeves, 2010, 63).  Work by Martlew and Ruggles at Ardnacross, North and South throws considerable doubt on this assumption as they was able to demonstrate that some of the stones had been deliberately felled into prepared holes. If this was also the case at Cut Hill this would have implications for the chronology and instead permit the row to be seen as belonging to the Late Neolithic period. The illustration below highlights a possible alternative scenario which is entirely consistent with our understanding of the evidence.

 Illustration  showing a possible sequence of events consistent with the evidence.

A: Peat starts accumulating in around 5880 BC.

B: The position of the land surface in around 3620 BC.

C: Hole cut to receive standing stone in about 2600 BC.

D: Stone erected around 2600 BC.

E:  Hole cut adjacent to the standing exposing peat deposited in around 3620 BC.

F: Standing stone toppled into the pre-cut hole and coming to rest of the freshly exposed peat.

G: Peat accumulates on top of the now recumbent stone from 2360 BC onwards.

This scenario is consistent with the evidence from Cut Hill and Ardnacross and whilst it is not possible to demonstrate its certainty, it clearly throws doubt on the very early date suggested for this row. The date from the upper surface of the stone is however much more informative as it provides solid evidence that this stone was no longer standing by around 2360 BC. There has been some debate as to whether the stones were ever placed upright. The later suggested date for their erection would have meant that there was a greater depth of peat available and they could have been erected by cutting a slot into the peat and inserting the stones.  A few packing stones may have been used to stabilise the stones, but we would not expect these to have survived because within a landscape with few readily available small stones, they would have soon been picked up as the peat erosion exposed them.  The depth of the peat would have meant that there was no need for an archaeologically detectable socket hole.  To conclude the evidence is entirely with a stone row of large slabs being erected in around 2600 BC and then perhaps ritually closed in about 2360 BC.

Online Resources 

Megalithic Portal     Modern Antiquarian     PastScape     Historic Environment Record

Prehistoric Monuments of Dartmoor     Prehistoric Dartmoor Walks

Prehistoric Society Newsletter          Fyfe, R. 2008

Other Sources

Fyfe, R. and Greeves, T., 2010, “The date and context of a stone row: Cut Hill, Dartmoor, south-west England”, Antiquity, 84, 55-70.

Martlew, R.D. and Ruggles, C.L.N., 1993, “The North Mull Project (4): Excavations at Ardnacross 1989 – 91”, Archaeoastronomy, 18, 55-64.

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