Most stones in British stone alignments have not been individually measured and this means that a precise examination and comparison of stone size is unfortunately not currently possible. However enough information does exist in most records to allow a broad characterisation of stone size. The approach adopted here is therefore to assign the stones in each alignment to one of three categories. The size of stones are defined as small (less than 0.3m high), medium (between 0.3m and 0.8m high) and large (greater than 0.8m high). Where stones were described as recumbent the height was calculated using the length of the stones. The nature of the available data made any further refinements unviable, but there was generally enough information to allow most alignments to be characterised broadly according to their stone size. Many of the alignments include stones of various sizes and this methodology has allowed this to be taken fully into account.
In common with most characteristics the size of stones in the different types of stone alignment varies considerably. The degree of variation is marked and as with other characteristics it is unlikely to be a coincidence and is likely to have been deliberate and therefore a fundamental aspect of their design and presumably function. The sizes of stones in the different types of alignment are shown below.
The largest proportion of all stone alignments consists of small and medium stones (34%) although examples comprising only large sized stones are also common (25%). This one detail highlights the considerable variety in the size of stones stone used by the stone alignment builders a point further emphasised by the fact that 14% of them comprise stones of all three sizes. The minilithic character of many rows is illustrated by the significant proportion (9%) that includes only small stones. The character of single rows is significantly different to the other types, with 38% consisting of only large stones. Rows of this type with either small stones only or small and medium sized stones (20%) represent a substantial proportion of the resource and as all the categories are represented considerable variety in their character is apparent.
The size of stones in the double stone rows is very different to those found in the single alignments. The most common category is small and medium sized stones (44%) whilst only 16% comprise large stones only. All together 76% of the double alignments include small stones compared with 41% of single rows. This difference is large enough to suggest deliberation and might therefore provide an insight into function. The dominance of small and medium sized stones increases with the number of rows so that 45% of triple rows and 78% of multiple rows have stones of this size. This increase in the proportion of small and medium sized stones is too marked to be a coincidence and indicates that small stones were predominant in rows of this form. Again the reasons are likely to be related to function and in particular large stones were seen as largely unnecessary.
The marked differences between the sizes of the stones found in the different types of row are likely to be significant and together with the other characteristics point to real differences between the different types of row. These physical differences are likely to reflect differences in the manner in which these monuments were used and therefore provide further confirmation of the varied character of the activities associated with stone alignments.
Stones of different sizes at Maen Mawr (SN 85115 20648).
First Published: 14th January 2016
Last Updated: 31st October 2019