Part of the Upper Erme stone row
The final Cotswold Archaeology report on the Bancbryn stone alignment provides a variety of reasons why the authors did not believe that the row can be prehistoric. Among the reasons cited is:
“the overall alignment of the Mynydd y Betws alignment is sinuous in form which is not typical for prehistoric ceremonial/ritual stone alignments which are… predominantly straight.”
(Romanowska et. al., 2012, 28).
This conclusion is wholly inaccurate and underlines a total misunderstanding of the character and form of prehistoric stone alignments. Indeed, as will be demonstrated below, a sinuous form is typical for all of the longest rows above 500m in length and a majority of those over 20m long. Bancbryn in common with all stone alignments over 500m long is sinuous in form. This of course does not make it prehistoric, but it does mean that contrary to claims it conforms to type. A sinuous form is a known and demonstrable characteristic of this group of alignments and to suggest otherwise is wholly erroneous.
The longest rows (over 500m long)
Fifteen stone rows consisting of at least six stones extending over 500m are currently recorded. These are each briefly considered below.
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 3386m long –
This is the longest prehistoric stone row in Britain. It meanders from the western side of the Erme valley across to the eastern side before heading up Green Hill.
The row is far from straight. This length has a significant curve. View from north (1m).
The row winds its way passed a large cairn. View from south.
From this viewpoint the sinuous character of the row (highlighted) is clearly apparent. It is hard to see how this can be described as “predominantly straight”. View from north.
Only part of the alignment (highlighted) is visible, but from this angle its sinuous character is obvious and beyond doubt.
– Double row in Lake District measuring 3000m long –
Two stones forming part of the Shap stone alignment.
The Shap stone alignment is far from straight. (After Clare, T., 1978, 8).
-Double row in Wiltshire measuring 2500m long –
The sinuous character of the row is clearly apparent.
– A single row on Dartmoor measuring 1973m long –
One of many shifts in orientation which means this row is far from straight.
– Single row in Snowdonia measuring 1898m long –
Two stones forming part of the Fonllech stone row.
Fonllech stone alignment is sinuous in form (Base map: Google Maps)
– Double row in Wiltshire measuring 1300m long –
The south western end of the avenue.
Whilst the precise route of the alignment is not known there is broad consensus that it took a curved route from Avebury to the Cove (Source: Stonehenge-Avebury.net and Google Earth).
– Single row in Pembrokeshire measuring 911m long –
Surviving stones incorporated into a later field boundary.
A much mutilated long row which was clearly far from straight.
– Double row on Dartmoor measuring 865m long –
Western end of the row.
Simplified plan of Piles Hill stone alignment . This row is far from straight. (Source: Butler, J., 1993, 60).
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 859m long –
The sinuous character of the row is apparent in this view looking along the row from the south.
The row curves considerably to the right (west) at this point.
In common with all very long rows the Stalldown alignment is not straight. View from south.
– A single row in Cornwall measuring 729m long –
Compared to many rows the surviving length is straight. However, if it is accepted that the row once extended as far as “the Fidler” then it would not have been straight.
– Single row in South Wales measuring 717m long –
Compared to many long rows the Bancbryn alignment is rather less sinuous in form.
A shift in orientation is visible at this point. View from north east.
– Single row on Bodmin Moor measuring 560m long –
Stones forming part of the East Moor stone row.
Whilst straighter than some, the East Moor alignment is still far from straight. (Source: Johnson, N. and Rose, P. 1994, 32).
– Double row on Dartmoor measuring 554m long –
A marked shift at this point creates a dog-leg in the row.
White Ridge stone row constantly changes orientation.
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 540m long –
Row 1 at Shoveldown is far from straight. (Source: Butler, J., 1992, 179).
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 508m long –
A change in orientation at Burford Down stone row.
Another sinuous row. (Source: Butler, J., 1993).
Other Long Rows
A selection of rows between 20m and 500m in length illustrates that a sinuous form is commonplace and should not have been cited as a reason for doubting a prehistoric date for the row at Bancbryn.
– Double row on Dartmoor measuring 143.3m long –
The alignment on Hurston Ridge is sinuous in form. View from the north.
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 351m long –
The curving and sinuous character of the Hingston Hill row is clearly discernible. View from north east.
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 149.5m long –
Looking south west along Drizzlecombe 3. Its sinuous character is clearly discernible.
– Triple row on Dartmoor measuring 146m long –
The Cosdon alignment is not straight. View from west.
– Double row on Dartmoor measuring 125m long –
The Assycombe alignment is sinuous in form.
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 179m long –
An obvious shift in the orientation of the Shaugh Moor row.
– Single row on Bodmin Moor measuring 302m long –
Looking east along the row.
Simplified plan of the Leskernick stone alignment. The sinuous form of the row is apparent (Source: Goutté, R.).
– Double row on Dartmoor measuring 127.5m long –
Sinuous row at Trowlesworthy 1.
– Single row on Dartmoor measuring 82m long –
Trowlesworthy row 2 is far from straight.
The sinuous character of the Bancbryn alignment far from being a reason to reject a prehistoric interpretation, should be seen as providing solid grounds for acceptance. After all, how likely is it that a rectangular earthwork would be rejected as a Roman fort because it was not circular like all the other Roman Forts?
Butler, J., 1991, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol. 2 – The North, Devon Books Exeter
Butler, J., 1993, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol. 4 – The South-East, Devon Books Exeter
Johnson, N. and Rose, P., 1994, Bodmin Moor – An archaeological survey Volume 1: The human landscape to c 1800, English Heritage and RCHME, pg. 32.
FIRST PUBLISHED: 15th October 2016
LAST UPDATED: 5th November 2019