Stone row Associations

Many stone rows are found close to broadly contemporary sites. The most frequent associations are with cairns or barrows, other stone rows, settlements, stone circles, field systems and chambered cairns. This paper briefly examines the nature of these associations and presents information showing the spatial character of the evidence. At least 76% of the rows are associated with at least one known broadly contemporary site, although future work will inevitably identify further sites.  This figure is however sufficient to confirm that most rows do not survive in splendid isolation and exist within potentially informative contexts.

As work proceeds the information used in this analysis will inevitably be enhanced. This article therefore should be considered as a draft to encourage discussion and the development of ideas and will be updated in the future as research and fieldwork inevitably alters the dataset upon which it is based.


Figure 1. Distribution map showing the location of stone rows with no known broadly contemporary associations. (Base Map: Google Maps).

Figure 2. Baliscate stone row on Mull has no known contemporary associations. Click on image to enlarge.

Cairns or barrows

The most numerous identified associations with stone rows are with cairns or barrows. Indeed 55% of all rows are situated in the immediate vicinity of cairns or barrows. This figure does not include the cairns found at either end of a row. The obvious correlation with burial mounds strongly suggests that there was often a funerary element to their use.  However, the large number of sites with no obvious associated cairns means that a funerary related function was not always a feature and this in turn confirms the varied character of these sites. This point is emphasised by Christopher Tilley who notes that only 35 cairns are to be found within 500m of the stone rows on Bodmin Moor (Tilley, 1995, 31). This represents 9% of the known number of cairns in the area and he suggests that the rows in this region were therefore not generally directly associated with funerary practises. The picture is however rather different than this figure suggests and indeed it needs to be emphasised that all of the Bodmin Moor rows with the exception of the possible row at Emblance Down are within 500m of at least one cairn.

Whilst most rows in Great Britain appear to have been connected with funerary rituals it has to be accepted that a significant proportion may not have been. It is likely that the 55% figure for rows associated with cairns is probably on the low side as some mounds will have been removed and some burials may have been placed in the ground with either no mound or perhaps a very small one which is no longer visible.  Despite this it is clear that some rows were not a focus for funerary activity. This again emphasises the considerable variety in the evidence and by implication in the character of the rituals being carried out at these places.


 Figure 3 Distribution maps showing the location of stone rows with associated cairns or barrows (red) and those without (green). (Base Map: Google Maps). It is clear rows both with and without cairns are found in every region. It is perhaps noteworthy that rows with cairns are less common in the Western Isles, Central Scotland and North Wales.

Figure 4 The two stone rows at Ardnacross on the Isle of Mull are separated by three cairns.

Stone Rows

27% of all rows are situated in close proximity to at least one other row. The clustering of rows in this way is likely to be of significance and whilst relatively uncommon it is frequent enough to indicate that in some areas the row builders felt the need to construct more than one row. At both Merrivale and Shovel Down on Dartmoor six separate rows have been identified in close proximity suggesting that these areas were of particular significance to the row builders. Clearly we do not know if all the rows were used at the same time or indeed why the row builders sometimes chose to build rows next to each other.


Figure 5 Distribution map showing the location of stone rows with other rows. (Base Map: Google Maps). It is clear that clustered rows are found mainly in Northern Scotland, Exmoor and Dartmoor. In Wales only the rows at Cerrig Duon are found together, whilst in Central Scotland, Bodmin Moor and the North Yorks Moors there are none.

 Figure 6 Two double rows running parallel to each other at Merrivale on Dartmoor.


16% of rows are situated in close proximity to broadly contemporary settlements. In reality we really cannot be sure that any of these are contemporary given that we lack evidence for the date of most rows and settlements. We certainly cannot be sure that the settlements and rows were active at the same time and indeed in a few instances such as at Hook Lake and Hurston Ridge we can be fairly confident that the rows had already been abandoned before the settlement was built. The survival of so many settlements in the vicinity of rows is however of interest as it indicates that sometimes the same areas were used for rows and settlements. In most cases the settlement is nearby such as at Drizzlecombe, Craddock Moor and Merrivale, but at Assycombe and Hook Lake the houses sit on or next to the row. Most of the rows near to prehistoric settlements are on Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and North Scotland. Elsewhere this phenomena is relatively rare and in large parts of the country the rows are far from known settlements. We can be fairly confident that the settlements’ of the row builders were usually some distance away, but as with all things associated with rows exceptions to this are almost inevitable.


Figure 7 Distribution map showing the location of stone rows situated close to prehistoric settlements. (Base Map: Google Maps).

Figure 8 Bronze Age house stands adjacent to the double stone row at Assycombe on Dartmoor.

Stone Circles

12% of the rows are situated in close proximity to stone circles. There is a clustering of rows situated close to stone circles in SW England, but otherwise the distribution is fairly regular with examples in all regions except the North York Moors. The presence of a stone circle in the vicinity of a row implies that both the row and circle builders found something in that location which met their requirements.  The fact that most rows do not have a circle within their vicinity implies that relatively few locations provided the different builders with what they required. Future work looking at this aspect might provide an insight into the locational requirements of the separate traditions.


Figure 9 Distribution map showing the location of stone rows situated close to stone circles. (Base Map: Google Maps).


Figure 10 Stone circle at Merrivale is situated in close proximity to six separate stone rows.

Field systems

10% of the rows are situated in close proximity or within prehistoric field systems. Most of these are on Dartmoor where individual prehistoric field systems extending over hundreds of hectares are known. Most of these are considered to belong to the Middle Bronze Age and are therefore likely to be more recent in date. Indeed at Yar Tor the field system is built over the top of the earlier triple row. The association between these fields and the rows is therefore most likely to be the result of later land-use which ensured that both the rows and fields survived. In other parts of the country both the rows and fields have almost certainly been destroyed.


Figure 11 Distribution map showing the location of stone rows situated close to or within prehistoric field systems. (Base Map: Google Maps).

Figure 12 Triple stone row at Yar Tor, Dartmoor incorporated into a later co-axial field system (red). The green areas are much later historic fields.

Standing stones

8% of the rows are situated in close proximity to standing stones. Figure 13 illustrates that most of these rows are found in North Scotland, Argyll and Isles, Wales and Exmoor. Isolated standing stones are rare on Dartmoor and this explains the total absence in that region.  In some instances the standing stones could represent the truncated remains of other rows or possibly stone pairs. The fact that these stones share the same space as the rows may alternatively indicate alternative but perhaps related use of the area.


Figure 13 Distribution map showing the location of stone rows situated close to standing stones. (Base Map: Google Maps).

Figure 14 Standing stone at Learable Hill is visible from all four multiple stone rows.

Chambered cairns

6% of the rows are situated in close proximity to chambered cairns. Whilst this figure may seem relatively small, since both stone rows and chambered cairns are relatively rare it may be significant. Further work would be required to establish whether rows and chambered cairns were erected to be used together. Visual links such as those found at Corringdon Ball, Camster and Watenan West suggest that they may have once been directly related.


Figure 15 Distribution map showing the location of stone rows situated close to chambered cairns. (Base Map: Google Maps).

Figure 16 The Cairn O’ Get chambered cairn is surrounded by several multiple stone rows.


Stone rows are often found close to other forms of broadly contemporary sites. These relationships may ultimately allow a better understanding of the rows and further work will almost certainly prove rewarding . However, it is perhaps inevitable that at least some of the special places chosen by the row builders should have been adopted by later generations.


Tilley, C., 1995,  ‘Rocks as resources: landscapes and power’, Cornish Archaeology, 34, 5 – 57.




%d bloggers like this: