Stone Row Interpretation and Identification

Stalldown on Dartmoor

Positive identification of any sort of archaeology relies on evidence. The nature of that evidence can vary considerably and at some point professional judgement is needed to provide clarification. Inevitably the evidence is incomplete and often open to debate. Sometimes a single answer is not possible and instead a range of interpretations are offered each based on the available evidence. This approach underlies much of the archaeological process and means that it is not always possible to be sure that an accepted identification is wholly appropriate. This uncertainty is something that archaeologists are familiar with, but not one that government bureaucracy and most of the media are comfortable with. Government departments and the media like certainty and distrust uncertainty. In reality, archaeological identifications are actually opinions rather than facts. Hopefully these opinions are underpinned by facts, but a scan through the archaeological literature will reveal instance after instance of sites being re-labelled as fresh information is uncovered, presumptions challenged or ideas developed. This is inevitable as we find out more about particular places and our understanding of the resource as a whole improves. The result is that an overview of any particular type of archaeology is likely to be influenced by previous work and current ideas. Each generation looks at the evidence differently and comes to different conclusions.  It is hardly surprising therefore that the enigmatic stone rows have seen there fair share of ink spilt debating what they are, what they might mean and why they are important and indeed whether a particular arrangement of rocks is a row and if so whether it is prehistoric. In many categories of monument detailed survey and excavation can usually provide the answer, however with stone rows this is rarely the case and therefore interpretation of individual sites tends to depend on appearance and context alone. For many rows a variety of apparently equally appealing interpretations can be offered by those with a healthy sceptical disposition. This of course means that a universally accepted list of Great British stone rows is an undeliverable goal. Inevitably the sites in the Gazetteer can be considered no more than a personal assessment, albeit based on extensive, but by no means exhaustive research and analysis. From the start each row on the basis of available evidence has been allocated to one of six subjective interpretative categories:

  • Plausible
  • Probable
  • Possible
  • Uncertain
  • Unlikely
  • Not

Over time some rows have been moved from one category to another as fresh evidence has been uncovered. This is a continuing process and in the short term explains the dynamic nature of the Gazetteer. Once all the rows have been fully assessed the Gazetteer should become a useful tool, although fresh discoveries will inevitably result in adjustments.



Plausible Rows

This category includes all rows that look like rows, have a clearly definable prehistoric context, have no obvious alternative explanation and benefit from widespread acceptance. Currently the plausible rows include:

Argyll and Isles

Plausible

Achnancarranan; Ardnacross N; Ardnacross S; Baliscate; Ballochroy; Ballymeanoch; Carragh a’Ghlinne; Dervaig centre; Duachy; Dunamuck N; Escart; Glengorm; Inveryne; Maol Mor; Quinish; Salachary; Sannaig; Scallastle; Stravanan Bay

 

Ballymeanoch


Bodmin Moor

Plausible

Buttern Hill row; Cardinham Moor/Colvannick Tor; Carneglos; Craddock Moor; East Moor; Leskernick Hill; Searle’s Down; Tolborough Tor; Trehudreth Downs;

 

Cardinham Moor/Colvannick Tor


Brecon Beacons

Plausible

Bancbryn; Carreg Wen Fawr Y Rugos; Cerrig Duon; Maen Mawr; Nant Tarw; Nant y Wern; Trecastle Mountain

 

 

Cerrig Duon


Central Scotland

Plausible

Balnaguard; Commonbank; Doune (Glenhead); East Cult; Pitmudie; Sheriff Muir Row

 

 

 

East Cult


Dartmoor

Plausible

Assycombe; Black Tor (Stanlake); Black Tor Avon; Brent Fore Hill; Burford Down; Butterbrook 1; Butterbrook 2; Butterdon East; Butterdon Hill; Cantrell; Challacombe Down; Cholwichtown; Collard Tor E; Collard Tor W; Conies Down; Corringdon Ball, North; Corringdon Ball, South; Cosdon; Cut Hill; Drizzlecombe 1; Drizzlecombe 2; Drizzlecombe 3; Fernworthy 1; Fernworthy 2; Fernworthy 3; Glasscombe Ball N; Glasscombe Corner; Hart Tor, North; Hart Tor, South; Higher White Tor; Hingston Hill; Holne Moor; Holne Ridge North; Hook Lake; Hurston Ridge; Lakehead Hill E; Lakehead Hill summit; Langstone Moor; Laughter Tor 1; Leeden Tor; Merrivale 1; Merrivale 2; Merrivale 3; Merrivale 4; Penn Beacon S; Penn Beacon SW; Piles Hill; Ringmoor Down; Sharpitor NE; Sharpitor NW 1; Sharpitor NW 2; Sharpitor W; Shaugh Moor; Shell Top SW; Sherberton; Shoveldown 1; Shoveldown 2; Shoveldown 3; Shoveldown 4; Shoveldown 5; Soussons Down; Spurrell’s Cross; Stalldon Row; Tottiford Reservoir I; Trendlebere Down; Trowlesworthy 1; Trowlesworthy 2; Upper Erme; White Ridge; Yar Tor; Yardworthy; Yellowmead Down;


Rest of England

Plausible

Askham Fell; Beckhampton Avenue; Devil’s Arrows; Five Kings; Kenidjack Common; Lacra NE; Lacra SW; Nine Maidens; Shap; Stanton Drew N; Stanton Drew S; West Kennet Avenue;

 

 

Stanton Drew, North


Exmoor

Plausible

Almsworthy Common; Beckham Hill; Benjamy; Black Barrow, South; Bray Common; Chains Valley; Cheriton Ridge North; Cheriton Ridge SE; Coley Water, South; Culbone Hill; East Pinford; Furzehill Common 2; Furzehill Common 3; Furzehill Common 5; Halscombe; Hoccombe Coombe; Lanacombe 1; Lancombe 2; Longstone Barrow; Madacombe; North Regis Common; Pig Hill; Porlock Allotment; Porlock Common SW; Shoulsbury Common; Squallacombe; Thornworthy Little Common; Tom’s Hill; Trout Hill 4; Warcombe Water, West; West Pinford; White Ladder; Winnaway;

 

 

Porlock Common SW


Mid Wales

Plausible

Afon Hyddgen; Bryn-y-Maen; Capel Rhos; Carreg Llwyd; Cefn Gwernffrwd Row I; Lluest Uchaf; Mynydd Dyfnant; Rhos y Beddau; Rhos y Gelynen; Saith Maen WSW; Tre Heslog; Tryfel Stones;

 

 

 

 

Afon Hyddgen


North York Moors

Plausible

North Ings; Old Castle Hill; Simon Howe;

 

 

Simon Howe


Northern Scotland

Plausible

Battle Moss, Loch Of Yarrows; Borgie Bridge; Broughwhin; Camster; Clash-an-dam; Cnoc Molach; Creag Bhreac Mhor; Dail Na Drochaide; Dirlot, North; Garrywhin; Groat’s Loch, South; Hill O’ Many Stanes, Clyth; Kildonan SW; Kinbrace; Learable Hill, Row 1; Learable Hill, Row 2; Learable Hill, Row 4; Loch Rimsdale; Tormsdale; Watenan Farm; Watenan, East; Watenan, West;

 

 

 

Learable Hill, Row 2


Rest of Scotland

Plausible

Auldearn; Broomend of Crichie, South; Drumtroddan; Torhouseskie East;

 

 

 

Torhouseskie East


Rest of Wales

Plausible

Mynydd Clywedog; Parc y Meirw; Waun Oer

 

 

 

 

 

Waun Oer


Western Isles

Plausible

Callanish 5; Callanish West; Callanish, East; Callanish, North; Callanish, South; Clach An Tursa;

 

 

 

Callanish, West



Probable

The stone rows defined as probable are those which have an extra doubt beyond the lack of an absolute date. The reasons vary but in most instances a possible alternative explanation is possible even although it may not be likely. As work proceeds some sites in this category maybe promoted or demoted as further evidence is uncovered. The current probable sites are considered to be:

Argyll and Isles

Probable

Ballinaby; Brainport Bay; Clochkeil; Glenamachrie; Lag; Loch Buie; Uluvalt

 

 

 

 

 

Lag


Bodmin Moor

Probable

Hawks Tor, South; Stannon

 

 

 

Stannon


Brecon Beacons

Probable

Careg Lwyd 2; Carreg Cadno; Craig-Y-Fan Ddu; Saith Maen NW;

 

 

 

 

Saith Maen NW


Central Scotland

Probable

Dunruchan Stones; Gallowhill Wood;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dunruchan Stones


Dartmoor

Probable

Hamel Down; Joan Ford’s Newtake; Laughter Tor 2; Little Links Tor; Merrivale 5; Merrivale 6; Shoveldown 6; Stalldown SE; Treeland Brake;

 

 

 

 

Shoveldown 6


Rest of England

Probable

Longstone Farm; The Kirk; Threestoneburn House; Yelland;

 

 

 

 

The Kirk


Exmoor

Probable

Cheriton Ridge, Centre; Furzehill 1; Hoaroak Cottage, NW; Kittuck Hill; Lanacombe 3; Mattocks Down;  Wilmersham Common, South

 

 

 

 

Wilmersham Common, South


Mid Wales

Probable

Brwyno-Canol; Cae Garreg;  Court 1; Court 2; Disgwylfa Fach; Mynydd Llanbyther; Pen y Garreg; 

 

 

 

Disgwylfa Fach


North York Moors

Probable

Coate Moor; Crown End, Westerdale Moor; High Bride Stones;

 

 

 

 

North Ings


Northern Scotland

Probable

Borlum; Broughwhin 1; Druim Na Ceud; Groat’s Loch, North (Broughwhin III); Learable Hill, Row 3; Torrish Burn; Upper Dounreay;

 

 

 

Torrish Burn


Rest of Scotland

Probable

Broomend of Crichie, North; Dyke Row; Rinns Of Shurdimires; The Shearers; Torhousekie, Stone Circle;

 

 

 

 

The Shearers


Rest of Wales

Probable

Arthog Standing Stones; Bryn Seward; Fonllech; Gray Hill; Harolds Stones; Penmeiddyn; Rhos Hafotty Carneddau;

 

 

 

 

Arthog Standing Stones


Western Isles

Probable

Airigh Na Gaoithe; Blashaval; Cnoc na Grèine; Garynahine, Cnoc Fillibhir Mhor; Sgealtrabhal/Skeal Traval; 

 

 

 

 

Cnoc Na Grèine



Possible

The stone rows defined as possible are those which have additional doubts concerning identity. On balance it is considered that they are most likely to be prehistoric rows but there are indications that a stone row interpretation is less solid. The reasons vary but in most instances possible alternative explanations are possible even although at present a stone row identification is the most plausible. As work proceeds some sites in this category maybe promoted or demoted as further evidence is uncovered. The current possible sites are considered to be:

Argyll and Isles

Possible

Dervaig SSE; Finlaggan; Glen Sheil;

 

 

 

 

Dervaig SSE


Bodmin Moor

Possible

Minions

 

 

 

 

Minions


Brecon Beacons

Possible

Careg Lwyd 1;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Careg Lwyd 1


Central Scotland

Middleton; 


Dartmoor

Possible

Drizzlecombe 4; Tottiford Reservoir II;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tottiford II


Rest of England

Possible

Askham Fell Cairn; Broome; Broomrigg A; Higher Town Bay; 

 

 

 

 

 

Askham Fell Cairn


Exmoor

Possible

Porlock Common NE; Wilmersham Common, North;

 

 

 

Porlock Common NE


Mid Wales

Possible

Bryntwppa; Buwch a’r Llo; Cefn Gwernffrwd Row II; Gwastad;

 

 

Buwch a’r Llo


North York Moors

Possible

Commondale Moor; Swarth Howe; The Nine Stones;

 

 

The Nine Stones


Northern Scotland

Possible

Dirlot, South;

 

 

 

 

 

Dirlot, South


Rest of Scotland

Possible

Milton; Tom nan Carragh;

 

 

 

 

Tom nan Carragh


Rest of Wales

Troed y rhiw;


Western Isles

Possible

Borve; Eyre Alignment; S46 Scarista;

 

 

 

Borve


The Stone Rows of Great Britain Gazetteer have been drawn from the top three categories and the remaining sites are listed separately in the Dubious, Uncertain and Unlikely page.

The three remaining categories are defined as:

  • Uncertain – There is insufficient evidence to realistically demonstrate that a site is a stone row
  • Unlikely – The current evidence strongly suggests that the row is unlikely to be a stone row
  • Not – The current evidence indicates that these sites are not prehistoric stone rows.

Conclusion

Interpretation and identification of archaeological sites relies on evidence and sometimes this can be contradictory or simply incomplete. Comprehensive analysis combined with professional judgement permits interpretation and identification with varying degrees of certainty. Future work will inevitably enhance our understanding of these special places but uncertainty will remain and needs to be acknowledged.


FIRST PUBLISHED: 26th November 2016

LAST UPDATED: 22nd November 2019

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