Stone Row Interpretation and Identification

WPDSCF3023 Stalldown

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

Ballymeanoch P1000445

 

 

Achnancarranan; Ardnacross N; Ardnacross S; Balliscate; Ballochroy; Ballymeanoch; Dervaig centre; Duachy; Dunamuck N; Escart; Glen Shiel; Glengorm; Inveryne Stone Row; Maol Mor;Quinish; Salachary; Scallastle; Stravanan Bay; Uluvalt

 

 

 

 

Ballymeanoch


Bodmin Moor

wp-colvannick-a

 

 

 

Buttern Hill row; Cardinham Moor/Colvannick Tor; Carneglos; Craddock Moor; East Moor; Leskernick Hill; Trehudreth Downs;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinham Moor/Colvannick Tor


Brecon Beacons

wp-cerrig-duon-p1020770

 

 

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

 

 

 

Cerrig Duon


Central Scotland

wp1080764-east-cult

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

East Cult


Dartmoor

Stalldown WPP1070247Assycombe; Black Tor (Stanlake); Black Tor Avon; Brent Fore Hill; Burford Down; Butterbrook 1; Butterbrook 2; 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 row 2; Drizzlecombe row 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; Laughter Tor 2; Leeden Tor; Merrivale 1; Merrivale 2; Merrivale 3; Merrivale 4; Penn Beacon S; Penn Beacon SW; Piles Hill NE; 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; Spurrell’s Cross; Stalldon Row; Tottiford Reservoir I; Trendlebere Down; Trowlesworthy 1; Trowlesworthy 2; Upper Erme; White Ridge; Yar Tor; Yardworthy; Yellowmead Down;

Stalldown


Rest of England

Stanton Drew South

 

Askham Fell; Beckhampton Avenue; Broomrigg A; Devil’s Arrows; Five Kings; Lacra NE; Lacra SE; Nine Maidens; Shap; Stanton Drew N; Stanton Drew S; Threestoneburn House; West Kennet Avenue;

 

 

 

 

Stanton Drew, North


Exmoor

wpp1060101a Porlock Common NW

 

 

 

Benjamy; Chains Valley; Culbone Hill; East Pinford; Furzehill Common 2; Furzehill Common 3; Furzehill Common 5; Hoccombe Coombe; Hoccombe Hill; Lanacombe 1; Lanacombe 5; Madacombe; North Regis Common; Pig Hill; Porlock Common NE; Porlock Common SW; Squallacombe; Thornworthy Little Common; Tom’s Hill; Warcombe Water, West; White Ladder; Winnaway;

 

 

Porlock Common SW


Mid Wales

Afon Hyddgen

 

 

 

Afon Hyddgen; Bryntwppa; Bryn-y-Maen; Carreg Llwyd; Cefn Gwernffrwd Row I; Lluest Uchaf; Mynydd Dyfnant; Rhos y Beddau; Rhos y Gelynen; Tre Heslog;

 

 

 

Afon Hyddgen


North York Moors

Saltergate Moor;


Northern Scotland

learable-hill-row2-1

 

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 


Rest of Scotland

Broomend of Crichie P1070304

 

 

 

 

Auldearn; Broomend of Crichie, South; Drumtroddan

 

 

 

 

Broomend of Crichie, South


Rest of Wales

Waun Oer WPP1110526

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waun Oer


Western Hebrides

callanish-w-p1040475

 

 

Callanish 5; Callanish West; Callanish, East; Callanish, North; Callanish, South; Garynahine, Cnoc Fillibhir Mhor;

 

 

 

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

WP1060902 Lag

 

 

 

Ballinaby; Brainport Bay; Glenamachrie; Lag; Loch Buie; Sannaig;

 

 

 

 

Lag


Bodmin Moor

Searle’s Down; Tolborough Tor


Brecon Beacons

wp-saith-maen-nw-p1020658

 

 

 

Cefn Moel Stones; Craig-Y-Fan Ddu; Nant-Y-Wern; Saith Maen NW;

 

 

 

Saith Maen NW


Central Scotland

Dunruchan Stone B

 

 

Commonbank; Dumgoyach; Dunruchan Stones;

 

 

 

 

Dunruchan Stones


Dartmoor

Shoveldown Row 6 WPP1070349

 

 

 

Hamel Down; Lakehead Hill 2; Little Links Tor; Merrivale 5; Merrivale 6; Shoveldown 6; Soussons Down; Stannon Newtake; Treeland Brake;

 

 

 

Shoveldown 6


Rest of England

avebury-wpp1070906

 

 

Askham Fell Cairn; Avebury Z feature; Kenidjack Common; Standingstone Rigg; Studland; The Kirk; Whittondean Farm; Yelland stone row;

 

 

 

Avebury Z feature


Exmoor

Bill Hill; Cheriton Ridge, North; Cheriton Ridge, South; Furzehill Common; Mattocks Down; Wilmersham Common, North; Wilmersham Common, South


Mid Wales

Disgwifa Fach1

 

 

 

Cae Garreg;  Court Stone Row 1; Court stone row 2; Disgwylfa Fach; Mynydd Llanbyther; Pen y Garreg; Saith Maen WSW; Tryfel Stones;

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disgwylfa Fach


North York Moors

Coate Moor; North Ings; Swarth Howe;


Northern Scotland

torrish-burn-3

 

 

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

 

 

 

Torrish Burn


Rest of Scotland

p1050719a Dyke Row

 

 

Brodgar Farm; Broomend of Crichie, North; Dyke Row; Ladystone Farm; Torhousekie, East; Torhousekie, South; Torhousekie, Stone Circle;

 

 

Dyke Row


Rest of Wales

Arthog WPP1110557 zoom

 

 

Arthog Standing Stones; Borth Wen; Bryn Seward; Fonllech; Gray Hill; Hafod y Dre; Hafod y Garreg; Harolds Stones; Parc y Meirw; Rhos Hafotty Carneddau; Ty-Mathiau;

 

 

 

 

Arthog Standing Stones


Western Isles

p1050189a Cnoc Na Greine

 

 

Blashaval; Cnoc na Grèine; Eyre Alignment; Eyre stone rows; 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

Dervaig SSE WP1110265

 

Carragh a’Ghlinne; Clochkeil; Crinan Moss; Dervaig SSE; Finlaggan; Macrihanish

 

 

 

 

 

Dervaig SSE


Bodmin Moor

Caradon Hill; Emblance Down stone row


Brecon Beacons

wp-carreg-cadno-p1060225

 

 

Careg Lwyd, Carreg Cadno; Nant Gwinau; Trillech;

 

 

 

Carreg Cadno


Central Scotland

Gallowhill Wood; Middleton; St Martins; West Revoch Farm


Dartmoor

wp-grimslake-cist-p1060020

 

 

Butterdon E.; Grimslake Cist; Langstone Moor III; Sharp Tor NE; Sherberton Common; Stalldown SE1; Tottiford Reservoir II;

 

Grimslake Cist


Rest of England

Broome; Higher Town Bay; Longstone Farm; Penhurrock; Trelow Downs; Treveglos, Zennor;


Exmoor

Badgworthy Lees; Codsend Moor; Longstone Barrow


Mid Wales

wp1110129 Buwch a'r Llo

 

Brwyno-Canol; Buwch a’r Llo; Capel Rhos; Cefn Gwernffrwd Row II; Esgair Draenllwyn; Gwastad;Llidiardau mawr

 

 

 

Buwch a’r Llo


North York Moors

Commondale Moor; High Bride Stones; Old Castle Hill; Simon Howe; The Nine Stones


Northern Scotland

dirlot-south-1

 

Broughwhin Loch; Dirlot, South;

 

 

 

 

 

Dirlot, South


Rest of Scotland

Giants’ Stones, Hamna Voe; Milton; Rinns Of Shurdimires


Rest of Wales

Ffridd Braich-Llwyd; Hwylfa’r Ceirw; Meini-Gwyn; Mynydd Clywedog; Pen-Feidr-Coedan; Penmeiddyn; Pont Ddu; St.David’s Head; The Three Leaps; Troed y rhiw; White Moor


Western Isles

wpp1040336a Borve

 

Airigh Na Gaoithe; Borve; Brevig; Clach An Tursa; S46 Scarista, Harris; Traigh Na Berie

 

 

 

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.

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