Hidden Fourth Circle at Mysterious 4,000-Year-Old Standing Stones in Cornwall to be Investigated
Archaeologists are set to undertake an investigation of a hidden fourth circle identified by geophysics at an ancient megalithic site in Cornwall known as ‘The Hurlers’.
The Plymouth Herald reports that the mystery circle was first identified in the early 1990s but only recently has funding been acquired to undertake an investigation in a project known as ‘Reading the Hurlers’. Archaeologists from the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, geologists, and volunteers will join together to learn the secrets of the hidden circle.
The Hurlers stone circles (public domain)
The Hurlers are one of Cornwall’s best known prehistoric monuments and are comprised of three stone circles and a pair of standing stones known as The Pipers. The name is derived from a legend that tells of a group of men who were turned to stone for playing the Cornish game of hurling on a Sunday instead of going to church. The two Pipers are said to be the figures of two men who played the pipes during the game and suffered the same fate.
The Hurlers - Stone Circle - Liskeard, Cornwall, UK (public domain)
In 1994, the possible fourth circle was discovered to the north of the Hurlers, apparently on the same alignment. The Reading the Hurlers project site reports that the buried fourth circle “measures approximately 21-23 m in diameter and lies 105m to the north of the northern circle within The Hurlers triple stone circle complex. If, it is found to exist, it may comprise potentially fallen (once standing) or even recumbent (lying) stones and while it has been surveyed.”
According to English Heritage, The Hurlers have a number of significant alignments, both astronomical and to other ceremonial and funerary monuments in the landscape. The axis through the centres of the two northern circles aligns with the massive Rillaton Barrow, a Bronze Age round barrow made famous for the exquisitely crafted gold cup found inside. The axis of the southern pair of circles aligns directly with a prehistoric round cairn to the south-west.
Main: Rillaton Barrow, an ancient burial mound on Bodmin Moor. Inset: The gold cup found inside. (public domain)
With regards to the work about to be undertaken, Reading The Hurlers reports: “We will carefully hand dig the turf and topsoil around each of the stones which have been identified on the circumference of the site and excavate sections of the interior space. An area of approximately 23m² will be opened up. We will be looking to confirm the presence and/or absence of potential stones, any likely related features such as socket holes (the dug holes in which potential standing stones had once stood) and perhaps even levelled “artificial” (made-up) surfaces possibly laid around the stones. We will look to see if there are large stones which form a possible fourth stone circle and examine each of the stones we uncover to see if, and how, they are placed in relation to one another, whether they make up a circular monument, and if so, whether they have been dressed (worked by hand).”
One theory suggests that the four circles were not all built at once by the same people, but were built by different communities over different time periods within the Early Bronze Age.
Top image: The Hurlers stone circle in Cornwall (public domain)