Row of ancient stones found in Dartmoor ‘are older than Stonehenge’


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Oct 9, 2004
A row of ancient stones has been uncovered in south west England which are even older than Stonehenge.

The nine stones which have been found at Cut Hill on Dartmoor in Devon, 120 miles from Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire where Stonehenge is located, have been found to be 1,000 years older than Stonehenge.

The purpose of Stonehenge as well as the newly-discovered monument is a mystery, but both monuments appear to be aligned to mark the rising of the midsummer sun and the setting of the midwinter sun, suggesting they had religious or astronomical associations.

Row of ancient stones found in Dartmoor ‘are older than Stonehenge’

By Mail On Sunday Reporter
18th April 2010
Daily Mail

The Cut Hill stones were placed around the same time as Stonehenge

A row of ancient stones that mirrors the path of the sun like Stonehenge but is up to 1,000 years older has been unearthed on Dartmoor.

The discovery of the megaliths has thrilled archaeologists and once again raised debate about the purpose of Stonehenge, which is 120 miles away on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

The nine stones at Cut Hill, one of the highest points on Dartmoor in Devon, have been carbon-dated to around 3,500BC.

Mysterious: A row of ancient stones which mirror the path of the sun like Stonehenge have been discovered in Dartmoor and may 1,000 years older than the famous site

It means they pre-date Stonehenge, which was not begun before 3,000BC.

Both monuments appear to be clearly aligned to mark the rising of the midsummer sun and the setting of the midwinter sun, suggesting they had religious or astronomical associations.

Archaeologists are debating whether the find adds credence to the theory that Stonehenge was linked to prehistoric death rituals or whether it was seen by ancient Britons as a centre of healing.

Mike Pitts, of British Archaeology magazine, said: ‘This is a spectacular find and its alignment on the Solstice sun, at the exact same angle as Stonehenge, gives us fresh insights into the knowledge of Stone Age people.’

Spooky Dartmoor

Dartmoor abounds with myths and legends. It is reputedly the haunt of pixies, a headless horseman, a mysterious pack of 'spectral hounds', and a large black dog.

During the Great Thunderstorm of 1638, Dartmoor was even said to have been visited by the Devil.

Many landmarks have ancient legends and ghost stories associated with them, such as Jay's Grave, the ancient burial site at Childe's Tomb, the rock pile called Bowerman's Nose, and the stone crosses that mark mediaeval routes across the moor.

A few stories have emerged in recent decades, such as the 'hairy hands', that are said to attack travellers on the B3212 near Two Bridges.

Dartmoor has inspired a number of artists and writers, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventure of Silver Blaze, Eden Phillpotts, Beatrice Chase, Agatha Christie, Rosamunde Pilcher, Laurie King, and the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould.

The Great Thunderstorm, 1638

A contemporary woodcut of the storm

The Great Thunderstorm of Widecombe-in-the-Moor in Dartmoor, took place on Sunday, 21 October 1638, when the church of St Pancras was apparently struck by ball lightning during a severe thunderstorm. An afternoon service was taking place at the time, and the building was packed with approximately 300 worshippers. Four of them were killed, around 60 injured, and the building severely damaged.

The church today

Written accounts by eyewitnesses, apparently published within months of the catastrophe,tell of a strange darkness, powerful thunder, and "a great ball of fire" ripping through a window and tearing part of the roof open. It is said to have rebounded through the church, killing some members of the congregation and burning many others. This is considered by some to be one of the earliest recorded instances of ball lightning.

The legend

According to local legend, the thunderstorm was the result of a visit by the devil who had made a pact with a local card player and gambler called Jan Reynolds (or Bobby Read, according the tale recorded at the Tavistock Inn, Poundsgate). The deal was that if the devil ever found him asleep in church, he could have his soul. Jan was said to have nodded off during the service that day, with his pack of cards in his hand. Another version of the legend states that the Devil arrived to collect the souls of four people playing cards during the church service.

The devil headed for Widecombe via the Tavistock Inn, in nearby Poundsgate, where he stopped for directions and refreshment. The landlady reported a visit by a man in black with cloven feet riding a jet black horse. The stranger ordered a mug of ale, and it hissed as it went down his throat. He finished his drink, put the mug down on the bar where it left a scorch mark, and left some money. As the stranger rode away, the landlady found that the coins had turned to dried leaves in her hand.

The devil tethered his horse to one of the pinnacles at Widecombe Church, captured the sleeping Jan Reynolds, and rode away into the storm. As they flew over nearby Birch Tor, the four aces from Jan's pack of cards fell to the ground, and today, if you stand at Warren House Inn, you can still see four ancient field enclosures, each shaped like the symbols from a pack of cards.

The priest, George Lyde, was unhurt, but his wife "had her ruff and the linen next her body, and her body, burnt in a very pitiful manner". The head of local warrener Robert Mead struck a pillar so hard that it left an indentation; his skull was shattered, and his brain hurled to the ground. A "one Master Hill a Gentleman of good account in the Parish" was thrown violently against a wall and died "that night". His son, sitting next to him, was unhurt.

Some are said to have suffered burns to their bodies, but not their clothes. A dog is reported to have run out of the door, been hurled around as if by a small tornado, and fallen dead to the ground.

The village schoolmaster of the time, a gentleman called Roger Hill, and brother of the deceased "Master Hill", recorded the incident in a rhyming testament which is still displayed on boards (originals replaced in 1786) in the church.