by Sandy Gerrard

[See Part One here]

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The Double Row

The double row leads downslope and westward from a cairn which is itself surrounded by a ring of stones. The row consists of two parallel lines of stones which have been destroyed or damaged by activities relating to tinworking. Detailed survey and measurements of each stone allow a number of observations concerning the character of this row to be presented. Whilst accepting that some of this information may be of little or no interest or immediate use it is possible that as our understanding of stone rows develops that this data could be of considerable value in the future. Full details of the information collected during the course of fieldwork are not presented here, but some general statements derived from this information are considered. The double row includes a total of 93 stones, with 46 in the northern row and 47 in the southern one. The row measures 122m long and is aligned at 259º. The maximum distance separating the rows is 2.2m, whilst the minimum is 0.97m and the average is 1.35m. The maximum height of the stones is 0.85m, the minimum is 0.01m and the average is 0.32m. The stones within the northern row are on average slightly shorter than those in the south. The alignment of the individual stones in the northern row varies between 160º and 282º with the average being 252º. The stones in the southern row vary between 190º and 320º with an average of 261º degrees. The maximum distance between stones within the northern row is 7.98m, the minimum is 0.8m and the average 2.17m. The maximum distance between stones within the southern row is 7.1m, the minimum is 0.5m and the average 1.97m. The largest gaps are the result of interference from tinworking activities, otherwise the row is remarkably intact. There is no evidence to suggest that the row was ever restored or excavated and therefore it is very likely that important clues to its function and purpose may survive to be revealed by excavation.

The double row frrom another angle

The double row from another angle

The cairn at the eastern end of the double row, has over the years received considerable attention. The cairn itself survives as an 8.8m diameter and 0.85m high mound with a large irregular shaped hollow cut into it’s centre. Spoil from this robbing activity has been thrown out southward where it forms a roughly crescent shaped bank. Surrounding the cairn is a ring of upright stones of which ten are standing and four have fallen. The upright stones stand between 0.93m and 0.42m high. It is not clear from surface indications alone whether the cairn was placed in an already extant stone circle or the circle added to an existing cairn or even whether they were erected at the same time. Likewise it is not possible to ascertain the precise sequence of events relative to the adjacent row. It does however seem very likely that in its final functioning form the row, cairn and circle would have been present and been integral to the ritual activity being practiced.

Plans of the stone rows and cairns at Hart Tor.  The plan on the left shows only the prehistoric archaeology, whilst the one on the right shows all the visible archaeology.

Plans of the double and single stone rows and cairns at Hart Tor. The plan on the left shows only the prehistoric archaeology, whilst the one on the right shows all the visible archaeology.

The Single Row This row is much less spectacular, but none the less forms an integral part of the site and must have considerably enhanced the sites importance both to its builders, antiquarians, visitors and archaeologists. The row itself now includes at least 16 stones extending at 243º for 56.4m from a cairn. Originally this row was probably much longer, but without excavation its full extent is likely to remain a mystery. The maximum height of the stones is 0.86m, the minimum is 0.08m and the average is 0.29m. The alignment of the individual stones in the row varies between 195º and 347º with the average being 255º. The maximum distance between the stones is 13.75m, the minimum is 0.5m and the average 3.25m.

The cairn at the eastern end of the row like so many on Dartmoor has been robbed. Material from this activity was thrown out northwards. The surviving mound measures 7.4m in diameter and up to 0.75m high and there is no trace of the internal structure described by Wilkinson.

Plan of the cairns at the upper end of the stone rows

Plan of the cairns at the upper end of the stone rows

Cross sectional profile across the cairns at the upper end of the stone rows

Cross sectional profile across the cairns at the upper end of the stone rows

The Southern Cairn This cairn has a substantial hollow leading into the mound from its southern side. Material upcast from this robbing activity has distorted the profile of the mound, which may have originally been flat topped. The cairn measures 8.8m in diameter and stands up to 0.7m high. A small number of apparently edge set stones around the eastern edge of the mound may represent an outer kerb, although it is equally possible that they simply form exposed parts of the cairn’s core.

Plan of the southern cairn

Plan of the southern cairn

Cross sectional profile across the southern cairn

Cross sectional profile across the southern cairn

The Western Cairn On the western bank of the River Meavy below Black Tor is a 4m diameter mound standing up to 0.8m high and most significantly there is no sign of the central hollow so indicative of robbing. Cairns which have not been investigated, form a particularly important part of the archaeological resource because they are sadly relatively rare on the moor. This cairn lies only 45m from the surviving end of the double stone row at Hart Tor on the other side of the river, and should perhaps be considered as belonging to that important group of monuments. It would therefore appear that the Hart Tor ritual complex was more extensive than previously believed and it is likely that other structures associated with it were destroyed when the rich alluvial tin deposits within this area were exploited during the medieval period.

Plan and cross sectional profile of the western cairn

Plan and cross sectional profile of the western cairn

Map showing the relative position of the stone rows in the upper part of the Meavy Valley

Map showing the relative position of the stone rows in the upper part of the Meavy Valley

Conclusion

The stone rows and cairns at Hart Tor survive amazingly well when one considers the intensity of later activity within their vicinity. The detailed survey and characterisation of the stones within the rows highlights the value of this approach and will hopefully provide material for comparative analysis.

Further Reading

Bate, C. Spence, 1871, “On the Prehistoric Antiquities of Dartmoor”, Trans. Devonshire Assoc., 4, 505.

Butler, J., 1994, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, Volume Three – The South-West, Devon Books

Chudleigh, J., 1987, An Exploration of Dartmoor’s Antiquities, John Pegg Publishing. Originally published in 1892.

Emmett, D.D., 1979 “Stone Rows: the traditional view reconsidered”, Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings, 37, 94-114.

Grinsell, L.V., 1978, “Dartmoor Barrows”, Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings, 36, 85-180.

Page, J.Ll.,W., 1889, An Exploration of Dartmoor and its Antiquities, with some Account of its Borders, 148.

Pettit, P., 1995, Prehistoric Dartmoor, Republished version of 1974 edition, Forest Publishing.

Rowe, S., 1896, A Perambulation of the Antient and Royal Forest of Dartmoor, 190-91. Third edition, original edition was published in 1848.

Turner, J.R., 1990, “Ring cairns, stone circles and related monuments on Dartmoor”, Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings, 48, 27-86.

Wilkinson, Sir J.G., 1862, “British remains on Dartmoor”, Journal British Archaeological Association, 18, 36-37 and Figure 8.

Worth, R.N., 1892, “The Stone Rows of Dartmoor part 1″, Trans. Devonshire Assoc.,24, 396-8.