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This beautiful old cross stands inside St Dennis churchyard in Cornwall.

St Dennis Cross as photographed on 24th July, 2021

The cross is found beside the main path, approached from the southern entrance through large double wrought iron gates, to the south porch of the church. The cross has a decorated wheel-head and shaft set into a circular base.

The base measures three feet in diameter and a foot high, and the cross stands to six feet six inches high overall. All four sides of the shaft are highly ornamented, and the head is a more unusual horseshoe shape.

It was recorded by Langdon in 1896 as an ornamented Celtic cross:

St Dennis church stands within an ancient dynas (dinas)  fort on a prominent hilltop south of the A30 and Goss Moor. The village of St Dennis, home to many workers in the local industry – china clay – covers the hillside below it to the south and east. Due north is Castle-an-Dinas, well-marked from the A30, and sited about the same distance north from that trunk road as St Dennis dinas is south of it.

According to the late Craig Weatherhill, a recognised expert in Cornish toponymy:

“St Dennis church named not after the saint, but the ‘dynas’, the Cornish word for fort, stands in the centre of this site, the name of which might have been ‘Din Milioc’ meaning ‘Milioc’s Fort’ and recorded in 1284. This strikingly conical hill was formerly surmounted by two Iron Age ramparts defending an area 113m in diameter. The line of the inner bank, which may have been stone-built, is followed by the churchyard wall. Only faint traces of the outer rampart can be seen, on the north and east sides, about 18m beyond the churchyard wall.”

“The nearby place name Domellick suggests that the St Dennis hill fort was the Castle Dameliock defended by Duke Gorlois of Cornwall against Uther Pendragon’s force the night Arthur was conceived at Tintagel, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth 12th century account.”

The Genuki.org.uk website states:

“It is named after St Denys the Martyr, although as the church is on a hill top, the name may be a corruption of the Cornish word Dinas, meaning ‘Hill Fort’. Dimilioc represents a smaller hillfort inland 20 miles south of Tintagel now occupied by the parish church of St Dennis – it is within an estate listed as Dimelihoc in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the reign of Henry VIII, St Denys was the only parish in Cornwall with the prefix ‘Saint’.”

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren for the above account.

All things being equal and Covid mutations allowing, the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN) will once again be holding their popular Pathways To The Past event over the late May Bank Holiday weekend (28-29 May 2022).

The event consists of a series of walks and talks over the two days. All events are free to CASPN members. The walks are restricted to members, and have to be booked in advance, but talks are open to non-members, for whom an entry charge of £5 is applicable.

We’ll be detailing the individual walks and talks planned for this year in a future post, so keep watching this space!

In addition to Pathways To The Past, CASPN hold regular monthly clean-up events at various sites, and are always looking for more volunteer Site Monitors to keep a regular eye on a selection of the many sites in the Penwith area.

Details of how to join CASPN and get involved in their activities throughout the year are available on their website.

Today is Plough Monday, traditionally the start of the agricultural year and the day when ploughs are taken back to the fields after the winter break.

In many parishes in the Midlands and East of England, a plough blessed in the church on the preceding Sunday would be paraded through the streets, collecting donations from householders. Those who refused would find their gardens ploughed over!

The Whittlesey Plough – Wikimedia Commons by Simon Garbutt

Sadly these days, the occasion is probably more celebrated by metal detectorists, keen to hoover up the shinies from the freshly ploughed fields.

The first example of Roman crucifixion in Great Britain has been unearthed in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire.

Working ahead of a housing development near the small village of Fenstanton a team from Bedford based ‘Albion Archaeology’, members of which have been on site since 2017, have uncovered a previously unknown Roman settlement.

Five small cemeteries have been identified and the skeletal remains of 40 adults and five children buried identified with evidence that some were from the same families. The cemeteries have been dated to the third to fourth centuries CE.

In one of the graves, the skeleton of a man with a nail through his right heel bone was discovered. Further examination suggested that the man had suffered before he died with his legs bearing signs of infection or inflammation caused by either a systemic disorder or by being bound or shackled.

Nail found embedded in ankle bone Credit ‘Albion Archaeology’

Archaeologist Kasia Gdaniec, speaking on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Historic Environment Team, said: “These cemeteries and the settlement that developed along the Roman road at Fenstanton are breaking ground in archaeological research.

“Burial practices are many and varied in the Roman period and evidence of ante- or post-mortem mutilation is occasionally seen, but never crucifixion.”

Cambridge University osteologist (bone specialist) of the university’s Wolfson College, Corinne Duhig said it was an “almost unique” find at what was a previously unknown Roman settlement.

She continued, “The lucky combination of good preservation and the nail being left in the bone has allowed me to examine this unique example when so many thousands have been lost. This shows that the inhabitants of even this small settlement at the edge of empire could not avoid Rome’s most barbaric punishment.”

Cambridgeshire Council said Corinne Duhig’s research into evidence of crucifixion from this period around the world revealed only three other possible examples, one from La Larda in Gavello, Italy, one from Mendes in Egypt and one from a burial found at Giv’at ha-Mivtar in north Jerusalem found during building work in 1968.

She found only the Jerusalem example to be a likely crucifixion because the right heel bone retained a nail which was in exactly the same position as the Fenstanton burial.

The county council said it was usual to remove any nails after crucifixion for re-use or disposal but in the Fenstanton case the nail had bent and become fixed in the bone.

During the excavation, a number of other items were unearthed including enamelled brooches, coins, decorated pottery and animal bones. Amongst the finds was an enamelled copper-alloy horse and rider brooch.

A large building and a formal yard or road surfaces indicated the presence of an organised Roman settlement with signs of trade and wealth, the council said. It said it hoped to be able to display the finds eventually.

Fenstanton’s High Street follows the route of the Via Devana, a road that linked the Roman towns of Cambridge and Godmanchester.

Links:

Cambridge University article dated 8th December 2021: https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/romancrucifixion

Cambridgeshire County Council article dated 8th December 2021: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/news/the-first-example-of-a-roman-crucifixion-in-the-uk-has-been-found-in-a-cambridgeshire-village

Albion Archaeology: https://www.albionarchaeology.co.uk

Twelve drummers drumming.

Scourge of those who enjoy the peace and quiet of our ancient monuments, here is a group of ‘healing(!) drummers’ serenading the Devil’s Chair stone at Avebury circle.

Eleven pipers piping.

Outliers to stone circles are often named the ‘Pipers’, from the legend that circles are maidens turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath. But here is a lone piper, standing among 10 stones of the main monument at Callanish.

Ten lords a-leaping.

Back to Stonehenge and a morris side in mid-hey.

But all is not as it seems; These lords a-leaping are in fact female! The side is Wake Robin Morris, a women’s Morris team native to the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts during their tour of England during 2015. The full dance, to the tune ‘The Nutting Girl‘ is available to view on YouTube.

For nine ladies dancing, what else could we show but this iconic scene from the 1973 film the Wicker Man? Sadly, the stones were just film props, located at Kennedy Castle Gardens, in Scotland. The fire leap scene can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

Eight maids a-milking.

Cows getting their fill of the lush Cumbrian grass at Long Meg and her daughters (who may well have been the milkmaids!)

Seven swans a-swimming

This image of swans swimming gracefully through the air at Carahunge is by Nadya Johnson

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