Mapping the Sun – First thoughts
The Mapping the Sun Project built on a number of years work, trying to establish what the Bronze Age astronomers knew about the seasons. Also how they may have communicated seasonal changes to the local inhabitants. We concentrated on the area north and west of the village of Minions, in particular the Hurlers and Craddock Circle.
The Hurlers as a group of three circles is clearly an integrated monument.
Some 150 metres to the west are the Pipers two large stones which were the original portal to the whole complex. If you frame Stowe Hill between them you are looking North. At night the Pole Star - Polaris - can be seen above Stowe Hill. To the South lies Minions Mound, due East and the large shape of Kit Hill can be seen on the horizon. The role of the Pipers was to act as a portal to the monument which at the time could well have been surrounded by a gorse hedge.
Image Credit Matt Blewett
The Hurlers themselves comprise two rings in fairly good order and a third which is often over looked.
Image Credit – The Snaptin.
The Calendar Stone.
The Central Circle has what we now call the Calendar Stone somewhat to the south of centre. It is proposed that every month circa 20th the curve displayed by the shadow cast by the Sun was marked by charcoal. The shortest shadow and the longest day is of course June, the longest shadow and the shortest day is December. Seven curves define the solar year. Although these curves have been known for many years they are not general knowledge.
Shadow curves obtained in real time through out a calendar year – Brian Sheen
Due West of the Calendar Stone is a large Barrow with no name. Minions Mound has a number of wrecked tumulii, one of which is due south of the Calendar Stone. (This appears to be a new alignment) Hence all four Cardinal Points appear to have been known in the Bronze Age.
The Autumnal Equinox.
The Autumnal Equinox (22 Sept) occurred during the project and everyone expected the Sun to rise over Kit Hill and set behind the Barrow (Gerands). The Equinox is defined as the moment that the centre of the Sun passes over the equator on its way south and that at that moment somewhere it is rising due East. However although it does rise in the east this is not exactly true. Hence about 3 days have to be added to the Equinox date before the Sun rises due East and sets due West from the Hurlers monument.
The Crystal Path,
The focus of the Project was the Crystal Path that runs between the Central and Northern Circles. It lies on a line joining the centres of the two circles, this is not surprising as it is also the shortest distance between the Circles and therefore required the least amount of effort to build. What the Herras fencing showed well was that the Path led directly to the Rillaton Barrow. This confirms the measured alignment made by Roseland Observatory some months ago. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Circles, Path and Barrow were all built at the same period and due south of Stowe Hill to one single plan. We have also calculated that Arcturus rose above the Barrow in 1500 BC.
Trying to get an angle on the “pyramid stone” Image credit John Whatty
A Special Stone.
One stone, with a white quartz face juts up above the rest of the Path it is clearly of significance. It is hard to determine its purpose but a first examination indicates that it points roughly north – south. Another thought is that the shadow of the midday Sun from one of the Stones, may have reached across to it on the winter solstice. As the tip of the Stone remains visible after the backfill it will be the subject of further examination.
Getting a measure of the Circles.
We could not have chosen a worse day to establish exactly where the centre of each Circle was. From that we were able to determine the alignment of the Central and Northern Circles with the Hurlers Link Path and the Rillaton Barrow. The wind was about Force Nine.
Image Credit – Iain Rowe - Finding the middle of the Circles
A glance at the Explorer OS map indicates that the three circles show an uncanny resemblance to Orion’s Belt, one of the best known asterisms in the sky. Orion itself has always dominated the winter sky and today is due south at midnight on the Solstice. In the Bronze Age this occurred earlier in the evening. To mark the shortest day it can be assumed that fires were lit in the centre of each Circle, the tribes would be gathered on Stowe Hill and Caradon to watch this spectacle and be reassured that from that day forward the hours of daylight would increase.
Image Credit – Tony Piper
The three circles each lit with a single torch can be seen in the middle of the picture, the foreground lights are nearby houses.
We carry the custom forward with our torch light parades and carnivals during the winter time. This ceremony was re enacted by a team walking up to Stowe Hill (including Jacky and James), Tony Piper went to Caradon Hill and Paul Hughes went East of the Circles. The image taken by Tony confirms the illusion. It is also believed the Pyramids of Giza were also built to be Orion’s Belt on Earth.
The Fourth Circle;-
Peter Herring and Peter Rose found a crescent of stones, north of the Hurlers, which may represent a part of recumbent circle in 2000. One stone is lying on the surface and may well have been moved from its original position. Probing has been tried to complete the circle and yes there are stones subsurface on Bodmin Moor!
No excavation has yet been carried out and the results of some geophysical work is awaited. As a Circle so close to the Hurlers it clearly has no role. However as a Lookout it marks the first point at which Brown Willy becomes visible from the Hurlers. When we were there it was so murky that Brown Willy could not be seen, however when we set the Level up and pointed it the azimuth of Mid Summer Sunset Brown Willy was visible through the telescope..
The role of Craddock Circle ;-
The Hurlers is an Equinox site and Craddock is a Solstice site and the two work together. Craddock is really hard to find and this is because it is not placed where it would be expected to be located. The main alignments are easy, Midsummer sunrise over Stowe Hill,
Image Credit Amanda King (Midsummer Sunrise)
Midsummer sunset over Brown Willy (actually the shoulder of). Midwinter sunset is over Tregarrick Tor. We saw this in spectacular fashion one June when the rising Sun lit up Tregarrick while leaving the intervening moor land in darkness.(Thanks Iain Rowe for spotting this)
Midsummer sunset. Image Credit Robin Paris
Midwinter sunrise was a mystery until the Mapping Project, from the middle of Craddock Moor there is no distant skyline to the East, however the location of the Circle provides one around Caradon Hill. Sweeping the horizon, using the Level, at the correct sunrise azimuth showed the presence of a Barrow, clearly its purpose is to identify this point.
Long Tom, is not part of the Hurlers complex as it is pre Bronze Age The fact that the shadow it cast varied according to the time of day and also the time of year cannot have gone un remarked. It preceded The Calendar Stones as a time keeper.
As basic principles go the following can be used as a guide;-. Circles are often built due south of Tors. Tors are used to identify Sunrise and sunset positions where possible, where no suitable Tors exist Barrows or Cairns were built to plug the gap.
NB. Please note this is merely a collection of some of the facts that came out of the Mapping Project and is not for publication. Comments from Friends of Archaeology are welcome although I would advise against distributing copies as incomplete accounts often find there way into print. It will be added to in the next few days and eventually become something useful.
During the early part of the week workshops were run for Primary School Children .
Image Credit - Jacky Nowakoski
Report By Brian Sheen ( Roseland Observatory Cornwall ) 2013 - 2014