It seems like you can’t throw a stone in England without it landing in a stone circle, those Neolithic monuments that continue to amaze, impress and baffle us. Dartmoor, a moorland in south Devon, England, has a number of stone circles and standing stones and a newly-discovered circle appears to fit into the existing pattern.
This is the first stone circle found in Devon in over 100 years and, at 525 meters (1,722 feet) in altitude, it is the highest in southern England. Measuring 34 meters (111 feet) in diameter, it is also the second largest stone circle on Dartmoor. The stones were discovered by researcher Alan Endacott after they were exposed by a controlled burn of undergrowth. To show how serious the British are about their stone circles, Endacott found this one in 2007 and they are only now releasing information about it.
Sittaford Circle, named for the nearby Sittaford Tor where its stones probably came from, is the first Dartmoor circle to be radio-carbon tested and the soil underneath the fallen stones shows they were toppled 4,000 years ago. Thirty of the stones lie flat and one that is standing outside the circle appears to have used as part of a wall. When upright, experts say they would have towered over the area.
The stone circles in this northeastern part of Dartmoor are arranged in a pattern referred to as a “sacred arc” because eight of them seem to form a crescent. Researchers say this indicates the settlements that built them cooperated and coordinated with each other. The circles were on level ground to be used for meetings.
Meetings for what? There’s no evidence they were used for burial grounds. The charcoal in the area suggests rituals or feasting took place in them. Where there are stones still standing, they are segregated by heights, which some suggest means that men entered through the taller stones and women through the shorter ones. Before you make any sexist comments, this means that men and women were together inside the circles for the ceremonies and meetings.
There’s obviously much more to learn about Sittaford and the rest of the Dartmoor circles and research is continuing thanks to an organization known as Moor Than Meets The Eye.