Jul 11, 2017 I Paul Seaburn

Mysterious Neolithic Carvings Only Appear in Moonlight

Every good horror novelist and filmmaker knows that things look differently in the moonlight. A recent discovery in England suggests this technique is far from new. An archeologist studying the Hendraburnick Quoit monolith in Cornwall found that the markings on the stone increased tenfold when observed in the moonlight. Why didn’t they think of this sooner?

“We were aware there were some cup and ring marks on the rocks but we were there on a sunny afternoon and noticed it was casting shadows on others which nobody had seen before. When we went out to some imaging at night, when the camera flashed we suddenly saw more and more art, which suggested that it was meant to be seen at night and in the moonlight."

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The Hendraburnick Quoit in daylight

Dr. Andy Jones is the Principal Archaeologist with the Cornwall Archaeological Unit who made the moonlight discovery and wrote about it in the current edition of the archaeology journal Time and Mind. Hendraburnick Quoit is a well-known quoit – a large flat stone used to cover a dolmen or tomb that are found all over England – located in Hendraburnick Down, near Davidstow in northern Cornwall and near Bodmin Moor, home of the Beast of Bodmin Moor, which may or may not exist, and Dozmary Pool, which may or may not be where Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur to The Lady of the Lake. Perhaps someone should look at those two places in the moonlight.

Back to the Hendraburnick Quoit. The site dates back to the late Neolithic era around 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. While some archeologists believe it was part of a "long barrow” burial site, other claim it’s a natural formation. As part of his investigation, Dr. Jones found a layer of slate underneath it which indicates it was dragged there.

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The Hendraburnick Quoit in moonlight (credit: Dr. Andy Jones)

However, the real reason Jones was studying the Hendraburnick Quoit is its famous cup and ring marks. Thirteen had previously been identified and have so far defied explanation. After inspecting the stone at night under both moonlight and camera flashes, Jones identified at least 105 engravings, including the original 13. That moves Hendraburnick Quoit to the top of the list of most art-covered Neolithic rocks in England.

The luminous carvings fit in with the speculation that the site was used for some sort of quartz-smashing rituals that were far more mysterious (and fun) at night because of the rock’s tendency to emit sparks when smashed together. The ground around the quoit is covered with quartz fragments. This makes Hendraburnick Quoit different than Stonehenge and other sites that appear to have been designed for daytime tracking of the movement of the sun. However, Stonehenge does have markings that may be looked at again in a new light … moonlight.

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The newly discovered carvings (credit: Dr. Andy Jones)

What sort of nighttime rituals did the late Stone Age and early Bronze Age people participate in at the Hendraburnick Quoit? That’s the next project for Dr. Jones. He’ll be out there on moonlit nights, probably hoping that the people buried in the dolmen under the Hendraburnick Quoit weren’t lunatics who are haunting the site.

That sounds like the moonlit opening for a creepy horror movie.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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