boscawen-un stone circle


This stone circle is actually an ellipse (24.9 x 21.9m) with the longer axis orientated NW – SE. The stones are graded in height towards the west. thom classified this ring as a type b flattened circle, suggesting it was marked out on a geometric basis. dating of these circles is not as yet an exact science but it would have probably been in use during the neolithic and early bronze age.

analysis of the circle as architecture suggests that the central stone is likely to have been erected before the rest of the circle . the stone uprights varying in height from 0.9m to 1.3m, with the position of the quartz stone in the southwest may indicate the likely direction of the sun as it moves south after samhain. at the northeastern edge of the stone circle are two stones in the ground once a possible burial cist. the large central stone is 2.7 m long, but because of its strong inclination to the north-east, the tip is only 2.0 m above the ground. it has two feet or axe petroglyphs, carved in positive relief side-by-side near the base on its eastern side.  these engravings are unusual in the united kingdom, though they can also be observed on some of the stones at stonehenge. thsee are only fully illuminated around the summer solstice sunrise, although there is partial illumination around the summer sunset. the circle has been aligned with the rising winter solstice sun from the lamorna gap.  there are numerous burial and ceremonial sites in the locality, including the menhir 16029, and a barrow group 16031


a large gap in the west may be the site of an entrance. lockyear believed that the quartz stone placed w-sw of the ring was placed in honour of the may day sun, which would have risen over the centre of the circle. the leaning stone aligns exactly with the centre stone of men-an-tol, it was determined by archaeology to have been positioned like this originally suggesting a deliberate alignment of the two sites. it is angled at approximately 53½ degrees and points towards the midsummer sunrise in the ne. the number nineteen may also be significant as both the nearby merry maidens and tregeseal east stone circles also comprise nineteen stones.william borlase noticed this and suggested that it related to the twelve months of the year and the number of days in the week.

evidence suggests that the 18.61 (19) year cycle between major lunar standstills was widely known when this circle was constructed. it is interesting to note that the longer axis is aligned with the northern minor lunar standstill, which may also be significant here.
john michell has identified seven alignments passing through boscawen-un, including one which runs from the circle in the direction of  the samhain sunrise. this alignment, also noted by sir norman lockyer, includes a menhir at trelew (sw 4217 2693) from which w. c. borlase excavated fragments of human bones, and a cup-marked stone at castallack (sw 4540 2545). lockyer identified a number of astronomical alignments, but later work by alexander thom and john barnatt fails to support their significance. burl is sceptical of both michell’s and lockyer’s alignments.

this image shows the clear orientation of the central stone, leaning towards the north east and the midsummer sunrise. the quartz stone is seen on the left foreground.