Saturday, March 1, 2008

Castlerigg Stone Circle,Cumbria

Castlerigg Stone Circle is one of the finest in Cumbria, it is spectacularly situated within a panorama of rugged hills of ever changing character, depending on the mercurial Lakeland weather.

The circle consists of 38 stones of variable sizes and shapes; they are all un-hewn boulders, some standing over 5 feet in height, although some have fallen in the 5000 years since their erection. It has been estimated there were originally around 41 stones, so Castlerigg is relatively well preserved when compared with other circles in the British Isles. The stone circle has been tenuously dated at 3200BC, although there is always a buffer zone of a couple of hundred years when trying to date stone circles without accompanying archaeology. Castlerigg does not conform to a true circle, the Northeast face is flattened, perhaps due to some little understood aspect of megalithic surveying. Just inside the eastern end of the circle is a group of 10 stones forming a rectangular enclosure known as a cove, the purpose of which is unknown.

Excavations in the cove in 1882 provided very little in the way of archaeological finds, although quantities of charcoal were discovered. A wide space to the Northern end of the circle, framed by two large stones may have served as an entrance to the site. There is also an outlying stone to the Southwest of the circle, the function of which can now be only guessed at.

There have been few excavations on the site, although a stone axe head was found in 1875, and the cove was excavated as mentioned earlier in 1882.

On a more mysterious level the circle has been the focus of one well-recorded sighting of strange light phenomena. In 1919 a man called T. Singleton and his friend watched as white light-balls moved slowly over the stones. Strange lights seem to be a recurring theme at ancient sites throughout the world, they may have been one of the reasons ancient man built monuments at specific sites. There has been a lot of speculation as to their nature; it is most probable they are part of some natural phenomena related to fault lines.

It has been noted that many of the stones of Castlerigg seem to reflect features in the surrounding hills, as though the landscape site is an interplay between the sacred space and the landscape beyond. Although open to criticism, it seems as though there are many features at Castlerigg that still have to be examined in the context of how ancient man would have experienced the site.

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