Ancient Monuments

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Prehistoric inhumation cemetery at Harlyn

A Scheduled Monument in St. Merryn, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5388 / 50°32'19"N

Longitude: -4.9963 / 4°59'46"W

OS Eastings: 187781.101335

OS Northings: 75286.855154

OS Grid: SW877752

Mapcode National: GBR ZJ.04SY

Mapcode Global: FRA 07FM.TKG

Entry Name: Prehistoric inhumation cemetery at Harlyn

Scheduled Date: 30 January 1932

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006685

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 111

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Merryn

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Merryn

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a prehistoric inhumation cemetery at Harlyn in the centre of the present settlement. The cemetery was discovered and excavated prior to building work in 1900 to 1905. Further partial excavations were carried out in 1976. The cemetery consisted of numerous slate-lined cists arranged in rows and aligned along a common axis. There were at least 130 recorded graves. These contained crouched burials which had been placed in mainly rectangular stone-lined and covered cists varying from 0.9m to 1.2m long and 0.5m to 0.75m wide. There were five small cists used for child burials and five double burials. Much of the associated metalwork and pottery belonged to the 1st century AD but some of the artefacts, including brooches and ring-headed pins, suggest it was in use by the 2nd century BC. There were also traces of a curvilinear building with regularly-spaced postholes around the interior which had no evidence of domestic occupation. Two crouched burials were found within the foundations of the building and were interpreted as votive offerings, suggesting that the building either had a funerary or mortuary function since it belonged to the same phase as most of the burials. Roman pottery has also been found. Some of the positions of the cists are still visible.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-429389

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Despite having been partly built on, the prehistoric inhumation cemetery at Harlyn is an incredibly rare monument and its importance for our understanding of prehistoric funeral rites and traditions cannot be overstated. This one monument has enabled the definition of a specific Cornish inhumation tradition characterised by the use of such stone lined graves. The bodies are placed in a distinctive crouched position with a predominant preference for northerly orientation. Also present are limited, but occasionally quite lavish, grave goods which help to confirm trading and commerce in the prehistoric period. More potential archaeological and environmental evidence is still preserved.

Source: Historic England

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