Ancient Monuments

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Giant's Grave standing stones, Kirksanton

A Scheduled Monument in Whicham, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.2184 / 54°13'6"N

Longitude: -3.3263 / 3°19'34"W

OS Eastings: 313614.555714

OS Northings: 481104.016419

OS Grid: SD136811

Mapcode National: GBR 5M6N.NL

Mapcode Global: WH721.W77G

Entry Name: Giant's Grave standing stones, Kirksanton

Scheduled Date: 14 May 1986

Last Amended: 18 October 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009486

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23737

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Whicham

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Whicham St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes two standing stones known as the Giant's Grave located
in pasture on the coastal plain of west Cumbria a short distance north of
Kirksanton village. The stones are both unhewn granite and stand approximately
4.7m apart. The eastern stone measures 3.05m high and, on its inner face,
possesses evidence of prehistoric rock art in the form of a cup mark, or
deliberately cut circular depression, about 0.08m in diameter and 0.04m deep.
The western stone stands 2.43m high and has two small cup marks on its south
face. An antiquarian report of 1794 describes the site as being a small
tumulus or burial mound upon which the two stones were erected.
A post and wire fence on the monument's south eastern side is excluded from
the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Standing stones are prehistoric ritual or ceremonial monuments with dates
ranging from the Late Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age for the few
excavated examples. They comprise single or paired upright orthostatic slabs,
ranging from under lm to over 6m high where still erect. They are often
conspicuously sited and close to other contemporary monument classes. They can
be accompanied by various features: many occur in or on the edge of round
barrows, and where excavated, associated subsurface features have included
stone cists, stone settings, and various pits and hollows filled in with earth
containing human bone, cremations, charcoal, flints, pots and pot sherds.
Similar deposits have been found in excavated sockets for standing stones,
which range considerably in depth. Several standing stones also bear cup and
ring marks. Standing stones may have functioned as markers for routeways,
territories, graves, or meeting points, but their accompanying features show
they also bore a ritual function and that they form one of several ritual
monument classes of their period that often contain a deposit of cremation and
domestic debris as an integral component. No national survey of standing
stones has been undertaken, and estimates range from 50 to 250 extant
examples, widely distributed throughout England but with concentrations in
Cornwall, the North Yorkshire Moors, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds.
Standing stones are important as nationally rare monuments, with a high
longevity and demonstrating the diversity of ritual practices in the Late
Neolithic and Bronze Age. Consequently all undisturbed standing stones and
those which represent the main range of types and locations would normally be
considered to be of national importance.

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops and standing stones in
many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England
where its most common form of decoration is the `cup and ring' marking where
expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked into the surface of the rock.
These cups may be surrounded by one or more `rings'. Single pecked lines
extending from the cup through the rings may also exist, providing the design
with a `tail'. Other shapes and patterns also occur but are less frequent.
Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of
rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age period (2800 -
500 BC) and provide one of the most important insights into prehistoric `rock
art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be
interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. Frequently they are found close to
contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable
stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds.
The Giant's Grave standing stones survive well and are a rare survival in
Cumbria of a paired example of this class of monument displaying prehistoric
rock art. They are located on the coastal plain immediately below an area of
upland containing an assortment of prehistoric monuments including stone
circles, a funerary cairn, a stone avenue and a stone alignment, and thus
indicate the importance of this area in prehistoric times and the diversity of
monument classes to be found here.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Cumbrian Prehistoric Rock Art: Symbols, Monument & Landscapes, (1992), 41
Bowman, A, MPP Single Monument Class Description - Standing Stones, (1990)
Hutchinson, (1794)
SMR No. 1472, Cumbria SMR, Giant's Graves Standing Stones, Kirksanton, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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