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Two kerbed platform cairns north of Bonfire Carn on eastern Samson Hill, Bryher

A Scheduled Monument in Bryher, Isles of Scilly

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Latitude: 49.9467 / 49°56'47"N

Longitude: -6.3515 / 6°21'5"W

OS Eastings: 87934.411548

OS Northings: 14242.433104

OS Grid: SV879142

Mapcode National: GBR BXPT.RHJ

Mapcode Global: VGYBX.VLLR

Entry Name: Two kerbed platform cairns north of Bonfire Carn on eastern Samson Hill, Bryher

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 31 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013796

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15425

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: Bryher

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes two prehistoric kerbed platform cairns situated near the
northern side of Bonfire Carn, the summit outcrop at the eastern side of
Samson Hill on Bryher in the Isles of Scilly.

The platform cairns are located 10m apart on a NNE-SSW axis. The SSW cairn
survives with a sub-circular mound of heaped rubble up to 8.5m in diameter and
1m high, incorporating the uppermost northern natural outcrop of Bonfire Carn.
The upper slope of the mound includes a kerb of at least 21 slabs, up to 0.6m
high, mostly edge-set and located 1m-2m within the mound's perimeter,
enclosing an irregular platform comprising the exposed surface of the outcrop.
The kerb incorporates large natural slabs weathered from the outcrop on the
east and west.

The NNE cairn is located on the eastern crest of the spur extending north from
Bonfire Carn. It survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble 11m in
diameter and up to 1.1m high. A sub-circular upper platform, 7m-8m across, is
defined by a kerb of at least eight large kerb slabs, mostly edge-set and up
to 1.1m high and 1.8m long. The kerb incorporates a natural outcrop on the
north. Within the kerb, the platform contains a distinct hollow, its detail
obscured by impenetrably dense scrub but considered to be a slab-built
box-like funerary structure. A large slab lying to the north of the hollow and
measuring 2.2m long, 0.8m wide and 0.5m thick is also considered to be a
likely covering slab from such a funerary structure.

Beyond this monument, another closely-spaced pair of funerary cairns is
situated on the western spine of Samson Hill, 120m to the west, and a large
entrance grave is situated on the southern midslope of the hill, 135m to the
south west, all in close proximity to prominent natural outcrops. Prehistoric
field systems and settlement sites are known beyond nearly all sides of Samson
Hill, mostly from the present coastal cliff and inter-tidal zone, but also
extending up the south west slope of the hill and over the nearby low
promontory of Heathy Hill to the west.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west
England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains
from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the
islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English
Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many
unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social
development of early communities.
Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the
islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its
exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change
against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of
archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands'
The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually
expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post-
medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic
location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works
reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the
mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post-
medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard
for the nation's shipping in the western approaches.
The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has
long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of
documentation, including several recent surveys.
Platform cairns are funerary monuments of Early Bronze Age date (c.2000-1600
BC). They were constructed as low flat-topped mounds of stone rubble, up to
40m in external diameter though usually considerably smaller, covering single
or multiple burials. Some examples have other features, including peripheral
banks and internal mounds constructed on the platform. A kerb of slabs or
edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the platform, and a peripheral
bank or mound if present. Platform cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in
small groups or in cairn cemeteries. In cemeteries they are normally found
alongside cairns of other types.
Platform cairns form a significant proportion of the 387 surviving cairns on
the Isles of Scilly; this is unusual in comparison with the mainland. All
surviving examples on the Isles of Scilly are considered worthy of protection.

These platform cairns on Samson Hill have survived well. The SSW cairn
provides a good example of the incorporation of natural outcrops as elements
in prehistoric funerary monuments of this period. This, coupled with
the prominent siting of both cairns, shows well the influence of the natural
topography in the physical organisation of prehistoric funerary and ritual
activity. The wider organisation of prehistoric land use and the subsequent
profound changes in landscape context are illustrated by the monument's
relationship with the other funerary monuments on Samson Hill and the largely
lower-level prehistoric field systems and settlement sites nearby, often in
the present inter-tidal zone.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Morley, B & Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1006, 1975, cairn 'b'
Morley, B & Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1006, 1975, cairn 'c'
Parkes, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7396, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7394.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7394.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7396, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8714
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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