Ancient Monuments

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Two cairns and a cist on the western slope of Great Gnats' Head

A Scheduled Monument in Sheepstor, Devon

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Latitude: 50.4956 / 50°29'44"N

Longitude: -3.9581 / 3°57'29"W

OS Eastings: 261210.195341

OS Northings: 68031.94916

OS Grid: SX612680

Mapcode National: GBR Q5.C915

Mapcode Global: FRA 27LR.9SM

Entry Name: Two cairns and a cist on the western slope of Great Gnats' Head

Scheduled Date: 25 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016146

English Heritage Legacy ID: 10752

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Sheepstor

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument, which falls into two areas, includes two round cairns and a
cist situated on a west facing slope of Great Gnats' Head overlooking the
valley of the River Plym. These cairns form part of a dispersed group of
funerary monuments. The cist survives as a 0.91m long, 0.81m wide and 0.78m
deep pit, denoted on the north and south sides by edge set stones. The eastern
end slab has been displaced and now lies between the two side stones. A very
slight mound standing up to 0.2m high surrounds the cist but this was probably
constructed when the cist was partly restored following excavation in 1901.
This work revealed a pit dug into the floor of the cist, but no artefacts were
recovered. A cairn lies 4m south of the cist and this survives as a 4m
diameter and 0.2m high mound. This cairn was also investigated in 1901 and
found to cover a circular, carefully paved area lying on top of a large flat
stone. The final cairn lies 70m to the ENE and survives as 3.3m diameter and
0.5m high mound.

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

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and,
because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most
complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The
great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence
for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as
later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes
in the pattern of land use through time. Round cairns are prehistoric funerary
monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as
earthen or rubble mounds, the latter predominating in areas of upland Britain
where such raw materials were locally available in abundance. Round cairns may
cover single or multiple burials and are sometimes surrounded by an outer
ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major visual element in
the modern landscape. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a
monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and
social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are
particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of
surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Dartmoor provides one
of the best preserved and most dense concentrations of round cairns in south-
western Britain.

The two cairns and cist on the western slope of Great Gnats' Head survive
comparatively well, form part of a discrete group of cairns and are known from
part excavation to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating
to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. This monument
forms part of a well preserved, extensive and complex archaeological

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1994), 155
Thackray, C., The Upper Plym Valley: The management of an historic landscape, 1994, Archaeological Site Inventory
Thackray, C., The Upper Plym Valley: The management of an historic landscape, 1994, Archaeological Site Inventory

Source: Historic England

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