Roland Turner

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Cornwall, United Kingdom

We started today with the Merry Maidens, a ring of 19 (well, 16 survive) stones in an incomplete circle dating from 2500-1500BC. The awe at being in the presence of an artefact so old was accompanied by some wry amusement at the fact that the farmer who uses this land grows and mows his grass all the way up to about a metre from the stones and apparently keeps the area inside the stones mowed also; for the tourists it seems.

We then headed for Land's End, the western-most continuous part of England. It was high cliffs all around, lots of wind and, for a short while, full sunlight!

Our next stop was Carn Euny, an ancient settlement site whose earliest occupants are placed at a similar timescale to the Merry Maidens. Different parts of this village date from different times, all the way up to ~200BC.

Carn Euny's most intriguing feature is a Fogue, or underground passage. The purpose of such underground structures remains unclear, but ritual use seems the most likely to me. (They already had easier ways to house themselves, their grain and their animals, and it wasn't fortified; retreating here in front of an attacking enemy would have been suicide.) A particularly interesting feature of this fogue is an underground chamber off to one side of the passageway. Of more contemporary interest is the moss. Notice the moss below the hand in one of the pictures; this isn't a flash artefact, the sharp increase in reflectivity of some of the moss was visible even to the naked eye.

To round off a day of old things, we visited a _really_ old thing. By this time it was raining heavily so my parents chose to stay in the car and I spent only a short time outside; the rain was soaking my clothing and my lens. This is Lanyon Quoit, one of a number of structures throughout the area referred to as Chambered Tombs. These things are old; seriously old; really quite old; so old in fact that the sheer numerical age doesn't tell you much, perhaps some comparisons will help. A comparatively recent time-keeping innovation, the sundial (see my May 16 entry), first appeared around 1500-1300BC. Somewhat older (2500-1500BC) are the Merry Maidens mentioned at the top of this page; that's the same period estimated for Stonehenge and only a couple of centuries more recent than the period during which "ancient" Egypt's pyramids are believed to have been built (2700-1640BC). Cornwall's Chambered Tombs (including this one) are believed to have been constructed around 4000-3000BC. These structures have been subject to rearrangement and reconstruction over the millenia, some more than once, but are the same stones at the same location in essentially the same shape they were five or six millenia ago.