Alignments | differing kinds and magnitudes - Ancient Penwith | Cornwall

West Penwith, Cornwall
Ancient Penwith
The prehistoric landscape of the Land's End peninsula
Ancient Penwith
Ancient Penwith
The prehistoric landscape of the Land's End Peninsula
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Alignments | differing kinds and magnitudes

Alignment magnitudes in Penwith

While constructing the map it emerged that there are different kinds of alignments in Penwith. These were grouped into a number of types. This grouping might change as ideas develop. They are detailed here, in descending order of magnitude.

Backbone alignment

Backbone alignments

Backbones connect major sites, covering longer distances, and they might be considered as the main arteries of the network, linking sites across the region and going further afield too. They are marked on the map in yellow.

On the picture here, alignment 77 from St Michael's Mount to Cape Cornwall is shown, passing through Caergwydden Round and the early bronze age Botrea Barrows.

Another example is backbone alignment 108, from Treryn Dinas to Carn Brea, passing through the Merry Maidens stone circle, St Michael’s Mount, Gear Round and finally Carn Brea. (Gear Round near Praze-an-Beeble in East Penwith appears to be more than an ordinary iron age round. A round is a banked enclosure on relatively flatter land, roundish in shape and usually built to contain a settlement. Judging by its alignments, Gear Round seems to be more significant than an ordinary round.)

This alignment suggests that one of the reasons the Merry Maidens sits where it does is that it aligns with and connects three other major natural and, amazingly, aligned sites – two of which, St Michael’s Mount and Carn Brea, qualify as geomantically significant places in a national context. The other, Treryn Dinas (Logan Rock) is significant in the Penwith context.

Alignments such as these have been selected as backbone alignments purely on judgement and the way they chime with the overall system - the deciding factor is that they link at least three important, focal sites, one or two of which are usually cliff sanctuaries or tor enclosures.

Boscawen-un to Castallack alignment

Significant alignments in Penwith

These alignments are internal to West Penwith, connecting sites such as stone circles, menhirs, enclosures and cairns. They are marked on the map in bright red.

An example is a John Michell line, alignment 16, Sennen to the Nine Maidens from Sennen hedge menhir and Tregiffian Vean cairn to Botrea Barrows, then to West Lanyon Quoit and the Nine Maidens stone circle, with two other points on it also. It’s a significant alignment within the context of West Penwith, but not as major as a backbone alignment.

Here’s another one, alignment 114, Gurnard's Head to Kemyel Point, which starts at Gurnard's Head in the north, passing through Chapel Jane, an early Christian chapel nearby, to Porthmeor settlements and Bosporthennis Quoit, crossing to Carfury menhir, down to Chyenhal East menhir and then to Castallack menhir, ending at Kemyel Point, a suspected cliff sanctuary. Castallack seems to be a gateway or connector stone to the Kemyel and Swingate menhir group (about which, more below). This alignment goes all the way from a cliff sanctuary on the north coast to a suspected cliff sanctuary on the south coast. One of the significances of Kemyel Point is that it lies at the winter solstice rising point of the sun as seen from Boscawen-un stone circle.
Godolphin Hill, Trencrom Hill and Trendrine Hill alignment

Significant alignments stretching beyond Penwith

These are marked in orange. Some go from West Penwith into East Penwith, Kerrier and the Lizard, and some go to the Isles of Scilly. The sites they connect aren't necessarily as crucial as those connected by backbone alignments.

The example here is alignment 126, Trendrine Hill to Godolphin Hill, a simple four-point alignment from the cairns on Trendrine Hill, overlooking St Ives, through Trink Hill cairn to Trencrom Hill and then to Godolphin Hill. It is oriented toward the rising point of the fullmoon at winter solstice, at the time of the lunar minimum - it's the fullmoon that's the lowest height in the sky that you can get. Trendine is at the eastern end of Zennor Hill. Trencrom is a neolithic tor enclosure and iron age hill settlement, and Godolphin Hill, though it has not had major prehistoric works on it - mainly a bronze age enclosure - it a significant hill in the area and very prominent as seen from Trencrom Hill and the east-facing areas of Penwith.

Another example is alignment 125, Chapel Carn Brea to Bryher in the Isles of Scilly. It starts at the summit cairn on Chapel Carn Brea, passing through Tregiffian Vean chambered mound in the west of the Penwith peninsula. Then it heads across the sea to Burnt Hill cliff camp on St Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly, then to Castle Down chambered mound on Tresco and finally to Bryher Cairnfield. Chapel Carn Brea was one of the beacon hills of Penwith, for communications with Scilly, and it is very visible from Scilly.

Or try alignment 98, Bant's Carn to Carn Brea: it starts on St Mary’s in the Scillies at Bant’s Carn, passing through Long Rock menhir and Innisidgen NW cairn on St Mary's, slicing through the Great Arthur cairns then landing on Penwith at Nanjulian settlement north of Sennen, passing through Lower Numphra mound (a noteworthy Penwith node), then to Trewern menhir, landing up at the upstanding hill of Carn Brea, above Camborne in Kerrier (not to be confused with Chapel Carn Brea).
Bartinney Castle, Caer Bran and Drift Menhir

Local alignments

These are marked in dark red. They're relatively short-distance, linking sites such as cairns, standing stones, Christian crosses, wells and settlements.

Alignment 8, Numphra to Drift, in the map above, goes from Lower Numphra cairn (one of a small group of cairns) to a cairn on the western slope of Bartinney Castle, then to tangent the enclosure ring at Bartinney Castle on the south side, then through Caer Brân, ending at Drift north menhir (one of a pair, sometimes called 'The Sisters').

Another example is alignment 4, the Brisons to Noon Veor, one of John Michell’s alignments, from The Brisons and Chûn Castle, through Bosullow Trehyllis settlement to Mên-an-Tol (once a stone circle), then through a boundary stone and Try entrance mound to Noon Veor tumulus near Towednack. Definitely a classic leyline, but not as significant as those higher up the page.

Another of John's is alignment 28, Carfury to the Pipers, from Carfury menhir to one of the Drift menhirs, to a hedge stone and finally to the NE Piper menhir in the Merry Maidens complex - a menhir alignment.
Mulfra Quoit, Lanyon Quoit and West Lanyon Quoit

Quoit alignments

These are marked in pink. Quoit alignments are mostly three-point alignments directly linking the quoits in the northern hills of Penwith - usually with two quoits and another site. Some of these sites, such as Bosiliack menhir, are younger than the quoits, but the sites might have been recognised or marked before the existing ancient monument was built - it's possible the site might have been upgraded.

The quoits are amongst the oldest of built remains in Penwith, so these alignments were presumably early additions to the network. They are just three-point alignments, yet they are repeatedly and consistently so, and this suggests intentionality. They’re worth noting, since quoits are important early sites.

Alignment 113 goes from Mulfra Quoit, through Bosiliack menhir to Lanyon Quoit, and another close to it, 138, goes from Mulfra Quoit to Bosiliack Barrow to West Lanyon Quoit.

Another, 142, links Sperris Quoit and Zennor Quoit with Lanyon Quoit. There are seven of these alignments (though one is part of the longer alignment 101).

Scilly alignments

Scilly alignments

They are marked in violet. Local to the Scillies, many are three-point alignments - mainly because the islands are not big enough to generate four or more point alignments. In megalithic times most of the islands of the Scillies formed one island, and the islands of today were hills on that island.

Alignment SC03, above, goes from a cairn on Chapel Downs to the important Knackyboy cairn, both on St Martin's, to Castle Down on Tresco.

A four-point example of a Scilly alignment is SC10 from Obadiah’s Barrow on Gugh to Buzza Hill cairn on St Mary’s, then to Middle Arthur cairns on Middle Arthur, and finally to the cairns on Great Ganilly. Otherwise, they're three-point alignments.

The Kemyel alignments

Kemyel/Swingate alignments

These are also marked in violet, and they are mostly three-point alignments. This strange configuration of menhirs above Lamorna is clearly a sub-system of its own – the purpose of which is unknown and difficult to guess. They are aligned to each other as a whole.

Does it have astronomical or geometric significance? Was it some sort of laboratory or experimental area? Or was it simply the whim of some local tribal chief?

An example alignment: 167, which goes from Kemyel B to Swingate E and then Swingate F.
Stone circle radial alignments

Stone circle radial alignments

Marked in light blue. These are mostly three-point short alignments passing through stone circles, with a standing stone, mound or holed stone on the alignment on either side of the stone circle, often but not always astronomically aligned. Some of them don't pass through the stone circle, but they are part of that stone circle's complex of sites. All of them are part of stone circle complexes.

An example is alignment 51, just 800 metres long, from Gûn Rith menhir to Merry Maidens stone circle, then to a nearby hedge stone and finally to the site of the now-destroyed Tregurnow stone circle, just 600 metres from the Merry Maidens. Like Tregeseal, the Merry Maidens complex once involved two or three stone circles, as well as other features.

The map above is of an alignment from the summit cairn on Chapel Carn Brea, through Boscawen-ûn stone circle to a rock outcrop called Bojewyan's Carn. Chapel Carn Brea is noticeably visible from Boscawen-ûn, and this is its alignment.
National and international alignments

International alignments

Three important known alignments of this kind pass through West Penwith (there might well be more), and they are shown on the map in white. It is not the purpose of this Ancient Penwith project to study these alignments since it's a big question, though other researchers are doing so.

The Michael Line spans Britain from Cornwall to Norfolk, along the longest east-west axis of the British landmass and generally following the rising point of the sun at Beltane and Lammas. Its Cornish section goes from the Hurlers stone circles in East Cornwall to Carn Brea and then to Carn Lês Boel near Land’s End – passing not far from St Michael’s Mount on the way, at Long Rock - but the alignment does not exactly pass through it.

This is the straight Michael alignment identified by John Michell, not the sinuous Michael and Mary lines identified by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst, which wind loosely around it (see their book The Sun and the Serpent). They all meet at Carn Lês Boel, as they do at other places on the alignment including at St Michael’s Mount, The Hurlers, Glastonbury and Avebury. The alignment has been calculated to pass right round the world as a great circle line, through Russia, Tibet, Cambodia, Australia and Mexico.

The Hurlers to Gwennap line. There is a subset of the Michael line from the Hurlers, passing exactly through St Michael’s Mount to Tol Pedn Penwith (Gwennap Head), the southwesternmost point of Britain – itself an amazing alignment.

The Apollo Line goes from Skellig Michael in Ireland at least to northern Israel, and probably on to India through Iran. It was identified by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst. The sinuous Apollo and Athena lines meet at St Michael's Mount, and they leave Penwith at Zennor Head and Gurnard's Head respectively. The straight alignment of this line between St Michael's Mount and Skellig Michael passes across the summit of Watch Croft, West Penwith's highest hill.

These are perhaps more corridors than precise alignments, and they do not touch many local ancient sites. Much research yet needs to be done regarding national and international-scale alignments such as these.

Double menhirs

There are small green lines attached to double menhirs. They are there to show the orientation of the two stones to each other. They don't go anywhere. They're not alignments like the ones listed above. There's more about these double menhirs here.
But what was all this for? The whole of this site seeks to answer that question. But if you wish to jump straight to it, try here (it concerns earth energies) or try the site summary. Otherwise, go to the next page, which tells how the alignments map was made.

The pages that follow contain thoughts and anecdotes concerning the discovery of alignments and other details in Penwith - interesting but not essential reading! To progress with essential reading, try this, concerning research findings.
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