Penwith is a distinctive, mostly cliff-bound, island-like area, with a magical atmosphere and a Cornish ruggedness to both the land and its residents.
Trencrom Hill and St Michael's Mount act as geomantic gateposts to the peninsula.
Nowadays, Penwith is at the end of the road, far from metropolitan England, but in ancient times it was a central marine node on the Atlantic seaboard.
Neighbouring areas are the Lizard, Isles of Scilly, Kerrier and East Penwith: these areas form a backdrop to the visual and geomantic landscape of ancient West Penwith.
What does the map show?
The map shows the known ancient sites of West Penwith in Cornwall, together with the alignments between them (commonly called 'leylines'). These alignments demonstrate that ancient sites were very deliberately located, constituting an integrated system covering the peninsula. Why this was so, and why they did things this way, we are yet to find out.
Map alignments were first identified by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s-30s and the idea was further developed by John Michell in the 1960s-70s. They are not energy-lines or energy-leys, which are different. They are simply sites that are aligned with each other.
All alignments shown on this map are accurate to within three metres, with a few exceptions at five metres. Beyond this, a place close to the alignment is not accepted as valid. Alignments have a minimum of four sites on them - mostly more - though there are three-site exceptions (discussed on another page).
Alignments have been drawn from a list compiled by Ray Cox of Meyn Mamvro, using research done over several decades by John Michell and contributors to Meyn Mamvro. Many new alignments were also discovered during the making of the map and added to the list.
All alignments have all been carefully checked by the mapmaker, Palden Jenkins, and by Cheryl Straffon and Ray Cox (click to see who we are). The map will be updated as new information and ideas come in. You're invited to submit additions, suggestions and modifications.
In megalithic times, long-distance travel and goods transport was often by sea and river, since much of Britain was forested. Ancient trackways were not easy over long distances and horses had not yet arrived in Britain (they arrived around 1200 BCE).
Penwith was then more centrally-placed than it is now. It stood at a marine junction for boats travelling from Brittany and Iberia in the south, from the English Channel and Bristol Channel eastwards, and from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the Hebrides in the north. Its main harbours were at St Michael's Mount and St Ives.
Its rich deposits of tin, gold and copper made Penwith strategically important and prosperous, extending its reach through chains of traders as far as Germany and the Mediterranean of the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.
Following the Roman occupation of Britannia in CE 43, and through the Saxon, Viking and Norman invasions up to the Middle Ages, Cornwall was not romanised or anglicised as early or as much as the rest of England. Neither was Cornwall subjected to quite the same oppressions that the Welsh, Irish and Scots experienced from the English over the centuries. This permitted a certain cultural continuity in Cornwall.
How the map was made
Google Maps was chosen over other alternatives because of its accuracy, editability, public availability and its zero costs.
Ray Cox's list of alignments was then entered on the map. In the process, 20% of alignments in the list were scrapped, since they were found to be insufficiently accurate.
New alignments emerged and, once checked by Ray and Cheryl, they were entered on the map. These more than doubled Penwith's known alignments. These alignments are regularly reviewed.
A few more details
Quite a few sites marked on the map are no longer present on the ground - they have been destroyed or moved, mainly by farmers and landowners, sometimes by miners. Their locations have been identified by studying historical records, field evidence and other sources, and through archaeological and dowsing work done by a variety of researchers who beaver away at such things over time.
Many now-destroyed sites were mentioned by an antiquarian of the late 1800s called William Borlase, and by others. Some were removed as recently as the 1970s-80s. Even today, battles continue over mobile phone masts, cattle damage and questionable conservation measures.
Establishing alignments through distinct points such as menhirs, stones, crosses and quoits is straightforward. Some sites such as ancient settlements are larger and less distinct, so we don't rate them so highly as defining points on an alignment, although they're noted.
In the case of stone circles, enclosures, rounds and some barrows and cairns, alignments sometimes tangent their perimeter rather than cutting through the centre of the site.
One early discovery was that of a direct alignment of three hills - St Michael's Mount, Trencrom Hill and St Ives Head - which, perceptually and energetically, form West Penwith's eastern boundary. (When driving along the A30 you cross it in the village of Crowlas, between Hayle and Penzance.) Many other discoveries evolved from there, including the emergence of a range of visible classes of alignments. These are outlined in the More on the Map and Findings sections of this site.
Some seem to be 'backbone alignments' - longer-distance, major alignments linking higher-magnitude sites, giving the overall alignment system a certain overall structure. Most alignments are local to West Penwith - on the map these have been grouped into major and lesser alignments.
These differing alignments are marked in different colours (see map key). This classification is neither final nor conclusive - it's a working hypothesis and a way of making sense of a profusion of alignments.
The finding of new alignments was partly a logical process and partly intuitive. It's logical to look for alignments radiating from certain major sites such as St Michael's Mount, Boscawen-ûn or Lanyon Quoit. Intuitively, alignments also revealed themselves spontaneously, often 'by chance' while working on the map. So it's partially a left-brain and partially a right-brain process.
There isn't a neatly rational system or pattern to these alignments, to our modern way of thinking,such as grids or geometrical shapes, yet there is still a coherence to it all, with hints of both an organically-arising and a thought-through, planned order.
Gratitude to the following people and organisations for the part they have played in the making of this map:
the late Alfred Watkins and John Michell for sparking the geomancy movement in UK, and especially to John for his work in Penwith around 1970-73 - see his bookThe Old Stones of the Land's End Peninsula;
Cheryl Straffon, Raymond Cox and contributors toMeyn Mamvrofor all their work, and to Cheryl and Ray for checking the map, providing information and offering considered opinions;
the many researchers who have contributed data, insights and ideas to the study of West Penwith's ancient past;
This version August 2018 - return here for periodic updates
Map courtesy of Google Maps
Chûn Quoit from Boswens menhir
Boscawen-ûn stone circle
Early Christian cross near Sancreed
The fogou at Carn Euny
The Merry Maidens stone circle
Chûn Quoit and Boscaswell church
Carn Lês Boel
The Mount from Carfury menhir
Quartz stone at Boscawen-ûn
St Euny's holy well, Carn Euny
Carn Euny Iron Age village
Men Scryfa inscribed menhir
Carn Kenidjak from Botrea Barrows
West Lanyon Quoit
This project is dedicated to
and Tom Graves
for their friendship and their
contributions to geomancy
Carn Galva from Lanyon Quoit
How it all came about
The idea came in 2013 to Palden Jenkins, who has been interested in geomancy since 1971, when he rather innocently slept inside a stone circle, the Ring of Brogar in the Orkneys, and experienced a powerful, life-changing dream there which drew him into the subect. This started a process that unfolded over the decades, starting with field research in North Wales and then in Uppland, Sweden through the 1970s.
Later, when resident in Glastonbury between 1980 and 2008, he researched and published the Map of the Ancient Landscape around Glastonbury. This was a complex and meticulous project, and he prevaricated before starting work on a map of Penwith. The process started when he asked Cheryl Straffon, a mainstay of the Penwith archaeological scene, whether a map of the area's ancient sites was available. It wasn't. But it felt like there needed to be one, so Palden volunteered to do it. Little was he to know at that time the new discoveries that were to unfold as he compiled the map.
There was much deliberation over the format to be used. Google Maps was chosen because of its public accessibility, editability, aerial-photographic basis and cost-free facility. The Penwith map was started in December 2014 and work went on through the subsequent stormy winter until it was completed by June 2015.
While doing this it became evident that more research needed to be done in future, especially on astronomical alignments, dowsable energy-lines, site intervisibility and other issues. The work will continue and develop further in coming years, and progress in this work will be reported on this site.