In a Nutshell | Key questions and findings - Ancient Penwith

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In a Nutshell | Key questions and findings

This page is a short version of the whole site, delivering its key points and findings. Suitable if you don't have much time, you just want the gist of it or you're from the media.


West Penwith is rich in prehistory and ancient sites. It's also a valuable area for doing this kind of research because it is concise in size and boundaries. This means we can concentrate on one area without spilling over into neighbouring areas, or burning too much petrol, or walking many miles. Quite a few people live and visit here who are interested in prehistory and also this part of Britain has a rather special magic atmosphere. So Penwith works well as a landscape for research.
The Ancient Penwith project seeks to widen the evidential parameters of archaeological research by using the principles of geomancy. Geomancy is the study of the placing of ancient sites in the landscape - megalithic European feng shui.

This encompasses the study of ancient site alignments, archaeoastronomy, geometry and mathematics, earth energies and underground water, landscape art, date-dowsing and intuitive information-sourcing. This can then be compared with archaeological findings to yield a wider range of evidential data.

Thus far, this project has comprehensively studied alignments, and in the next research phase attention is moving to other branches of geomancy, such as those listed above.

The people of prehistoric times left no records or instruction manuals, so geomancy is a valuable way of penetrating their thoughts and worldview to understand what was important to them and why they went to so much trouble heaving around rocks and earth to build ancient sites. This must have had its practical reasons - otherwise, they won't have done it.

Archaeologists and academics customarily reject geomancy, and this is a great loss to our understanding of prehistory. It also involves denial of important broad-spectrum evidence. The location and design of ancient sites involved complex principles of megalithic science, and geomancy is a key to understanding it.

A note for sceptics

This note concerns ancient site alignments or 'leylines'. It is frequently said by detractors that if you put a random distribution of points on a map, you will always get alignments between them. In other words, by implication, it is 'just chance' that ancient sites are aligned, and there is no importance, coherence or design to this. This conclusion unfortunately avoids close examination of the available evidence.

First, exact alignments of sites are unusual in random patterns - especially at the level of accuracy used in this research. If alignments were common in random patterns, the distribution of sites would not actually be random but coherent.

In this project we use a margin of three metres' accuracy in judging alignments - which is surprisingly accurate in alignments stretching many miles, especially when you consider that these alignments were established 4-6 millennia ago.

Second, when you examine the way that particular kinds and ages of ancient sites align with each other, greatly narrowing the number of permutations that are possible, something far more coherent than randomness appears. If you still want to call this 'chance', then it is an elegant and orderly kind of chance that itself needs explaining. Three example alignments are shown on the right.

These alignments demonstrate that ancient sites were placed where they stand for clear, intentional reasons. They also demonstrate that Penwith's ancient sites were built as an integrated system in which every site has a demonstrable spatial relationship with other sites. It is a complete system, across Penwith.

This suggests that the ancients used a technology that worked with the landscape to achieve some purpose - not just accidentally but intentionally. On this site we propose that this was a kind of geo-engineering. Perhaps we need to learn about this today, especially since the readjustment of environmental and climatic factors is a critical issue in our time
Three major ancient site alignments in West Penwith. Click to enlarge
In the map above we're looking at just three alignments. They define the positioning of Lanyon Quoit, Boscawen-ûn and the Nine Maidens - three key sites in West Penwith.

Crucial here are several cliff sanctuaries (cliff castles): St Michael's Mount, Treryn Dinas, Maen Castle and Pendeen Watch. The last three are usually dated to the iron age, roughly around 400-200 BCE, on the basis of iron age ramparts found at some of them.

This map indicates that they were actually neolithic in first use, dating from around 3700-3500 BCE. St Michael's Mount is already recognised as a neolithic cliff sanctuary and tor enclosure, dating from that time.

How can we say that cliff sanctuaries are neolithic in first use? They stand on natural coastal headlands, and the backbone alignments largely pass between them and the neolithic tor enclosures, thus associating the cliff sanctuaries with the neolithic tors.

These alignments define the positioning of key sites such as the stone circles and Lanyon Quoit. The stone circles come from the late neolithic around 2600-2400 BCE, but Lanyon Quoit comes from a much earlier time in the mid-neolithic around 3700-3500 BCE.

Therefore the cliff sanctuaries must be of a similar age to Lanyon Quoit, dating back at least to the mid-neolithic.

On the map above, the alignment from St Michael's Mount to Boscawen-ûn continues through Maen Castle, extending out to the Isles of Scilly, through the Chapel Downs cairns on St Martin's and ending at the beacon hill of Samson Hill on Bryher (you can find a map of the Scillies here).

Meanwhile, the alignment from Treryn Dinas to Boscawen-ûn continues exactly through Lanyon Quoit and the neolithic chambered cairn Bosiliack Barrow, ending at a menhir just yards northwest of the Nine Maidens stone circle (part of the Nine Maidens complex of cairns and menhirs).

So Lanyon Quoit's position is defined by these alignments, and by another that goes from Carn Brea near Redruth to Trencrom Hill, then to Lanyon Quoit and then to the main chambered cairn at Botallack Common (part of the Tregeseal complex).

Thus we can demonstrate that the bronze age stone circles are positioned in relation to the neolithic tor enclosures and cliff sanctuaries. And therefore the backbone alignments are demonstrated to be neolithic in their foundation
Boscawen-unAbout the Map

This is an online map of West Penwith and the Isles of Scilly, showing all ancient sites and alignments that are currently known. It's here. The key to the map is here and a full explanation of the map is here.

There is a full section giving details about alignments here. There is a set of derivative maps highlighting different aspects of the main map here. You don't need to follow all these links to understand this 'nutshell' page - they're given in case of need.

About Alignments

For reasons we do not yet fully understand, the ancients deliberately aligned their prehistoric sites - not every site to every other site, but selectively. These alignments are exact, not just vaguely accurate. How they did this is a mystery, but they did it, using advanced surveying to do so.

Alignments are not lines across the landscape, and in West Penwith they have no relation to ancient trackways or old roads. They are simply ancient sites that are aligned with each other - rather like objects lined up across a table. Alignments are drawn as lines on maps to indicate their presence and to test their accuracy, but they don't represent actual lines that can be seen or otherwise detected in the landscape.

Commonly and inaccurately called leylines, these alignments are presumed to network sites to each other so that they play a part in a larger system, covering Penwith and also connecting with other regions such as the Scillies, the Lizard and the rest of Cornwall. The discovery of a complete integrated system covering the Penwith peninsula has major implications for our understanding of ancient sites and the megalithic era
Summary of Findings

1. Clustering

The ancient sites of West Penwith are conglomerated in two main areas, northern and southern, with a gap between them running along an alignment between St Michael's Mount and Cape Cornwall (roughly the course of the A3071 road).

Ancient site clustering in West PenwithThere are some differences between the two halves. The north has upland tors and quoits, and it has more chambered cairns than the south, while the south has more menhirs, and particularly paired menhirs. Of the four surviving stone circles (once there were around ten), two are in each half.

But there's more. Look at the map and you'll notice two empty areas on the peninsula. One is in the far southwest around Tol Pedn (Gwennap Head) and the other is in the northeast near St Ives, on the two coastal lowlands stretching from St Ives west and south. Why?

Penzance itself has fewer ancient sites than the rest of Penwith too. This can be only partially explained by their likely destruction during the building of the town in recent centuries.

One could hypothesise that the Penzance area was outside the area of interest of ancient people in Penwith, but St Michael's Mount to the east of Penzance was an important node in Penwith's geomantic system, so this hypothesis raises questions.

The geomantic boundary of Penwith is an alignment of St Michael's Mount, Trencrom Hill and St Ives Head - strangely, three hills in a straight alignment. There is a distinct thinning of ancient sites east of this alignment, and this relative gap stretches all the way to Bodmin Moor, which has a similar density of ancient sites to West Penwith (as does Dartmoor too)
2. Cliff sanctuaries

The necklace of cliff sanctuaries (cliff castles) bounding Penwith's coast are far more important than previously understood. As mentioned earlier, their first use goes back to the mid-neolithic, probably around 3800-3500 BCE.

Clif sanctuaries in West PenwithMost of the constructed remains on the cliff sanctuaries - boundary banks and occasional round huts - are accepted as iron age in origin (500BCE-100CE), so the cliff sanctuaries are usually ascribed to the iron age.

This doesn't make a lot of sense, because the headlands on which cliff sanctuaries stand are prominent, and they will have been noticed and frequented since the earliest occupants of the peninsula arrived here, and they are inspiring places.

Cliff sanctuaries' importance and their first use in neolithic times are demonstrated by the backbone system of alignments, which forms the framework for the location of key ancient sites in Penwith. The stone circles and menhirs were built largely between 2600 and 1800 BCE, but some sites on the backbone system, such as Lanyon Quoit and the Botallack Common cairns, were built much further back around 3700-3500 BCE during the neolithic period.

So the cliff sanctuaries constitute a far more significant class of ancient site than previously understood. As a result of this research and its findings, the number of neolithic sites in West Penwith has been at least doubled, through the use of geomantic evidence
3. The alignments system

The alignments network shown on the map was formed incrementally, in stages over more than two millennia. Its foundation was laid in the neolithic period, around 3700 BCE.

The quoit alignments most likely came first. The quoits have a pattern of mutual alignments established at their building around 3700-3500 BCE. That is, the quoits were built in locations embodying these alignments - Sperris and Zennor Quoits were aligned with Lanyon Quoit, for example. In most cases, two quoits are aligned with another kind of neolithic site such as a chambered cairn like Bosiliack Barrow or, in one case, the perimeter of Chûn Castle (which is both neolithic and iron age).

Backbone alignments in West PenwithA bit later came the backbone alignments (see map here). Of all the quoits, only Lanyon Quoit is located on these. They were staked out mainly between hilltop neolithic tors and cliff sanctuaries, which in early-to-mid neolithic times were the main centres of activity in the peninsula. Then man-made sites such as Lanyon Quoit and the stone circles were placed on these alignments over time.

The backbone alignments form a neolithic substructure from which the more complex bronze age alignments system, involving stone circles, menhirs and barrows, was developed. These were placed on an ever more complex array of alignments.

What changed was this: in the neolithic, most sites were located at intuitively obvious places in the landscape - where it felt right. Even so, some were located astronomically - Chûn Quoit, for example, was positioned so that the summer solstice setting sun set neatly behind a nick in the outline of Carn Kenidjack.

But bronze age geomancers applied a more sophisticated system, locating some sites, such as many of the menhirs, not for the significance of the place itself, but because it connected or networked well with other places. Or they were located for a bundle of reasons including alignment (see below). So the neolithic was more like poetry while the bronze age was more like ordered prose.

Over a period of two millennia between 3700 and 1500 BCE, a complex system of alignments evolved. This gives major clues about the purpose of many sites. They were all related spatially to other sites, with landscape setting, with the sky above and the earth below.

It is possible that the impetus for constructing this extensive system of ancient sites in the bronze age arose from a very human response to the Piora Oscillation, a sudden climatic downturn occurring for about two centuries following 3200 BCE. The second megalithic period started around 2800, progressing through the centuries that followed.

Arguably the Piora crisis gave rise to an urge to engage in corrective geo-engineering or perhaps atonement measures. Perhaps it gave rise to a kind of environmental movement, which sought to address what had happened using a metaphysical kind of geo-engineering technology.

The ancients sought to improve their fortunes and did their best to create encouraging conditions for this in nature. They felt more an integral part of the earth and the cosmos than we do today, and theirs was a sympathetic magic, so they sought to impact on the landscape constructively, harmoniously and in a naturalesque fashion, through what they built
4. The neolithic and bronze age

Part of the Ancient Penwith research project is a date-dowsing exercise, to try to uncover the sequence and dating of different ancient sites. Date-dowsing involves finding out dates such as first use of a site, first construction, peak of use and end of use, by using a pendulum. This dating research, reinforced by other geomantic findings, slightly re-draws the prehistoric timeline, though not fundamentally, adding some useful details.
Carn Kenidjack, a neolithic tor
In neolithic times in the 3000s BCE, the main population concentration was in the northern highlands. The whole population of Penwith would have been in the hundreds. Much of lowland Penwith was covered in forest with small clearings, and the climate was warmer than today.

Carn Galva, Zennor Hill, Carn Kenidjack, Chûn Castle, Trencrom Hill and St Michael's Mount, rising above the woods, became centres of human activity. (The Mount was not an island at that time.)

Later, after about 2700 BCE, the southern half of West Penwith became increasingly important, and forest clearance grew. Boscawen-ûn and the Merry Maidens complex, and the many menhirs in the south, were built around 2600-2200 BCE.

Merry MaidensThe neolithic and bronze ages, as archaeological time-periods, relate to the materials used in tools, not to the evolution of prehistoric sites, so using these isn't entirely helpful in megalithic research.

Megalithically, the big divide seems to be roughly 3200-3000, during a sudden two-century climatic downturn called the Piora Oscillation, caused possibly by a volcanic eruption or asteroid impact somewhere in the world. Life became difficult, with possible crop-failures and famine until people adapted. Megalith-building paused for at least ten generations or 200 years.

Ancient sites built before and after this time are quite different. Before it we have chambered cairns, quoits and natural sites such as tors, cliff sanctuaries and carns (outcrops). After it we have menhirs, barrows and stone circles.

Following Piora there was a gradual cultural ascendancy through the late neolithic to the bronze age. The period from the end of Piora around 2900 BCE to the zenith of the bronze age around 2200-1800 can be taken as one period. It was followed by a time of decline around 1500, with a final collapse around 1200 BCE (it date-dowses more precisely to the 1170s BCE).
Chûn Quoit
The bronze age, commonly taken to last from around 2300 to 600 BCE, is out of sync with the post-Piora megalithic phase between 2900 and 1200.

Going further back, the first megalithic period, roughly 3700-3200, ending with Piora, was a distinct megalithic period. So we can identify two megalithic periods, the first of 500ish years in the neolithic, and the second of 1700ish years crossing the neolithic and up to the end of the middle bronze age, separated by the Piora 'dark age'.

There was a carry-over of knowledge from the earlier to the later megalithic phase. But what people in the second phase built was more theoretically calculated and sophisticated - more mathematical and astronomical - even though the principles they used derived from the first megalithic phase
5. Locational factors

Ancient sites are located where they are for a range of reasons, and these reasons vary from site to site. These include such factors as:

  • ancient site alignments, as discussed above,
  • astronomical alignments and orientations (rising and setting points of sun, moon and stars),
  • underground water flows (blind springs and water veins),
  • subtle energy patterns and lines, both underground and overground,
  • intervisibility between sites,
  • landscape placing, regarding topography and visual impression,
  • sometimes mathematics and geometry,
  • sagas, narratives and myths of the time,
  • sometimes sheer locational aesthetic artistry, and,
  • spirit of place or genius loci, the inherent 'presence' or 'soul' of a place, whether natural or invested with significance by people. An associated idea is that of 'place memory'.

These factors all played a part in the location of prehistoric sites in Penwith. They apply differently at different sites - some are present and some not, at each site. This is a subject of future research in Penwith.
The Drift menhirs
Thus a menhir might be located at an alignment intersection as well as at a crossing point of underground water lines, and it might also be placed in sight of two or three other sites, or a hilltop. Its positioning is therefore determined by such factors as these.

A cairn might be on an alignment and above a blind spring, while also serving as the backsight (place where you stand) for viewing an astronomical rising point on the horizon. It might also have had an ancestor's body or some of their bones buried there for good measure - though many cairns and barrows do not have burials. (That is to say, mounds were not built primarily for burial - and the same applied to churches in medieval times, even though most had graveyards around them. People were buried there because it was a special place.)

Move fifteen paces from a site and its panorama or its intuitive placing can disappear. Move fifty or a hundred paces away from it and one might sometimes wonder why indeed it is placed where it is, yet its precise siting is clearly in exactly the right spot. At some sites there can be a subjective perception that you're standing at the centre of everything - there's an amplified sense of here-ness present. Ancient sites have a way of affecting awareness and our sense of relationship with space and time.

This combination of reasons for building sites defies logic, yet it is evidentially observable and it needs more study. Something about it all makes a certain intuitive sense.
6. Quantum entanglement

Alignments do not operate like wires or pipes that transmit energy, though energy-lines do. Energy-lines that dowsers can detect are different from alignments. As yet no dowsers have comprehensively mapped these in Penwith, so we cannot yet find out the extent to which alignments and energy-lines coincide - at a guess it might be 20-30%. But an energy-line is a 'pipe', with observable energy-flows that are directional or alternating over time, in connection with the season and the phases of the moon.
Chûn Quoit as seen from Boswens menhir
Not so with alignments. These conform more closely with what Einstein called 'spooky action at a distance', or non-local quantum entanglement.

That is, two separate entities can resonate with each other simultaneously even when far apart, and with no connecting medium between them, as long as they have a pre-existing relationship. In other words, they have an inner or inherent connection while having no medium of connection.

This was first observed in physics with particles resulting from smashing the atom, which would shoot off in different directions and dimensions, nevertheless behaving similarly to each other. An analogy is that of twins separated at birth and growing up without even knowing they have a twin - yet their lives can take on similar turns of events and they share characteristics with each other.

It's as if aligning specific ancient sites tunes them to each other so that they resonate in harmony with each other. Since alignments intersect with other alignments, then it follows that Penwith's ancient sites were evolved as a complete system.

Whether or not there was a master-plan to this, when a site was established it was, in effect, plugged into this resonant network. Except that, with alignments, this was done without a medium of connection such as an energy-line. So, it follows from this that alignments and dowsable energy-lines signify different energy-frequencies and relationships, which should not be confused.

This implies a level of prehistoric thinking and social organisation far more advanced than we customarily understand. Up to about 1500 BCE, toward the end of the megalithic period, the people of Penwith seemed content to live a relatively simple sufficiency-oriented life. They lived in simple dwellings in family hamlets, moving around their territory quite a bit, and seemingly choosing not to engage in some of the innovative technologies that were available at the time. They weren't early adopters of bronze. Yet they invested enormous effort in their ancient sites.

Bronze items were initially imported and tin and copper were exported for some centuries, yet bronze smelting and craftwork were not adopted in Penwith until around 1800 BCE, toward the end of the zenith of the megalithic period.

Bronze enabled an increasing 'maximiser' or growth-based economy, and a fundamental shift of attitude came with it. Using bronze, people could fell trees, fashion items, shape the earth, amass wealth and adorn themselves more easily than before. They could stamp their mark on the world as dominators of nature more than participants in it. This psycho-social shift might even have led to the decline and eventual downfall of the megalithic period around 1500-1200 BCE.
Men Scryfa with Carn Galva behind
Penwithians' ancient sites were quite simple and undramatic, compared with the big megalithic sites of Stonehenge, Avebury, Carnac and the Boyne valley. Even compared with the Orkneys and Outer Hebrides, Penwith's megaliths were quite modest.

Yet, simply by examining the complex alignment patterns shown on the Map of Ancient Sites and Alignments in Penwith, it is clear that a lot of complex consideration and calculation went on. The thinking behind megalithic construction in Penwith was sophisticated.

Penwith has more ancient sites per square mile than any area in Britain or Ireland, yet they have a thoughtful subtlety to their design, and their uniquenesses are noteworthy. The ancients did not have a standardised approach to megalith-building, yet common principles apply to all of them, across the isles of Britain and in Brittany and Ireland too.

Penwith's four surviving stone circles each had a different purpose, judging by their design, setting and their surrounding complexes of standing stones and mounds. They weren't just local tribes' private stone circles built to suit their own needs - they were part of something much bigger.

The 'quantum entanglement' of Penwith's sites, quite precisely patterned, shows that Penwithians were thinking big. The best, and only really plausible, reason for this is that they were engaging in a kind of geo-engineering - an attempt to participate actively in the fluctuating energies of their terrestrial environment and the heavens above, with a view to improving their lives and their world.

'Turning the wheel of time' was a key ingredient in their spiritual life, yet it was a practical matter too. It was obviously seen to be a fruitful thing to do, otherwise they would not have done the extensive engineering work they did
7. Megalithic geo-engineering
Mulfra Quoit with St Michael's Mount behind
For reasons explained on this site, the primary reason for building the ancient sites of West Penwith seems to have been to harness, enhance and shape subtle energy.

There seems to be no other viable way of explaining the existence, characteristics and distribution of the wide variety of stone circles, cairns, menhirs and other ancient sites of West Penwith. No one has a better answer, and the matter is customarily dealt with by avoiding it.

The aim seems to be to harmonise the energy cycles and fluctuations of the heavens and the atmosphere with those of the Earth, through the agency of humanity and its technologies and beliefs. This suggests a western kind of Taoism, seeking to bring heaven, earth and humanity into harmony.

Yet it probably also had practical outcomes in terms of climate regulation, fertilising of the land, improving the lives of people and pleasing the hidden powers within nature. This kind of geo-engineering entrained existing energy-patterns in nature, tweaking and funnelling them according to the megalithic principles of the time.

Perhaps we need to learn about this today. This website seeks to research how this works, from the evidence we have, and what went on in the minds of neolithic and the bronze age people, since there is a growing practical relevance to this today.

This page serves as a summary of the contents of this site. Further details are covered across the site - see the links on the left or below. To contact the site's author, Palden Jenkins, click here.
 
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