Maps on this page:
| Key Sites in West Penwith | Ancient Sites | Alignments | Backbone Alignments passing through Lanyon Quoit | Clustering & Empty Areas |
| Cliff Sanctuaries | Cairns & Barrows | Menhirs | Alignments in the Merry Maidens Complex | Merry Maidens Complex | Boscawen-un Complex |
| Tregeseal Complex | Nine Maidens Complex | Alignments in The Lizard | Radial Alignments through Carn Brea |
Key Neolithic and Bronze Age Sites
in West Penwith
There is a need for systematic research into the main sites across the whole of Penwith, treating the peninsula as one entity. This map shows the likely key sites that such research might focus on.
From a geomantic viewpoint, the following could be systematically studied for each site, and in its relations with other sites:
- underground water and subtle energy patterns;
- geology, archaeoastronomy, archaeoacoustics;
- landscape placing and intervisibility;
- geometry and distances;
- subtle and imaginal impressions and intuitions;
- myth and traditions;
- as well as, of course, archaeological findings.
Ancient Site Alignments in West Penwith
Map showing all known alignments in the peninsula.
Yellow alignments are backbone alignments linking major sites while red alignments are more localised and specific. All are accurate to within three metres (with a few exceptions), and all except some specific kinds of alignments have four, five or more sites on them.
To see this map in more detail, click here.
How Lanyon Quoit was positioned
Lanyon Quoit is important because it was one of the first constructed ancient sites in Penwith, built around 3700 BCE. It sits in a very deliberate location at the intersection of three major alignments, all of them involving neolithic tor enclosures and cliff sanctuaries. So it was located for 'megalithic scientific' reasons, and not just because the local tribe fancied the spot.
The alignments defining Lanyon Quoit's position were established at or before 3700 BCE, since the quoit could not have been put there without them. The principle of alignment of terrestrial sites was thus clearly established by then. This map suggests that the sites of the bronze age stone circles of the later 2000s were known about around 3700. The question arises: how would they have been marked? Possibly a stone or a wooden post, or a planted tree in a woodland clearing or glade.
Alignment 80 passes through Trencrom Hill from Carn Brea - both of them neolithic tors - and it ends at Boswens menhir, close to another tor, Carn Kenidjack - actually it also hits The Brisons, off Cape Cornwall. Boswens was built in the bronze age, but one possibility is that this point was marked in earlier times by a post.
Alignment 103 shows how the quoit was exactly aligned with St Michael's Mount and Pendeen Watch, both of them cliff sanctuaries.
Alignment 37 comes up from Treryn Dinas, a cliff sanctuary, through the site of Boscawen-ûn (even though the stone circle was built some 1,400 years later), to Lanyon Quoit, then through Bosiliack Barrow (probably added later) to a menhir next to the Nine Maidens stone circle and just under the neolithic tor of Carn Galva. It is imaginable that Boscawen-ûn and the menhir at the Nine Maidens were originally marked by wooden constructions or a planted 'great tree'.
Note how Boscawen-ûn is located on an alignment from St Michael's Mount to Maen Castle, both of them cliff sanctuaries - and it continues to Scilly.
Penwith's ancient sites are clustered in two main groupings, north and south. The north was the main centre of activity in the neolithic 3000s while the south was properly occupied in the 2000s, the bronze age.
There's a clear divide between them, following a line between St Michael's Mount and Kilgooth Ust (Cape Cornwall) through Botrea Barrows, which might be regarded as a kind of axle to the whole Penwith system.
Parts of the peninsula lack ancient sites - as shown on this map. In the bronze age, woodland clearance was around 50%, and it is possible that these were areas where the wildwood survived at that time. The map also shows stone circle complexes (yellow areas) - arrays of ancient sites surrounding the stone circles and integral to their design and operation.
Also known as cliff castles, they are more ancient and more important than is usually understood. Notice how they form a necklace around the peninsula, and how they are loosely equidistant - follow the white line around the coast.
See how they are connected with each other and linked to neolithic tors - cliff sanctuaries were key sites in the neolithic 3000s. A map like this suggests also that many bronze age sites were known and recognised long before the bronze age, even though the constructions we know of today were built long afterwards.
Cairns and Barrows in Penwith
Mounds are also clustered, particularly in the higher areas of Penwith. They were established for a variety of purposes, including as landscape markers and features, geomantic cairns, burial cairns and cairnfields.
Chambered cairns served purposes we do not exactly know, but they probably acted as repositories of sacred and ancestral relics, places for contemplation, retreat or dying, or as chambers for the energy-conditioning of crops, medicines and tools. Geomantically, cairns seem to act as energy-accumulators and batteries.
Menhirs in Penwith
Menhirs are differently distributed to cairns - they are more predominant in the lowland south than cairns. They have distinct geomantic purposes, some of them acting as nodal, feeder and proxy connectors, forming a network of alignments and energy lines that operate to reinforce and power up the more major sites in Penwith, integrating the ancient sites of Penwith into an overall functioning system.
Alignments in the Merry Maidens Complex
Light blue alignments are short, localised alignments solely serving the internal purposes of a stone circle complex. The red alignments come in from elsewhere in Penwith.
Notice how one of the Pipers menhirs (up-right on the map) acts as a proxy menhir for the complex as a whole, with a number of red lines intersecting it. The yellow alignment is the backbone alignment from Carn Brea and St Michael's Mount to Treryn Dinas - connecting three natural neolithic sites.
The Merry Maidens Complex
The Tregurnow stone circle is a sad loss for this complex. The Boleigh stone circle was probably more a stone setting rather than a proper circle - it too is destroyed.
Notice the two main axes of this complex: one from Gûn Rith to Tregurnow, and the other from the Boscawen-rôs to the Pipers menhirs. In its heyday this complex would have sat in parkland and most of its constituent sites would have been intervisible.
The Boscawen-ûn Complex
Made up particularly of menhirs arrayed around the stone circle, this complex is the most 'orbital' of all of the complexes in Penwith. The hills to its north, Chapel Carn Brea, Bartinney Castle and Sancreed Beacon, are crucial from a landscape viewpoint.
The Merry Maidens complex was visible from Boscawen-ûn. Like Lanyon Quoit, its position in the peninsula is determined by the way it stands at the intersection of alignments stretching between cliff sanctuaries around the coast of Penwith.
The Tregeseal Complex
This complex contains fewer constituent sites than the other stone circle complexes, Tregeseal is very much defined by its position sitting in the lap of the neolithic tor, Carn Kenidjack, northwards - the carn was the original site in this complex.
One of its two stone circles is destroyed. This complex has a distinct WSW-ENE axis, similar to the Merry Maidens. It has a marked relationship with the Isles of Scilly, which are visible from Tregeseal (however, when you're at the stone circle you must nowadays peer over a hedge to see them) - and Carn Kenidjack is visible from the Scillies.
The Nine Maidens or Boskednan Complex
This complex straddles a ridgetop, facing Carn Galva and with a wide sweep of landscape around it.
It has two axes: one stretching from Mên an Tol to Mulfra Barrows, and the other from the Nine Maidens stone circle to Carn Galva. In both the neolithic and the bronze age, this was the most densely populated area - 'Metro Penwith'.
Ancient Site Alignments in the Lizard
The Lizard, Britain's southernmost place, is not rich in alignments. It is very rich in barrows though.
The incoming near-parallel NW-SE alignments (yellow) coming from Penwith are important but, apart from these, the multiple barrows of the Lizard are not positioned to reflect alignments. Their placing is more organic and flowing than aligned. However, the menhirs and the other sites in the Lizard do conform to the alignment principle.
To see this map in greater detail, click here.
Radial Backbone Alignments around Carn Brea
What's remarkable here is the way that alignments from cliff sanctuaries to Carn Brea continue to align accurately with cliff sanctuaries and other sites on the other side of this prominent neolithic tor.
It demonstrates how cliff sanctuaries were chosen not necessarily for their prominence as headlands, but more for their alignment properties in relation to Carn Brea. There was something geomantic about them.
For a larger version of this map, click here.
This is a remarkable collection of near-parallel alignments, connecting prominent sites across the peninsula of West Cornwall. They are all slightly differently aligned, by less than a degree each. How and why these alignments exist is unknown, but there is some astronomical significance to these alignments.
Ancient Sites and Alignments in the Isles of Scilly
Scilly has two main kinds of alignments: those local to the islands (violet and light blue) and those incoming from the mainland (yellow and orange). Light blue alignments are near-parallels while violet alignments stand for themselves.
For larger versions of this map, click here.
Boscawen-ûn's location is determined by its relationship with other major sites around Penwith - not least the cliff sanctuaries. It's as if its location acts as a master-stroke in lighting up the Penwith energy-system as a whole, by dint of its alignment focality.
At Tregeseal and the Nine Maidens, the local landscape determines their placing, but with Boscawen-ûn, though its landscape placing is significant, it was located where it was much more for megalithic scientific purposes. Its placing was carefully devised.
St Michael's Mount Alignments
Both the Mount and Boscawen-ûn are focal sites in Penwith, but the first is natural and the second is man-made, placed there for geomantically technical reasons.
St Michael's Mount is a key site in Penwith. Yet there is a beauty to the way it connects by alignment to other cliff sanctuaries and with many of Penwith's key sites.