Prehistoric ceremonial complex discovered in Dartmoor reservoir – Thu 12 Nov 2009

A hitherto unrecorded prehistoric complex has recently been revealed in the mud at the bottom of Tottiford reservoir, near Hennock, on Dartmoor.

The complex consisting of stone rows, burial cairns and a stone circle had been hidden by the waters of the reservoir, the first to be built on Dartmoor (1861). They have been revealed due to water levels being temporarily lowered by South West Water to only 6 per cent capacity.

First to spot the significance of the site was Mike Miller, from nearby Moretonhampstead. He contacted Jane Marchand, archaeologist with Dartmoor National Park Authority, reporting that he had found 2 stone rows and some burial cairns. Further visits to Tottiford confirmed these findings and also led to the discovery of a large stone circle, measuring 27 metres in diameter. A similarly sized stone circle can be seen at Scorhill, near Chagford, on north east Dartmoor.

Jane Marchand, Archaeologist, Dartmoor National Park Authority said:‘There was no knowledge of the existence of this complex as the reservoir’s construction pre-dates the beginning of systematic archaeological recording on Dartmoor. In total the ceremonial complex consists of a free standing stone circle, a double stone row and single stone row, with regularly spaced stones and which both seem to end on burial cairns. There are at least 8 other cairns within the area. It is believed that these sites are at least 4,000 years old and their discovery has to rank as one of the most important on Dartmoor in recent times.’

Some finely worked flint tools were also found close to the complex, these included knives, piercers, notched blades, microliths (very small flint tools used as barbs, tips of arrows, or placed edge-to-edge in a wooden haft) and some cores ( the remains of the pieces of flint from which the tools were made). Some of the tools date back to Mesolithic times (8,000 years ago) indicating that this area has been the focus of human activity over many thousands of years.

The area has been surveyed and the individual sites planned in detail before they disappear beneath the water once more.

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