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Holed Stone


Tilley and Bennett's article describes the unusual 'solution basins' (rocks wiv big round holes in) that are a product of erosion in the West Penwith area, and the apparent relationship between rock outcrops (where these basins are) and nearby Neolithic sites. This excerpt suggests an origin for the holed Men-An-Tol stone:
The southwest face of the [holed] stone is virtually flat, while the northeast face has a distinctly bevelled edge. It has been variously suggested that these stones formed part of a circle here or are the remains of a chambered tomb. Neither explanation is very convincing. It would seem best to maintain that this monument is a distinctive stone setting associated with the Boskedan stone circle, which is sited on the skyline and visible from the Men-An-Tol stones on top of a hill 750m to the ENE. The overall axis of the Men-An-Tol stone alignment is NE-SW, the direction of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

The holed stone almost certainly rested originally in a horizontal position on the very top of a tor stack, with its flat southwest side forming the flat bottom of the basin while the bevelled northwest side was the uppermost surface holding water until the base eroded through. Thus, the Men-An-Tol holed stone, set upright, is a direct inversion of the original position of the stone in its natural state. A form that once held water has now become dry and transformed into a material metaphor for the setting and rising sun. This conceptual transformation is strengthened by the stone's alignment on the rising and setting sun at important times of the year.

The rocks nearest to the Men-An-Tol with solution basins of the requisite size and form occur on the southern end of Zennor Hill, 4.75km NE. Here, there is an extant example which has completely eroded through of slightly larger dimensions: 50-80cm in internal diameter and about 30cm thick. The overall alignment of the stones might thus also be making reference to the origin of the holed stone in the complex, a mnemonic statement.

Holed stones of the type used at Men-An-Tol and found on Zennor Hill are extremely rare. In almost all instances solution basins erode through the sides. We should also note that the main process of erosion effectively ceases when water can drain out of the basin. Large holed basins are therefore very special and almost certainly of great antiquity. The Men-An-Tol needs to be considered as a very special stone which has been curated in a uniquely meaningful way.
An Archaeology of Supernatural Places: The Case of West Penwith
Christopher Tilley; Wayne Bennett
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 7, No. 2. (Jun., 2001), pp. 335-362.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th January 2007ce
Edited 10th January 2007ce

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