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Ancient Stone Tomb Returns to Dartmoor

Hoorah! A 'good news' story for once!

A 4,000 year old grave discovered in Chagford in 1879 is returning to Dartmoor.

The prehistoric grave will be relocated to the High Moorland Centre in Princetown early next month from Torquay Museum where it has been for 120 years. Torquay Natural History Society has loaned the grave to Dartmoor National Park Authority for an initial period of five years because it no longer has room for it at the museum.

It is one of two graves or cists (from the Germanic word kistvaen, literally meaning stone chest) which were discovered during the excavation of a prehistoric burial mound near Thornworthy Tor, Chagford in 1879. Burial cists date to the earlier part of the second millennium BC and consist of slabs of granite set on edge to form a box-like structure with another slab laid horizontally as a lid. They were usually sunk into the ground and covered with earth or stones, forming a mound and would have contained either a single burial or a cremation.

The first cist discovered at Thornworthy was excavated by Samuel Slade of Torquay, who decided to seek the help of William Pengelly, the Torquay geologist, in excavating the second cist at the site. By the time Pengelly reached the site the second cist had been looted and all that remained were pottery fragments and flint tools.

Robert Standerwick, the landowner, donated the second cist to Torquay Museum which Pengelly had been instrumental in founding in 1845. It was reconstructed in its original form on the museum floor and will be moved and resited by Dartmoor National Park Authority's Conservation Team.

Communications officer for Dartmoor National Park Authority, Mike Nendick, said the cist would be rebuilt and installed in the Jack Wigmore garden, exactly as it was in the museum floor in 1880.

'It consists of five blocks of stone, which weigh a quarter of a tonne each,' he said.

'The garden has been redeveloped to represent some of the natural and cultural aspects of the Dartmoor landscape, which is one of the most important areas in Northern Europe for Bronze Age archaeology. It is the perfect spot to have the cist, which will be an excellent addition to the centre — and it will be seen from the inside as well as the outside.'

Copyright Tindle Newspapers Ltd, 26 February 2004
Jane Posted by Jane
26th February 2004ce
Edited 26th February 2004ce

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