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18 November 1999
Cornish megalithic sites vandalized

The lethal substance, napalm, like that used in the Vietnam war, has been poured over two of Cornish (England) most ancient monuments and then set ablaze. In an anonymous letter sent to The Cornishman - the local newspaper - a group calling themselves Friends of the Stone said they had ceremoniously burnt the famous Men-an-Tol holed stone and the nearby Lanyon Quoit. The writer of the anonymous letter to The Cornishman included three photographs of the two ancient monuments covered in burning oil and ablaze with flames.
      The police at Penzance are taking the matter seriously. "We have to assume it is napalm, so I will be talking to the council about getting the sites cordoned off for public safety reasons until the monuments can be cleaned," one of the police officers said. "Until we know exactly what the substance is that was used to burn the stones, no one should touch it, or go near the monuments."
      Cheryl Straffon, a member of Penwith Council's Sacred Sites Committee, confirmed that the stones were indeed badly damaged on November 5 and that the incident had been reported to the Cornwall Archeological Unit, English Heritage and the National Trust. She said that "Something did occur on November 5 at the Men-an-Tol and discovered the next day. It looks as if resin of some sort has been poured over the holed stone and an attempt made to set it alight."
      When a Cornishman reporter visited the Lanyon Quoit he found three of the upright supports badly burnt by a blackened substance and the huge roof stone also blacked and covered in a sticky mess of black and white gunge.
      The writer of the anonymous letter stated: "You do not deserve the heritage these monuments hold and therefore we intend to act further. By this time next week, Men-an-Tol will be gone. It shall be set up again, correctly aligned with pertinent sacred stones, in my back garden."
      Andy Norfolk, chairman of Penwith's Sacred Stones Committee, says that damaging the stones is against the law, and he appealed to local people to keep an eye open and report anything suspicious. Anyone with any information should contact Sgt Clarke on 0990-777-444.
      A geologist said that any damage is likely to have affected the surface 1/2 inch or so at most, but that's bad enough. It is possible that the flammable material could have penetrated cracks in the stone and caused deeper damage because the stone is so weathered. Of course we won't know the real extent of the damage until the residue coating the stone has been removed and this is very definitely a job for an expert.
      Anne Preston-Jones of English Heritage said that she would be inspecting the monuments. "I will be compiling a damage report," she said. "We can't even remove the substance until permission is given as these are ancient monuments."

Sources: The Cornishman, The Stones Mailing List, This is Cornwall (November 8 and 9 1999)

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