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12 May 2015
Stone circle discovered on Dartmoor

The highest stone circle in southern England has been found on a moorland in Devon (England). Situated 525 metres (1,722ft) above sea level, the ancient site is the first stone circle to be found on Dartmoor for more than a century.
     With a diameter of 34 metres (112ft), the circle consists of 30 recumbent stones, plus one more lying in a gap just outside the circle and now incorporated into an unfinished enclosure wall. The circle is the second largest on the moor and archaeologists believe it was probably part of a 'sacred arc' of circles around the north-eastern edge. Experts believe that there was some kind of planning and liaison between the communities living on Dartmoor in the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
     Many stone circles were prodded and probed in Victorian times and before, so the opportunity to apply modern scientific methods to a previously unexamined one is particularly exciting. Jane Marchand, senior archaeologist at Dartmoor national park, said: "The discovery is providing an opportunity for investigation using the very latest archaeological scientific methods to provide long-awaited insights into the chronology, construction and the purpose of these most elusive and iconic of Dartmoor's prehistoric monuments."
     The first stones were identified by the Dartmoor expert and stained glass artist Alan Endacott a few years ago. The stones probably came from the nearby Sittaford Tor itself and are of a fairly uniform size, suggesting they were carefully chosen. Packing stones visible around the bases of some of these indicate that they were originally upright. When upright the circle would have dominated the surrounding landscape and resembling in appearance the Grey Wethers double stone circle, which lies about half a mile away.
      Marchand added: "Some preliminary radio carbon dating has already taken place on soil samples taken from directly beneath two of the stones. These are the first radiocarbon determinations from a Dartmoor stone circle. The dates have produced very similar results and calibrate to the end of the third millennium BC (4,000 years ago). This indicates the date by which the stones had fallen."
      Although the full results of the geophysical surveys are not back yet, preliminary results have revealed a wide ditch running in a linear fashion just outside the eastern side of the circle. Further investigation is planned later this summer.

Edited from The Guardian (11 May 2015)

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