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Hurlers Stone Circle

Neill Parker

Caerphilly, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

The Hurlers (Cornish: An Hurlysi are a group of three stone circles in Cornwall, England, UK. The site is half-a-mile (0.8 km) west of the village of Minions on the eastern flank of Bodmin Moor, and approximately four miles (6 km) north of Liskeard2 at grid reference SX 258 714.
The Hurlers are in the Caradon district north of Liskeard in the village of Minions on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Just to the west of the circles are two standing stones known as The Pipers. Nearby is Rillaton Barrow and Trethevy Quoit, an entrance grave from the Neolithic period. The Hurlers are managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust on behalf of English Heritage.
The name “The Hurlers” derives from a legend, in which men were playing Cornish hurling on a Sunday and were magically transformed into stones as a punishment. The two “Pipers” are supposed to be the figures of two men who played tunes on a Sunday and suffered the same fate.5 According to another legend, it is impossible to accurately count the exact number of standing stones.
The three stone circles of the Hurlers, which lie approximately on a line from SSW to NNE, have diameters of 35, 42 and 33 m. The two outer stone circles are circular, the middle and largest stone circle, however, is slightly elliptical. The survival of the southern stone circle, which now contains only nine stones, has been most precarious: only two of the remaining stones are upright and the other seven are partially covered with soil.5 In the middle circle 14 stones survive from an original 28.5 The stones show clear traces of being hammered smooth.5 The northern stone circle contained around 30 standing stones, from which 15 are still visible.5 Two other monoliths, The Pipers, are 100 m southwest of the center circle. They may have been entrance stones to the Hurlers.
The earliest mention of the Hurlers was by historian John Norden, who visited them around 1584.8 They were also described by William Camden in his Britannia of 1586.8 In 1754 William Borlase published the first detailed description of the site.
C. A. Ralegh-Radford excavated the site in the 1930s, and he also partly restored the two northern circles by re-erecting some stones and placing marker stones in the positions of those missing. The archives from the unpublished excavation reports have been re-evaluated by Jacky Nowakowski (Cornwall Heritage Trust) and John Gould (English Heritage) and this may result in more analysis and publication.
There have been several subsequent investigations of the area. Between 1975-1985 aerial survey and subsequent analysis by various teams, (including thise from Cambridge University, University College London, RCHME and co-ordinated by Cornwall Archaeology Unit) was used to identify and map the features.13 English Heritage conducted a geophysical survey in 2004. A survey by the Cornwall Archeological Unit in 2009 indicated that there might be a fourth circle present, together with two stone rows.14
The Hurlers were scheduled as an ancient monument in 1929, and the protected area was extended in 1994 to include The Pipers
Alexander Thom suggested borderline case alignments at the Hurlers. He suggested two solar alignments of four stones with far uprights. He also suggested two stone-to-site alignments with vega and arcturus and two other site-to-site alignments with arcturus. Each stellar alignment was given with tabulated declinations at a date some time in between the range of 2100 to 1500 BC.16
In 1999 there was some controversy regarding this site and others under the care of the English Heritage organisation. Members of a pressure group, the Revived Cornish Stannary Parliament, removed several signs bearing the English Heritage name.1718
Since this action, several of the smaller sites including this one, Dupath Well, Tregiffian Burial Chamber, St Breock Downs Monolith, King Doniert’s Stone, Trethevy Quoit and Carn Euny, have been transferred to the management of the Cornwall Heritage Trust.19

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