Letter | Published:

A Megalithic observatory on Dartmoor

Naturevolume 257pages205207 (1975) | Download Citation



ASTRONOMICALLY aligned standing stones have been shown to occur at many sites dating from the late Neolithic and early Bronze Ages in North-west Europe. We have examined the stone rows at Merrivale on Dartmoor (SX553746) and conclude that they, together with associated stone rings and menhirs, form a solar and lunar observatory. An interesting feature of this site is that it apparently includes a calculating device for facilitating the prediction of lunar eclipses. Thom1,2 has suggested that certain stone settings which are themselves not astronomical alignments, notably four fan-shaped arrangements of stones in Caithness (Mid Clyth, Dirlot, Loch of Yarrows and Camster) and the well known groups at Carnac and Kermario, are in fact for this purpose. The Carnac alignments are complicated and difficult to interpret completely, the Caithness settings have been disturbed and many stones are missing; at Merrivale the stone rows have not been greatly damaged and the simple method of their use, though not identical to that proposed by Thom, lends support to his basic contention that techniques for lunar eclipse prediction were developed at that period.

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  1. 1

    Thom, A., and Thom, A. S., J. Hist. Astr., 2, 147–160 (1971); 3, 11–26 (1972); 3, 151–164 (1972); 5, 30–47 (1974).

  2. 2

    Thom, A., Megalithic Lunar Observatories Ch. 9 (Oxford University Press, London, 1971).

  3. 3

    Lukis, Rev. W., Map in the Library of the Society of Antiquaries, London.

  4. 4

    Second Report of the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, Trans. Devonshire Assoc., 27, 85–87 (1895).

  5. 5

    Worth, R. Hansford, Dartmoor, 215–217 (David and Charles, Newton Abbott, 1971).

  6. 6

    Thom, A., Megalithic Lunar Observatories, Ch. 2 (Oxford University Press, London, 1971).

  7. 7

    Thom, A., ibid, 88 (Oxford University Press, London, 1971).

  8. 8

    Heggie, D. C., Antiquity, 46 43–48 (1972).

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  1. 10 Field Barn Drive, Southill, Weymouth, Dorset, UK

    • J. E. WOOD
  2. 35 Hillbourne Road, Weymouth, Dorset, UK

    • A. PENNY


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