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Cairn

Bronze Age 2500 to 800 BC

During the Bronze Age the dead were normally cremated and the remains placed in a pottery vessel (funerary urn) which was set into the ground beneath a circular mound.

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Cairn means simply a ‘stony mound’, and they are the upland equivalent of the earth and stone round barrows of the lowland zone. Cairns may incorporate a variety of ‘architectural’ features such as cists and kerbs, and excavation shows that they often went through a series of developments to reach the final phase visible today.

Usually found in prominent locations on hilltops and ridges they are often incorporated into wider landscapes and monument alignments.

Examples to visit

Ballowall

Ballowall Barrow is a strange and possibly unique example of a prehistoric funerary cairn which incorporates multiple phases of use and funerary practice spanning the Neolithic and Middle Bronze Age periods. Sited on Ballowall Common overlooking the rugged granite cliffs to the south of Cape Cornwall, it faces west towards the Scillies.

Barrow and statue menhir, St. Martins

In 1948, the Reverand HA Lewis discovered and reported the head of a menhir broken off from its original base near an alleged stone row. Lewis then set the menhir up on a nearby cairn. Over time the menhir was again lost, but was rediscovered in 1988.

The cairn and the menhir are on the eastern headland of St. Martin's overlooking the island of Nornour.

Read about Barrow and statue menhir, St. Martins

Rillaton Barrow

On the south-eastern fringe of Bodmin Moor on a broad ridge below the granite strewn slope of Stowes Hill, Rillaton Barrow lies within one of the best preserved prehistoric ritual landscapes in Europe. It is the second largest barrow on Bodmin Moor and is the source of one of the best known Bronze Age grave deposits in Britain.

Showery Tor

Showery Tor lies about 400m along the ridge running north-east from Rough Tor on Bodmin Moor. The slopes and summit of this ridge are the focus of one of the most spectacular expanses of prehistoric settlements, fields and funerary sites in the country.