Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Castlerigg stone circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick is one of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain, and is the most visited stone circle in Cumbria. Every year thousands of people visit it to look, photograph, draw and wonder why and when and by whom it was built. The stone circle is on the level top of a low hill with views across to Skiddaw, Blencathra and Lonscale Fell .
There are 38 stones of local metamorphic slate in a flattened circle 33 metres in diameter with a 3.3m wide gap at the northern edge which may have been an entrance. The heaviest stones weigh around 16 tons and only four are missing from the original configuration. Within the ring is a low rectangle of a further 10 standing stones which touches the circle on its eastern side. The tallest stone is 2.3 metres high. It was probably built around 3200 BC - the beginning of the later Neolithic Period - making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. It is important to archaeoloastronomers who have noted that the sunrise during the Autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill 3.5km to the east. Some stones in the circle have been aligned with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions.
An outlying stone stands 90m to the south west though it was placed here in the modern era and probably lay buried elsewhere in th efield when discovered.
Although its origins are unknown it would have been connected with the nearby Langdale axe industry, possibly serving several functions ritual and practical to the axemakers. Nineteenth century investigations at the site record three cairns standing within the circle as well as two Neolithic polished axes. William Stukeley wrote of a now lost neighbouring ring when he visited the circle in 1725.
- Burl. A A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale, 1995
- Dyer, J, Discovering Prehistoric England, Shire, 2001
- Wood, JE, Sun Moon and Standing Stones, Oxford, 1980
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