Standing stones: while very different from linear earthworks in form and scale, they share parallels in the British landscape in multiple regards:
- They are often lumped into one or two periods of British prehistory (in the case of standiing stones, the Neolithic or Bronze Age) or else float free without comment;
- they are difficult to date in contextual, stratigraphic and scientific terms;
- they are often located in isolation, disconnected from other archaeological sites, monuments and contexts which might afford a hint at their date and use.
Some might have originally been components of larger megalithic monuments of Neolithic or Bronze Age date, some may have been raised as isolated monoliths raised in those periods or later. As such, they are surely only a selection of those that once existed: many more have since been removed a various times based on practical or ideological motives. As enigmatic mute monumental presences in the landscape, they may on occasions have been reused and recontextualised through translation, naming and/or carving or sculpting in early historic periods and thus acquire life-histories of use and significance. Others remain simply unnamed and unelaborated monoliths.
The Carreg y Big standing stone (Shropshire), lies just to the east of Offa’s Dyke. At c. 2m tall, this squat and leaning stone is variously dated to the Bronze Age or early medieval period, the latter for perhaps no other good reason than its broad proximity to the famous linear earthwork (this is the determination of the Selattyn Tower interpretation panel).
There has been no modern excavation and no conclusive dating evidence for this monolith to my knowledge.
Field boundaries rob it of any sense of its pre-modern context. Indeed, distracted by cute lambs and their fluffy ewes, I didn’t see it at first as I crossed the field via a public footpath. It lurks incongruously beside the hedge.
However, once located in open country, as this most assuredly was before the 19th century, it might have been positioned to mark a boundary close to a routeway now enshrined in the lane running over higher ground between watersheds and the historic settlements of Selattyn and Rhydycroesau.
Sadly, the monument hasn’t attracted antiquarian interest, unlike the Selattyn ring cairn to the north.
I wanted to share photographs of the stone – peppered with light snow earlier this year. Some I’ve enhanced through various filters in Photoshop in orer to celebrate its sad incongruity and silent beauty.
I love the narrow quartz vein running through it, which I’ve attempted to enhance in my photographs.
For more conventional photographs, check out the Megalithic Portal.
You know what? I think in over 8 years, it might be the first time that I’ve posted about a presumed prehistoric standing stone on this blog! It is indeed a big stone!