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St Mary's Antiquities

Entrance Graves

A Typical Entrance Grave Porth Hellick Down

A Typical Entrance Grave
Porth Hellick Down

By far and away the most common antiquity in the Scillys is the Entrance Grave of which there are 80. So common in fact that they are sometimes known as Scillonian Tombs, although a few are found on the Penwith Peninsula in the far west of Cornwall.

Dating from the Bronze Age, they all follow broadly the same plan: a roughly circular mound retained by a stone kerb, containing a rectangular, stone-lined chamber which is roofed with large granite slabs. Of those that have been excavated many have contained cremated human bone and funerary urns.

With few exceptions, most of the graves have lost their turf mound and from a distance look like little more that a jumble of rocks. It is only when you get up close that you can spot them.

Bant's Carn Entrance Grave

Location

Stmarysios Map

OS Ref: SV 910 123

Last Visited: 2012

Burial Chamber Bant's Carn

Burial Chamber
Bant's Carn

Bant's Carn

Bant's Carn

Bantʼs Carn is one of the better preserved entrance graves.

It has lost some of its mound, which may once have been more than 4 metres (13 feet) high, leaving the roof of the burial chamber exposed and the entrance passage roofless.

What remains of the mound is about 8 metres (26 feet) long and 6 metres (20 feet) wide, and is retained by a kerb of stone slabs. There is a second kerb retaining a lower platform on the downhill side of the mound.

Just down the hill from Bantʼs Carn is the much later Halangley Down Ancient Village.

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Innisidgen Entrance Graves

Location

Stmarysios Map

OS Ref: SV 921 126

Last Visited: 2012

Innisidgen Upper Grave

Innisidgen Upper Grave

The upper of the two Innisidgen Entrance Graves is arguably the best preserved on the islands.

The mound is roughly 9m (30ft) by 8m (26ft), and is currently about 2m (6ft) high. On the north side, the surrounding wall is nearly 1m (3ft) high.

Innisidgen Lower Grave

Innisidgen Lower Grave

A massive slab covers the entrance reached by short, open passage on the eastern side. The rectangular burial chamber, which is about 4.5m (15ft) long and about 1.5m (5ft) high is covered by four further capstones.

Its neighbour, the Lower Innisidgen Entrance Grave has fared less well, with only a two of its capstones and part of its kerb surviving.

Both graves enjoy fine views over what is now Crow Sound to the Eastern Isles and St Martinʼs. Back in the Bronze Age sea levels were much lower, and this area would all have been rich farm land.

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Porth Hellick Entrance Grave

Location

Stmarysios Map

OS Ref: SV 928 108

Last Visited: 2012

Porth Hellick Entrance Grave

Porth Hellick Entrance Grave

The Porth Hellick Entrance Grave is huge. The near-circular mound, is about 12m (39ft) in diameter and up to 1.6m (5ft) high.

Porth Hellick Entrance Grave

Porth Hellick Entrance Grave

These days the entrance passage is unroofed and leads to a large burial chamber (roofed by four massive capstones).

Interestingly the passage and chamber are set on slightly different alignments, and there is a projecting jambstone partly blocking the junction between the two.

Perhaps the passage isnʼt the original. The site had already been disturbed, when the tomb was excavated in 1899. The contents had already been removed or destroyed by then, and only a few fragments of Bronze Age pottery were found.

There are six other entrance graves in the Port Hellick Down cemetery, but none of the others are in anything like as good condition.

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Halangy Down Settlement

Location

Stmarysios Map

OS Ref: SV 909 123

Last Visited: 2012

Halangy Down Settlement

Halangy Down Settlement

The Halangy Down Settlement is an Iron Age Ancient Village situated just below the much older Bantʼs Carn Entrance Grave. In fact it is sobering to realise that almost as much time separates the occupants of the village from the grave as separates us from the villagers.

There are eleven inter-connecting stone-built houses, most of which are simple oval structures which originally had conical thatched roofs.

One house, however, is larger than the rest. It was built around a courtyard with with three rooms leading off it and a long, curved entrance passage.

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