Neolithic (New Stone Age)

Single stone at Porlock Common Stone Circle (© ENPA 2013)

(Single stone at Porlock Common Stone Circle; © ENPA 2013)

There is virtually no evidence for early Neolithic activity on Exmoor. Communal monuments like causewayed enclosures are absent, although several hilltop coastal enclosure sites (for example, Little Hangman and Hollerday Hill) could have their origins in the Neolithic period.

A large number of standing stone monuments are found on Exmoor and these are usually thought to date from the late Neolithic period: they comprise stone rows, stone circles and stone settings, as well as numbers of individual (or paired) stones. A small but significant group of stone rows are found across the moor, including Whiteladder, found in the 1970s, and on Porlock Common. One at Warcombe Water was found as recently as 2005. All of the rows are either single or double, and they vary in length from around 12 metres to several hundred metres.

Lanacombe 3 Stone Setting, © ENPA 2012

There are two stone circles on Exmoor: at Porlock Common and on Withypool Hill. Although usually attributed to the Bronze Age, they are included here to accompany the other lithic monument classes.

Stone settings – small groups of standing stones - are the most numerous stone monuments, with around 60 examples. They are especially remarkable as they do not seem to occur elsewhere. Little is known about these sites beyond their plan form - some are geometric in shape: rectangles and quincunxes (for example Woodbarrow Hangings), whilst others form no discernible pattern. However, recent research by the University of Leicester at Lanacombe (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) is significantly developing our knowledge of these enigmatic sites, which were once described as ‘Exmoor’s special puzzle’.

Rob Wilson-North