Reasons for Designation
The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west
England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains
from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the
islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English
Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many
unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social
development of early communities.
Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the
islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its
exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change
against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of
archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands'
The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually
expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post-
medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic
location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works
reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the
mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post-
medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard
for the nation's shipping in the western approaches.
The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has
long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of
documentation, including several recent surveys.
Round cairns are funerary monuments of Bronze Age date (c.2000-700 BC). They
were constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble, up to 40m in external
diameter, though usually considerably smaller, covering single or multiple
burials. A kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the mound.
Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion within a box-like structure
of stone slabs called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the
body of the cairn. Round cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small
groups or in larger cemeteries.
Round cairns form a high proportion of the 387 surviving cairns recorded on
the Isles of Scilly. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a
monument type provides important information on the diversity of beliefs,
burial practices and social organisation in the Bronze Age and a substantial
proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.
This round cairn on Peninnis Head has survived well; it has not been excavated
and has suffered only minor disturbance from the modern track across its
southern periphery. The proximity of the cairn group containing this monument
to the broadly contemporary field systems along the lower slopes of Peninnis
Head demonstrates well the organisation of land use and the relationship
between funerary and farming activities among prehistoric communities.
The monument includes a prehistoric round cairn situated on the upper
south eastern slope of Penninis Head, the southern extremity of St Mary's in
the Isles of Scilly.
The cairn survives with a shallow-domed circular mound of heaped rubble, 7m in
diameter and of asymmetrical profile, built out from a SSE-facing slope to a
height of 0.7m. The rubble content of the cairn includes stones generally up
to 0.2m across, exposed where a modern track runs across the southern
periphery of the mound.
This cairn forms the south eastern member of a dispersed group of five cairns
situated on the upper western and southern slopes of Peninnis Head. This cairn
group is located near a broadly contemporary prehistoric field system which
extends along the middle and lower slopes on the southern and eastern flanks
of the head.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.