The Rillaton Barrow, 500m NNE of The Hurlers stone circles
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010233
Date first listed: 10-Feb-1958
Date of most recent amendment: 26-Mar-1992
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SX 26021 71911
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Bodmin Moor, the largest of the Cornish granite uplands, has long been
recognised to have exceptional preservation of archaeological remains. The
Moor has been the subject of detailed archaeological survey and is one of the
best recorded upland landscapes in England. The extensive relict landscapes of
prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date provide direct evidence for human
exploitation of the Moor from the earliest prehistoric period onwards. The
well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, field
systems, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains
provides significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land
use through time. Round cairns are funerary monuments covering single or
multiple burials and dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were
constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble up to 40m in external diameter
but usually considerably smaller; a kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds
the edges of the mound. Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion
within a box-like structure of stone slabs called a cist, let 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. 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. They are particularly representative of their
period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered
worthy of preservation.
The Rillaton Barrow is reasonably well preserved and, despite the actions of stone robbers, a substantial proportion of the mound survives undisturbed and hence it will retain many of its original features, including burial deposits. Although it has not been archaeologically excavated, this cairn is well-known as the provenance of the gold cup and receives frequent mention in national reviews as one of the richest and most westerly of the early Bronze Age prestigious graves. The cairn's importance is further enhanced by its position within a wider grouping of differing but broadly contemporary classes of funerary and ceremonial monuments on Craddock Moor, demonstrating well both the diversity and the organisation of burial practice and ritual during the Bronze Age.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument comprises a very large round cairn, with a long cist exposed in
its east side, on Rillaton Moor on south-east Bodmin Moor.
The Rillaton Barrow survives as a massive circular mound, 34m in diameter and
up to 2.7m high, composed of heaped stone rubble and earth. The sides of the
mound rise to the edge of a large trough dug into the central area, measuring
15m E-W by 10m N-S and 1.75m deep, the result of relatively recent
stone-robbing. Another much smaller cutting into the east side of the cairn
exposes the east side of a long cist, a box-like burial structure built of
stone slabs. The cist is orientated north-south and measures internally 2.2m
by 1.1m, by 0.9m high. Single slabs form the northern and southern sides and
the top, the coverstone, while the western side and the exposed eastern side
comprise three smaller slabs each. The cist was originally discovered by
stone-robbers in 1818 or 1837, early accounts differing on the date. Within
the cist were remains of a skeleton accompanied, beneath a leaning stone slab,
by a decorated pot containing a small cup of sheet gold with a slightly
bulbous, corrugated body, a flared rim, and a rivetted strip-handle. Other
grave goods in the cist included a large dagger and a rivet, both of a copper
alloy; some fragments of ivory or bone; several beads, probably of the
crystalline blue-green glass called faience, and a fragment described as
`ornamental earthenware'. Unfortunately all of these finds except the gold cup
and dagger are now lost, the surviving finds being in the British Museum. The
gold cup is a rare and important find which has been compared in shape with
the pottery beakers found with burials and on domestic sites in the early
Bronze Age (c.2000 - 1500 BC). This date also accords with a number of other
similarly richly-furnished burials in cairns and barrows, best known from
examples further east in central southern England and considered to reflect
the emergence of a prestigious elite at this period. The peripheral position
of the cist and its location well above ground level at the eastern side
indicate that this was not the original, or primary, burial which caused the
cairn's mound to be constructed. The site of such a primary and any other
secondary burials remain undiscovered in the considerable volume of this cairn
that remains undisturbed. The cist was slightly restored in 1900 but
otherwise this cairn has not been archaeologically excavated. It is the
largest round cairn on Bodmin Moor, and is situated in a prominent position on
the east crest of Rillaton Moor with an uninterrupted prospect east across
south-east Cornwall and the Tamar Valley to Dartmoor.
MAP EXTRACT 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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 15064
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982), 213-4
Borlase, W C, Naenia Cornubiae, (1872), 36-40
Fox, A, South West England, (1964), 70-1
Megaw, J V S, Simpson, D D A, Introduction to British Prehistory, (1979), 218
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological Survey and Management (Volume 2), (1989), 435-440
Todd, M, The South-West to A.D. 1000, (1987), 142-3
Ashbee, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in The Silver Cup from Saint-Adrien, Cotes du Nord, Brittany, , Vol. 18, (1979), 57-60
Fletcher, M J, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Papers presented to Norman Quinnell' in Stowe's Pound, , Vol. 209, (1989), 71-7
Fletcher, M J, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Papers presented to Norman Quinnell' in Stowe's Pound, , Vol. 209, (1989), 71-77
Gerloff, S, 'Prahistorische Bronzefunde' in The early Bronze Age dagger in Great Britain, , Vol. 6:2, (1975), 107
Grinsell, L V, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A Note On The Rillaton Barrow, , Vol. 8, (1969), 126-7
Trahair, J E R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A survey of cairns on Bodmin Moor, , Vol. 17, (1978), 3-24
CAU/RCHME, The Bodmin Moor Survey, Unpubl. draft text. Ch.4, 1.3, fig 17
consulted 3/1991, Carter, A./RCHME, 1:2500 AP transcription, SX 2671,
Consulted 3/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1403,
consulted 3/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1415,
consulted 3/1991, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 1420,
Monument Description in AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 484, consulted 3/1991
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing